Unnatural Hair Colors
(Credits: Instagram / @nekiinu).

It’s a trend you can’t ignore. Demi Lovato has been wearing a whole rainbow of colors in her hair. Nicole Richie‘s made pastel purple hair looks so good that we kind of forget it doesn’t grow out of her head that way. Kesha changes her color every thirty seconds, and it’s hot enough that we aren’t even remotely bored of it yet. Unnatural colors are having a moment, and every time a celebrity debuts a mane full of Manic Panic, I start to feel myself itching to do something fun with my own hair. But then I look around the office. I look around the grocery store. I look around the DMV. And I start to wonder… have I missed my window? Am I an old lady?

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Okay, so obviously you’re allowed to do absolutely anything you want with your own body, and it’s stupid to feel like you can’t change your hair just because the world thinks you shouldn’t, but sometimes it’s more complicated than that. I’m not asking if I’m ALLOWED to dye my hair purple as a 24-year-old, I’m asking if it’s worth other people’s reactions. Is it worth it to risk getting passed over by a future employer? Is it worth making bartenders think I’m in high school? Is it worth damaging my hair when I only have 10 years (TOPS!) before it goes gray and I have to dye it for the rest of my days?

I had hot pink streaks in my hair for a while in college (because I was very, very badass. I was so badass, you guys) and I used to wash my hair with temporary dye in high school to make it a pastel pink that was subtle enough that I couldn’t get in trouble for breaking the dress code, and maybe that’s all I need. Maybe I had my chance. Maybe I already punched my unnatural hair color card. I just… I need you guys to throw your opinions at me. I need you to help me figure out if there’s an age limit on bright hair.

So what do you think? Are unnatural hair colors only cool for celebrities and teenagers? Is it better to stick with hair chalk and other temporary options? Is it stupid to stop yourself from doing something fun just because you’re not sure random people in the world will like it?

Crowdsourcing: Is There An Age Limit On Unnatural Hair Colors?

This is timely. I’m about to dip my feet back into the wacky hair color pool for the first time in a decade and I’m terrified of how people at work are going to react. I’m not going over the top, but it will be a pretty drastic change from solid, natural-looking ginger to blonde with pink/peach highlights (think Sienna Miller).

I don’t think it’ll look garish, but I am concerned that, combined with my visible tattoos, I’ll be crossing the invisible line that separates “quirky” (my coworkers’ FAVORITE word to describe me) from “unprofessional.” 

There’s nothing in the HR handbook about hair and a woman in another department (I’d guess she’s about 40) had purple streaks in her hair a few months back, but I work directly with the highest level executives so the rules may be different for me.

In general, my boss has told HR that he is the only one with jurisdiction over how I look (that sounds worse than it is; it just means he doesn’t care if anybody else complains as long as he approves). I don’t want to ask his permission to dye my hair, per se, but I also don’t want him to be disappointed in me because I “should have known” that it wasn’t okay.

I totally understand that feeling of not wanting to ask for permission but not wanting to be like, “Surprise! Now you have to love it!”

Yep. It feels weird being an adult and wondering if I’m supposed to ask if I’m allowed to do something to my body.

