How to Get Pastel-Coloured Hair on a Budget




Introduction: How to Get Pastel-Coloured Hair on a Budget

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last couple of years, you are fully aware that pastel-coloured hair is one of the hottest beauty trends right now. From Nicole Richie, to Kelly Osbourne, to Hilary Duff, Kaley Cuoco and even Helen Miren, pastel-coloured hair is a fun way to add some “spring” or “summer” to your locks.

While it is easy to fall in love with these cotton candy-coloured tresses, many get cold feet when they learn just how high maintenance, expensive and even damaging making a switch to pastel hair colour can be.

Not to worry, though! After careful research and consulting with my best girlfriend, who just happens to be a wicked hair colourist / stylist, as well as experimenting (successfully!) with my own hair, you too can have pastel-coloured hair on a budget and without damaging your strands.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: You Will Need

o Latex gloves

o Pastel-coloured, semi-permanent dye (for medium-length hair, like mine, I used 2 full tubes) – I used Ion Color Brilliance Brights Semi-Permanent Hair Color in “Rose” and “Flamingo”

o White hair conditioner (any brand or quality)

o Dye mixing dish

o Colour application brush (looks like a paint brush)

o Old clothing (that you don’t care about getting dye on)

o Plastic bag or shower cap

Step 2: Important Notes

o Pastel colour dyes require very light blond hair to show up; think Gwen Stefani or a Playboy Bunny. Pre-lightening (if your hair is not already platinum) is necessary to achieve the pastel look – hence, the risk of damage / breakage. If you have any orange / golden tones in your hair, this will affect the end colour. There is only one thing to remember in this case: the lighter, the better.

o Make sure that your hair does not currently have any conditioner or product in it as the cuticle will be “closed” and might not lighten or take colour properly. If you do have conditioner or product in your hair, then be sure to wash it before hand so that the hair cuticle will be “open”.

o If your hair is very dark, or you don’t feel comfortable bleaching it yourself, it is best to see a professional. You can still save money if you apply the colour afterwards yourself – that’s the easy part. In most cases, a salon will double the price if you go for the works: bleach and colour. However, the overall cost, if you lighten and colour your hair yourself, will be about $50 CAD. However, and again, if your hair is very dark or you don’t feel confident bleaching yourself, it would be very wise to spend the extra money to see a professional and ensure that you don’t fry your hair! In my case, I had my girlfriend pre-lighten my hair, as she is a certified colourist. Otherwise, I would have most definitely gone to a salon for the pre-lightening process!

o I had to dye my hair twice. The first time, I used two tubes of the Ion Color Brilliance Brights Semi-Permanent Hair Color in “Rose” but it barely showed up on my hair, even though it was already pre-lightened. The next day, I went back to Sally Beauty Supply to buy some more but they were sold out. I ended up with the closest colour they had available, which was “Flamingo”, by the same brand and that is what I used to achieve my pastel pink.

Step 3: Apply the Colour

o To begin, ensure hair is fully dry, with no product or conditioner in it

o Empty both tubes (or more, or less, depending on length of hair) into dye mixing dish and add white conditioner. The ratio should be approximately 2 parts colour and 2 parts conditioner. Although, this is not a hard and fast rule and it can be amended depending on your desired level of colour pigmentation. The more conditioner, the less pigmented the colour will be.

o With colour application brush, mix dye and conditioner together until fully blended

o Dividing your hair into sections, and starting from the bottom, apply colour / conditioner mix to your hair with the application brush

o Apply mixture to your roots first and then work your way down the hair shaft

o Continue this until you’ve covered your whole head

o Massage mixture through your hair and ensure that all strands, and the entire shaft is coated, and nothing has been left out

o Pile hair on top of your head and massage any left over mixture to it and continue to massage into your hair until it is entirely saturated

Step 4: Wait...

o Place shower cap or a plastic bag (tie handles in knot at front of head to secure) over your hair to promote heat distribution (helps colour develop better) and to protect your furniture, or anything else that you might come into contact with while you are waiting for your pastel hair to be born

o Set a timer for approximately 45-60 minutes and wait

o It’s good practice to “spot check” your hair every 10-15 minutes to ensure that the colour is developing nicely

o When the time is up, and the desired colour has been achieved, remove the bag or shower cap thoroughly rinse colour from hair and follow up with a light shampoo

o Don’t use hot water when rinsing or shampooing your hair as this will open the cuticle and release the colour – warm or cool water is best

o After your light shampoo, finish off with a deep condition and partially rinse with cool or cold water – this will help close the hair cuticle and lock in the conditioner and colour

Step 5: Reveal Your New Pastel Colour!

o Blowdry your hair to reveal your new colour right away!

