The Damaging Truth About Hair Dye Trends & Kids

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Remarkable hair dye trends are encouraging young kids to fall for the fad that can have long-lasting damaging effects on their hair.

“Mom, can I dye my hair purple?” With current trends in hairstyles, kids see the array of colors out there and want it for themselves. From hot pink to purple to rainbow colors, the options are endless. But, at what price?

The Trouble with Dye

Purchasing a home application hair dye may be the easiest way for you to satisfy kid requests, but hair dyes are created for adults. They can potentially do more harm to your child than you may think.

“The primary medical complication I see from hair dyes is an allergic type contact reaction, almost like the reaction you can get from poison ivy,” says Kate Seymour, M.D.,  internal medicine/pediatrics with Saint Thomas Health.

“It can cause an itchy, red rash in the area where the hair dye contacts the skin. This is common in adults and children, but kids tend to have more sensitive skin,” she adds.

Aside from a skin reaction to harsh dye, a child’s hair can be easily damaged, too.

While bright colors may work on very light hair, brown or black hair needs to be bleached first.    

“Children have more delicate hair than adults,” says Joseph Gigante, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. “Since the chemicals in hair dye and bleach can be damaging, a child’s immature hair is much more susceptible to damage. Children’s skin is also more sensitive, so they’re more likely to experience a skin reaction on their scalp from dyes,” he adds.

“As anyone who has colored their hair long term can tell you, the chemicals are harsh and can damage hair over time,” says Seymour. “Especially prior to puberty, a child’s hair is vulnerable to that type of damage.”

Right Age for Color?

Local mom Kelly King let her son dye his hair blue when he was 7.

“There was no bleach involved because his hair is naturally light,” says King. “He’s an individual person, so why not let him embrace it if he’s not hurting himself or others?” she adds.

Local mom Victoria Beach says she will let her daughter dye her hair when she’s a teen.

“My boyfriend has a blue mo-hawk, and I typically have some sort of color in mine,” says Beach. “So I see no reason why she can’t have fun with her hair once she’s old enough,” she says.

Gigante suggests it may be best to wait for puberty before altering your child’s natural color with permanent dyes. Besides, says local mom Carol Stewart Beverly, “My beautician wouldn’t dye my daughter’s hair until she turned 13.”

But some kids may want to add color before puberty arrives.

“If a younger child wants to color her hair then use a non-permanent solution and keep it off the scalp,” suggests Gigante. “Temporary colors that wash out after shampooing are generally safe.”

Beware Kool-Aid

The most common alternative for coloring hair is Kool-Aid.   

Rachel Tinsley’s daughter was 16 when she first tried the method and Tinsley has a warning.

“It will NOT come out,” Tinsley says. “My daughter has brown hair and died the bottom red. We tried everything to get it out. The hairdresser had to cut it out then bleach her hair.”

So nix the Kool-Aid unless you want it to last. And be careful.

“Check with your pediatrician for any red flags related to your child’s individual medical history before using dye,” cautions Seymour.

Kiera Ashford is associate editor of Nashville Parent and mother of three.

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