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The Best Hue for You: How to Dye Your Hair

There's more than one great way to be blond, brunette, or silver. Learn how to make the most of your color with this expert guide.
  • Fernando Milani

    You Love Being Blond

    Whether your golden locks are natural or you work hard at maintaining that most famous of hair colors, you've likely considered giving different blond intensities a whirl. But before you decide to go lighter or darker, remember the top rule of hair color change: The farther you stray from your current color, the more damaged your hair will be. Overall, pros advise remaining within two levels (the scale by which hair color is measured) in either direction. "When you go too far, the hair texture that you feel today will be gone tomorrow," warns Gretchen Monahan, Dove Hair Care celebrity stylist and owner of Grettacole Salon, in Boston.

  • Fernando Milani

    Blond: Go Lighter

    Before doing anything else, consider your skin tone. If you're fair-skinned, don't go too light to avoid looking washed out or tired. Do you have medium to dark skin with olive undertones? Then choose shades that are described as "cool." Next, how long do you want this new color to stick around? Permanent color lasts until the next time you dye it, demipermanent color lasts about a month, and semipermanent color lastsapproximately a week.

  • Fernando Milani

    Go Darker

    Going a bit darker usually suits most blondes more than going lighter does (a la Jennifer Aniston), so try out a semi- or demipermanent shade first before fully committing to it.

    Hold On to Your Blond
    Cleansing with blond-specific shampoos and their matching conditioners will help you love your color longer. (They are formulated with a gentler pH level than traditional versions.)

  • Fernando Milani

    You Love Being a Brunette

    Often compared to espresso and chocolate, brunet has undeniable richness. But if you've noticed that your complexion has gotten paler over time (a sign of aging), your long-loved color can suddenly look much too dark, leaving you wanting to lighten up a little. Or you might try to recapture some of theintensity lost from too much sun and heat styling.

    Remain a Brunette Longer
    Just like blond hair, brown and black hair can lose its just-colored intensity with each shampoo and heat-styling session. Counteract this with products designed just for your dark locks.

  • Fernando Milani

    Brunette: Go Lighter

    A few well-placed highlights around your face in a shade two levels lighter deliver believable dimension and are often all the lightness brunettes need. Or try one of the new permanent hair-color formulas that cater to the dark-haired.

  • Fernando Milani

    Brunette: Go Darker

    When going darker, opt for demi- and semipermanentformulas (which will give a much-needed boost of shine), the newest "lowlighting" kits, or permanent color if you're positive about the shade you want.

  • Fernando Milani

    You Love Silver Hair Color... or Do You?

    "Covering the gray" is the top reason women give for coloring their hair, and the odds are good that you're among those aboard the gray-be-gone bandwagon. Rewind to Meryl Streep's Oscar-nominated performance in The Devil Wears Prada to confirm that gray hair is shedding its dowdy image. "Our clients like the gray color," says stylist Monahan, "but they don't like how their hair has dulled or how the texture has changed because of it." Gray hair becomes coarse due to its low amount of natural oils, making deep conditioning a new priority.

    "The hardest part of 'going gray' is getting there," says Mikael Padilla, celebrity colorist for Wella Professionals. The transition to all-over gray can be unsettling, especially if you've been coloring for a long time, and professional help is a sound investment. Frequent trims will get rid of the old color, while a colorist can tone your grays to your ideal hue.

    Colorist Shari Harbinger, of the Devachan Salon and Departure Lounge, in New York City, finds that her clients are bothered by the yellow tinge that often accompanies gray hair. "We counteract that effect with a violet-based glaze," she says. "We can also add the 'pepper' back in for a more-balanced look."

    Feeling brave? Then do as Monahan suggests and break up the gray with a few dark strands from a semipermanent at-home kit.

  • Fernando Milani

    A Few Other Silver-Haired Considerations

    Everyone grays differently. You might transition to gray with one streak in front, while your best friend might see grays pop up uniformly throughout her head. "Gray hair has no pigments:the color you're seeing is the hair protein material, which can be dull," explains Frauke Neuser, a P&G Clairol senior scientist. "This protein is different in everyone, resulting in slightly different white and gray shades."

    Blush is your new best friend. Silver hair can make your complexion look pale and washed-out. A few strokes of blush take care of that — pronto!

    Embrace conditioner. Switch to a conditioner that softens your grays while adding loads of shine. 

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