That’s Overdue Like a Libberry Book


Occasionally someone emails me and asks me something. I was on a tear last night, so I thought I’d share with the rest of the class. I wrote an email about how to dye a little kid’s hair crazy colors. Thanks for writing.

Over here we use Special Effects. I don’t know if you live in a large or small town, but often this can be purchased at a “punk rock barber shop” type place. You shouldn’t pay much more than ten dollars for it. A place like the punk mall store chain “Hot Topic” will absolutely gouge you for 15 dollars or more, which is okay if you just want one bottle one time. I do not recommend the “classic” brands Punky Color or Manic Panic, because in my experience Special Effects has at least four times the staying power, and this is with a normal shampoo regimen.

If you’re in a small town, then I recommend this website if you’re going to make a habit of it. Click on the name of the color to see it on people’s heads. These are REALLY nice people out of Indiana and I have dealt with them several times. It’s more worthwhile to me to pay for shipping because I buy in bulk. I actually end up spending less.


I don’t know know what color your kiddo is naturally, but with brown/dark hair you’re going to get a “wash” or “tint” effect that can still be quite dramatic. With naturally blonde hair you’re going to get more tinting. My kiddo has sun-bleached hair and it’s pretty porous and visible. My personal opinion is that while you can get a dramatic effect with bleaching, that’s a pretty risky way to do it with kids. My big kid was subjected to bleach at her dad’s house for a wedding to make her “presentable” and all she remembers two years later is the bleach burns. Sad panda.


Words to the wise for new hair-dyers, especially of little kids:

1. General
Special Effects is VERY stain-y and transfers to almost anything. Set yourself up in a “safe” place that can get trashed, or can be cleaned easily. Old clothes and dark/trash towels are a must! The dye can transfer onto combs, pillowcases, shirt collars, anything, especially when wet. Think of it as a gooier version of food dye. You know how that stuff can spread. By the way, dyeing outside in the summer can be fun, and a smart idea.

2. Dyeing
During dyeing (I recommend a half-hour), keep a close watch, especially if you have a wiggle-worm. Once I was doing my big kid’s hair when she was about four and my phone rang. I turned around to grab it, and, BAM, there she was rolling on the floor, spreading a pink stain all over the apartment carpet. EEP! I recommend wrapping the colored hair in a bun or ponytail, depending on how much you’re going to do. Sometimes I will wrap hair in foil to contain it.

Use gloves! Use gloves! They can be had at the hardware, beauty supply, or drugstore.

Get creative! I have done my kid’s whole head, but I have also done her tips and streaks, which is also fun, still dramatic and less messy.

3. Rinse
I don’t know how independent your kiddo is, but I still help mine the first time she gets in the shower, by directing her how to rinse effectively. I remind her to hold her head back and to give it a good rinse before she digs her hands in. If your kid can put her head upside down in a sink, I recommend this the first time. You may consider wearing gloves to rinse her head, to keep your hands less stained. I also find it handy to jump into the shower with her to assist her hands-on.

To have a really bright color, you want to do less rinsing and shampooing the first time out. If you are okay with a more pastel color, and want to minimize transferring the color around your house, shampoo a couple of times and try to get the water to run clear(ish) before containing it in a towel.


4. Damage control
The price of colored hair, especially if it’s past the ears, is that the color will spread a bit. But there’s some things you can do to help.

If it gets on cloth and won’t come out, trying exposing it to sun. The sun saved me with my apartment carpet disaster…after a while the sun “ate” the color until there was no trace. Repeated machine washings for most clothes will remove the color eventually.

Something bleach-related usually works with the tub, sink, or other parts of the bathroom. Try Soft Scrub or Comet and if it’s stubborn and the surface can take it, make a paste and let it sit for a while under a wet paper towel or something.

On the skin, the best thing to do is prevention, such as wearing gloves. If her neck or face ends up with stains, I have had good luck with scrubbing gently with a washcloth and then following up with drugstore face wipes like these.

