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How To Get Pastel Hair The Affordable And Cruelty-Free Way

by Suzana Rose

Oct 17, 2019

Achieving pastel hair can be a long and very expensive process if you get it done at a salon. If you're looking for an alternative, there's a relatively easy and affordable to DIY it.

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Below are all the products you'll need. The white toner isn't mandatory; you only absolutely need the bleaching kit, the conditioner, and your choice of hair dye. In addition to this, you'll need some gloves, a shower cap, and a mixing bowl. The whole process should end up costing about 25$.

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Step 1: How To Bleach Your Hair

The first step is bleaching your hair. If you have anything but light blonde hair, you absolutely need to bleach it if you want the pastel color to actually be pastel. If you have already blonde hair, skip this step.

When choosing your bleaching product, it's important to go for 30 volume. Anything under that is too weak for achieving pastel hair, and anything over that is too strong for safety -- bleach can fry your hair, so be very careful!

I recommend this nifty Manic Panic bleaching kit, which also contains gloves, a brush, and a mixing bowl. Tip: If you have very thick or long hair, you WILL need 2 boxes! It ends up going a bit over budget, but it's well worth it! The first time I bleached my hair, I had to pause the job mid-bleaching and ask my friend to kindly go buy another box for me. Get two if you're unsure!

  • Make sure your hair hasn't been washed for a few days before bleaching. Bleach is harsh on your scalp, and the oils will help protect it.
  • If it's your first time, have someone else help you and bleach your hair for you. Bleaching hair is tricky. Be safe!
  • Follow the instructions on the packaging. A strand test is a very good idea!

If your hair still isn't light enough after bleaching, consider a white toner. If you want pastel blue hair, your hair absolutely has to be a very white blonde. Any yellow in your hair and the blue dye will turn green!

Step 2: How to Get Pastel Hair

There is no "pastel hair dye". Instead, you will have to mix regular colored hair dye with conditioner. Start by squirting the conditioner in a mixing bowl: add the amount you think will cover your entire hair. Add a very small amount of hair dye and mix it well. Keep adding dye (or conditioner if you mess up) until you reach the perfect pastel color you want.

To color your hair, put some gloves on and simply apply the dye. You can use a brush, but I prefer to use only my hands -- it's faster. Once your whole head is evenly covered in dye, bring your hair in a faux-bun and put on a shower cap so that the dye doesn't dry out. Let it set for about 30 minutes. The length of time depends on how intense you want the color to be, so it's up to you. Wash it off with water as cool as you can handle; don't use shampoo!

For hair dye, I recommend the awesome and cruelty-free brand Manic Panic. They have many suitable colors for pastel hair: Cotton Candy Pink for pastel pink, Ultra Violet for a nice lavender shade, and Atomic Turquoise for pastel blue or mint. For conditioner, almost any conditioner will do a good job as long as it's mostly white in color.

My favorite conditioner to use for this is Trader Joe's vegan conditioner: it's highly moisturizing and perfect for bleached hair, and you can still use it as a moisturizer every time you wash your hair. Amazon has it here for under 10$ for a huge bottle - it's called Trader Joe's Nourish Spa Balance Moisturizing Conditioner.

  • If you have a good eye for color, you can make the dye darker than what you want the final result to be and only let it set for 15 minutes or so. This can be tricky; do strand tests!
  • If your hair turns out to be lighter than you expected, you can always re-dye it the same way. If it's too dark, use a clarifying shampoo to lighten it.
  • For mint hair, use blue dye if your hair is more blonde than white.

Upkeep Tips

  • Add some of the Manic Panic dye to your conditioner. This way, your pastel color won't fade as quickly. I like to leave this mixture in for about 5 minutes before rinsing it.
  • Choose a gentle, moisturizing shampoo to better take care of your bleached hair as well as to maintain maximum color.
  • Wash your hair less often, or use dry shampoo.
  • Use water as cold as you can handle when you do wash your hair. Hot water really strips down your color. This is especially important for pastel hair, since you don't have a lot of color to begin with.

I hope this guide helped you achieve pastel hair on a budget, and I hope you picked up some cruelty-free alternatives. It's not always straight-forward to find cruelty-free hair products, especially at drugstores. Hopefully this made it easier!

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+ Show Comments (13) - Hide Comments (13)
  • Cindy says:

    So are there any bleaches that are cruelty free that aren’t manic panics? Because that one didn’t work for me.

  • Tams says:

    Hi Suzi!

