She’s a Rainbow

Go ahead. It grows back.

Rookie staffers in their angsty-hair-dyeing days. Left to right: Laia, Tavi, Marie.

Laia, Marie, Laia again, this time in a wig.

In 1908, Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote about a girl who, in 1878, purchased a bottle of dye from a peddler and, hoping for “raven black,” accidentally turned her red hair green. While the punk-rock shade wasn’t exactly her intention, Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables became my first role model in terms of rebellious hair coloring.

More than a hundred years later, Angela Chase from My So-Called Life stared at her mirror reflection with a mix of terror and admiration after trading in her mousy shade in favor of “Crimson Glow” (suggested by her friend Rayanne, who told Angela that her hair was holding her back); and Enid Coleslaw, from the comic book and movie Ghost World, dyed her hair green to achieve what she described as “a 1977 original punk-rock look.”

A teenage girl’s dyeing her hair some oddball color is a trope in fiction because it’s a trope in real life. Many if not most of us feel the urge, at some point, to whip out the Manic Panic or the Kool-Aid and dunk our heads in the sink. It’s the idea that, by changing our outward appearance, maybe we’ll be able to express some inward stirring that doesn’t quite make sense yet, even to ourselves.

My first experience with unnatural hair coloring was in the eighth grade. I was being bullied in school, and with my mother’s permission (I wasn’t that rebellious) I made hot-pink strips in my nearly black hair. It started an obsession, and to this day I continue to externalize any internal tumult by cutting, bleaching, and dyeing my hair.

If you’re yearning for a drastic change, here are a few tips.

1. Be informed.

I’m not saying write a research paper on hair dye, but do a little Googling to find out what products are most likely to get you the results you’re looking for. Some advice from Marie Robinson, the brilliant and bananas-cool owner of the salon named after her in NYC: “For great crazy-color hair dyeing at home, Punky Colour, Adore, and Manic Panic are all great products. But there are so many other great brands out there to choose from. Kool-Aid also stains hair very well, but only if your hair is naturally pale blonde or has been previously lightened.”

2. Be prepared.

Get everything you’ll need before you begin. According to Marie, you’ll require: “(1) Vaseline to prevent your skin from staining; (2) old towels your parents don’t care about getting stains on, and also for covering the floor (or sink if it’s marble); (3) gloves; (4) hair clips to keep your hair sectioned so it’s easier to work with; (5) a comb or brush for detangling; (6) first-aid eye wash just in case anything gets in your eyes; and, last but not least, (7) your desired hair color!”

3. Be yourself.

This seems obvious, but always go with your gut when choosing a shade. If you’re unsure about dyeing your whole head, test things out by coloring a few small sections or just the ends.

4. Be patient.

If you have black hair, you’re probably not going to get baby-blue cotton-candy-hued hair in one step. A bleach kit, like Manic Panic’s Flash Lightning (under $12, will have everything you need and help you get closer to your dream shade. Just follow the instructions, please.

5. Be careful.

If you’re bleaching your hair, or if your hair’s already been treated (dyed, highlighted or relaxed), do a patch test, at least, to make sure whatever you’re about to put on your hair doesn’t destroy it. At most, go to a professional. When should you absolutely leave it to a pro? Any time you’re “going from dark brown to light blonde or red to blonde,” says Marie. “After you achieve your desired color then ask if there is an at-home hair color formula to retouch your own roots.” Any nice and professional hair person should help you out here!

6. Make it last.

There are loads of products available to keep dye from fading. Invest in a great deep conditioner (like ColoristCure, $55 from, or Clairol’s Nice ’n Easy ColorSeal, about $4, drugstores) to help with damage and keep your color bright. Or use your faded shade as an excuse to try a new one! It’s all up to you.

I wish you the best in your hair experimentations. Please send us photos of your coolest looks! ♦


  • Sunshine September 29th, 2011 7:08 PM

    I’m terribly tempted to go blonde now…I was thinking about it and this is just the inspiration I needed. :)

  • OrangeSunrise September 29th, 2011 7:14 PM

    I’ve always wanted bubblegum pink hair…but dyed hair isn’t allowed in our school, so I have to wait till I’m out :’( They’re stifling our creativity, people! Fight the system! Allow dyed hair or DIE!

    • celestica September 29th, 2011 7:50 PM

      my school doesn’t allow it either but i don’t know there’s days when i just want to lock myself in the bathroom and dye my hair a nice lilac-y color
      i will soon

    • Tessa September 30th, 2011 1:46 AM

      I know exactly how you feel, well, to some extent. I couldn’t imagine being stifled for four years when hallways make perfect runways and a place for creativity.

