At what age should children dye their hair?

There’s always going to be debate about how much freedom children should be allowed to have when it comes to personal expression, with many a heated discussion taking place about everything from piercings to makeup and – in the case of this blog post – hair dye. While it is advised against giving a child under the age of eight any kind of permanent or semi-permanent hair colour, many people believe that a child should be far older before experimenting with colouring at all.

The latest “scandal” to hit the press was the news that singer, actress and fashion designer Jessica Simpson had dip-dyed the ends of her daughter Maxwell’s hair in rainbow colours for the summer holidays. 39-year-old Jessica’s daughter, who’s seven, was mum shamed online for her decision, with commenters slating the star for letting someone as young as Maxwell near the hair dye, saying, "So young its a shame," "Isn’t she too young to have her hair dyed?," and "What’re u doing she is so young now out there for all the wrong reasons 🙁☹️🙁☹️."

Jessica did receive some comments of support, too – and then she obtained the best sort of celebrity backup when fellow Mum, singer-songwriter and actress, Pink, dyed her own daughter’s hair blue in solidarity. Pink featured her eight-year-old daughter, Willow Sage, in two Instagram images; the first documenting the DIY-dying process, and the second showcasing a close-up of the finished result.

Pink isn’t shy to explain the reason for dying Willow’s hair in the caption of her image, saying, "I heard people were bummed on Jessica Simpson for letting her seven year old get her hair colored, so we thought we’d share what we did yesterday." Interestingly, she disabled comments from the images, clearly trying to keep the mum shamers at bay.

Whether you’re happy to let your children experiment with their own hair colour is a personal decision of your own. Some parents feel more comfortable preventing their children from touching hair dye until they reach their teens, or maybe even later. Others won’t have a problem with it in the slightest, no matter what the age of the child.

Where freedom of expression through hair colour can get a little difficult is in the educational environment. Many schools are fairly strict on how their pupils can and can’t present themselves during term time, and hair colour is usually a big factor in this. While most schools are happy to accept hair dye in natural colours, they won’t tolerate anything considered “unnatural”, such as pastel shades, some shades of red, and silver or blue tones.

From a scientific point of view, the reason why you may wish to hold off on the hair dye when it comes to young children is because children’s hair is a lot finer than adult’s, and, being immature, is often more susceptible to damage. This means that bleaching and colouring hair might do more damage than good. Another thing to consider is that children’s hair is ever-changing, all the way up through puberty, which means it’s more prone to experiencing reactions than adult hair. It goes without saying that you should always ensure your child carries out a patch test at least a day before any dye is applied to their hair.

Where do we stand on this? We have always been advocates for freedom of expression, no matter what form that may be. However, we would advise that parents considering dying their children’s hair should proceed with caution, especially if using a shop-bought box dye. Speaking to your hairstylist will help you to come to the safest decision for your child, whether that means using a milder, wash-in wash-out dye, or having the job carried out professionally in a hair salon.

It’s important to remember that all parents have a right to make the rules when it comes to their children’s wants and needs. Unless a parent is putting a child at risk, mum shaming is unnecessary and inappropriate. If you’re not happy about a parent who has let their child have their hair dyed, it’s best to take a step back and remind yourself that we all have different parenting styles, and if the child is safe and happy, there’s nothing worth getting angry about.

Laura Shallcross