How To Make Pastel Hair Color

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Photo: Flickr/BellaFaye8

This post has been a long time coming! I have had so many people ask me how to achieve pastel colored hair. There are a few pastel colors available for purchase now, but this is my preferred method of creating a custom DIY pastel hair color. (Note this only works with semi-permanent hair colors like Special Effects, Manic Panic, RAW, etc. This will NOT work with any hair color that requires mixing it with a developer to process.)


Before coloring, you’ll want to make sure that your hair is lightened to very pale yellow, as close to white as possible. If you’d like to tone it with a platinum/purple toner so that you are working on a white “canvas”, you can. As always, I recommend that you leave the bleaching to a professional. Now that you’re hair is gloriously light and ready to receive color, we’ll mix up a nice pastel.


A bowl
An applicator brush
Your starting color of choice (I’m using Paul Mitchell Inkworks in Hot Pink, but the color and brand are up to you!)
A white conditioner (I use Paul Mitchell Super Strong Conditioner, which is my favorite to use for this because you’re adding protein back into your hair along with the color!
And optionally a whisk for mixing and maybe a towel or some paper towels.


I’m starting off with just a tiny amount of hot pink color in my bowl. Depending on how light you want the color to be and how much of your hair you are coloring, this will probably end up being enough to color your whole head! This is what it looks like straight out of the bottle.

How To Make Pastel Hair Color

Now add a blob of white conditioner to the bowl and mix it up with the hair color. It may help you visually to spread a small amount of the color on a towel, paper towel, or piece of foil as I am doing here.

How To Make Pastel Hair Color
How To Make Pastel Hair Color

Keep adding conditioner until you’re satisfied with the shade. See how that tiny amount of color ended up being an entire bowl full? And it’s not even pastel yet. So you can see, if there are pastel colors available for sale, this method is MUCH more economical – a bottle of color will last for TONS of applications if you’re diluting it with conditioner. Plus, letting the mix with the conditioner in it sit on your hair for 20 mins will leave your hair feeling much better than it did before.

How To Make Pastel Hair Color
How To Make Pastel Hair Color


Once you’ve got the color you want, apply evenly and make sure hair is well saturated. Let it process for 15-20 minutes or whatever the hair color manufacturer recommends. As I mentioned before, I like using the Paul Mitchell Super Strong Conditioner, because it’s adding protein goodness back into your hair for the whole time that it sits there with the color. This always leaves hair feeling softer and smoother. After it’s done processing, rinse well with COOL water, and don’t shampoo.


If you truly want a light, pastel shade, you may want to do the opposite of what I did and start with a bowl full of conditioner, slowly adding a drop or two of color instead. But as you can see, you don’t have to mix it down all the way to a pastel, you can stop anywhere along the way. When I had bright pink hair, I used to use either Paul Mitchell Hot Pink or Special Effects Atomic Pink with a decent amount of conditioner added to it, as I found it to be too dark and magenta looking when it came straight out of the bottle.The lighter the color is, the faster it’s going to fade, so it’s important to take good care of it to make it last as long as possible Want some pastel hair inspiration before you start? Check out this collection of images from Pinterest.

As a profesional hairstylist, I use and recommend Paul Mitchell products. You can purchase them online at Loxa Beauty.

How To Make Pastel Hair Color

P.S. You might also like these posts:
How To Trim Your Own Bangs
How To Suicide Roll Bangs (great for growing them out!)
The Color Wheel And How It Applies To Hair Color
Review: Paul Mitchell Super Strong Shampoo

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By Kelsi Eldredge


        • kelsismellsi says

          It could be any number of things, but most likely either your hair is not bleached light enough for the color to show up, or you diluted the color so much that there isn’t enough pigment in it to color your hair. Try mixing the color a few shades darker and trying again. It’s better for it to start off a little bit on the darker side because it will fade quickly. Or if your hair is not a very light blonde, you may need to have it re-bleached. Mae sure before coloring that your hair is clean and completely dry.

          • Lindsey C says

            I tried again with just straight out of the bottle color, and the only thing that stuck was the pink by my ends. Everything else is normal. My hair is pretty blonde (not really pale though). I’m thinking I need to either get better color (using color jamz) or lighten it more to open the pores in my hair.

