Hair Color – What’s the Best Choice for Me?

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

When deciding on the right hair color for yourself, there are a number of options to consider. As a professional stylist since (yikes!) 1984, I can help, even without seeing your hair. While choosing the right color can be practically, emotionally, and financially based, you should actually consider all of these when making the right choice. Let’s get started!

Let me begin by saying that I am a current working stylist, behind the chair five days a week. Most of my clientele pay me to color their hair, while I have a few that color it themselves at home. I will address both of these options here, and help you to ask the right questions to get to the best choice for you.

I believe it’s best to have your hair colored by a professional. You’re not surprised are you? Here’s why: I’ve seen many “home” hair colors go wrong, and I assure you that it’s more cost effective to have someone like me do it right the first time. Corrective color can be very costly, not to mention the damage that can be done by having to color more than once in a short span of time. If you absolutely must color at home, I recommend using deposit-only color, (which contains no ammonia and doesn’t lighten the hair), and choosing 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 appears most of the time. It’s much easier to darken the color if it’s too light than the reverse.

Okay, so you’ve decided to have your stylist color your hair. If you’re switching from home hair color, be aware that it might take a couple of salon visits to make the change-over. Depending on what you’ve been coloring with, your stylist may have to make some adjustments to the color that won’t be completely transformed on the first visit. If they’re 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, whether it’s your regular stylist or someone new, you should be prepared to ask and answer some questions first. The first question to ask isn’t what color, but how often? It won’t make you happy to have a color that requires monthly salon visits if you and/or your budget will allow a visit say, every eight weeks. That’s four weeks of thinking why did I do this? There are color choices for every time frame, and going a bit longer between visits can change the equation from budget-busting to affordable just like that. If your hair is naturally dark, platinum highlights aren’t the right choice if you don’t want to be in the salon a minimum of every four weeks. Maybe highlights in a softer caramel or beige color would work better for you. (Although if you’re fond of the latest “Ombre” highlighted look, grown out roots might be just what you’ve been dreaming of.) See? There’s 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 much gray hair do you have? If you are just starting to gray, highlights can be the answer until your gray hair measures 50% or more of your hair volume. Up to 50% can usually be blended in with highlights in the right shade, depending on your natural color. If your hair is naturally dark, again, be careful with how light you make those highlights, as the regrowth of dark hair can be difficult to manage unless you don’t mind more frequent visits to the salon. If highlighting isn’t the right choice for you, and you want to stay as natural looking 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 enhance the color too, so you can have a bit of fun with it, in addition to covering the gray.

Another way to beat the gray and not break your budget is to alternate between highlights and root coloring every other visit. Here’s how it works: start with highlights, either partial or full, you and your stylist will decide which one makes sense for you. Hint: if your hair is shoulder length or above, a partial should be sufficient. Six to eight weeks later when you go back to the salon, your stylist touches up the “roots” or regrowth of your hair with a color, which buffers the area from regrowth to highlights. Reason for this is twofold: a touchup is less expensive than a highlight, it takes less time. And over time, this looks more natural than either a highlight or color alone especially if you are factoring in gray hair which can be so unruly! Solid color tames gray hair better since you are covering all of it, not just the sections that get colored with foils.

Let’s say highlights just aren’t right for you. They’re not for everyone. If you prefer a solid color, your stylist should be able to determine which shade will work best for you. Are you wanting as natural a look as possible, just getting rid of the gray? That’s an easy one. Your stylist can match your hair color as closely as possible, or add some other shades in for fun. Maybe a rich brown with a hint of red? A coppery blonde? The choices are endless. Just be careful in choosing a color that is too far out of your natural range, in depth or lightness.

Skin tone certainly plays into hair color. Mother Nature rarely gets it wrong in what natural color she gives us, so I’d recommend not veering too far off from the natural tone. 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 ashier or cooler naturally. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, and lots of it with hair color. So many possibilities exist, it’s just up to you and your stylist to explore and find the one(s) that are right for you!