Makeup remover can help. too. For my own body I use exfoliating gloves, but this would probably be too harsh for little ones. If you shower the stains can linger in unexpected places as it runs off your body. I have hopped out of the shower, dried off, and then discovered orange streaks on the back of my leg. Grand. Sometimes I wrap my hair in a towel when it’s clean and rinsed, and then rinse my body one more time to make sure.


One more tip to keep in mind is that the darker the dye, the more it will spread around. I’m not sure about dark skin, but in my experience as a light-skinned person, when I pick shades that are in the same color family as my skin (pinks or warm reds) it follows that they show up less as stains on my face and neck. Recently I did my kid’s hair midnight blue, and streaks on her neck were a lot more obvious.

Don’t worry, after a few shampoos the rest of the color just “clings” and you will hardly notice any leeching anymore.

Here are some good light colors:
Cupcake pink (very long-lived as a light pink)
Joyride (light purple which fades to pink)

Burgundies, blues, and deep reds will be more challenging. Blue velvet is what we used recently, which was tricky, but has faded to a VERY pretty cornflower.

I know this sounds complicated, but I wanted to share the benefit of ten-plus years of experience with you. Have fun experimenting!

If anyone has anything to add or ask, I’d be happy to hear it. Obviously, I’m not a pro, I just like monkeying around with it. And we become good that what we love, yes?

24 thoughts on “That’s Overdue Like a Libberry Book

  1. I, for one, appreciate this entry and am de-lurking to tell you so. It’s very well-timed, as I have just been considering going some crazy color for an upcoming show/extravaganza I’m going to, but I’m a slightly nervous first-timer. Now I’m even more gung-ho.

    I’ve also heard that using vaseline on hairline and neck keeps the skin staining down…true?

  2. I have heard this but never tried it. My thought is that cleaning up the V-grease may be more hassle than it’s worth. The kind lady who does my hair now uses a clean mascara wand for the edges…works great! Come back and post a link if you go through with it.

  3. I showed the pix of Franny to Stepladder, and she was horrified and incredulous all at once. “She DYED her HAIR!!???”

    Just my luck to have an ultraconservative hair nazi, because I would be totally up for giving her a nice purple streak if she wanted one.

    I got my hair cut on the Friday, which she was also most disapproving of. But then, apparently everyone I know shares her opinion. My naive idea was that when people get their hairs cut, the correct response is a mildly favourable comment. All day at work, people kept coming up to me and saying “OMFGBBQ, you cut your hair!” No, like mild compliments or anything. Okay, yes, it is 12 inches shorter, but dudes, it are hair. It grow.

  4. thanks for the tips SJ!

    i have sworn by Atomic Pink but haven’t been able to do it for the last three years (corporate job). going back to grad school this fall, so it’s gonna be pink again!

    the only thing is i haven’t been able to find Special Effects in a store ANYWHERE. i’ve never seen it in Sally’s or Hot Topic, but maybe i’m just idiot. i’ve always ordered it online.

  5. Laundry Broad’s hair is the bomb. I particularly love this look:

    My nephew dyed the tips of his hyairs platinum blonde (he’s naturally dark haired) and then when he got bored with that changed it to blue. He was 9. I’m jealous that I couldn’t do something like that when I was a kid.

    Which reminds me. You know that crappy Gina Davis movie Long Kiss Goodnight (last kiss?). It’s a bad move that I love. I *SO* badly wanted to dye my hair platinum blond after I saw it in the theater. My friends talked me out of it. Sigh. Mine is a life of unfulfilled hair color fantasies.

  6. Yah! I think that would look fabulous with your face and skin. It’s not too late, krumpy!

  7. It’s been two years since the bleach incident with SeaFed? I have been reading this for far too long methinks.

    Krumpy: Do it! Doooooo eeeeeeet! You’ll never know until you try, and if it looks wrong on you, thats what darker shades are for (and a cute short haircut)

  8. Awesome, thank you!

    This is great for summer for us. Not so much the school year apparently. We’ve gotten a phone call and then a formal letter from the school before telling us to please not dye the children’s hair blue. Fine, we say. FINE.