    • kelsismellsi says

      Yep. For it to really show up, your hair needs to be very light. Depending on how dark your hair is and how dark the color you put on it is, it might tint it or you might not see anything at all.

  1. says

    Hey Kelsi! :) This is what I do too. When I first went pink I used Fudge..and they have toner to mix in… A Whiter Shade of Pale… I liked it…but the place I was ordering from stopped carrying it, and I had to try something else …ended up just mixing my own concoctions with conditioner. I haven’t used the Paul Mitchell Super Strong…totally going to try it! Thanks bunches for the tip.

    • kelsismellsi says

      I’ve seen a few brands that sell mixers, but they always seem to be more expensive than conditioner is, so I think this ends up being more cost effective. I’ve never used to brand mixers, but I can’t imagine the results being any different. Let me know if you like the Super Stong :)

    • kelsismellsi says

      You could always do a block of some contrasting color, depending on the placement. Short hair is fun to play with in that way ;)

    • kelsismellsi says

      Ah yes, it can take a little time and patience to get from dark to light. I’m glad you found this post helpful! Feel free to share it with anyone else you think might get some use out of it! ;)

  2. says


    I haven’t put any funky colors in my hair in years, but even back then I wanted pastels so bad and couldn’t figure out. I can’t believe its that simple, and I really like the idea of adding protein back in because my hair always looked like fried garbage after coloring it. i’m totally going to try this soon! thanks! <3

    • kelsismellsi says

      Great, let me know how it turns out! I know, it’s so simple, but it totally works and putting the protein back in is great. Leaving any professional quality conditioner on for that long is good, but using one that is made for lightened/damaged hair is all the better!

    • kelsismellsi says

      By “temporary hair dye” do you mean like the cans of stuff you get at the Halloween store? If so, no. Those are colored sprays or powders that coat JUST the outside of your hair until you wash it. This technique only works with “semi-permanent” hair color, like Special Effects, Manic Panic, Punky Colors, Inkworks, RAW, etc.

  3. heather says

    Will pastel colors work for medium to dark blonde hair? I really love the color, but don’t want to risk the damage of going platinum white, but i wouldn’t want a weird muddy brown color either :(

    • kelsismellsi says

      For pastel hair, you really need a starting color of platinum/white. If you go over dark hair with it, it will either not show up at all, or it won’t be the right color, unfortunately. You could always opt for some clip in extensions if you just want peekaboos.

  4. Denise says

    Wow, Thanks for the helpful hint on Pastels. I’m doing a clients hair soon. She wants pastel pink.
    I’ll be sure to use this technique! Also, that PM super conditioner too.

    • kelsismellsi says

      Check out this post I wrote about fading hair color, you might find the info there helpful:

      It depends on what you’re trying to do though. For example, if you bought extensions that are a dark color and you’re trying to bleach them blonde, it’s probably not going to work. Extensions tend to be very processed to begin with, and the dye that they use to color them is very temperamental and often can’t be lightened too much. If, however, you started with blonde extensions, and colored over them with a semi-permanent color, the tips I linked to should be just what you’re looking for. I’d need more information about what you’re trying to do, in order to really help.

    • kelsismellsi says

      You want to get “semi-permanent hair color”. That is the only thing that will work with this technique. You can get it at any beauty supply store, or at some online retailers – check Amazon.

  5. robo says

    Do you have any idea if this works well with Splat brand hair dye? I’m in the process of bleaching my hair white, so I have a couple weeks before I need to worry about it, but I’ve wanted pastel blue hair for a long time!

    • Lindsey C says

      I had a hard time getting the pigment in the Splatt to work with this method, and even after leaving it in my hair for an hour none of the color had stuck. Ion has a brand of temp colorful dyes that worked great for me, but the Splatt may work for you.

      • kelsismellsi says

        Thanks for the recommendation! Actually I haven’t heard very good things about Splatt. I’ve never tried Ion. It’s usually a lot of trial and error with brands until you find something that works well for you. Paul Mitchell, Special Effects and RAW are my favorites.

  6. nicole says

    okay i’m definitely bleaching with a 30 or 40 volume because my hair is dark, but one question.. you dont add developer to the color/conditioner mix at all? are you strictly using only the color and conditioner in the mix?

