How to Chalk Your Hair (and Whether You Should)

See which hair types this trend works on and how to do it.
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Did you know that hair chalking is a thing? I’m not making a euphemism here. Scrubbing pastels into your hair to color it as an alternative to permanent, semi-permanent or even temporary hair dye is a trend. Guides for how to chalk your hair are everywhere on Pinterest. Streaks of pink. Ombre blue tips. Teal faux-hawk tops. And celebs from Paris Hilton to Nicki Minaj have made a specific palette popular: cotton candy hair. But we’re not going there.

When done in the right context (like, say, for a music festival) and in moderation (such as tasteful streaks), hair chalking can be totally chic.

So. Rub hair with chalk. Rock out in style. Wash it out. Back to normal, right? That just seemed too good to be true. There had to be a catch.

And, having now tested this trend, I can say that there are several. On a scale of one to five, one being totally doable and five being not-so-much, I give this project a three. Prepare yourself for a hot mess. No matter how long you “seal” the color, it stains your clothes, your ears and your pillow if you leave it in overnight. I made the mistake of not wearing gloves the first time I tried this. There are still pink fingerprints all over my apartment.

If you have dark hair like me, it really doesn’t work. If you wet your hair and stick with a neon pink, you can get something to show up. But I didn’t have any luck with blues or teal. If you have recommendations for dark hair, leave them in the comments below.

Blondes have the opposite problem. Dark colors can take up to seven washes to completely come out. Not cool if you need to look professional on Monday. Also not cool if you get a blonde in your Human Resources department to help you with a blog post on hair chalking and tell her it washes out in a day. And then it doesn’t. And then you have a meeting with her on Thursday and she has blue hair. (Sorry, Ashley!)

For me, it’s not worth it. I love the look, but, if you want to color your hair, just dye it. Or try those colored hair sprays. These options won’t give you neon dandruff.

Still want to try this despite my glowing recommendation? Check out the how-to below. And if you have better luck, comment with your tips and tricks.

Step 1

Get materials. All you need is a set of pastels, hair spray and a flat iron. As an art school graduate, it seems blasphemous to waste quality Prisma color pastels on something like this. You can pick up a cheap set or even specific colors at your local craft store. Make sure you buy chalk pastels and not oil pastels.

Step 2

Protect yourself. Wear gloves. Place trash bags on the floor or a tarp. Wear a trash bag cape. I’m not kidding. This stuff goes everywhere.

Step 3

Start chalking! Gather a section of your hair that you want to chalk. Wet this section of your hair. (Note: If you’re a blonde, skip the wetting unless you want it to stay in for more than a week.)

Step 4

Dread it. Twist the section of hair like you’re making a dreadlock. Again, not kidding. The texture will allow the pigment to stick better.

Step 5

Scrub it. Take the pastel and start scrubbing it into your faux dread in a vertical way. This will tease the hair a little bit but you can smooth that out later. Color as much or as little as you want. Just the tips can be a fun look or sections from root to end look cool, too.

Step 6

Spray it. Spray the section with hairspray. Use a quality hair spray for this, such as an extra hold aerosol spray.

Step 7

Seal it. Run a flat iron through the section with hairspray to seal the color in so it doesn’t run everywhere. Don’t expect this to work 100%. It will stain clothing regardless of what you do. But the hairspray + flat iron combo helps.

Step 8

Repeat until you're satisfied with your colorful look!

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