Note: your colour will NOT stay this bright or pigmented for long – my colour faded significantly within 2 days, to a really pretty pastel pink (see below)

Step 6: Revealing Your Colour Continued...

  • The colour at the top is after approximately 48 hours and the one on the bottom is after approximately 1 week

Step 7: Maintaining Your Colour

If you don’t already know, you will quickly learn just how fast pastel-coloured hair can fade. One of the only cons to making the switch to pastel is the up-keep. But, not to worry, there are a few things that you can do to help maintain your hue:

o Limit the number of times that you wash your hair – I find that once per week seems to be the magic number for me, but everyone will be different, depending on how oily your scalp is. The general rule of thumb, though, is that the less you wash your hair, the longer your colour will last.

o Get yourself a light-coloured dry shampoo – this will help keep the oil on your scalp at bay in between shampoos. I’ve been using Cake Satin Sugar Dry Shampoo for Lighter hues.

o To keep your roots bright, and to avoid having to bleach them out as soon as they start to appear, hair chalk is a great temporary fix. I noticed root growth after only one week, so I immediately applied some Splat Hair Chalk in “Dusty Rose” and it worked like a charm!

So, that concludes my Instructable on how to get pastel-coloured hair on a budget – I hope you found it helpful!

1 Person Made This Project!


  • Tiny Speed Challenge

    Tiny Speed Challenge
  • Spring Cleaning Challenge

    Spring Cleaning Challenge
  • Trash to Treasure Contest

    Trash to Treasure Contest

12 Discussions


4 years ago

Hey, next time you do this, you should try not shampooing it at all for the first 48 hours, it'll let the color stick better and can stretch the wear. Just rinse with cool water and condition (:


4 years ago on Introduction

I used Manic Panic, flamingo and sunset, combined to get the Rose Gold color. I also use it 1:10 in a cheap white conditioner.

Most people have to bleach their hair. Mine is very, very light blonde (think Gwen Stefani color) so I don't have to.

I keep it fresh by conditioning with the leftover dye in the shower.



4 years ago on Introduction

I've been told by a hairstylist that my natural hair colour (which is dark blonde) can't be dyed in a colour like this. I don't want to lighten my hair, I'm afraid it's gonna burn. Any advice?


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Hi GraceDyer,

If you want to achieve a pastel pink/purple/blue/mint colour then your colourist would be right. You would need to lighten your hair to light blonde.

If having a pastel shade isn't what you're after then you could still dye it pink/purple/blue/green. However, keep in mind that the shade will be much darker - it won't show up pastel.

Depending on the current condition of your hair, bleaching it might not necessarily fry it.

For example, if your hair is relatively healthy then you could certainly lighten it but be sure to have a professional do it! That's the most important thing.

If, on the other hand, your hair is already really dry and damaged then I would recommend working on getting it healthy (lots of deep conditioning treatments, minimal heat styling etc.) before you decide to lighten it.

Hope this helps - let me know what you decide to do!



Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Yes, the colour fades rather quickly. Mine was almost all gone after 3 washes. I have some colour maintenance tips in my Instructable above :)


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Oh, thank you very much. I will try on a single forelock to see what the result is. I think it will look fine and very Avril Lavigne-ish


Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

Great idea! If you're not sure if you want to do your whole head, or want to see how your hair reacts to the bleach / colour, it is wise to do a test strand first before committing to the whole head.

Good luck! Let me know how it turns out :)


4 years ago on Introduction

Very helpful. Thanks for sharing! I love the pink!