  • Michelle: I’ve been doing crazy hair colors for like 15 years. way longer than the new ‘celebrity hair :p I can get away with a head full of magenta hair where I work, so I occasionally do, usually like a month over summer or something. totally depends on where you work and what the people in charge are like. I don’t meet with a lot of clients, but the ones I do see are ok with it – they’re always disappointed when they come in and it’s a regular color again.
  • Hannah: I’m 23 and all-over pink, have been for about three months. The upkeep is kind of insane, as a dark brunette, as was getting blond enough in the first place. But as someone who enjoys messing around with beauty stuff, it’s insanely fun. I love mixing up custom colors like a mad scientist and deep conditioning and taking crazy selfies with stiff Special FX (so much better than manic panic, FYI) in my hair. And weirdly, I think it makes people think I’m younger? I never used to get carded when I was a brunette, and now it’s all the damn time.
  • Jenny: I don’t think there’s any age limit on it, I just think people tend to do hair color differently at different ages and life stages. I think it’s awesome when older ladies get a pink or blue rinse on their hair, for example. But I do think a lot depends on where you work and how you present yourself as a whole- if you’re going for unnatural hair color, I think you need to keep your hair very cleanly styled and your outfit classic and well fitted as a balance. For instance, if I was going to color my hair pink (which I would love to), I’d probably keep it in a pixie or a blunt bob and then just wear black pants and white shirts to work. And if you wanted to do a more adventurous cut, I’d say stick to your natural color. I think one dramatic element to your look works, but it shouldn’t fight (visually speaking!) with anything else.
  • Grace: I don’t think so! I think the people who have “crazy” hair colors tend to be the people who don’t care what others think in the first place, which suits them at any age. I think the main reason people stop dying their hair though is because of work restrictions though, which is why you don’t often encounter older people with wild hair.
  • Guest: As a 26-year-old with 2 kids I get strange and disapproving looks for my “unnatural” color. But I figure I have a car payment, extra weight, and many responsibilities to tell me I am an adult, so I don’t need to prove that with my hair.
  • Samantha: NEVERRR! Provided it isn’t impeding your livelihood, that is. Fortunately, I’ve chosen the right career to keep having piercings and dyed hair and all that, but if I had to switch jobs, I would not hesitate to go a natural route.
  • Naomi: I’m 33 and would do it in a heartbeat. (I’m currently experimenting with chalks since I have no desire to strip dark dye out of my healthy hair.) I have zero interest in catering to some arbitrary notion about whether or not I’m too “old” to do something I like with my own appearance, especially since I’m successfully living life as an adult.
  • Lisa Kellogg: I’ve seen elderly women rock streaks of pink or blue.
  • Colleen: I’m nearing 40 and have purple & pink streaks in my hair. I have a professional job. No one has said boo about it. You do what you want, rock it!
  • Sparkles: I’m 29 and have had streaks of all sorts of colors over the last 3 years. It’s currently purple! I work in the marketing department of a fairly laid-back office building and everyone loves it. I think it depends on where you work. A finance job or law office is more of a formal atmosphere. If you’re ever nervous about it just talk to HR, a friendly coworker who has been there longer, or your boss. Don’t phrase it as asking for permission, just say “I was thinking about doing X to my hair. Is that something that would be appropriate in the office?” Personally, I have a part where more of it shows but I can also part it differently to hide more of the color. There are definitely tricks if you want it to be more of a subtle look during the day.
  • Holly: This is something I’ve been struggling with. My inner-Holly is totally a rainbow-haired beast. And yet, here I am with my boring, natural hair. I like to tell other people how they should do whatever they want, whenever they want because it’s their hair (face, makeup, body, etc) but then I chicken out every time. I’m a 33-year-old mother to a two-year-old. I live in a teeny tiny town that isn’t even actually a town. I’m also overweight so I feel like it will look less cute and polished on me. I worry enough about trying to make friends in this area when I’m nerdy, 30-something, with trouble connecting. I worry that the hair I want will make that even harder. Though, the realistic me knows that it’s this same lack of self-confidence that makes all of the above an issue in the first place.
  • Anne: I feel like it’s like any other trend. It’s all in how you wear it. If you’re clearly seeking approval, it won’t work, but if you’re confident and you’re doing it for you, it will always look good (as long as it’s not a color that makes you look sick, like some of those yellow greens do for the people who wear them.)
