How to get Kool-Aid out of hair

Everything you need to know about dyeing your hair with Kool-Aid — and how to remove it
Twelve year old girl dying her hair in a bowl of Kool-Aid
Kool-Aid can create hair color that lasts for a few weeks.Getty Images stock

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/ Source: TODAY
By Chrissy Callahan

With many salons and spas temporarily closed, people have had to resort to DIY beauty services. They've tried their hands at quarantine haircuts, DIY facials and at-home spa services, and even dabbled in a bit of DIY hair color.

In recent weeks, Kool-Aid hair color has emerged as one of quarantine's hottest trends, and the vibrant, summery colors this grocery store staple creates has helped boost the mood of hair lovers across the country.

But how does the sugary powder actually color your strands? And how do you get Kool-Aid out of your hair? TODAY Style got hair experts to break down everything you need to know about this fun trend.

Does coloring your hair with Kool-Aid really work?

Kool-Aid hair color has definitely exploded during quarantine, but it's not actually a new trend.

"People have been using Kool-Aid to color their hair since the ‘80s (possibly even earlier) and, yes, it really works. I know from firsthand experience, having been a teenager in the 1980s, that using Kool-Aid to color your hair can be a fun, inexpensive, super accessible way to get some fun colors in your hair," Deb Rosenberg, lead colorist and AVP of education at Color&Co, told TODAY Style.

Depending on how long you leave the mixture in your hair, Kool-Aid color can last anywhere from two to four weeks, so if you're looking for a longer-lasting color, you're better off leaving it in for about 30 minutes.

"Kool-Aid will act like a stain on the hair fiber, so longevity depends on lifestyle. If you shampoo every day, regularly use hot irons, swim in chlorinated or salt water or spend lots of time in the sun, you can expect the color to fade faster than if you don't do these activities," Rosenberg said.

The duration of your Kool-Aid color will also depend on how dark (aka saturated) the shade is. For instance, dark purples generally last a little longer than pastel pinks.

Is Kool-Aid color safe for hair?

The affordable grocery store staple can create fun, temporary color at home in a matter of minutes, but is Kool-Aid really safe for hair? Since it doesn't contain the harsh chemicals found in traditional dyes, Kool-Aid generally doesn't damage the structure of hair, but it can create patchy results.

"The reason for that is that hair’s porosity is different throughout the lengths, and Kool-Aid does not penetrate the cuticle for an even result. The food preservatives in Kool-Aid can also dry your hair more than a demi- or semipermanent color would," said celebrity colorist and Redken brand ambassador Matt Rez, who generally advises against the DIY coloring method.

Different Kool-Aid flavors contain a range of food dyes, all which need to be approved for safety before use, according to cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos.

"The colorants used in Kool-Aid (Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6) are all approved for general use in cosmetics. This means the safety of use in both food and cosmetics has been substantiated and there's also a long history of use," she said. "You might end up smelling like Sharkleberry Fin, but the risk of irritation or skin reaction from using Kool-Aid to add color to your hair is quite low."

That means Kool-Aid generally won't damage the structure of hair. But it can do a number on your hands and clothes if you don't take the proper precautions before using it as a hair dye.

"Blue 1, in particular, is known for its ability to stain the skin so it's a good idea to protect your hands, hair line and ears when using it to dye hair. It will eventually wash off and exfoliant scrubs can hasten the process if you do happen to get some on your skin," Dobos said.

How to color your hair with Kool-Aid

Ready to try your hands at some DIY Kool-Aid hair color? Here are a few supplies you might want to have on hand:

  • Gloves, an old T-shirt and floor coverings
  • Your preferred Kool-Aid color (the unsweetened options work best)
  • Warm water
  • A bowl
  • A hair dye brush

There are multiple ways to color your hair with Kool-Aid. Here are a few methods the pros recommend:

Mix the Kool-Aid with a foaming mousse

"The mouse texture allows you to easily see where you placed the product, making application simple," Kerry E. Yates, hair color expert and creator of Colour Collective, said.

  1. Mix one flavor packet with a cup full of mousse.
  2. Apply the mixture to dry hair in the areas you wish to color.
  3. After applying, use a hair dryer on low heat until hair is completely dry.
  4. Helpful hint: Don't have mousse on hand? Water also works in a pinch! "The mixture of water and Kool-Aid will help open up hair cuticles, depositing your color choice under your cuticle layers and giving you a more semipermanent result. Apply in the same fashion as the mousse mixture, but remember the mix will be runny so be sure to wear old clothes and apply over easy-to-clean surfaces," Yates said.

Dip dye your hair

  1. Make the Kool-Aid mixture as you typically would. Pro tip: "If you want to go for a more subtle look, I suggest also adding in some conditioner," celebrity hairstylist Sally Hershberger said.
  2. Next, tie your hair into a ponytail and dip the ends of your hair into the Kool-Aid and let it sit for 15-30 minutes.
  3. Rinse hair with water (no shampoo) and follow up with a conditioner.

Paint your hair

  1. For more of a highlighted look, start by parting hair into four sections.
  2. Mix up the Kool-Aid and use a hair dye brush to paint it on. Pro tip: "Avoid applying directly to the scalp or on the skin around the hairline (forehead, ears, neck) to keep from staining," Rosenberg said.
  3. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes.
  4. Rinse hair with water and follow with a conditioner.

How to get Kool-Aid out of hair

If you've had your DIY fun and just want to get that Kool-Aid color out of your hair, there are a few ways to speed up the process. Generally, shampooing is the easiest method if you're not in a huge rush.

"Since it is already a very temporary color, shampooing should easily fade the dye each time you wash your hair. If you want a quicker fix, a clarifying shampoo can expedite the process,” Hershberger said.

Hot oil treatments can help remove temporary color over time, and you can also try using a traditional kitchen staple. "Dish soap like Dawn can also work in a pinch. However, you hair will feel very dry afterward, so be sure to use a conditioning treatment mask and leave it on overnight to help recondition the hair," Yates said.

If you're eager to get rid of your Kool-Aid color, Dobos recommends applying a paste of shampoo and baking soda. But be careful because the mixture can be drying and damaging to hair, so it's important to follow up with a deep conditioning mask.

If all else fails, you can always try an at-home bleaching kit to remove the color, but only if the hair hasn't already been bleached. Otherwise, you can set up an appointment with your stylist to do damage control.

"Consider waiting to go back to the salon when it’s safe and have your colorist do an in-salon gloss service," Rez said.