Color is sensational. Color is electrifying. And color can be, well, kinda confusing. Especially when going in alone without your professional stylist. No matter what your color conundrum, here are some sure-fire tips for achieving perfect color every time.
The first step in finding your ideal hair color is identifying whether or not your hair temperament is warm or cool. Most cools often have fair skin, have blue or green eyes, burn before they tan, and have veins in their wrists that are blue. Warms tend to have golden, olive, or dark skin with dark eyes, tan easily, and their veins run green. Then there are the neutrals where both rules apply. There's also the odd woman out, where none of these rules apply.
If you dare to do your own hair color, just know that most hair-color boxes will state whether they are for warm, neutral, or ash tones. The box dye lingo is typically "golden" for warm and "ash" for cool. If you are panicked by the thought of actually doing your own permanent hair color, try an all-over, semi-permanent color that will enhance your own color and wash out after four to six weeks depending on the porosity of your hair. These semi's are great for adding a subtle hint of color, achieving depth and shine and even covering grays. If you're going for a permanent color that is one or more shades lighter or darker than your current shade, you may want to use a peroxide solution for better coverage and longer-lasting results. A quick consult with your local beauty-supply expert can help you get the solution just right.
As a rule, warm gals should opt for golden colors like caramel or bronze that are darker than their skin tone. Jet black can make anybody look washed out, especially warm skin tones, so this color is only for the most confident. And going too light can make hair turn Marmalade Orange. (On toasted rye, anyone?!) Cools should opt for ash and cool-tone browns and blondes. Be careful with all-out golds, auburns, or coppers, which make warm's skin look sallow. A strand or patch test takes a little extra time, but is well worth the effort because if troubles arise a small section of hair is easier to camouflage and correct.
If you have a hair-color conundrum, tattoo these mantras to the inside of your right arm. You can never go wrong with them.
• Always go for the KA-POW! (mega-reflection)
• Always go for saturation (deep or daring color)
• Always go for variant contradictions (a mix of highs and lows)
Blazing Blacks: Always choose a color gloss -- a semi-permanent, translucent, hydrating hair color -- to power-boost your black hair, add depth and enhance any subtle highlights. You're always safe with clear, but you can add colors such as espresso, eggplant, or rocketfire for pizzazz. It's a stylist's best-kept secret for deepening dark hair and covering hints of grey to reveal an overall blended look.
Serious Chocolates: The best browns can be enhanced by adding a few black lowlights then topped off with a glosser. The standard choice of adding red highlights or lowlights is often a quick one that dies a swift death: brass is always the fallout boy requiring maintenance. Black is in for the long haul, and is the secret weapon for accenting golden chestnuts to intense espressos.
Fierce Reds: Pump it up with multidimensional highlights and lowlights to complement different shades of a red head. Weave and blend browns, reds, and blondes -- or even add a snap of black -- all work well with reds and emulate the sultry hues of fire.
Bodacious Blondes: Goodbye, boring blonde! True Trophy Blondes -- whether tawny, strawberry or power platinum -- are best when they are saturated, harmonious and fluid, with the perfect blend of tone-specific blondes for your skin tone. Depth is derived from using lowlights -- subtle or bold -- to catapult your highlights. This is a refined look that demands unique color combinations, including those from the less-trodden path: pure platinum, spun gold, flaxin fawn and pale honeysuckle. Top it off with a clear glosser and the look becomes electric!
These tried and true tips will help your hair color speak volumes this season. Whether subtle or bold, the perfect color will prep your hair for any style you adopt.
Nicole Cothrun Venables is a Hollywood stylist with two dozen films and television shows to her credit. Her interviews and beauty articles have appeared in Elle, InStyle, Women's World and Los Angeles.