For the past few years, my depressive symptoms have had a firm grip on my life. I’ve tried therapy, medication, meditation, and exercise, but nothing really helped. So a few months ago, I decided to supplement these practices with a mood-boosting beauty change and dyed my honey-blonde hair pink.
My decision to dye my hair in the hopes that it would support my mental health mimics the “quarantine makeovers” that dominated the early-pandemic beauty conversation. As pros told Well+Good back in 2020, the monotony that lockdown precipitated pushed many people to try something new with their beauty routines, giving rise to extreme dye jobs and haircuts that allowed them to exhibit some sense of control during an otherwise unprecedented time.
Even in “precedented” times, though, experimenting with a new look can have lasting effects on your mood. “A big hair change or other improvements to our appearance very likely activates the ‘happy’ chemicals in our brains, like serotonin and dopamine, which accounts for the lift in our spirits,” says Vivian Diller Ph.D., author of “We also know that variety versus monotony can impact mood. It’s why a ‘change of scenery’ is often recommended to depressed people. The combination of changing one’s hairdo with a change of color—especially one associated with happiness—is likely to be uplifting.”
For me, pink was the obvious choice when making a major hair change. It’s always been my favorite color, but I’d traditionally shied away from wearing it. In the past, my anxiety made me feel like doing anything that would make me “stand out” was simply not for me. But in recent years, I started experimenting with the color when I was feeling low—a swipe of pink lipstick, a bright pink coat—and realized that it made me feel unstoppable, confident, and bold.
“When someone’s favorite color is pink, it shows that they have feminine, passionate, and playful qualities,” says Kim Jensen, a color expert with House of Colour. “There are so many different types of pink… Pastel pink tends to be more soothing, feminine, and romantic, while hot pink is typically associated with heightened emotion, confidence, and wanting to stand out.”
With that in mind, I wanted to try adding something more permanently pink to my look in the hopes of reaping those confidence-boosting benefits every time I looked in the mirror. It seems I was onto something: A 2020 study found that pink was the color most highly associated with pleasure, love, joy, and amusement, and in early 2021, The Guardian deemed pink dye jobs as the “statement-making hair trend of the pandemic.”
I’ve had my vibrant mane for nearly two months now, and I have more confidence than ever before. Overall, I feel a lot better mood-wise than I did pre-dye-job. I previously avoided leaving the house because I had no motivation or energy to go outside, but these days I want to get out there and show off my colorful strands. I used to look at people with pink hair and envy how cool and confident they looked—now, I feel like one of them.
While I can say from experience that a fresh pink hairdo can offer instant mood-boosting effects, that doesn’t mean that it should take the place of other tried-and-tested mental health practices, like therapy and medication (both of which are still a part of my life). “Relying on a change of appearance to lift one’s mood is risky only in that it’s often short-lived and can become habit-forming. If we believe that altering our looks is what makes us happy, it can create a constant wish for change,” says Dr. Diller. “There’s no harm to wanting to change things up now and then, but our base of happiness needs to be broader and more long-lasting than that.”
I’m not sure if my hair will stay pink forever, but right now, it’s given me a powerful push in the right direction toward feeling like the best version of myself. It’s led me to reconsider my self-care routine and taught me the importance of presenting myself in a way that makes me feel good. So, for now, I’m going to bask in my bubblegum hair, and continue to find new ways to keep these feelings up even when my natural color grows back.
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