Is It Really Safe For Children To Dye Their Hair?
With advances in hair dye products, and a growing freedom for self-expression through ‘alternative’ fashions; there has been a lot of debate recently about whether children should be allowed to dye their hair, and what age this is appropriate.
There are certainly a lot of children who dream of pastel pink unicorn hair, or electric blue streaks; but what are the dangers of using hair dye on children, and if we want to dye our children’s hair, what are the best products to use?
Is It Safe?
One of the most important things to bear in mind is that children tend to have much finer hair. As they develop, children’s hair (and skin) goes through a lot of changes; so they are more likely to experience reactions and are more susceptible to hair damage.
Because of this, it is important to avoid using permanent dye on children's hair. These often contain ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, and a chemical known as paraphenylenediamine, which can cause very bad reactions to the scalp, and permanently damage hair. As dermatological expert Dr. Sejal Shah explains: "I really don't think it's safe to dye or bleach a child's hair until after puberty, and ideally not until their late teens — at least 16," the chemicals in dye can change the whole texture of your child's hair, not just its colour.
What options are available?
Much research advises that prepubescent children should avoid colouring their hair altogether; but if your child is very keen to use hair dye, be careful of what products you use. As stylist Bonnie Harmon explains: "Before puberty, a kid's hair is typically thinner and more fragile and can be easily damaged by even the most gentle hair colour formulas ... An allergic reaction could result in broken skin, hair loss, hives, itchy scalp, swelling, burning and difficulty breathing."
Wash-in/wash-out, 'semi-permanent' and vegetable dyes are often safer, as temporary colours coat the hair shaft, rather than penetrating it. However, it's still vital to check what ingredients they contain (avoid toxic hydrogen peroxide, aka bleach, and ammonia); and always doing a patch test first to check for allergies. If you are using a wash-in dye, your child must be capable of sitting still for at least twenty minutes; and should be mature enough not to touch, flop their head around, or lie back on things.
Read Next: Are Fidget Spinners Really Worth The Hope?
There was uproar online recently concerning moms who had dyed their children's hair; but the moms of both 2 year old Felicity (pictured above), and 6 year old Lyra (pictured below with 'unicorn hair') were quick to explain that they used wash out Manic Panic dye, and that they are both experienced in hair dying, and researched products before going ahead.
Once you pick your dye, consider how you want to apply it: Balayage is a more gentle approach to 'highlighting', instead of using foils; which can be a strong heat conductor and can quickly dehydrate hair. If done properly, this avoids direct contact with the scalp. A 'dip dye' look also ensures that if the colour fails to wash out fully, it can be removed with a quick trim rather than a dramatic chop.
You may remember the sticky spray dye, and mascara wands of old (Ah the 90s), but the best option that doesn't require long periods of sitting still, or the risk of spreading dye all over the bathroom and pillows; is Hair Chalk or Hair Crayons. These can be used on dark or light hair, and can be rubbed straight onto hair then washed out; so they have minimal risk of damaging the hair or scalp. Or of course, you could avoid colouring the hair completely, with clip in streaks, or hair wraps.
In the end it is up to you whether you allow your children to try out temporary hair dyes, or want them to wait a few years. The most important thing is that any products used are as gentle and temporary as possible, and that your child's expectations of what it might look like, and how like it will last, are managed. There is plenty of time for them to accidentally bleach their hair orange when they're older.