The 411 on pastel hair

The 411 on pastel hair

pastel hair Author: Julia McEwen


The 411 on pastel hair

Thinking about taking your hair into pastel territory? Our fashion & beauty director did. Here's everything she experienced along her technicolor journey.

I was born with an icy-white mop of hair; now, 30 years later, I’m just as platinum as I was in my childhood, thanks to a standing eight-week appointment with my colourist. My point? I’m no stranger to high-maintenance hair.

Before after pastel hair


I should also mention this wasn’t my first time taking the pastel plunge. When I was graduating from high school, my mom gave me money to get highlights; instead, I decided it was perfectly reasonable to colour my hair to match my puffy pink prom dress. I was thrilled with the results—Mum, however, much less enamoured.

The pastel trend has been on the upswing for the past few years, and from the look of things, it shows no signs of slowing down. Top-tier celebrities such as Rachel McAdams, Kate Bosworth, Sienna Miller and Kristen Stewart have embraced the style. My Instagram feed is regularly flooded with My Little Pony hair colours, and on recent trips to Paris, I’ve seen the unusual shades pepper the sidewalks. I’ve also noticed an influx of pastel-haired ladies and gents right here at home in Toronto.  

When the opportunity to dip into pastel hair colour presented itself in the form of an email on behalf of Schwarzkopf Professional, I jumped at the chance. When I arrived at ASK Academy in Toronto’s trendy Queen West neighbourhood, I was ready to say so long to my blond hair and hello to lavender locks. The warm and friendly Joey Marchese, essential looks artist at Schwarzkopf and stylist and colourist at Bob + Paige, greeted me, and instantly, I knew my hair was in good hands.

Pearlescence hair colour shades
The hair colour I tested was from the Igora Royal Pearlescence line, a new launch from Schwarzkopf Professional. The range (eight shades in total, see image above) leaves locks with a pearl finish, and it’s intended for highlighting, balayage, slices, ombré or an all-over colour process. I chose the latter, thinking I’d do the Pastel Lavender shade, however Marchese advised against it. “The lavender tends to look a touch blue,” he explains, “especially as it fades.” He recommended I try Pastel Candy, which, despite the name, would give me the true lavender I craved.

The process was rather quick and straightforward because I sat in his chair with extremely high-lift hair, a.k.a. platinum. However, for anyone wanting pastel hair without starting with light-blond locks, your first step is bleaching the areas where you’re going to apply the pastel colour. This is where things get tricky if you want to go pastel at home. Marchese says to leave the bleaching process to the professionals because it’s difficult to apply evenly—and safely. He began painting the Pastel Candy shade all over my hair in sections. Two hours later, I was rinsed, styled and on my way. I loved it.

The first reaction to my new ’do came moments later in the form of a text from a friend who had driven by me: “Were you just walking on Queen Street with PURPLE HAIR?! I love it!” The second reaction was from my somewhat conservative paramour; let’s just say he prefers blonds. Although I did have a few mixed responses, for the most part, everyone loved it—even my mum was feeling the lavender.

Different shades of purple hair
OK, now for some real talk. I thought having blond hair was high maintenance, but pastel hair colour is a whole other level. If you’re considering going pastel, you need to be OK with ever-changing/fading colour. The photos above are a good example of how much the colour faded in just more than three weeks—and, for the record, I’m a once-a-week hair washer. The less you wash your hair, the better. When you do wash your hair, use a purple shampoo. You can also replenish the colour with a 50/50 mixture of a hair mask and Manic Panic N.Y.C. High Voltage Classic Cream Formula Hair Color in your desired shade. Leave the mixture on for 15 minutes, then rinse.

Would I take the pastel plunge again? In a heartbeat!

Purple hair products
Colour savers

1. Schwarzkopf Professional BC Bonacure Hairtherapy Color Freeze Rich Shampoo, $15,

2. Manic Panic N.Y.C. High Voltage Classic Cream Formula Hair Color, $14,

3. Sephora Collection Express Dry Shampoo, $11.50,

Read more:
How to dye your own hair at home
Lighten up: 4 hair colour techniques from ombré to balayage


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The 411 on pastel hair