What Kind Of Hair Dye Is Safe For Toddlers? An Expert Explains


I've always had a bit of flair for the dramatic, so it's no surprise that Halloween is my favorite holiday — it's the chance to really let your freak flag fly. When I had kids, that love just multiplied. We love dressing up the most, but worry about safety, especially when it comes to using hair dye or makeup. Like, what kind of hair dye is safe for toddlers? I know we have big plans, and I assume you do, too.

There's something magical about dressing up in fancy dress for parties and trick-or-treat. Kids love it even more than the most eccentric parents. It feeds their sense of imagination and play in a way that isn't always as embraced as it should be in a world so focused on test scores and classrooms. Don't get me wrong, those are important, but so is pretend play. According to Psychology Today, it increases quality of language used by children, promotes divergent thinking, and allows children to express themselves from a place of play and with a level of detachment they might not be able to achieve otherwise.

It's no wonder that kids leap at the prospect of putting on a tricorne hat and stuffed parrot, and fall into the chatter of a pirate. It's a freeing form of expression. Not only that, but they are filling bags and bags of candy. So much so, that they only notice a little when their Snickers bars and Reese's seem to dwindle at a rate faster than the Smarties. (Seriously, can we all come to an accord and agree not to hand out Smarties? I'll even spring for the allergen-free sunflower butter cups.)

But that doesn't mean that the holiday and dressing up isn't without risks. I remember last year hearing all sorts of warnings about dangerous Halloween costumes being sold at those pop-up stores. (What even are those stores? They're like the wind. One minute, it's an abandoned Waldenbooks, the next it's like Party City and a haunted house had a really creepy baby that might also have clown in the back who really just loves red balloons.)

But where else are you going to find a 6-foot long shepherd's pole for your 4-foot tall kid? Nowhere. But what about the hair dyes they sell there? Should you be worried, or is the temporary nature of it abating the issues causing your concern. I know that I like to go full-on with my kids' costumes, and it was no different when they were toddlers. What kind of hair dye is safe for toddlers, if, say, you want to dress their little chubby goodness up like a troll doll?

Courtesy of Cat Bowen

I spoke with colorist Lisa Haley and she says that under no circumstance should you ever use a temporary dye or permanent dye on a toddler, unless you want their hair to be damaged — possibly severely.

"The chemicals in color, even the temporary Manic Panic dyes, will damage the fine hair of your little dude or dudette. It's just not worth the risk. If they're a little older, they're begging to do it, and you're OK with that, that's different," Haley says. She notes that your best bet is to look for hair chalk and avoid the sprays, which can be caustic and flammable. "The chalks are great, and they show up even on dark hair. If your child has light hair, you can always use Kool Aid, but make sure when you wash it out, you do so gently. Both the chalks and Kool Aid have a tendency to tangle in the hair, making it vulnerable to breakage."

Haley says for the most fun, try a wig or clip-on extensions. Your kids can keep them in their dress-up kit for years to come, and they love the instant change it provides. This is a holiday about transformation and creativity, so go wild, but maybe avoid the harsh dyes.

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