Pink has become the celebrity hair color of the coronavirus pandemic. Last weekend, Chrissy Teigen unveiled a pink-purple do, while Jennifer Lopez’s stylist showed the actor and singer sporting a similar shade just before Christmas.
Variants of the color have dominated 2020’s biggest pop culture moments, and that looks set to carry on in 2021.
Justin Bieber went pink for his Yummy video in January, while Lady Gaga went pink in February for her Stupid Love video. And others such as Dua Lipa, Madonna and comedian Whitney Cummings dyed their hair rose, fuchsia and bubblegum.
The color scans well on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, it’s low maintenance as a dye, and has a subversive historical element from punk and grunge.
“In the past year, we’ve sold one pink hair product every 30 seconds,” said Alex Brownsell, co-founder and creative director of hair company Bleach, “which is a 50% increase from the previous year.”
There’s no doubt pink translates well on social. “As beauty influencers and consumers, we tend to lean towards things that are eye-catching and statement-making,” said hair stylist DaRico Jackson. “Not only does pink pop on your page, but it matches up on all sides.”
Despite the apparent extremity of choosing the shade as a hair color, it is not an allegiance that needs to last forever. “It’s a low-commitment color that fades or washes out when you get bored of it,” said Rachael Gibson, editor of the Hair Historian on Instagram.
Pink hair in pop culture might still bring to mind Kurt Cobain or Return of Saturn-era Gwen Stefani, but people were discovering the tone long before the advent of any sort of alternative culture.
“An early example of pink hair as a trend would be in the 18th century, when hair powders for wigs came in fashion shades of pink and other pastels,” said Gibson. “These powders, which were often scented with lavender or other flower essences, were used by men and women.”
An element of more recent nostalgia – which was part of 2020’s biggest fashion trends – also plays a part in the shade’s current ubiquity, with pink hair referencing punk.
“[In the 70s] using a purposefully unnatural color like pink made a statement, and flew in the face of conventional beauty. For the average person coloring your hair was still fairly hush-hush in the 70s,” said Gibson. “Pairing a visually aggressive style like spiked hair with a traditionally feminine color like pink plays with stereotypes in a pleasingly confusing way.”
Defying stereotypes was also Michaela Coel as Arabella in 2020’s most talked about show, I May Destroy You. Her pink wig was a key piece of costuming for the character: defining her in the “before” period of the show.
“Pink has so long been associated with beauty and femininity, qualities long denied Black women,” said the author Ronda Racha Penrice, “so perhaps it’s also a subversive act in which Black women are asserting and affirming their beauty and femininity.”
Citing the influence of pink hair wearers Nicki Minaj and Lil Kim on one of 2020’s biggest pop stars, Doja Cat, Penrice added: “My guess is that the multi-coloured hair comes from Carnival and represents celebration and jubilee.”
And that need for contrast in the face of the pandemic could be why the color is It right now. “Pink is a very joyful, positive color, which is frankly what we all need,” said Gibson.