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Halloween Hair Dye: the Good, the Bad, and the Accidentally Permanent

If you’re planning on dressing up for Halloween, your costume may require some accessorizing, including makeup and a specific hairstyle. Sometimes it’s an afterthought; grabbing a can of spray in hair color while waiting in the checkout line at your local Halloween store.

But what if the scariest thing about this Halloween is when you try to wash it out after? What if your hair is left feeling damaged and crunchy, or you're stuck with Grinch-green streaks or Cruela black-and-white?

In this article, we’ll dive into what temporary hair color is, which to use and which to avoid, and fun alternatives that will help you achieve your desired look.

What is temporary hair color?

With many different brands and forms available, temporary hair color spray can be used for everything from subtle pink streaks to a dramatic transformative look. In its most common form, temporary hair color spray can be found at most costume stores, seasonally at larger retailers, and even in the hair dye aisles of your local drug store.

Temporary hair color sprays boast the ability to transform your hair to a completely different color by spraying “microdroplets” over a large surface area at one time. Distributed from an aerosol can, temporary hair colors don’t contain ammonia or peroxide like some permanent colors, but they do contain denatured alcohol and benzophenones. The hairspray does not typically penetrate the shaft of your hair but instead coats it, with these products boasting a one-wash cleanup to completely remove the color from your hair.

How can it affect your hair?

As we all know, alcohol is a harsh chemical that can cause drying and irritation. It comes as no surprise that due to its content within temporary hair color sprays (along with benzophenones, another drying agent) most people will find that their hair feels brittle, dry, and even stick after washing.

Depending on your hair care routine and hair composition, even one use can lead to additional breaking and scalp irritation. Furthermore, if you process or lighten your hair, these temporary hair colors are not recommended. That’s because processed hair is often more porous, allowing these chemicals and color to possibly penetrate the shaft and leave you with brittle and tinted hair.

Hair colors alternatives

Don’t worry, it’s not all bad news. Fortunately, there are some great alternative temporary hair colors on the market as well as methods to accomplish your desired look without damaging your hair!

Hair Makeup

Available in dry and liquid forms, hair makeup allows you to coat your hair in color without the use of drying chemicals like alcohol. Some liquid hair makeups even include hydrating and moisturizing ingredients, while dry versions use a chalk-like coating to color streaks of hair.

Recommended wet hair makeup: Shu Uemura Art of Hair Tokyo Vibes Hair Makeup (

Recommended dry hair makeup: Kevin Murphy Color Bug Hair Makeup (

Salon-grade temporary hair color spray or gel

While you’ll probably want to avoid the checkout-line temporary hair color, there are some temporary hair color sprays and gels that have been developed without the drying ingredients mentioned above. These are great for one day wear without the residual affects.

Recommended temporary hair color gel: Manic Panic Dye Hard Styling Gel (

Recommended temporary hair color spray: L’Oreal Paris Hair Color Colorista 1-Day Spray (

Wear a wig

This one feels like a no brainer, right? But honestly, wearing a wig is a much better alternative than risking damage to your hair and post-party frustrations trying to wash color out. For easy application of a wig, divide your hair into two individual sections, braiding and wrapping around your head before securing. Apply a wig cap that fits snug but comfortably, then flip your head upside down to easily apply the wig.

Clip-in extensions

If you’re looking for a pop of color but don’t necessarily need to use a wig, clip-in extensions are a great alternative. With costume clip-ins available in every color you can imagine across Amazon and other retailers, these easy-to-apply extensions can give you a pop of color that can be unclipped at the end of the night. To apply each, simply part your hair where you want the extension to start, teasing the roots to secure before clipping in.

Try a Halloween Hair-do

Color adds a fun pop, but some costumes don’t require adding color to your hair to make your look come together. This month, we’ve pulled together a list of our favorite halloween costume-inspired hairdos that are simple and effective. Check them out here.

Bottom Line

While we love the festivities and understand the desire to make your look pop with a little color, our recommendation is to stay away from cheap spray on hair colors and opt for one of the solutions outlined. With a little time and preparation, you can still pull off your halloween look without drying out your hair!

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