By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jul 27, 2007 at 5:20 AM

Although tattoos and facial piercings are low on the cool index these days, hair dyeing is still the bomb. Throngs of teens and preteens -- some even younger kids  -- are getting their hands on bottles of shocking hair dye colors and sporting everything from atomic pink streaks to entire heads drenched in napalm orange.

As a person whose hair has been just about every color -- from candy apple red to bright blue -- it's difficult for me to gage at what age it's appropriate for a kid to dye their hair. Not that my sons have asked yet -- they aren't even 5 years old yet -- but what about when they're 7 or 10? Would I breezily buy a bottle of Manic Panic for them?

I probably would. In fact, there's a good chance I would dye my mop right along side them, potentially much to their embarrassment. Even though I'm decades older, I understand the desire to decorate one's body, and to disassociate from the natural-hair-colored masses. Perhaps that makes me an eternal 16-year-old, but I think it's just plain ol' fun to switch up my look.

However, I know not everyone feels this way. Some are concerned about hair dye allergies thanks to a common chemical ingredient in permanent hair dyes, called para-phenylenediamine, or PPD. PPD is found in more than two-thirds of commercial dyes, including many of the top-selling brands.

In the past few years, hospitals have seen an increase in the number of kids coming in with hair dye-induced allergic reactions ranging from a rash around the hairline to full-on fatalities. These situations are very rare, but it still makes a parent stop and think, and at the very least, "patch testing" the hair before applying the dye seems like an absolute must.

Milwaukee's Jennifer Lucas is committed to parenting as naturally as possible, yet she lets her daughters dye their hair once a year, starting when they were age 5 and 8.

"Last year they wanted to have it done purple before their school pictures, and the year before that it was bright red bangs for Christmas," says Lucas.

Lucas says she was extremely careful not to get any of the dye in their eyes, and that she did the patch test on both girls before applying it to their bangs.

"Of course I tossed and turned about it, but I justified it as it's only once a year and it's really the only thing remotely toxic that they are exposed to," she says.

Herbavita, a brand of natural hair color, is another option. However, although the company offers bright reds and oranges, they don't delve into the wackier hues.

Although some parents might find fake hair color ugly, embarrassing or sending the wrong message, other parents - especially those with "alternative" personal style -- often support their mini-me's cool look. I know my heart swelled with pride when my 4-year-old son choose a pair of checkered Vans as his "school shoes" last year, exactly like the pair I owned in 1985. However, the issue of age appropriateness is something to always consider.


Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.