  • sydneyb79: My workplace is super corporate, so it wouldn’t fly. I don’t think anyone is too “old” for it, though. I think the whole thing is to make sure you feel confident in it (and then carry yourself as such) because otherwise, I think it can look like you are TRYING for the look, you know? (but I mean, I think this of any trend. you can easily see the people that genuinely enjoy what they are wearing and set them apart from the people that bought something that is trendy but don’t feel great it in). I do debate letting my gray streak grow in though, using what mother nature gave me to add a little interest to my hair.
  • NotThumper: I had always wanted to do something funky with my hair but as my hair is naturally dark brown I knew bleaching would be involved and was always scared of damaging my hair. For my 30th birthday, I decided to go to a salon to have my hair bleached and dyed purple (ombre style) and I’m so glad I did! I’ve only ever gotten compliments from everyone who sees it, young and old…not to mention my 3-year-old daughter thinks I look like my little pony now). I wish I had a decent pic (and knew how to attach it) so you could see. In all honesty, I agree with some of the other comments..I’ve got other things going on that to make me feel less than awesome (like extra weight, stress…) but my hair always makes me feel like I’ve got a little something special. 😉
  • Rose: I am 32 and I have slate blue/gray hair. Separately, I’m the general ops manager of a small company and no one cares what I do with my style. I’m, also, tattooed in places that cannot be covered up (a la the hands). They knew what they were getting when they hired me… but that wasn’t the question… the question was if crazy hair color should be reserved for youngsters. Why take that route? “Too old for” is an incredibly limiting mentality. I saw a woman the other day, who had to be mid-60s, with pure WHITE hair down to her waist that she had put rainbow streaks in. She looked like a unicorn shapeshifter! It was rad. She was straight-up beautiful. Most of this fashion stuff has less to do with age and more to do with how you carry yourself. I have seen plenty of youngins with “unnatural” hair colors that cannot pull it off but then there’s this magical, unicorn 60-year-old woman who looked like she came into the world like that. Be you and try to love yourself. I would recommend shelving the “too old for” mentality as it will hold you back from way more than hair dye choices.
  • Daisy: I’m in my 30s and have had my hair colored purple and pink for about a year. I’m shocked, SHOCKED, by how many compliments I get. Every time I leave the house, someone oooohs, and ahhhhs! Also, when I go to church on Sunday, all the little old ladies come up and want to tell me how pretty it is and how their granddaughter or great-niece has colored hair and ‘things sure have changed but it’s so pretty we never got to do that in my day’. Do it. Hair grows back. You can redye it something else if you need a new job.
  • Embee83: Just another “old” chiming in! I have them under a layer of my hair dyed purple and it’s great! I plan to continue dying its fun colors until enough of it is grey/silver and I can just rock the witchy look.
  • Valerie: I’m 31 and I’m still dyeing my hair with unnatural colors. I actually didn’t start until a few years ago, and I was worried about the same thing, and I decided to just do it! I am sure there are some people out there who question my choices, but they never talk to me. The ones who do are the ones who go out of their way to tell me they love my hair! That feels great, and I’d recommend it to anyone. I also occasionally see women who are clearly older than me with bright colors in their hair, and I think it’s awesome. I want to be just like them when I grow up 🙂
  • Annie: I was in Paris 10 years ago and many very elegant older women (50+) had their hair dyed in pastels to match their Chanel (just guessing here) suits. They looked fabulous! But then the French are born with good fashion sense.
  • April: A good friend of mine who is pushing 70 has gorgeous purple hair. And when I used to vend at flea markets, I swear I saw more older women (60+) with brightly colored hair than younger women.
  • Linda: Do what you want, when you want xx I’m 52 and though I’m not coloring my hair just now, I’ve tried all sorts and will do again when the notion takes me.
  • LynnKell: I’m two months away from turning 25, went the My-Little-Pony-purple-hair route a month ago and I don’t plan on letting it go soon, even though I’m also looking for a job. (I majored in business yet I’m looking for a position in a software company; tech companies are more relaxed, so it depends on the industry) so I say, go for it!! I was worried about frying my hair and it certainly isn’t as healthy as it was before bleaching it, that’s why I decided to go ombre. If I get tired of the maintenance I will just cut it off. I’ve met grannies who dye their gray hair a light lavender or coral shade, so, knock yourself out!!

Leave me a comment and maybe we can solve this mystery together!

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