Is Using Food Coloring on Your Hair Really a Good Idea?
Don't get us wrong—great beauty hacks are our lifeblood, especially when they're of the thrifty DIY variety. But we also know that for every brilliant tip the Internet hath given us, there are dozens of duds. So when we saw recently that people are using food coloring to tone and de-brass their blond strands, it admittedly made us clutch our proverbial pearls. This surely falls under the #PinterestFail category, no?
Not at first sight, at least. If we were going strictly by the before and after pictures, we'd say the hack is genius. Many a beauty blogger swears by this toning rinse recipe—2 cups of vinegar with 10 to 15 drops of blue and red (or just purple) food coloring—to counteract undesirable yellow tones in their blond hair, and the photos seem to be evidence to its efficacy. Still, our inner skeptic decided it was time to take this to the ultimate judge: a professional hairstylist.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Redken stylist Fatima Sheikh of New York's Cutler Salon doesn't exactly recommend this method as a way to tone hair. Aside from the kind of obvious fact that putting food coloring in your hair is a very easy way to ruin an expensive dye job (watered down or not, you never know), soaking your locks in vinegar is a less practical (and much smellier) method of diminishing brassiness than a product that's specifically formulated to do so.
"Theoretically, it could work, but it's not the greatest idea," she says. While acidic vinegar actually is a really great and thrifty way to seal the hair's cuticle, lock in moisture, and boost shine in a pinch, a proper dosage would maybe be a mist—not a soak. "Overdoing anything when it comes to hair, skin, or nails causes a reaction to restore balance," Sheikh says. "Plus, with so many restorative masks on the market, it hardly seems worthwhile to soak your locks in stinky vinegar." She's right: Speaking from experience, it takes at least a few vigorous shampoos to completely nix that smell.
What about the appeal of using pantry items? Or the fact that this method only uses two ingredients? Sheikh can actually do you one better: Her go-to method for preserving her own highlights is just plain coconut oil. "One of the little-known benefits is that it's antibacterial, which will help with balancing my scalp health as well as keeping the ends soft," she says.
And if you're past the point of prevention and have already spotted some telltale yellow dullness, we've got you covered—all the products below are specially formulated to restore the blond of your dreams, and they tout an array of clean, plant-based ingredients to boot.
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Have you ever tried putting food coloring or vinegar in your hair? Tell us about it in the comments below.