  9. I’m really bummed because I’ve had the urge to dye my hair blue for the past few months, but that’s not office-appropriate.

    I had good experiences with Manic Panic reds some ten years ago, but all the dark reds from Urban Decay wound up washing out to bubblegum pink at the first real shampoo. Which… not the look I was going for.

  10. I’ve had success with the Vaseline Petroleum Jelly method of proactive dye on skin avoidance – just wipe off with a warm/hot washcloth! Easy!

    My wee one (now a teen) liked her hair dyed (still does, she just does it herself now) and it used to piss off the other parents in the preschool, ’cause then all of their kids wanted pink hair, too…including Olivia, who had really long blonde perfectly styled tresses (poor Olivia’s parents).

    Also, re: damage control…sometimes the grandparents can get a little freaky deaky about the dying of the kids’ hairs. My mom was an absolute monster to me over this and it sucked a lil (hell, we just cut back on the visits to her place. WAY back. Problem solved.). Just sayin’.

  11. I *love* the dark pink with the straight bangs. AWESOME. I’ve had good luck with Manic Panic, but it’s worth noting that I *like* it when it fades. I usually keep my hair bleached white, but when I do dye it (like, um, this morning), I’m usually looking for a color from which I can return to white fairly easily — and that looks “normal” on me. That generally means light pinks and purples (often Cotton Candy mixed with white toner or a mix of Cotton Candy and either Plum or Ultra Violet and white toner — I am all about the mixing, to the disappointment of people who stop me to ask what color I used). Cupcake Pink and Joyride sound right up my alley, tho, and I will definitely check them out! Thanks for the tips on kiddie dyeing — now I’ll be ready when my toddler asks for blue!

  12. I’ve been dreaming of dying my hair a wild color, usually pink or something, but I just worry that I am not daring enough, not cutting edge enough. I dunno, but I think that I should dye my hair atleast once to atleast say I’ve done it.

  13. I went from a light ashy cool blonde to a very dark neutral chocolate cherry three years ago, and then back again about six months ago.

    It was fun. Try it!

    P.S. I was in my thirties.

  14. P.P.S. Be nekkid, use an old shower curtain as drop cloth, tacky gripclip to hold hair up, vaseline around the hairline and use old toothbrush to fill in, or an old dollar store paintbrush pack brush. Also good for thin streaking.

  15. SJ,
    I’ve been wanting to ask you about hair dye too! I have a lot of gray streaks in my hair, especially at the temples. For summer I wanted to dye the gray part purple (the rest of my hair is brown.) What I want to end up with is my hair all brown with a few strands of purple here and there, like highlighting. I don’t really want a whole section of purple, except at my temples, where it only shows when I wear a ponytail or tuck my hair behind my ears a certain way. Do you think this is possible? Does the dye take well on gray hair? I will be having a professional do it…

  16. Hi Patty,

    From what I understand, a major factor on whether or not dye will take is how porous your hair is. When my fella’s hair is natural salt-and-pepper, it seems like color sticks well to his grey parts.

    My advice, if you can afford the time/money/whatever else it would take, would be to have the pro do a strand test.

    Also, my understanding is that hairdressers have really good stuff now that’s bright and “one step” or “single process”. You might ask about that. I went to college with a woman who was Chinese and had typical dark, straight, thick hair, and she had bright red streaks put in and she said that they did not wash out or need to be bleached first. Pretty cool.

    I hope this helps.

  17. SJ thanks so much for this! We’re all going blue later in the summer for my brother’s wedding and I was wondering how I was going to go about it. Been a lot of years since I was Ms. Manic Panic Tangerine.

    I am seeing a wading pool in the back yard for dying Mr. Four and Big Man. And by then we will all be all sun-bleached, oh yeah this is going to be good.

  18. Hi. This is all about taste. I completely agree with you regarding \”That’s Overdue Like a Libberry Book\”, but I think you are in the thin line of thinling. Don\’t you? Maybe you can try set in chocolate stains

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