    • kelsismellsi says

      If you’re bleaching your hair yourself be very careful using 30 or 40 volume. You don’t want to get it on your scalp at all.
      To answer your question: No. You don’t add any developer to the mix. It’s just semi-permanent hair color and conditioner. This technique will ONLY work with semi-permanent color. Don’t try to dilute permanent or demi-permanent color with conditioner.

  7. Chantel says

    Hey I’ve had very light blonde hair for a while. Recently I had the bright idea ohh heyy lets do a pastel color in my hair. WELL I had it bleach and then I used purple shampoo to get the brassiness and yellow our of my hair but I do have some spots ( like my ends) that wont lighten up… what would happen if I went through with trying the Pastel over it?

    • kelsismellsi says

      It probably won’t turn out the same color consistently. If you’re okay with that, go for it. If not, you might want to try a darker color.

    • kelsismellsi says

      It depends on a lot of factors including how damaged your hair is, how dark the color is to start, what brand of color you use, how often you wash it, what kind of shampoo/conditioner you use, and wanter temperature. There is really no way of telling – it could wash out after one shampoo or it could hang in there for weeks.

  8. says

    Thank you so much for this, I’m a hairstylist with a ton of Pravana colors and didn’t want to have to buy a pastel color so this was the perfect information that I needed! I work at Torrid (plus size fashion) and I just got the “OK” to do pastel colors since its a hot trend and I’m so super excited!!! Once again thank you for the tutorial so I can finally do it! :)
    Maegan recently posted..Giveaway: Old Spice For Hair That Gets ResultsMy Profile

  9. Elizabeth says

    Don’t bother using ‘Color Jamz’ it does not work, Atleast for me it didn’t… And I had my hair white

  10. Jodie says

    I was just about to do this and realised I have permanent dye. Could I still use the colour cream that comes in the pack and lighten it with conditioner?

  11. says

    Thanks tons for this tutorial! I just dyed my daughter’s hair pastel purple with ease thanks to your easy-to-follow advice. I know you mentioned it, but I didn’t realize how such a little amount of dye goes such a long way with this process. I ended up having to remove half of the mixture twice, and I only started with 1/2 a jar of Punky.

    I do have one question. I’m guessing that Punky Color is shelf stable for awhile since it does not appear to be air sealed. Is this true? If it is shelf stable, do you know for how long? If so, my daughter will have two additional applications, and I will be happy to save some cash!

    Thanks again for your great advice!

    Rachael M Jones

  12. Chelsie says

    My hair is blonde and I want to do pastel blue. I’m worried about my hair going green and that my dye is really dark.

  13. laura says

    I’ve been doing hair for several years now, and I totally didn’t realize or think to use conditioner instead of a mixer! I’m just now getting really into unnatural vibrant color, especially pastels, and this was really helpful. I was trained on Paul Mitchell, so Inkworks is my fav :)

    • kelsismellsi says

      Yeah! It costs a lot less and goes further using conditioner instead of a mixer! A note of caution, you might want to experiment a little with the Inkworks. I’ve noticed since they changed their formulas, I have had a harder time getting it to stick to the hair when it’s diluted with conditioner. It works well if it’s just diluted a bit, or if the hair is almost white and you just want a light pastel, but anything in between is sometimes tricky.

  14. says

    Thanks for the tip top! I racked my brain for the old fashioned ‘how to get pastel color’ and drew a blank, then after searching pre -made hair colors for minty blue, found your blog. Thanks for the spearmint techniques lady. Will be sure to post a pic when complete

    • Kelsi says

      The conditioner trick will NOT work with box color. It only works with semi-permanent colors like Manic Panic and Special Effects. Any permanent or demi-permanent color (anything that requires you to mix a developer with it) should not be diluted with conditioner. If you’re unable to find a semi-permanent blue hair color where you live, you should be able to order some online!

  15. megan says

    Can you use a permenant hair dye to mix with a pasteliser when making a pastel blue? I dont want it semi-permenant…

    • Kelsi says

      No. This technique only works with semi-permanent hair color. Any hair color which requires you to mix it with a developer should NOT be diluted with conditioner.

  16. Krystal says

    I’m planning on dying my hair a pastel lavender and already have the blonde base for it but I was wondering is 15-20 minutes long enough? Should you go longer if you use more conditioner? Thanks!

    • Kelsi says

      Usually 20 minutes is long enough, but you really can’t leave it on TOO long. I always leave it on as long as I have time for.

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