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Purple, blue, pink — why not? Vibrant hair color breaks through

Alternative hair colors are being seen on the runways, on celebrities and on your best friend. Here's how to get and maintain the vivid hues.

July 15, 2012|By Alene Dawson
  • Singer Selena Gomez sports jewel-toned streaks in her smooth 'do.
Singer Selena Gomez sports jewel-toned streaks in her smooth 'do. (Victor Chavez / WireImage )

Bye, bye, side braid. Farewell, hair feather. Right now the cool kids are carried away with vibrant color.

There are the daredevils like Lady Gaga,Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry who use dye or wigs to achieve purple, blue or pink all over their heads

Other fashionistas have a more painterly approach, including Maybelline's new spokesmodel Charlotte Free, who freshened up last season's ombre trend by fringing her hair with a gradation of cotton-candy pinks. Even the more mainstream Lauren Conrad has not only dipped the tips of her swinging ponytail in fuchsia but also posted an image of her tresses painted with sinewy streaks of sublime purples, pinks, green and oranges — a rainbow of expression.

Pastel-haired models brightened the spring-summer 2012 fashion week runway shows (as seen at Thakoon, Narciso Rodriguez and Peter Som). This feminine look went chic for Chanel's and Marc Jacobs' cruise-resort shows for 2013 and now is showing up on magazine covers.

Is it a revolution or an evolution?

The daring have been wearing alternative hair color for years. New York City sisters and punk rockers Tish and Snooky Bellomo created Manic Panic hair dye back in 1977 in amped-up, super-bold colors with evocative names: Atomic Turquoise, Electric Tiger Lily and Bad Boy Blue. Cyndi Lauper "She Bopped" crazy hair colors through the '80s, and Gwen Stefani rocked colors like raspberry blue in the '90s. (Remember that hairdo from the 1998 MTV Awards where she also wore rhinestones on her forehead and two little mini-buns shaped like the goat-god Pan?) The word to describe color in those days was "edgy."

But in 2012 the trend is more mainstream than ever — you're as likely to see dip-dyed ends on the girl next door as you are on a goth or rocker. And the color is softer — even frothy, perhaps — as seen in"America's Next Top Model"winner Sophie Sumner's fairylike pale pink tresses.

Why? People may be tired of feeling glum about the recession of the last few years and be ready to lighten and brighten up. Happy hair is a relatively inexpensive pick-me-up. Or it may be a foreshadowing of better days to come. Celebrity hairstylist Ted Gibson, who stars on the TV show "What Not to Wear," thinks it is the latter.

"I totally believe that there is a shift in the economy," he says. "So hair color isn't so dark … when things were bad, designers were making clothes that were a little tougher, stronger … Pastel colors and those kinds of whimsical interpretations I think allude to the fact that there's an upswing in the economy."

But it's celebrities including color queens Gaga, Perry and Minaj who've really introduced the color craze to the masses. "Especially now, I think Hollywood fairly dictates what's happening in fashion as well as what's happening in hair — specifically this trend about color," Gibson says.

Indeed, a gaggle of mainstream celebs including Rachel McAdams, Kate Bosworth, Selena Gomez, Sienna Miller, Emma Watson, Lauren Conrad, Carrie Underwood and even Joan Rivers have all opted in on deliciously dyed hair.

The trend has even gone to the dogs: Model Allesandra Abrosio was censured by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) recently when she was seen with her small dog, who was resplendent in ombred shades of purple and pink unseen since the 1950s trend of poodle-dying.

This trend of color, color everywhere is fantasy fun but needs to be handled with caution. Permanent hair dye can strip natural color. Semi-permanent only deposits color. "So, in order to get these really bright colors [if you want to actually dye it] and you're a brunet you have to bleach your hair, start with a clean slate, otherwise it's going to look muddy," says Jennifer J., owner of the Juan Juan salons in Beverly Hills and Brentwood and the colorist who gave January Jones her bubble-gum pink hair. "At a proper salon the tips are perfectly dyed, we can add highlights or lowlights … the color looks intentional. Not like a mistake." Doing it yourself can risk breakage, bad roots, faded or unwanted colors and worse.

But P&G Wella Professionals beauty scientist Teca Lewellyn says, "Chemistry has come a long way to make sure that you can remove that melanin [pigment] without totally frying your hair."

She says it depends how damaged or previously processed the hair is, but that generally, "You can safely lighten up to seven shades, which is kind of a lot. But I'm not saying that you're going to be someone with dark beautiful Asian hair and come out being a towhead after being in the salon for a while." Lewellyn recommends Wella Professionals Blondor to lighten hair. (It's won the Stylist Choice Awards for favorite bleach lightener 12 consecutive years.)

The newest looks don't involve dying the entire head of hair.

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