Shelley Gregory has perfected pastel. The Instagram-famous hairstylist has made the ethereal, always springtime shade her social signature, and has consistently injected our feeds with mood-boosting hairspo. To say we’re obsessed is an understatement—we need to know all there is about taking our locks to the softer side of the rainbow. Luckily, Shelley is willing to spill. Consider this your ultimate guide to pastel, straight from the lady who helped catapult the cult trend.
Before You Go
Before going pastel, make sure you set realistic expectations. “You should know that going pastel is generally temporary and in most cases very temporary (I.e. 4-6 shampoos),” she says. But don’t despair—instead use the temp quality of the hue to your advantage and bring out your adventurous side. “Because of it being temporary you can change it up more often and have fun playing with colors,” she adds.
To determine if your hair is in the condition it takes to go pastel, have a professional evaluate the porosity of your locks. “Your hair has to be a Level 10 (lightest blonde) to be able to then put the pastel colors in. Hair that is dried out and brittle will have a harder time grabbing the tones and will fade faster,” notes Shelley on the elusive shade. To get your mane ready for the dream filter that is about to become your life, make sure to prioritize hair health. “Prep your hair with moisturizing/ conditioning masks to seal the cuticle, she advises. “You can even use pastel colors infused into your conditioners—I custom mix these for my clients.”
Pick the Perfect Shade
So, if you’re ready to go pastel, how do you know which is the right pastel for you? There are a lot of tones out there, and how you’ll look with blue hair isn’t necessarily as easy to gage as going brunette. To create a unique look for everyone who steps into her chair, Shelley combines her knowledge of color theory with the personality of the wearer. “I like to determine the right color combo by asking my clients a series of questions in our consultation: What clothing colors are in your closet right now, what makeup colors do you wear most, who is your pastel hair celeb crush? Then I bring out a color swatch ring of rainbow hair colors and ask what colors they DO NOT like. I find people are often attracted to what would look best on them,” she explains.
The time it can take to go pastel definitely varies and totally depends on your current color. “If you already have light blonde hair it may only take an hour. If someone comes in and they have virgin dark brown hair it could take up to ten hours—or we can do a series of lightening sessions over time if that fits their budget better. If we do it over time I space out sessions according to their goal of timing,” she says. Basically, if this is your first experience with hair dye and bleaching, embrace the fact that you’re about to get comfortable in the stylist chair. Once you’ve crossed the first bleach hurdle your locks are your canvas.
So her clients keep their pastel in tip-top shape longer, she sends them home with a check list/ homework to maintain their color. At the top of that list are: “Always use cold water to wash, use sulfate free shampoo, no direct sunlight and dry shampoo is our best friend.” Consider these words to live by for any fresh color process, but most definitely pastel.
Even with the most diligent maintainence routine, for most people, pastel will only last 4-6 shampoos. “The color that will last longest on you depends on what color blonde is under the color you choose,” Shelley reveals. “If you choose a light peach and have lots of gold in your underlying blonde, the peach will last longer. If you choose baby blue for the same golden blonde, it will not hold as well—you would want a white blonde for the cooler colors. The cooler colors tend to fade the fastest for all types of haircolor, permanent, Demi and semi.”
Other than her must-follow maintenance guide, she reminds us to not use hot tools on the high setting, as this can strip the pastel — also, don’t go swimming in salty or chlorine water and “wait 48 hours at least to wash after your appointment.”
If there’s one thing Shelley wants us to know about pastel hair color, it’s that we shouldn’t fear it. “Don’t be scared of pastel,” she stresses. “Its a fun way to temporarily change up your look. You don’t have to commit, so have fun with it. I have clients who will color their hair for a concert, party or vacation, knowing it will fade out in time for them to go back to work with their same blonde they started with.” Ultimately, Shelley wants you change the way you view color and embrace the ephemeral. “I like to think of it as a fun new accessory that goes with everything you wear. It’s a great conversation starter and gets my clients to play around more with their makeup and wardrobe—the possibilities are endless!”