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Is Using Food Coloring on Your Hair Really a Good Idea?

A professional weighs in.

woman with curly blonde hair

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 has given us, there are dozens of duds. So when we saw recently that people are using food coloring to tone and de-brass their blonde 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—two cups of vinegar with 10 to 15 drops of blue and red (or just purple) food coloring—to counteract undesirable yellow tones in their blonde 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.

Is It Safe to Use Food Coloring on Your Hair?

Somewhat unsurprising, 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 using 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 get rid of that smell. 

Nutiva Coconut Oil $8

So, What About Using Other 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.

Coconut oil can be difficult to rinse out of your hair. We suggest applying it gradually and brushing it through your strands as you progress to avoid too much product in your strands.

The Final Takeaway

In short, fight the urge to put food coloring or vinegar in your hair, and use one of these safe alternatives instead.

John Masters Organics Color Enhancing Conditioner $23

Made with Moringa seed extract, this conditioner protects your hair from pollutants and will also restore your strands back to their best blonde after a few uses.

Christophe Robin Baby Blond Shade Variation Care $53

This moisturizing mask is blended with almond butter and buriti oil, so your locks will feel (and look) extra hydrated. It's made specifically to enhance blondes with natural color.

Kevin Murphy Blonde Angel Treatment $26

Restore your blonde roots with this lavender-infused treatment that'll deliver shine and color. 

Davines Alchemic Shampoo $25

The worst is when the sun turns blonde roots yellow. Balance sun exposure with this silver shampoo made for platinum and cool-toned blondes.

Aveda Blue Malva Color Depositing Conditioner $24

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