woman in black blazer with flying hair in different shades of pink

Think twice about your pink hair makeover

Thinking of going pink? Is it a professional look for work?

face of woman with pink hair and make up

Pink hair in a creative industry could get you promoted, while the same colour hair in a more traditional setting could cost you your business relationships.

How to tell when it’s okay to go pink.

The hair colour pink is in vogue this year, say some of the world’s foremost hair colour experts. Hair products brand Goldwell chose bubblegum, a “retro-futuristic pink shade” that “playfully walks the line between daring hot pink and classic pink pastels,” as the 2022 colour of the year.

That shade of pink strikes a unique balance between “flirtatious and wholesome, cool and warm, and soft and strong,” says John Moroney, Goldwell’s global creative director. 

A quick walk down the hair colour isle of a local drugstore suggests that pink is winning the popularity race over pastel blues and greens. On social media people are brightening up each other’s day with colourful creative styles in shades of pink from neon and shocking to a pretty, subtle rose.

Nicole Fernandez-Valle chose a shade similar to bubblegum pink. The talent acquisition representative who works at Wix.com received close to 18,000 likes, shares and comments on her “Pink hair reveal!” photo that she posted on the job search network LinkedIn.

Fernandez-Valle said, “A couple of years ago I would have felt self-conscious with this post in fear of being considered “unprofessional” by some. / Talent comes in all shapes, sizes, and (in this case) colors and that should never be in opposition with the idea of what “professional” is supposed to look like. / Beautiful things happen when you can bring your most authentic self to work.”

The social media platform chimed in with a supportive post that said, “Bringing your authentic self to work is professional.”

Indeed, beautiful things do happen when people are allowed to be themselves at work, including increased productivity, taking pride in your work, and an overall increase in positivity. All of that affects life outside of work as well. But, not so long ago, having an unnatural hair colour would have been cause for dismissal in some settings where office culture doesn’t allow for deviation from strict dress codes.

Not all workplace policies cover facial hair, tattoos, earrings, facial piercings, visible body modifications, and non-traditional makeup and dress. Many places may consider dying one’s hair pink, two-tone ombre styled, dipped, or streaked hair, braids, locks, long hair on men or even afro-styled hair unprofessional. Sometimes workplace policies are very clear but other times HR makes up the rules to fit the situation. There are plenty of stories on social media about workers being asked to change their hair and if they refuse they are let go from their jobs.

Pink hair is not exactly authentic, but expressing your true personality is. The general gist of what Fernandez-Valle is trying to say is that people should be hired based on their talent. Anything other than that is outright discrimination or bias, unconscious or intentional.

If a job candidate is judged for their hair colour, something that was selected and can be changed, what happens when they are judged for authentically grey hair, their physical shape, size, or the colour of their skin? Her point is about diversity. Hair colour just happens to be an easier subject matter and a lighter conversation than prejudice.

People reserve their real personalities for activities outside of work and put on a persona or code switch to gain acceptance in the workplace. Reason being: self-expression is allowed in certain settings but forbidden in most.

Pink hair is an eye-catching look and amy be fine if you work in fashion, if you’re an artist, if you work in the beauty industry or if you work in entertainment. Rebecca Crews is sporting pink hair in this photo, but in a more conservative business environment it’s likely frowned upon.

If you don’t express some sort of creativity in your personal style in creative work environments people may have a hard time believing that you are capable of creative output. As an example, I had a friend who worked for a creative agency in Toronto — 20 or so years ago — whose design and production talents were overlooked at work until she got a pink hair makeover. After her self-styled makeover she got a promotion and was on top of the list for client requests. They started to ask for her over her co-workers. She mentioned multiple times how her relationships at work got better after her hair makeover. By standing out she was able to fit in.

But, most places would not approve of my friend’s expression of creativity or Fernandez-Valle’s style. Self-expression at work has a line that workers don’t cross out of fear of paying the ultimate price: losing their jobs.

In a non-inclusive environment, either Fernandez-Valle herself, with her pink hair, would crack under the pressure of being criticized, other co-workers would resent her for being too loud, or clients would complain about her lack of professionalism. Eventually, she would end up leaving the company either of her own volition or because of the resentment of others.

So, before you decide to go pink for Monday morning, it’s probably wise to take a look at the dress code policy that you signed when you were hired. Better yet, ask your boss what your company’s workplace policy is on pink hair before you dive in.

If you do decide to dye your hair, be prepared for a challenge, especially for jobs at accounting or law firms, no matter what your role is. You may be asked to change it to a natural colour, to wear a wig or even to leave the company. Those were the general outcomes for most people who posted their stories on social media.

Unfortunately, people’s attitudes haven’t changed that much. While, pink hair, don’t care is a hashtag on Instagram or TikTok, they will be snubbing their noses at you even on casual Fridays at a company with a conservative culture. Kudos to Nicole for having the courage to express herself freely in a world of curmudgeonly naysayers.

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Here are some recent insta-looks, and others going back a few years, from random people wearing cotton candy, hot pink and other shades in the bubblegum pink family.

by Cherryl Bird – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Twitter @ladycbird | Instagram @cherrylbird


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