Why (and How) I Helped My Teen Dye Her Hair Purple

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I'm a strict parent; I expect you to keep your room clean, try your hardest, do chores around the house, speak to others with respect, cover up your underwear/bra straps, and accept "Because I said so" on the rare occasions when that's the only explanation I'm offering. Only one of my teens has a cellphone -- a "dumb" one, at that -- and she pays for her own texting. No one accuses me of being permissive. And yet, my kids are free to do pretty much whatever they like with their hair.

For me, this wasn't a tough choice. Ever since my first baby became mobile, others more seasoned in child-rearing than myself have reminded me to pick my battles. It always comes down to one question: Is this the hill I want to die on? And I've yet to find the hair situation where I feel like it's important enough to take a stand. Heck, I'm not sure I've ever really been tempted. Kindness is important. Respect is important. Pitching in is important. Challenging yourself is important. Hair is not important. Also, hair grows. Nothing you can do with your hair is permanent. And yes, discrimination exists and someday it may not be prudent to have non-conventional hair while looking for a job; if and when that time comes, my kids will have to make a decision based on more factors than what they like, but as kids, hey, it hardly matters.

This is why my son had long hair for years. He wanted it. My rules were simple: keep it clean and untangled and out of your face. People mistook him for a girl all the time. We all found it hilarious. Eventually he tired of it and now wears it short.

This is why my daughter has had very short hair several times in a sea of long-haired friends. Each time she's asked for a cut, I've obliged. "What if I hate it?" she asks.

"Then it'll grow," I answer. And it does. (Thank God. She loved one short cut, hated the other one. Both of 'em grew.)

Recently my daughter decided she wanted purple tips on her hair. I said okay -- not because I'm a Cool Mom, but because I'm a Leverage To My Own Agenda Mom: I suggested a list of goals (okay, various chores and homework type things) for her to meet to earn this privilege. She was game, and I have never seen work completed so quickly and cheerfully.

Together we researched dyes, methods, and DIY pointers on how to make sure we didn't wreck her hair. We knew that for vibrant color we'd need to bleach her hair, first, and I was very concerned about damage. After reading through various recommendations, we settled on Feria 205 Extra Bleach Blonde for the lightening (two points in its favor: reviewers indicated it was not likely to cause the dreaded orange hair brunettes sometimes get when bleaching, and it comes with a tube of really good, rich conditioner).

Next we started reading up on purple dyes, and let me tell you, if you ever wanted to find a more polarizing topic than politics, brightly-colored hair dyes are a great place to start. Theoretically there's no such thing as a permanent technicolor dye. All non-natural hair colors are sold as semi-permanents, and the online debates about Special Effects vs. Splat vs. Manic Panic vs. all the rest rage on. Depending on the dye you use, the color of your hair before dying, how often you wash your hair, and possibly even the phase of the moon, your semi-permanent color may last anywhere from a week to six months.

It was confusing, to say the least.

Fortunately, she wanted purple, and even more fortunately, we happened to stumble upon a nifty little factoid: There's a commercially available permanent hair dye meant to dye your hair red that comes with lots of warnings about how it should never be used on grey or blonde hair. Know why? Because it turns light-colored hair deep purple. Perfect! That dye, in case you want it, is Garnier Nutrisse 42 Deep Burgundy Black Cherry.

The day came and we set to work. I am not a hair professional (nor do I play one on TV...) and basically went off of a few YouTube videos and other information we'd found online. The bleaching kit says you shouldn't wrap your hair in anything while treating; the Internet says "go ahead and use foil, just know that it will speed up processing some." Fair enough. The nice thing about foil is that it keeps the bleach solution off your skin and body, which was pertinent here because we were doing tips, not the scalp.

I'd also taken advice found online to try to do the bleaching so that the result would be somewhat ombre; we had no idea how long the purple would last, and with ombre very "in" right now, it made sense to try to create a bleaching effect that could stand on its own just in case all the purple washed out. So I put bleach on maybe the bottom inch of her hair -- gathering up small sections into folded tinfoil as I went -- and let that sit for 20 minutes. Then I went back and opened the foil packets and applied more bleach another 1-2 inches up the hair shaft, then closed the foils and let her go another 20 minutes. The results were great! The very tips of her hair came out light blonde (yellow, not white), and overall the effect looked like a purposeful ombre on the bottom of her hair.

After bleaching, we rinsed and dried her hair without conditioning it, then moved on to the purple dye. I was less nervous with that, though do heed warnings to wear old clothes, put down towels, etc. Even using tinfoil, it seemed like we got purple everywhere. At just 25 minutes or so, the blonde hair was a deep, rich violet. We washed out the dye and then used the post-coloring conditioning treatment.

My daughter was thrilled with the result, and I think it looks really pretty. It's also more subtle than you might think; in direct sunlight there's no mistaking it, but indoors it's more of a do-a-double-take kind of thing. I might not feel as comfortable if she chose to do her entire head, true, but if that's what she'd wanted, I probably would've let her. Given that I stopped coloring my own grey last year and cut off most of my hair to "start over" color-wise, though, I think she was perfectly happy to go a route that allows her an easy do-over via a trim if she tires of the color. We have no idea if the purple will really last. Time will tell!

And the couple of slightly-disapproving-and-surprised comments I've gotten about it? Eh. "It's only hair," I reply, with a shrug.

 

BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir Kamin picks her battles carefully. She blogs near-daily about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, and all day long about the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.

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