DIY: How to Use Hair Chalk

Girl with brown curly hair and purple teal hair chalk streaks

I’m a total dye-o-phobe. Nary a middle school spritz of Sun-In has touched these dark brown locks, and most of the time I’m comfortable with that. But I’ll admit that watching celebs like Nicki Minaj, Lauren Conrad and Kelly Osbourne play with pastels—mint! bubblegum! lavender!—in the technicolor hair craze has made me jealous… which is why I was beyond excited when tumblr discovered hair chalk for me. Washable, inexpensive, easy-to-use hair color that wouldn’t bring my oops-I-dyed-my-hair-green-forever nightmares to life—and works on dark hair? Too good to be true. But it’s not, and I’m gong to show you how to do it.

You will need:

  1. Hair chalk.
  2. A curling iron or hair straightener.
  3. Hair spray.

Step 1: Choose your hair chalk

I bought these sea foam and fuscha hair chalk balls from Urban Outfitters for $5 each.

I bought these sea foam and fuchsia hair chalk balls from Urban Outfitters for $5 each.

There are tons of brave souls on the Internet using soft chalk pastels that they bought at the art store on their hair, and taking great pics of their artistry to prove it. But there’s a reason that actual pastel artists wear ventilators while they work—this stuff contains incredibly toxic ingredients like cadmium and lead and, because it crumbles into such a fine dust and you’re putting it in your hair, is very easy to breathe in. As cool as the idea of rainbow lungs is, please spring for non-toxic, cosmetics-grade hair chalk. There are tons of options available, including this set of 24 different colors.

[ See: 35 Cool Hair Color Ideas to Try This Year ]

Step 2: Wash your hair and skip product

You want the chalk to adhere to your naked hair, without oily or waxy products getting in the way. Probably don’t try hair chalking in your best silk blouse, because it’s a bit of a messy production. (It dusted easily off my shirt, though.)

Step 3: Wet the section of hair you want to color

Wetting the hair first intensifies the chalk’s pigment, so blondes can skip this step. For an elegant effect, work with pieces from the inside rather than the top layer of hair, and chalk only the bottom section of hair so that the strands of color peek out when you move.

Applying hair chalk to hair and then styling with a curling iron

Smooth the chalk onto the hair and seal with a heated styling tool.

Step 4: Smooth the chalk onto the area you want to color

Build the color to your desired effect, twisting the hair as you go to evenly coat the section. The directions on my hair chalk said to “massage” it onto the hair, which not only sounds luxurious but keeps you from working with a heavy hand and getting chalk all over your shirt (sort of hard to avoid actually).

Step 5: Seal in the hair chalk

(And smooth over the bedraggled Rasta effect that rubbing the chalk gave to my hair) by styling with a curling iron or hair straightener. You might not want to use your favorite, super-expensive styling tool because some color will get onto it, but it easily washed off my non-super-expensive curling iron with water.

Step 6: Spritz on some hairspray to seal the deal


Give your head a good shake to release loose dust so that you don’t have a rainbow halo surrounding you all day, but be warned that aggressive brushing or combing will diminish the brightness of your results.

Step 7: Play around!

Use different gradients of the same color to create an ombre look from root to tip. Weave multi-colored strands into a fishtail brand or punky updo. Match your hair to your mani.


The fine print: Hair chalk will suck the moisture out of your hair, so definitely deep condition when you remove it. Blondes may need to use a clarifying shampoo to get all of the color out. And you should probably do this before bed unless you want to end up with a pillow that looks like the Care Bears slept on it. My foray into hair chalking was at the beach where it was a bit windier than average, but I found that the color definitely fades over time. The look will be punchier on those with lighter hair, but I actually liked the subtle, ‘Is she or isn’t she?’ pastel tint that I ended up with.