How to Dye Dark Hair Pastel

Victoria Moorhouse


Good news for all the brunettes of the world staring enviably at anyone who has pastel dipped, highlighted, or dyed hair. Those with blonde, platinum, or lighter locks aren’t the only ones who can experience this whimsical hair color trend for themselves. Yes, it is a good day, indeed, because pastel hair dye for dark hair is a thing and totally achievable.

But to answer the question that’s still on your mind (if you want to know how to dye dark hair pastel), in order to try out fun colors like lavender, pink, blue, and green, you DO have to use bleach. Bleaching your hair isn’t something to take lightly either, so the fear of using this ingredient to go from a dark hue or brunette to pastel at home is understood. So how do you even begin this process? For the first time, head to a salon and consult an expert.

Zoe Wiepert, lead colorist at Bumble and Bumble Salon in New York City, explains that this is an important step to ensure that your hair has been bleached to the right point where your hair color has been properly lifted. Brunette or dark hair takes an especially long time to lift, as the layers of the pigment need to be “peeled back” to get the hair to the place where pastel dye will actually show up. Blondes have less pigment to essentially “peel back,” which is why it’s easier for them to go pastel.

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“Think of it like a tree trunk with different rings, that’s like the follicles of your hair. For dark hair, it takes longer to lift because you’re going through more pigment ‘rings,'” says Wiepert.

If you want a red or a violet tone pastel look, Wiepert explains that the hair needs to be bleached to a marigold, yellow tone, while those looking for a pastel blue need to bleach their hair until it’s the hue of the inside of a banana peel.

The health of the hair before the bleach and dye also plays a big part in the results you see. “It’s important that it’s in good condition when you start off. If it’s a dry and damaged brunette, your start will be rough.”


To get the color in the look pictured above, Wiepert took Manic Panic Shocking Blue & Violet Night mixed with Manic Panic’s Pastel-izer, teasing the hair at the top before adding the color in to make sure it didn’t appear too chunky.

It’s suggested that you wait at least 24 to 48 hours before washing, choosing cooler rinses of water instead of hot water after you dye your hair a fun shade to help the color last longer. This whole process on virgin, dark hair takes about nine hours to complete. We never said it would be quick!

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While it’s important to visit a salon for the first time, touching it up at home isn’t impossible. “An easy way to touch it up is to take sections, starting at the back of the head in triangles, which helps it to be more seamless. Teasing the hair first helps you get a softer line. Apply bleach in a “V” shape as well, even after teasing the hair,” she says.

When you’re mixing the color, Wiepert says you should add tiny bits into a bowl slowly to ensure you get the exact hue you’re looking for. “Mix in small doses—you can always add more but you can’t take away,” she says.

The sections in the front should be thin and teased before color is added in to avoid that chunky look. Wiepert also says your hands should be clean when you’re sectioning off the hair. When you rub the color on your hair with your hands, the heat from your hands will help soak in the color to your cuticle.

Since applying bleach is usually rather damaging and drying to the hair, you’ll want to use masks and products that can replenish and hydrate your hair on a regular basis. “Use Bumble and Bumble’s Hairdressers Invisible Oil and Quenching Complex mid-shaft to ends every day for healthy ends,” says Wiepert. Another alternative is using raw coconut oil in your hair, too.

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