Here at Byrdie, we've seen no shortage of beauty hacks, some useful and some, well, downright wild. Among the typical ones—like smoothing Vaseline on cracked heels and using dryer sheets for ridding flyaways—we've also seen ones that raise eyebrows, like applying toothpaste on your boobs to attempt to tighten them up (yup). When social distancing made it such that we couldn't see professionals in person, we entered a new era of DIY concoctions and at-home treatments. The latest? Dyeing your hair with Kool-Aid.
The childhood favorite made its debut a few years ago as an at-home hair dye solution, but it's recently made a comeback among those looking to weave in pops of orange, blue, and green in their hair. Whether it's because they're yearning for an activity (one that doesn't involve 700-piece puzzles, banana bread, and Netflix), or they simply crave a colorful change, one thing's for sure: People are searching for how this is done, and are turning to Instagram for inspiration—#koolaidhair and #koolaidhairdye on Instagram both have over 1000 tags each (and counting). We reached out to professional hairstylist Kali Ferrara to get the lowdown on this beauty trend. Is it safe, can it be damaging to the hair, and how the hell is it actually done?
Below, find everything you need to know about dyeing your hair with Kool-Aid.
Meet the Expert
Kali Ferrara is a professional hairstylist and hair colorist based in New York City. With a focus on color, she's experienced in balayage, foiling, and color correction.
What You Need to Know
"When coloring your hair with Kool-Aid, all it is merely doing is staining the outside of your hair shaft, like you would use food coloring to color Easter eggs," says Ferrara. While the Kool-Aid hair dye hack may be attractive to those afraid of commitment, there are caveats. For starters, it can get messy. Use the unsweetened packets (the sweetened ones can make the process a lot stickier) and wear an old shirt or towel you don't mind getting dirty.
Ferrara notes that the efficiency of the Kool-Aid working and absorbing evenly has everything to do with your hair's porosity. And just like salon coloring, your base color plays a role in what your end result will look like. "Blonde hair will take the color in a more vibrant way, whereas a brunette will get a cast of color visible in reflective light," she explains. "In order to have a more vibrant color, lightening is required on darker hair, something I don't recommend doing at home."
What You'll Need to Make Kool-Aid Hair Dye
- Kool-Aid packets in the color of your choice
- Warm water
- Disposable gloves
- Hair ties
- Hair dye brush
- Plastic bag or shower cap
- Bowl or container
How to Color Your Hair with Kool-Aid
- Put on disposable gloves to avoid staining. Start with freshly washed, towel-dried hair.
- In a heat-safe bowl or container, dissolve Kool-Aid packets with warm water (use less water if you want a more vibrant shade or have darker hair). Mix until combined.
- If you're dip-dyeing, pull all of your hair up into a hair tie. Dip the ends into the mixture for 15 to 30 minutes (longer if you want it to be more colorful).
- For all-over color, section the hair into four parts. Use gloved hands or a hair dye brush to brush the mixture onto each section. Tie each section up with a hair tie and put on a plastic bag or shower cap. Let sit for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Rinse hair with cold water.
Pros and Cons
As with any hair dyeing method, there are pros and cons. "Right now people are stuck in their homes and want to try something different," says Ferrara. "I don’t recommend lightening your hair at home to yield a more vibrant result, but still, there’s not too much harm in using Kool-Aid to give yourself a little something different." She adds that this method is only a temporary solution to hair color, as it's only staining the outside of the hair cuticle.
But, the question we're all unanimously asking ourselves: Can this damage my hair? According to Ferrara, the answer is unique to your hair type. "While the use of Kool-Aid on hair is not damaging, it can result in unwanted stains after the color has started to fade," she tells us. "These stains can be difficult for hair colorists to remove, especially if the hair is already compromised and overly porous. Porous hair will suck up any pigment that is applied to it, resulting in uneven color saturation and uneven fading."
The Bottom Line
Kool-Aid hair dyeing is one of those do-at-your-own-risk trends, and most experts agree to proceed with caution. While there are no real damaging effects to strands, it can be a messy process and leave behind staining. For an alternative to at-home hair coloring, Ferrara recommends the Moroccanoil Color Depositing Mask ($30)—there are shades for both toning brassy locks and ones that satisfy the urge for color.