“Mom, can I dye my hair blue?” It’s the question mumbled in cars on the way to middle school and screamed from darkened bedrooms across America. And these days, as the world’s most famous one-name only teens from Tavi to Kylie are getting experimental with their hair color, the question is coming up more often.
This question sparks other questions in the mind of a parent. What will the neighbors think? Or, the modern equivalent, what will my Facebook friends think? Will this rebellious act inspire further rebellion? Is blue hair a gateway drug to real drugs?
In short, probably not.
Letting your teen take a safe risk like dying her hair an unconventional color can actually have the opposite effect, quelling the desire to take more dangerous risks. The teen brain needs to take risks in order to develop. Satisfying that impulse can even increase happiness, according to Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD. The American Psychological Association posits that encouraging risk-taking and experimentation with self-image is especially important for teen girls.
So, letting your daughter go blue is a safe way to let her experiment with her identity, to try on a different persona without long-term repercussions. Figuring out who you are from the inside out and outside in is just as important as finishing your chemistry homework. Self-expression can be thought of as homework with the goal of getting to know yourself and letting others get to know you.
So, if the question comes up, don’t panic. Instead, buy some Manic Panic. The cosmetic brand we all grew to love in the 90s makes a vegan, semi-permanent hair dye that contains no ammonia and fewer chemicals than the dye found in salons. Dying her hair at home can be a good bonding opportunity, too.
It’s hair. It grows back. And with it, so will a little bit of self-knowledge.