With fall fast approaching, it's time to fine-tune your beauty regimen, and that includes your hair color. The good news: Less is more. "The most modern color doesn't look done," says colorist Victoria Hunter, a co-owner of Whittemore House Salon in New York. Here, the intel on the chicest shades.
Unless you're a natural blonde, avoid getting a single process. "Women think that going one shade all over is better than highlights, but a single-process blonde often ends up looking brassy," explains celebrity hair colorist Marie Robinson, whose clients include Michelle Williams. Highlights help keep your hair from looking too yellow or orange.
WHAT'S MODERN NOW: Pros are buzzing about baby lights, a highlighting technique in which fine, natural-looking color is placed around the hairline. "They freshen everything up in a soft and subtle way," says Tracey Cunningham, Redken's creative consultant. To get this look right, ask your colorist to start blending the color an inch from your roots. This allows it to grow without a line of demarcation.
SKIN-TONE SECRET: Fair complexions look best with a medium-to-dark-blonde base and baby-blonde highlights, says Los Angeles hair colorist Negin Zand. Platinum highlights would look pretty too, but only if your hair is short. (More on that later.) If your skin is medium with gold undertones, consider caramel blonde lowlights, "to richen up your color and add depth," suggests Los Angeles colorist Denis De Souza. For dark tones, stay away from anything too light. Go for deep caramel and keep the brightest hues far from your face, advises Paris colorist Christophe Robin.
STYLE TIP: "Don't attempt to go platinum," says Robinson, unless your hair is collarbone-length or shorter. "It will damage your hair, and it can look cheap," adds Zand, who also urges caution when highlighting short blonde locks. "It can easily look like you have tiger stripes in the back where the hair is shortest." The longer your hair, the more dimension that's required, so ask for highlights or lowlights. Also, be advised that heat styling and blonde hair don't mix well. Jennifer Lawrence's colorist, Lorri Goddard, encourages her clients to rough-dry their strands thoroughly, since cumulative damage from hot tools "can fry lightened hair," she says. Hydrate your tresses with Christophe Robin Moisturizing Hair Oil with Lavender ($47), then use Redken Blonde Idol Sulfate-Free Shampoo ($18) a couple of times a week.
MAINTENANCE: "Blonde hair can go brassy when everything is lifted too high," says Zand. Keep your base darker, and add lightness with highlights to maintain depth. If the sun is the culprit, tone down brassiness with an in-salon gloss. Warning: The blonder you go, the higher the maintenance. "Think of blonde hair as a white T-shirt," says Robinson. "The more you wash it, the more discolored it becomes from absorbing things in the water."
The ombre trend is here to stay, but these days "there's less contrast between the roots and the end color," notes Robinson, who says she's been melding tone-on-tone colors from the mid-lengths to the tips of the hair.
WHAT'S MODERN NOW: "Lighter ends are still on-trend, but keep them refined to showcase more natural-looking color," says Goddard. To do this, your mid-lengths to ends should be no more than two to three shades lighter than your roots—a technique some pros have dubbed "sombré." (This is a softer, more blended version of the traditional ombré, which spans up to seven shades from root to tip.) "Low-maintenance hair color has been coming back into focus, and sombré is a much more wearable take on ombré," explains Cunningham, whose clients include Drew Barrymore. "It's flattering on everyone, especially brunettes."
SKIN-TONE SECRET: For fair complexions with hints of pink or red, "avoid warm tones like gold, copper, mahogany, and red," says Robin. "They can look brassy on pale skin," adds Goddard. Instead, go for deeper caramel or cool ash browns that won't make you look washed out. On medium tones, vibrant light and medium brown shades are flattering, while deeper complexions can go as rich as dark brown to black. Shine is crucial: "The darker you go, the shinier it should look," advises Robin.
STYLE TIP: Chopped your locks above your shoulders? "When you're brunette with short hair, the shape of your cut becomes the statement," says Robinson. Skip highlights or lowlights and leave the color "rich but subtle," she says. "Nothing looks chicer than a well-cut bob that's really sleek, shiny, and all-one-color brunette," adds Hunter. On longer hair, consider softening your look with varying shades of brown to avoid a heavy block of color and "to see the movement of your haircut," Robinson says.
MAINTENANCE: David Stanko, hair-color consultant for Redken, says, "Brunettes face three basic problems: going too ashy, too brassy, or becoming inky or monochromatic (i.e., wig-like)." To prevent your color from looking ashy or flat, he recommends asking your colorist to "add lighter brown bits rather than highlights from mid-lengths to the ends of your hair to perk up an ordinary brown to a sexy brunette." If brassy tones are your concern, request a demi-permanent gloss (Stanko uses Redken's Shades EQ line) to keep your color vibrant. At home, try Joico Color Balance Blue Shampoo ($16) and Conditioner ($18) to wash away unwanted orange tones.
It's well-known that red is the hardest color to keep looking natural and glossy. "Too much red can appear pink or give you hot roots," says Zand, "but too much brown, and it won't be red enough. It's a very fine line."WHAT'S MODERN NOW:"The more dimension and layering you do, the better red hair will look," says Hunter. She mixes everything from mahogany to strawberry blonde to gold and copper brown. "Then I finish with a coppery red gloss to mute everything, and blend it all together with tons of shine." Bottom line: Stick to shades found in nature, and avoid blue-based reds, which can turn burgundy or eggplant.
SKIN-TONE SECRET: Those with fair complexions with pink undertones may want to try an icy strawberry blonde by adding neutral copper tones. Pale but warmer-skinned? "You'll look best with golden apricot," says colorist Rona O'Connor, who works with Debra Messing. For medium skin, go mahogany instead of copper. "Think of Irish setter red—it's not too light and contains more red," says Robin. On darker tones, try deep mahogany or rich marsala.
STYLE TIP: Unlike brunettes, it's crucial for those with short red hair to have multitones and dimension. For longer hair, one color looks sophisticated and chic.
MAINTENANCE: "The biggest issues for redheads are dull ends and looking washed-out," says O'Connor. Maintain luminosity with an in-salon demi-permanent gloss every four to five weeks to replenish color. At home, prevent fading with Nexxus Color Assure Primer pre-wash treatment ($19.99) and Pureology Reviving Red Shamp'Oil and Condition ($29 each).
D.I.Y. TRICKS TO TRY NOW
• Boost radiance once a week with a coconut oil treatment, advises Goddard. Apply to dry hair from roots to tips, and let it sit for 30 minutes. Before rinsing, lather up your shampoo, then add a small amount of water. "That breaks down the oil without stripping the moisture from your hair," she says. Not an oil fan? Try a vinegar rinse instead. Goddard swears by Rene Furterer's, especially for those with hard-water issues.
• Use a color-enriching mask. Christophe Robin's deposits pigment only where your hair needs it. Leave this blend of buriti oil and almond butter on your hair for up to 30 minutes. Results will last for three to five shampoos.
• Ask if your salon carries Olaplex. This new breakthrough treatment "helps brittle, tortured hair become normal-human-being hair again," says Hunter. The in-salon part mends broken sulfur bonds that lead to fading; the at-home mask ensures shiny strands until your next salon visit.
• Camouflage gray regrowth instantly with Color Wow's temporary covering powders. "For people who don't want to mess with their color at home, this stuff is genius," says Robinson.
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