      I have to wear a uniform at work and I ALWAYS try to find ways around it and I ALWAYS get in trouble. It’s a bloody awful polo in this horrid shade with the option of black pants or khakis and khakis are completely out of the question.

      I usually can get away with a huge funky headband or a neckbow. I’m not sure I’m allowed to dye my hair a crazy shade either (or are you know allowed to dye it AT ALL?). Oh corporate. So cute with their suffocating ways…

      I’ve dyed my hair all the normal shades way more than my follicles would like to admit.

  • oriGINAlity95 September 29th, 2011 7:25 PM

    The first time I dyed my hair was two years ago, when I was 14… my dad and I were at the grocery store and he asked me if I wanted to color my hair, I’d never asked to before or anything I was surprised he would even let me! My reply was, “Mom would hate that.” He said, “We can surprise her and have it done before she gets home from work!” Ha! I was totally game for that! Anyway I bought this dark brown/red/purple kind of color and was quite proud of myself, the color was a lot more purple than I originally thought but it was cool and I liked it and I didn’t care what any once else thought – Mom was surpirsed but warmed up to it. I’ve been changing my hair color every since, I went dark brown, to a red head- Anne Shirley was of course the reasoning, oh and Christian Hendricks too! I went super light redhead on the verge of blonde for a while… right now I have a super dark brunette shade. Oh and my original color is an ash brown… leaning towards blonde!

  • Microbyte1 September 29th, 2011 7:38 PM

    omg, thanks a lot !

  • oriana September 29th, 2011 7:43 PM

    I dyed my hair firetruck red in 11th grade, it was reeeally fun. The only problem was that red hair dye takes the longest to fade away so my mom forced me to dye it dark brown for my senior photos! so lame, haha

  • CariStereo September 29th, 2011 8:01 PM

    When I was a teen, Manic Panic and Punky Colour were my favorites. I have naturally super dark brown hair, and I never wanted to bleach my hair. I used the dye for a “tint” effect – My hair looked tinted, until I was in sunlight, then the color was crazy cool.

    I had hair that didn’t take dye well. A friend gave me this advice for making the color last longer than directions: after putting Manic/Punky in your hair, pin it up, wrap it with plastic wrap, and go to sleep in it (making sure you put towels all over your pillows!). It lasted so much longer.

    Have fun everyone!

  • Whatsername September 29th, 2011 8:22 PM

    In 7th grade I got to dye my tips for my birthday. I decided on dark forest green, bought the hairdye… It turned out teal. The kids in school would call me an “emo lesbo sea monster”. {Feel no sympathy– I actually kind of loved the attention.}

    I’m going to dye them again tomorrow, going for a dark red {I’m naturally blond}. Using Manic Panic, hopefully it’ll look good.

  • emmaaday September 29th, 2011 8:46 PM

    i just dyed a huge streak behind my ear a fire red, and i actually love all the weird looks! I have tried to dye my hair before, but its too dark to stick, so i decided that i was just going to destroy my hair until i was happy with it. I’ve really been invisible before this streak of rebellion (get it, streak?), and the looks have made me realize that i dont care what others think anymore. i love this streak, and if you dont, thats not going to make a difference in what i think.

  • nora September 29th, 2011 9:04 PM

    When I was in eighth grade, hair color other than a natural hair color was technically not allowed because it was a “distraction” but I did it anyways and nobody ever said anything!!! I’m back to my original hair color, and sometimes I miss my fun colored hair, but it was a lot of work because my hair is practically black.

  • Laia September 29th, 2011 9:10 PM

    ps i’m wearing a wig because i wasn’t allowed to have blue hair at my school! (there wasn’t a rule about it before but it certainly made it there the year after i graduated hahaha)

  • junebuglove September 29th, 2011 9:31 PM

    I dyed the tips of my hair- like 3 inches- “Atomic Pink” I have long really dark brown hair, so dyeing it all wasn’t really an option. I think next time I am going to dye like 6 inches of a random color like purple just because.

  • pirateorninja September 29th, 2011 9:45 PM

    Manic Panic discontinued the beautiful dark fuchsia color dye I used to use way back when I was a teenager! It was perfect for my olive skin tone. I think it was called “Rose Red” ? Anyone ?

    Here’s some really useful tips that I learned during this time in my life: Stridex Pads clean up the dye stains on your skin rather quickly and effectively. Cold cream is a better barrier than vaseline if you are breakout prone. If you are only bleaching your hair, follow up with some heavy conditioner (like the stuff they give you in the box) mixed with a little purple hair dye (it’s a DIY toner!). Reds and oranges wash out more quickly than other colors. Have as much fun and dye your hair as many colors as possible until you have a job that demands a certain dreaded clean cut-ness.

