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Whether you’re dealing with overgrown roots, lackluster locks or just itching for a change, a hair color refresh can work wonders to brighten your appearance, boost your mood and erase years from your appearance.
How to Choose the Right Hair Color
The key to finding the most flattering hue for you? Top celebrity colorists advise uncovering your skin’s undertone: Look at the veins on your wrist. If they’re blue or purple, you have a cool undertone; if they’re green, your undertone is warm.
Scroll down for the complexion-complementing colors, as well as the newest at-home formulas and easy techniques that will enliven your skin, volumize your hair and leave you looking gorgeous and feeling confident all summer long!
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“The vibrance of a warm shade of burnt red imparts a peaches-and-cream glow onto skin,” says colorist Mike Petrizzi, who’s worked with Mandy Moore and Joan Jett. “The added radiance ensures the fair skin tone doesn’t appear washed-out.”
Get the color: Look for a dye in the strawberry-blond family (the pigments balance the copper hue so it doesn’t skew too red or too orange). And one that’s infused with vitamin E (like AGEbeautiful Anti-Aging Permanent Liqui-Creme Hair Color in #9RC Light Strawberry Blonde) nourishes and hydrates hair as it’s being colored to enhance shine. Apply dye at roots, then work through ends with a comb; cover with a shower cap (this creates cuticle-opening heat to help red dye’s larger molecules absorb better). Let sit 30 minutes; rinse.
PRO TIP: When roots appear, a touchup kit like dpHUE Root Touch-Up Kit in Strawberry, $30) can help. It contains enough red-based dye for two applications.
The blue pigments in an icy blond complement the blue tones in a cool complexion to help brighten skin, says Petrizzi. Even better? The reflective hue helps hair look three times thicker!
Get the color: Opt for a kit that has both bleach, to lift hair to a bright blond hue, and a blue-based conditioner, to nix any underlying yellow (like L’Oréal Paris Féria in Absolute Platinum). Petrizzi advises mixing two packets of artificial sweetener into the formula before applying—it helps keep the scalp’s pH level balanced to prevent bleach-induced sensitivity.
Pro tip: To maintain the bright and brilliant shade, apply a blue-based toner (like AGEbeautiful Permanent Liqui-Crème Topcoat Toner in Silver Ash Blonde) all over hair once a month.
“A deep raven brunette with blue-black tones stands out against dark skin while enhancing its warmth,” says Petrizzi. And the shade’s variation of cool and warm pigments prevents it from looking flat and inky.
Get the color: Choose a cool dark brown — look for words like “cool,” “ash” or “espresso” on the box (like Schwarzkopf Simply Color Permanent Hair Color in #4.0 Intense Espresso). Apply all over hair and comb through from roots to ends to saturate color evenly. Let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse.
Pro tip: Since incoming grays are more prominent against dark hair, keep a demi-permanent root dye (like Madison Reed Root Reboot in #5C Trevi, Madison) on hand. The sponge applicator easily dabs dye onto roots without disrupting the rest of hair’s hue.
Sweet Honey Blond
Striking blond highlights on top of a slightly deeper shade of the same hue creates the appearance of natural-looking sun-kissed color, says colorist Michael Canalé, who’s worked with Jennifer Aniston and Penélope Cruz. “It adds spectacular shine and volumizing depth to hair while complementing the golden tones in skin to keep the more yellow-based complexion from looking sallow.” Plus, it reflects light onto skin to soften fine lines and wrinkles.
Get the color: Create the base by applying a dark golden blond dye (like Clairol Nice’n Easy in #7G Dark Golden Blonde) from roots to ends. Let sit 30 minutes; rinse. Then apply highlights using a kit (like L’Oréal Paris Colorista Bleach Highlights) onto 1” sections of hair throughout; let sit until strands are a pale blond.
Pro tip: To conceal any regrowth, use a touch-up kit (like Clairol Nice’n Easy Root Touch-Up in #7 Dark Blonde) to apply color to roots, then lightly dab onto highlighted sections to avoid a harsh line of demarcation.
The beautiful contrast between a rich brunette base and buttery face-framing streaks that get lighter as they cascade down, helps pull out the golden tones in warm skin, says colorist Jonathan Colombini, who’s worked with Geena Davis and Kristin Chenoweth.
