Tips for Choosing the Right Hair Color

How to choose the perfect shade for your skin tone.


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Made in the Shades

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Choosing the right hair color can be daunting, but don't worry your pretty little head. We have quick tips for picking the perfect hue, a cheat sheet for deciphering the buzzwords, and a highlight reel of the best new products.


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Hue Knew?

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Finding your ideal color starts with your skin tone. Paul Cucinello, celebrity colorist and creative director at Chris Chase salon in New York City, breaks it down.

Step One: Determine Your Color

Cool: Your skin has blue or violet undertones and you look best in royal blue, scarlet, fuchsia and teal.

Warm: Your skin has yellow or peach undertones and you look best in brown, gold, khaki and purple.

Neutral: Your skin has olive undertones and you look best in coral, periwinkle, pale pink, gray and seafoam green.


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Select Your Shade: Blonde

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Cool: Look for the words "ash" or "pearl blonde" on the box. If you're daring, try platinum.

Warm: Buttery tones, including golden or copper blonde, create a perfect balance.

Neutral: "Sandy" and "sun-kissed" are box buzzwords. Ombre (hair gradually going from dark to light) works well, since it's more flattering not to be bright blonde near the roots.


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Select Your Shade: Redhead

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Cool: Violet-based colors, including cherry, fire-engine red and strawberry blonde, complement similar skin tones.

Warm: Try cinnamon, auburn or titian red—an orangey shade that really pops.

Neutral: A red-brown combo like amber blends nicely with an olive complexion.


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Select Your Shade: Brunette

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Cool: Both chestnut and cocoa are good choices. You also can't go wrong with an ash brown.

Warm: Light-reflective shades, such as caramel, espresso and honey, have an overall brightening effect.

Neutral: Rich, dark tones are ideal. Try chocolate, nutmeg or hazelnut.


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Hair Talk

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Definitions from L'Oreal Paris consulting celebrity colorist Kari Hill.

Lift vs. Deposit: Lift is to lighten and brighten; deposit means to maintain or darken.

Single Process vs. Double Process: When one shade is applied directly on the scalp to cover grays or enhance overall color, it is a single process. Add highlights and it becomes a double.

Highlights vs. Lowlights: Highlights are small pieces of hair (usually near the hairline) that are a lighter shade than the base color. Lowlights are the opposite—darkened sections of hair.

Semi-Permanent vs. Demi-Permanent vs. Permanent: How do these differ? It comes down to duration and lightening ability. Semi lasts about 8 washes and can only darken; demi lasts up to 25 washes and can lift color slightly under heat. Permanent can completely lift color.

Gloss vs. Glaze: It's a wash. These similar-sounding terms actually have the same meaning: a "topcoat" for your color that brightens, adds shine and lasts up to 20 washes.


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Tools of the Trade

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Use weekly between colorings to prevent dullness and brassiness. With six shades for both warm and cool skin tones, this shine booster has everyone covered.

John Frieda Colour Refreshing Gloss, $13


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Tools of the Trade

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Showering can cause gradual fading. Protect your color by applying this light treatment from roots to tips before cleansing.

Nexxus Color Assure Pre-Wash Primer, $18


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Tools of the Trade

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Try fun shades—like this bold bronze—with no commitment. The temporary color is super easy to apply and washes out after two to three shampoos.

Garnier Color Styler Intense Wash-Out Color, $8


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Tools of the Trade

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The name truly says it all—the water- resistant powder adheres easily to roots for complete and natural-looking gray coverage, until your next wash. Plus, no mess!

Color Wow Root Cover Up, $35