  • back2thepast September 29th, 2011 10:41 PM

    Ya know that chick from that one kids show? Victorious? ( Yes I watch it occasionally , thank you very much. I won’t even try to use ‘the kids i baby-sit watch it’ excuse) She has this really groovy red/maroon hair and it doesn’t look tacky or emo/goth/teens trying to discover themselves. I want red, maybe maroony purple. I’m just slightly afraid to enter the hair dye world! Once you start, you don’t really stop. Opinions????? Should I go for it??? Ho hum pigs bum, we’ll see.

  • erin September 29th, 2011 10:45 PM

    I’ve never had the urge to die my hair, except for when I was about 12 and I wanted to go blue. But now I just don’t know… I’m pretty tan, and I just don’t think color would look that great with my skin tone. Otherwise, I’m just not that keen on accidentally ruining my hair or something. Plus, colors like that aren’t technically allowed at our school. I’m more of a neutral girl anyways… does that make me sound middle-age and boring?

  • Marie September 29th, 2011 11:20 PM


    and there is me ol’ Sonic the Hedgehog candy raver ‘do for all thee world to see!!!

  • broguishrogue September 29th, 2011 11:24 PM

    my mom refuses to let me dye my hair. heck, she won’t even let me cut it certain ways.

  • Marie September 29th, 2011 11:27 PM

    Also the first time I tried dyeing my hair a funky color, I didn’t understand that I had to lighten it first so after a couple hours of preparation, soaking and rinsing out, all that came out of the ordeal was one Smurf blue ear. :(

  • Peanut September 30th, 2011 2:46 AM

    Take your hair dye tips from Lane Kim. Salad water really takes the sting out of peroxide.

    • jessejames September 30th, 2011 3:15 PM

      Hahaha, just make sure to talk about Vin Diesel, it helps.

  • dry lemons September 30th, 2011 3:05 AM

    The first time I dyed my hair, I was twelve and it was bright purple. I was going to a very strict all-girls Catholic school, uniforms and all.

    First day of seventh grade I get called up to the faculty room by one of my teachers who informs me that if I don’t dye my hair back to black by the next day, they’re going to have to call my mother. Then I told her my mother helped me dye it in the first place.

    *insert stock image of a conservative teacher’s eyebrows shooting up tp her hairline here*

  • Marguerite September 30th, 2011 5:47 AM

    I really want to go black for halloween:
    1 cuz it would b fun
    2 cuz im gonna b goth 4 a costume party
    3 cuz i wanna c how stupid ill look with black hair and almost transparent skin!

    Although i think after that i want to try auburn, I have some auburn hints in my hair, so i wonder what a whole head of it would be like…

  • ilikedginger September 30th, 2011 10:02 AM

    BE CAREFUL! This is a sad and true story: When I was young and still very cool, I was living in an urban area. At that particular school, they were happy if you showed up at all. They didn’t care what your hair looked like, just show up, try to learn something. So of course, my hair was the finest of royal blues, deep magentas and fiery reds.

    However, just days after acheiving a perfect red, white and blue head of hair, my folks moved me to the middle of nowhere. A place where cows outnumbered people and the school day was started with the pledge of allegiance and a prayer (at a public school!).

    They weren’t so pleased with my hair. In fact, I made it one day, and was placed on suspension until my hair was of a natural color. I cried and googled, which at the time, was not nearly as chockfull of helpful hair information as it is now, and trudged my way to a salon with my dad to have my hair conformed to society’s norms. The ladies there managed to scare the hell out of me when it came to bleaching my locks white, which is what I wanted, so instead I opted for the opposite: jet black.

    It was a long year of grown out light brown roots and being called a -gawth-. This was Oklahoma, they actually pronounce it that way. By the end of it, I said eff it. I’m going as blonde as I can, and I’ve never looked back. I got my GED, left Oklahoma and to this day, you will not see a dark hair on this lady (body hair excluded, german genes) ever again.

    LONG STORY SHORT: Make sure your school is ok with your wacky hair phase, because it can suck really bad if not.

  • Toilets September 30th, 2011 12:06 PM

    I would dip-dye my hair blue right now if I was wasn’t sure that it would result in immediate unemployment :(

  • viviann September 30th, 2011 1:32 PM

    I`m going blond…with a dash of pink maybe, thanks for the idea!

  • Pashupati September 30th, 2011 4:22 PM

    I’ve been thinking about dyeing my hair.
    This convinced me to try when I’ll have the money to buy something to use. I’ll just do a red streak on one short lock I cut a month ago.
    I wouldn’t have dared before (cutting a bit of my hair, dyeing it) because, somehow, my hair were some part of me. It didn’t feel “natural” to me.
    I think somewhere I was scared of being a cliché; I already had the idea and brushed it off.

