How to Dye Your Kids’ Hair Blue

Back when I was a kid, we didn’t have good hair dye. I wanted the punk rock look, and I could never figure out how to get it. When I was a teen, I used a semi-permanent gray dye over and over in the hopes of getting it slightly purple. When I was an exchange student, I went on a rail trip to London and discovered Manic Panic. Hair dye has never been the same.

These days it’s easy to find colorful semi-permanent dyes for some rainbow colored hair.I found that Special Effects Dye has longer lasting, brighter colors than Manic Panic. The colors pictured above are Electric Blue and Cupcake Pink. I can buy both brands locally, but they’re also available online. If you’re still concerned about using commercial hair dye, you can mix a quarter cup of mayonaise with a package or two of unsweetened Kool-Aid and follow these instructions, but the coloring will not last as long or be as bright.

This will work better on blond hair. If your kid has darker hair, the best you’ll get is a vague tint. You could bleach your child’s hair if you’re really determined to get a color streak to show up, but  I’m not comfortable doing that. Hair bleach generally says you shouldn’t use it on children.

Dark colors show up better. Blues, purples, and bright reds show up great for us. Pinks fade a lot faster.

This will take a while to wash out. If you’ve got school pictures next week, you need to decide if rainbow hair is appropriate. In our case, the dye usually lasts about a month, but that will depend on your child’s original hair color and the color of dye you use. The color will slowly get lighter and lighter before it is gone.

Streaks are easier than doing the whole head. Not only do they use less dye, the look is more effective. The dye itself tends to be a bit blotchy just in the way you apply it, so it looks more intentional when you don’t try to cover everything evenly. This also gives you the chance to experiment with multi-color streaks and stripes.

You will get dye all over your bathtub or shower, and it may also get on walls, pillows, or furniture. Just so you’re warned. This happens most often in the first couple of washings, so watch out.

Your child must be capable of sitting still for at least twenty minutes. They need to be mature enough not to stick their hands on their head to check if it’s ready, scratch their scalp, flop their head around, or sneak off to wash things off themselves. Trust me. That doesn’t mean they can’t watch a movie or play with a DS. They just need to be still long enough to not make a mess.

Mandatory equipment:

  • Hair dye
  • Old towels
  • Gloves
  • Worn out or pre-stained clothes for you
  • Soap and water standing by

You can skip these items if you wish, but they’re really nice to have:

  • Aluminum foil
  • A dye brush
  • Plastic hair clips
  • A color cap
  • A plastic cape
  • A plastic bag for storing your dye bottle

You can get a Hair Dye Tool Kit that has gloves, a cap, and a dye brush. I don’t bother with mixing jars. You can apply this dye directly to the hair.

Instructions:

    1. Wash and dry your child’s hair with shampoo only. No conditioner.
    2. Prepare all your equipment in advance. Put your gloves on before you touch the dye. It stains your hands if you even think about it too hard. The instructions say to apply petroleum jelly to the scalp line beforehand, but I’ve never done this. It seems messier than the mess it’s allegedly preventing. Instead, I just take care to not get too near the scalp with the dye. You could also use a dye cap.
    3. Have your child remove their shirt or cover up in worn out clothes. Use clips to hold back any hair you don’t want dyed.
    4. Open the lid on your dye bottle.
    5. Using dry hair and  gloved hand, pull out a sheet of aluminum foil and put it flat under a strand of hair.  Keep your hand under the aluminum foil.
    6. Squirt a bit of dye directly onto the strand of hair. Use the dye brush to brush the dye into the hair. You’ve got the aluminum foil between the brush and your hair dye. Make sure you work some dye into the tip. If you don’t have a dye brush, you can also just use your gloved hand to do this. Stay away from the scalp and concentrate on covering the tips of the hair strands the most.
    7. Fold the aluminum foil around the hair, and then roll it up like a curler. This makes it stick to your child’s head and gets that strand out of the way. You can also use clips to hold it in place if you have them.
    8. Mix up the colors if desired, and continue the aluminum foil streaking process. You should eventually have something resembling this:

  1. Now you should either wrap your child’s hair in a towel, put a towel on any furniture your child wants to use, or both.
  2. If you still have dye left, put it in a plastic bag and well out of reach.
  3. Wash your gloved hands to clean any dye off your gloves before removing. You’ll need those gloves later, so keep them handy.
  4. Sit tight for at least 20 minutes, but 30 is better. This is a great time to watch an episode of Doctor Who.
  5. Now go put those gloves back on. Help your child to the bathtub or shower. Have them lean their head back when they get in, and remove the aluminum foil.
  6. Start washing with the dye aiming away from their face at first, and then you can have them take a long shower. This is going to take a lot of water and rinsing, but eventually the water will run clear. If you value your furniture, you will not stop until you get to this point. And yes, your tub is going to be stained for a while.

Once their hair dries, they’ll have fantastic streaks of color. Enjoy!

 

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Marziah Karch lives in Portland, Oregon and is the author of multiple books and magazine articles. She also writes for Lifewire and GlitterSquid. She's currently a doctoral candidate researching the information behavior of independent game designers.