It’s not uncommon for characters from anime, movies, comics, and games to have stark white hair that you want to mimic. You might also want to color your hair gray to wear a costume of a middle-aged or older character. If these aren’t your natural hair color, light white and gray hair colors are among the most difficult to achieve with your natural hair. Generally, if you want to have stark white hair, you need to bleach it. However, if you’re just doing this for a costume, that’s probably a step farther than you want to go.
You can use white powders to create a gray hair effect. Alternatively, colored sprays and gels, hair chalk, and temporary hair dye are all products that can help you achieve a white hair color without permanently bleaching your hair.
If you have dark hair, it really is best to wear a wig instead of trying to temporarily make your hair white. While it is possible with a lot of time and hair products, it’s very difficult to cover up a dark color while also maintaining a normal, non-greasy hair texture.
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1. Use a white powder (baby powder, cornstarch, white powder makeup, etc.)
Unless you have very light hair naturally, powdered products, like baby powder and cornstarch, are not going to get you pure white hair. Overall it can make your hair appear one to two shades lighter than your original color.
However, this is a great method if you are trying to achieve gray hair or a salt-and-pepper look. Apply ample amounts of powder to your hair and comb it through to get a solid color. You will need to use a lot of powder to get this to work. If you want to look slightly more mature, but don’t want to use so much powder, you can apply it to just the hair around your temples to create a graying effect.
Using baby powder, cornstarch, or even a white makeup product is a cheap and easy way to lighten your hair. However, the downside to using it is that the powder will get everywhere. Expect to be shedding powder all day and night. If you wear a dark-colored costume, you will definitely notice the powder falling all over it. So definitely keep that in mind before choosing to make your hair gray or white with this method.
2. Colored hair sprays
White hair spray is another way to temporarily change the color of your hair for a costume. You can get white, silver, or gray colors and apply multiple layers for fuller coverage. You can usually get even dark, black hair to have a white appearance if you use an entire can or two of spray. However, keep in mind that the more spray you use, the crisper texture your hair will have, making it feel like straw if you’ve used a lot. Giving your hair a comb-through before the spray completely dries can help with the texture a little.
If you have long hair, a colored hair spray is a great option because it can cover large amounts of areas at a time. It won’t take you hours to get full coverage of white hair going part-by-part like you do with most other temporary hair-color methods.
Colored hair spray is great if you just want to make your hair white for one day, and will easily wash out at the end of the day. In general, colored hair sprays don’t shed too much, but if you’ve used a lot of spray, you might still see some hair spray dust on your clothes if you’re wearing something dark.
3. Colored hair wax
An option that’s best for shorter hair and beards is white hair wax. Hair wax is great for coloring hair if you want hair that’s spiked or textured, but you can use it with a more normal hairstyle if you also use some leave-in hair conditioner to help keep your hair somewhat soft. Because this is a wax product that coats your hair, it can work well even on very dark hair. However, you should expect to use quite a bit of hair wax.
To apply the hair wax, make sure your hair is slightly damp. This helps the wax to stop clumping up in your hair. You’ll also want to take a comb and run it through your hair to make sure you have full coverage throughout.
4. Hair chalk
Hair chalk is a hair coloring product that is mostly aimed at kids. I don’t recommend it for trying to color your entire head to a white or gray color, but hair chalk can work well if you only need to color a couple of strands or sections of your hair. For example, the streaks of white in Rogue’s hair or the white pattern in Death the Kid’s hair (from Soul Eater). You can do your full head of hair if you want (especially if you have short hair), but expect to use a lot of chalk, and it probably won’t be as white as you want it to be.
When applying, it’s best to dip the chalk in water to help it spread the color around. Then seal it with hair spray to prevent the color from coming off right away. Most hair chalk will come in little plastic combs, but I recommend taking the pieces of chalk out of the combs and just applying by hand since I don’t find the combs do anything except pull out your hair.
5. Hair makeup
There are a couple of stage makeup brands that sell a product called hair makeup. This is a liquid hair colorant that you can apply to your hair with a sponge or a small brush. This tends to not create as much of a rough texture as other methods and is really excellent at covering beards and short hair. You can use hair makeup with long hair too, but you’re not going to get as full coverage.
Hair makeup tends to be a little messier to apply than other products because it’s liquid. Use a sponge or small brush (even a toothbrush) to rub it on. If you need to apply multiple layers, make sure you let the hair makeup dry before adding more paint.
6. Semi-permanent hair dye
Semi-permanent hair dye is essentially the same kind of product as normal hair dye, but it’s intended to wash out over the course of several weeks. This is a method that is not going to work for most people, especially if you want a pure white color since you would have to bleach your hair first to achieve it.
However, semi-permanent hair dye can work well for creating a short-term gray color that looks and feels like real hair. You won’t have to deal with a straw-like hair texture or shedding dust and particles from the gel or spray. Overall, this method will work better with lighter-colored hair.
Bonus: Wear a wig
When I first started cosplaying, I was hesitant to start using wigs. My experience with wigs in the past was the cheap ones you get for Halloween, and I thought it would make the costumes look tacky. However, I learned that not only do wigs look great with costumes, but they are also easier to keep neat and styled to look like your character’s hair. You just need to avoid the cheap wigs you find at Halloween stores.
Why wear a wig instead of coloring your hair?
- It’s the only way to confidently get completely white hair. While the methods I’ve gone over can help you get white-ish hair, most of the time, you won’t be able to make it completely snow white without bleaching your hair or wearing a wig.
- You can get very realistic wigs. You can get all sorts of wigs for your costume, they don’t all look like Halloween store wigs. You can even find many that have a lace-front, giving them a natural-looking hairline.
- You can more easily style your wig. If your cosplay requires a complicated hairstyle, it’s much easier to style it once on the wig rather than take a couple of hours to style your hair every single time you want to wear the costume.
- It’s considered normal practice in the cosplay community. Most people wear wigs when they cosplay, so you don’t have to worry about standing out or looking like you put less effort into your costume.
- You can get decent wigs for not too much money. It’s pretty easy to find a decent wig for $20-30. In the end, it may even cost less than it would after experimenting with a number of different hair products.