  • catstickers September 30th, 2011 4:29 PM

    i have dip-dyed my hair green and blue before, but I’m a bit apprehensive to dye the whole thing, mostly because of school because apparently if you dye your hair green you get told to dye it brown or something! maybe something for college.

  • lunacydress September 30th, 2011 4:44 PM

    I used to use Kool-Aid back in high school. 3-5 packets of a red flavor in maybe 4 cups of water, I think. I’d kneel over the side of the bathtub with the ends of my hair in it for probably a half-hour at a time. I have mousey brown hair and it still made my hair distinctly pink.

    Don’t bother using grape- it doesn’t come out purple. Just sort of oddly blue-ish black. With real hair dye, blue-black can be nice, but this is sort of translucent blue-black- it won’t be good. Stick to the reds. Maybe the blue and green ones (what colors does Kool-Aid even come in? I’m a bit older than most of you, so it’s been a while!)

  • koolkat September 30th, 2011 6:36 PM

    I just cut all my hair off so i found this kind of relative. totally dying my hair next summer.

  • AineFey September 30th, 2011 9:18 PM

    Dyeing my hair is something I’ve always wanted to do but never have. I’d want to go darker, but I worry about being lazy when my roots grow out. I’d love to add purple to the tips of my hair though. I think that’s about as ambitious as I could get.

  • Gretchyn October 1st, 2011 6:58 PM

    Does Hawaiian Punch Berry Blue Typhoon drink mix work the same as Kool-Aid?

  • mamunia October 1st, 2011 10:19 PM

    if you think you might want to dye your hair some wacky colors, i say go for it while you can. i tinted my brown hair with punky colours a few times in college, but i wish i had done more. i’d love to be able to do something fun today, but it’s against my work’s dress code. :( seize the day while you can!

  • weepygonzales October 2nd, 2011 10:21 AM

    Enchanted Forest by Manic Panic is my favorite shade of green of like all time. If you’re gonna do Kool-Aid, cherry works the best.

  • fodazzle13 October 2nd, 2011 10:11 PM

    ive been dying to dye my hair dark purple or maybe a bright red. kool-aid sounds like a good idea

  • Bean October 3rd, 2011 8:47 AM

    The thing I always loved most was my colorful head. As well as my ‘hawk. I miss them both dearly. But as one last hoorah, I dyed my whole head hot hot pink again the day before my high school graduation. I was easy to find in the crowd and I got to end high school like I started, looking like a goon.

  • arianaastronaut October 3rd, 2011 11:42 AM

    I’ve been dying my hair since I was 13. First highlights, then red and purple and red again tints then jet black (that looked blue in the light), then, after letting it grow out, I had a streak that I bleached and then dyed lavender! Now, I have it bright red so my hair is tinted red and the streak is bright red. I’ve had a lot of success with splat! hair color. It’s super cheap at drug stores and if your hair is super dark, long, and textured (like mine), you just need to let the bleach/die sit longer than the instructions say.

  • watska48 October 3rd, 2011 2:06 PM

    I dyed my hair for the first time Saturday afternoon. Guess I’m about to see if blondes do have more fun than brunettes! (It looks awful… I’m excited!!)

  • izzybee October 3rd, 2011 3:25 PM

    me and my friend just dyed our tips pink and red the other day! it was so much fun even though we totally mucked up my bath:/! thanks for the inspiration xx

  • Toilets October 3rd, 2011 4:59 PM

    Inspired by the above tales of wacky hair, I’ve bought the blue dye and will be unleashing it the MINUTE I quit or get fired.

  • SoapyGirl October 3rd, 2011 5:08 PM

    I think colourful hair is beautiful, but I’d never really dye mine. I’d be too scared that it’d never go back to its original shade..

  • back2thepast October 3rd, 2011 8:38 PM

    K, I dyed half my head red/purple/pinkish. Where’s my prize?

  • curtis2k11 October 4th, 2011 6:31 AM

    Nice article. It is easy for hair to get damage, I always visit my local hair salon just to be safe.
    Also check hottie hair salon.

  • kookiechoate October 6th, 2011 8:50 PM

    I have dark brown hair (naturally) and i want to do something colorful but not to crazy… any ideas?

    • Anaheed October 7th, 2011 2:53 AM

      I have an idea! You could take an inch-thick chunk at the nape of your neck and bleach it (carrrrrefullly) and then dye it whatever crazy color you have in mind — it won’t show unless you wear your hair up.

      Or just dye your tips pink, or teal, or what have you. You can always cut off that inch of hair when you get sick of it.

  • vimari October 11th, 2011 2:05 PM

    i got now blond hair, but i ll make a candy pink colour soon.