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Is it illegal to dye your hair under 16?

Dyeing hair is a popular way for people of all ages to change up their look. However, there are laws in some places that regulate the use of hair dye, especially for minors under the age of 16. In this article, we’ll take a look at whether it’s illegal for someone under 16 to dye their hair.

Laws Around Hair Dye and Minors

There are no federal laws in the United States that prohibit minors from using hair dye or getting their hair colored professionally. However, some individual states and local jurisdictions have regulations regarding hair dye and minors.

State Laws

A few states have laws directed specifically at minors using hair dye:

State Law Summary
California Prohibits anyone under 16 from dyeing their hair with chemical hair dyes without parental consent.
Oregon Requires parental consent for anyone under 18 to use hair dye containing “coal tar colors.”
Vermont Prohibits anyone under 16 from coloring their hair with chemical dyes except under the supervision of a licensed cosmetologist.

As seen in the table, a few states like California, Oregon, and Vermont have laws directed at minors under 16 or 18 using chemical hair dyes. These laws require parental consent or professional supervision.

Local Laws

In addition to state laws, some local counties and cities have ordinances regarding minors and hair dye:

Location Law Summary
New York City, NY Requires parental consent for hair coloring services for anyone under 16.
Nassau County, NY Requires parental consent for salon services including hair coloring for anyone under 16.
Dutchess County, NY Prohibits hair salons from applying hair dye to anyone under 16 without parental approval.
Suffolk County, NY Bans salons from coloring the hair of anyone under 16 without parental consent.

Certain counties and cities in New York have local laws requiring parental permission for salons to color the hair of minors under 16. These laws specifically target hair salons and professional hair coloring services.

Reasons for Laws on Hair Dye and Minors

There are a few reasons why some governments have imposed age limits and parental consent requirements on hair dye for minors:

Chemical Safety Concerns

Hair dye contains a range of chemicals that can potentially cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, or other side effects if used incorrectly or on someone very young. Requiring parental consent ensures parents can evaluate product safety.

Permanent Alteration of Appearance

Hair dye causes permanent (or at least long-lasting) changes to appearance. Some laws aim to protect minors from making body modifications they may later regret. Requiring parental approval for permanent hair color changes underscores the significance of the decision.

Societal Norms

Hair dye is still seen as a more “mature” or adult-like choice in some social contexts. These laws may reflect societal attitudes about minors looking too old too soon. Parental consent upholds norms about children maintaining a youthful look.

Health Risks

Certain health risks are associated with hair dye, especially with younger users. These include skin irritation, rashes, and even the possibility of anaphylaxis for those with allergies. Age limits err on the side of caution regarding dye health risks for youth.

Enforcement of Hair Dye Laws

For the most part, laws restricting hair dye for minors are not strictly enforced. Salons and retailers usually don’t verify a customer’s age or ask for parental approval when selling boxed hair dye.

However, salons could potentially face fines or license suspensions if they are inspected and found to be coloring hair for underage youth without parental permission.

But in many cases, these laws are outdated and not seen as high priority for enforcement by local authorities. Their main impact is in setting expectations for parental decision-making regarding hair dye rather than laying out punishments.

Parental Consent

Because enforcement against minors is so limited, parental consent is the key factor that determines if someone under 16 can legally dye their hair.

Options for Consent

Here are some ways parents can provide consent:

  • Give written approval for salon hair coloring services
  • Accompany the minor and approve in person at the salon
  • Buy professional or boxed hair dye and supervise application at home
  • Give their general approval for the minor to dye hair on their own using store-bought products

As long as parents or legal guardians are on board, minors can legally dye their hair even if they are under 16 years old.

What If Parents Don’t Consent?

Without parental permission, it becomes illegal in some states and localities for anyone under 16 to use hair dye, especially professional salon products and services.

Minors who dye their hair without parental consent could face:

  • Salons refusing service
  • Schools enforcing rules against dyed hair
  • Punishment from parents like being grounded

But again, enforcement against minors directly would be very unlikely. The biggest consequence would be disapproval from parents.

Dyeing Hair Under 16: What’s Best?

Most experts agree that waiting until around 16 to begin experimenting with hair dye is ideal. But some exceptions can be made with care:

Temporary or Semi-Permanent Dye

Low-chemical dyes that wash out over time let minors try new looks without damaging hair or causing permanent changes. Semi-permanent dyes fade gradually.

Strand Tests

Trying permanent dye on a small strand of hair first checks for allergy risk before major coloring. Parents can approve small strand tests to evaluate safety.

Salon Supervision

A licensed stylist guides proper product usage and minimizes risks during professional salon dyeing for younger teens.

Waiting for Maturity

There’s merit to waiting until 16 or older when teens can responsibly evaluate risks vs. benefits. Permanent dyes can always be explored later in life.


While a minor using hair dye under 16 without permission is illegal in a few U.S. states, these laws are focused primarily on professional salon services. When managed safely under parental supervision, hair dye can be an acceptable form of self-expression for some younger teens. However, waiting for maturity and lower risks around age 16 is generally recommended. Through open discussion of hair dye laws and safety considerations, parents can make informed decisions about what’s best for their children.