    I’ve been reading all your entries about hair, and I just wanted to ask if you if there is a crueltyfree or vegan salon that helps to do this. I’ve always dye my hair but not by myself because I don’t trust me lol.

    Also I wanted to know if you have information about olaplex! Thank you!!

    • Hey Tams! I recently updated my hair dye post and added a few words about choosing a cruelty-free salon. Basically, look at their website to see what brands they use and look for Kevin Murphy, Paul Mitchell, and Pravana. There aren’t many cruelty-free salon brands but you’ll definitely find a salon that uses those. 🙂

      I’ll be looking into Olaplex. The website says it’s “not tested on animals” though. I had Olaplex put in my hair at my salon because it’s a pretty essential step. If you’re getting your hair bleached, don’t skip it!

  • Raelee says:

    Hi Suzi!
    I want to do a grayish blue pastel color. How would I do that?

    • Suzi says:

      Hey Raelee. 🙂 To get that color, you’re going to have to get your hair very very light by bleaching and toning. For the dye, I would really recommend going to a salon though. I’ve never done anything like that and I believe it’s pretty hard to achieve.

      If you want to do it at home, I believe you can find actual pastel hair dye in stores now — you can mix those to get the graylish blue color you want. Keep in mind that because you’ll have to get your hair very light, it might take a few session/jobs. Be careful not to over-bleach! Hope this helps!

  • momof2 says:

    Thank you Suzi! I have recently made the switch (thanks to your information) to almost all cruelty free products within our home. I did my own research, based again on your info, and with the exception of hair spray, gel and I just realized laundry softener, all of my cruelty-free products are lined up waiting to be used (as soon as I finish my others…waste not want not and all that). My one disappointment was finding out that all the fantastic body shop items I bought, even though cruelty free themselves, have the parent company L’Oreal…which I don’t think is cruelty free…I’m bummed about this, but hoping you can tell me that that L’Oreal has changed their evil ways and I can enjoy my body shop stuff…Thanks again for your fantastic work

    • Suzi says:

      Really glad to help! About L’Oreal, they did not stop testing on animals yet but did recently reduce their animal testing (although they might still resort to it for new ingredients and selling in China). Sadly not quite there yet if you’re avoiding parent companies that test.

  • G says:

    Aye Suzi !! Your guide is wonderful ~ I am a straight, 15 (going onto 16 aha .) yr old male . I’ve been like, wanting to dye my hair a pastel Lavender Silver/Lilac for about a month, I think ? Aha, well anyways . I’ve been watching a whole bunch of videos and read a lot of guides online . I’ve heard that Manic Panic fades out quickly or isn’t that very effective ? I’ve heard it’s good with Violet, blue, and green doe ~ . Oh, I just want to ask you if my set-up for this is right ~ So, I got or I am about to get/use:
    – 30 volume developer/bleach
    – Manic Panic (Violet)
    – Toner (I am considering that Manic Panic Virgin Snow one, bc it seems the easiest to apply and I am confused with how other people use toners . /.\)
    – Clairol Shimmer Lights shampoo/conditioner (Possibly GVP? I’ve heard I should use these, bc they help maintain Pastel hair color and help it fade less . Well, with Lavender I suppose aha .)
    – cheap white conditioner to mix the Violet Manic Panic with ~

    Does all of those items sound good enough to go through with this hair process ? Please, answer ~ As I am dyeing it over Thanksgiving break ~ Thank you and lots of love from WA . xoxo


    • Suzi says:

      Sounds about right! Except I honestly think the Shimmer Lights shampoo/conditioner is a total waste of money. If the dye fades (and it shouldn’t fade super quickly as long as you use a gentle shampoo for color-treated hair) just re-dye it. Have fun! 🙂

      • G says:

        Thank you lots !! Hope you had a great Thanksgiving by the way ~ I know I’m late too, so oops . Sorry ~ .

  • Lindsay says:

    Hi Suzi! I’m so excited to have found your blog- I try to live my life with all cruelty-free products, but have had a pretty hard time doing it for anything less than quite a bit of money since I moved from California to Denmark. They just don’t have the options here and getting things delivered here is craaaazy expensive because of the taxes. Thank goodness for my mom being willing and able to send all my Amazon, Whole Foods, and other various cruelty-free goodies that I order to her house!
    Anyway, thank you for caring about the animals of this world and for writing this blog. 🙂


    • Suzi says:

      Hi Lindsay! Thanks for stopping by my blog! It’s too bad that options where you live are so limited, but Amazon really is a good place for cruelty-free goodies if you live in the US/UK. It’s cool that you’re so dedicated to being cruelty-free. 🙂

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