Pandemic pink: The psychology behind this trending hair colour

Who would have thought that at-home dye jobs during the hard lockdown would birth an obsession with pink hair that still lingers in 2021?

14 February 2021 - 00:00 By
Celebrity pink heads, from left: Singer Halsey, actress Regina Hall, and model Hailey Bieber.
Celebrity pink heads, from left: Singer Halsey, actress Regina Hall, and model Hailey Bieber.
Image: Frazer Harrison, Dimitrios Kambouris and Tristan Fewings/All Getty Images

According to Pantone, the colours for 2021 are Ultimate Grey and a sunny yellow called Illuminating — but in the eyes of the beauty industry the hue of the year is clearly pink.

We have seen just about every iteration of pink in fashion, décor and pop culture, with millennial pink once having a serious moment in fashion, and rose gold being a much-loved shade choice in décor and design.

The fascination with pink is still a bit of an enigma and trying to summarise its effect at times can only be described as transformative.

We could have never expected that at-home dye jobs would birth an obsession with pink hair that still lingers in 2021. CNN and The Cut reported that hair-dye sales surpassed those of toilet paper during hard lockdown panic buying.


At the height of the pandemic the longing for colour, specifically pink, intensified and it took over social media feeds, television and the streets.

Pink hair found regal status in Netflix's Bridgerton when used for one of Queen Charlotte's elaborate pastel wigs with a slight lilac undertone. 

Hollywood was painted pink as female celebrities like Kaia Gerber, Demi Lovato, Ciara, Hailey Bieber and Doja Cat all became "pink heads" during 2020, either by way of DIY dye jobs while isolating at home or by enlisting the help of their hairstylists over Zoom.

Lady Gaga teased pink tresses in varying shade intensities leading up to the release of her Chromatica album, when she debuted long, fuchsia-pink hair. Musician Janelle Monáe went one step further with a little pink fun by dyeing her armpit hair pink with the help of celebrity hairstylist Nikki Nelms.

Men were not exempt from the global effect, with celebrities such as Jaden Smith, Joe Jonas and Evan Mock of The Gossip Girl Reboot fame all opting for eye-catching pink buzz cuts.

Virtual fashion runway shows were likewise not left unaffected. At Valentino SS21, coloured hair was a symbol of diversity and "a tribute and celebration of individuality and humanity".

British stylist Guido Palau shared his experience of creating personalised cuts for each of the models and being given creative license to do bold hair colour for models such as Kaia Gerber, something agencies and models in previous years would not have been open to.

"I think sometimes that we have to take a little leap of faith with our hairdressers or when doing this at home ourselves. I spoke to Kaia Gerber, whose hair I was dyeing pink on a Zoom call, and I said, 'Well, are you not worried?' And she said "It's 2020, what's to worry about?' I think that maybe in this time, when there is so much uncertainty and crazy times, that maybe people are more liberated to make those sort of changes and realise that they're not that important," said Palau.


The obsession with pink may have seemed fleeting and a product of everyone's boredom while staying at home, but the reason pink gained so much love during the pandemic goes deeper than that.

Pink hair is bang on trend, as seen on the runway.
Pink hair is bang on trend, as seen on the runway.
Image: Getty Images

In an Allure article titled "Why everyone is dyeing their hair pink right now", New York-based neuropsychologist Sanam Hafeez gives insight as to why pink has been and is still on everyone's mind: "Pink represents all that we need in the world right now.

"Very often, pink is thought to have a calming effect. It is not a loud colour like yellow or orange. As most of us lounge around in scruffy clothes like sweatshirts, sweatpants, little to no makeup and messy hair, pink hair is a way of bringing out our softer side in a way that does not require everyday upkeep and is also not expensive."

When looking at the science of colour therapy, pink is said to be a source of healing. A colour associated with the heart chakra in the body, it can help to evoke energies and feelings of self-love, compassion and self-acceptance.

Pink may have just seemed like a fun colour choice on the surface, but its by-product of healing, calming energies really came to underpin the mood of pink in 2020 as mental health was heavily tested. It helped to recharge people's joy for life and give the self-confidence to venture out of a comfort zone.

Pink, whether worn in the hair or applied to the face, became a vehicle for the self-acceptance we all needed and our acceptance of an uncertain world in that moment. It became the armour that beauty chose to empower the world and imbue with the knowledge that, with just the application of pink hair dye, a love letter to oneself was written.



  1. Olaplex Hair Perfector No.3, 100ml, R560
  2. Moroccan Oil Colour Depositing Mask in Hibiscus, 200ml, R620
  3. Kadus Colour Radiance Mask, 200ml, R225

Image: Supplied


Pink washes out of hair quickly so it’s recommended that you choose one shade darker. This way you can enjoy the colour for longer as it gradually washes out — from deep fuchsia to pastel pink.