Hair color: what is the best option for me?

With so many hair colors, which one is the best for you? Are the highlights of Jen Aniston? Is it the beautiful red that Rene Russo wore in The Thomas Crown Affair? How about the shiny, almost black shade of Courtney Cox’s long locks?

When deciding on the right hair color for you, there are several options to consider. As a professional stylist since (ouch!) 1984, I can help, even without seeing your hair. While choosing the right color can be based on the practical, emotional, and financial aspects, you actually need to consider all of these aspects when making the right decision. Let us begin!

Let me start by saying that I am a working stylist, behind the chair five days a week. Most of my clients pay me to color their hair, while I have some who color it themselves at home. I’ll tackle both options here and help you ask the right questions to come up with the best option for you.

I think it is better to have a professional color your hair. Doesn’t it surprise you? Here’s why: I’ve seen a lot of “homemade” hair colors don’t work, and I assure you it’s more profitable for someone like me to get it right the first time. Corrective coloring can be very expensive, not to mention the damage that can be done by having to color more than once in a short period of time. If you absolutely must dye at home, I recommend using a depot color (which does not contain ammonia and does not lighten hair) and picking a color that is at least one shade lighter than you think you want the first time. Don’t trust the picture on the box! It’s not what it seems most of the time. It is much easier to darken the color if it is too light than the other way around.

Okay, so you’ve decided to have your stylist color your hair. If you are changing your home hair color, keep in mind that it may take a couple of salon visits to make the change. Depending on what you’ve been coloring with, your stylist may have to make some color adjustments that won’t completely transform on the first visit. If they are like me, they will protect the integrity of your hair even if it means more than one visit to perfect it.

No matter who will be doing the color, be it your regular stylist or someone new, you need to be prepared to ask and answer a few questions first. The first question to ask yourself is not what color, but how often. You won’t be happy with having a color that requires monthly salon visits if you and / or your budget allow one visit, say, every eight weeks. It’s four weeks of thinking, why did I do this? There are color options for every time frame, and spending a little more time between visits can change the equation from lowering the budget to affordable as well. If your hair is naturally dark, platinum highlights are not the right choice if you don’t want to be in the salon at least every four weeks. Perhaps highlights in a softer caramel or beige color will work better for you. (Although if you like the latest “Ombre” highlight look, the grown-up roots may be just what you’ve been dreaming of.) You see? There is a color for everyone!

If you want to eliminate gray hair, there are many options, but again we must consider the time factor. How fast does your hair grow? How many gray do you have? If you’re starting to turn gray, highlights may be the answer until your gray hair is 50% or more of the volume of your hair. It can usually be mixed up to 50% with highlights in the correct shade, depending on your natural color. If your hair is naturally dark, again, be careful how clearly you make those highlights, as regrowth of dark hair can be difficult to manage unless more frequent visits to the salon don’t bother you. If highlighting isn’t the right option for you and you want to keep your look as natural as possible, your stylist can match a shade of your natural color and get rid of the gray that way. Custom colors can be added that will also enhance the color, so you can have a little fun with it, as well as cover up the gray.

Another way to beat gray and not break your budget is to alternate between highlights and root color every other visit. Here’s how it works: Start with highlights, whether partial or full, you and your stylist will decide which one is best for you. Tip: If your hair is shoulder length or longer, a partial should be sufficient. Six to eight weeks later, when you return to the salon, your stylist touches up the “roots” or regrowth of your hair with a color, which cushions the area from regrowth to highlights. The reason for this is twofold: a retouch is less expensive than a highlight, it takes less time. And over time, this looks more natural than a highlight or color alone, especially if you’re considering gray hair that can be so unruly. Solid color better dominates gray hair as it covers everything, not just the sections that are stained with foil.

Let’s say the highlights just aren’t right for you. They are not for everyone. If you prefer a solid color, your stylist should be able to determine which shade will work best for you. Want a look that’s as natural as possible, just to get rid of the gray? That is easy. Your stylist can match your hair color as closely as possible, or add a few other shades for fun. Maybe a deep brown with a hint of red? A copper blonde? The options are endless. Just be careful when choosing a color that is too out of your natural range, in depth or clarity.

Skin tone certainly influences hair color. Mother Nature is rarely wrong with the natural color she gives us, so I would recommend not straying too far from the natural shade. If you have natural warm undertones, choose a color with at least a little warmth to complement your natural coloring; the same if you are cooler or fresher naturally. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun, and a lot with hair color. There are so many possibilities, it’s just up to you and your stylist to explore and find the right one (s) for you!