Get the color: First, apply a neutral brown dye (like Revlon Total Color #50 Medium Natural Brown) from roots to ends. Let process 30 minutes, then rinse. Next, use a clean spoolie brush (it allows for better placement of smaller streaks) to paint the formula from a highlighting kit (like L’Oréal Paris Frost & Design in Caramel) onto 1⁄2” sections of face-framing hair in front, skipping a 1⁄2” section in between. Then, for an ombré-like effect where hair gets gradually lighter toward the ends, use a clean toothbrush (it will help apply more of the hair-lightening color over a larger area) and go back over streaks from mid-lengths to ends, gradually saturating hair with more formula as you reach the ends. Let process 30 minutes; rinse.
“The crispness of pure white locks helps the redder tones in cooler skin pop,” says colorist Rona O’Connor, who’s worked with Heidi Klum and Debra Messing. “And the silvery shade is so fresh and modern.”
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Get the color: To achieve a bright white shade without causing damage (the darker the hair, the more processes with bleach it takes), it’s best if hair is already a lighter shade of gray. Start by lightening locks with a kit (like Manic Panic Flash Lightening Bleach Kit). Apply evenly from roots to ends and let process until hair is white (about 30 minutes); rinse. Then strengthen strands after bleaching with a repairing mask (like Olaplex Hair Perfector No. 3); apply all over damp hair and let sit for 10 minutes before rinsing.
Pro tip: If white hair looks dirty or yellow, try a “soap cap” to gently lift the pigment from strands. To do: Mix 1⁄4 cup each of shampoo, powder bleach and a 20 volume developer. Apply evenly to damp hair while wearing gloves; let sit for 10 minutes, then rinse.
Silky Salt and Pepper
The more neutral shades in classic gray hair can actually reverse years by counteracting any underlying green tones in skin. The result? A brighter, more youthful glow. An added perk, says celebrity colorist Stevie Gavin from the Ian McCabe Studio in Washington, D.C.: The combination of light and dark pieces creates hair-thickening dimension.
Get the color: Beef up the salt-and-pepper contrast with a permanent dye that’s close to your hair’s original color (for Rita, it would be Clairol Nice’n Easy in #5C Medium Cool Brown). Mix the formula, place a small amount onto a paper plate, dip a clean toothbrush into the formula, then use it to paint the color onto tiny sections (about 1⁄4” pieces) through the crown like you’re creating highlights. Let sit 10 minutes; rinse. Then make the whiter strands sparkle, by applying a clear glaze (like John Frieda Luminous Color Glaze Clear Shine) twice a month. It coats hair with sheer, shine-inducing molecules that increase lock luster without altering hair color.
Radiant Red Wine
Auburn’s mix of rich red and dark chestnut pigments mirror, and thus pull out, the golden flecks in a warm complexion, says Gavin. Plus, when light shines on the kaleidoscope of colors, it mimics the appearance of highlights (without the work it takes to apply them!), so hair is lustrous and skin looks luminescent!
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Get the color: First, apply a deep auburn hue (like Revlon ColorSilk Beautiful Color in #31 Dark Auburn) to roots only. Then, after 15 minutes, apply the same color to the rest of hair; let sit 10 more minutes, says Gavin. “Since hair’s midlengths and ends grab color more easily than roots, this ensures the color is uniform throughout.”
Pro tip: Red dyes are notorious for fading fast, so treat hair twice a week with a red conditioner (like Marc Anthony Complete Color Care For Reds). Its natural tint contains fire tulip extract (from the African tulip tree), which latches on to strands, maintaining hair’s fiery hue.
“Caramel-hued highlights weaved through a deep brown base add slivers of sparkle that counteract the ashiness in cool-toned skin,” says colorist Rona O’Connor. What’s more, the shadow created by darker roots gives thin hair oomph and makes regrowth look intentional, so you can go longer between touch-ups!
Get the color: The best way to achieve the look so streaks appear less contrived is with balayage, says O’Connor. This hair-painting technique used in salons involves applying bleach with a special “paint” brush for precisely placed yet more natural-looking streaks throughout hair. The good news? It can now be done at home, thanks to new highlighting kits that include a brush-on applicator and bleach (like Garnier Nutrisse Ultra Color Balayage Kit in #BY1 Icing Swirl), lightening dark hair by up to three shades. Simply use the brush to apply the color 1 1⁄2” away from roots, let process for 30 minutes, then rinse.
Pro tip: Highlights can lose their vibrance over time, but a weekly apple cider vinegar rinse can restore it, says O’Connor. The vinegar’s acetic acid removes dulling product buildup and seals hair’s cuticle, boosting strand shine. To do: Combine 1 cup of apple cider vinegar and 2 cups of water. Pour the mixture onto clean, damp hair and let sit for 5 minutes before rinsing.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.