Decode Your Hair Color

Use this expert troubleshooting guide to get your best hair color ever.

Brunnette, Blonde
(Image credit: Image Source)


Color Theory: "The most beautiful brunettes have different tones to their hair," explains Wella colorist and NYC salon owner Eva Scrivo, who recommends highlights and lowlights that are only one shade away from your natural color to avoid looking too blonde or red.

Self-Help: "Sun exposure and mineral deposits in old pipes can make hair brassy," warns Scrivo. To maintain your hue at home, she suggests shampooing less often and wearing a hat to prevent fading. If your hair shows the orange signs of oxidation, blue and green color-correcting shampoos and conditioners help remove the brassiness.

Parlor Tricks: Unless you want to look like a tiger, brunette highlighting should be left to the pros, says Scrivo. "At-home kits are disastrous because they don't lighten enough. Brown hair has a lot of red in it, and in between chocolate and honey is orange."

Secret Weapon: Between color touch-ups, Scrivo suggests tinted dry shampoos to hide regrowth: "Spray it on a tissue and wipe it onto your part to blend the roots."

Well SP Color Saver Shampoo (opens in new tab), $19.

Janeke Paddle Brush (opens in new tab), $50.

Alterna Caviar Brunette Conditioner (opens in new tab), $36.

Eva Scrivo Brown Hair Powder (opens in new tab), $35.


Color Theory: "Redheads should stay in the yellowish, copper family," says NYC and L.A. salon owner Louis Licari. "Too much blue can be very unflattering."

Self-Help: Skip the boxed options if you have highlights or are going gray. "Pretreated hair can end up looking Day-Glo pink when colored at home," explains Licari. "But it's safe to use a semipermanent rinse to stretch out salon visits once you've already gone red professionally."

Parlor Tricks: "A red glaze can warm any hair shade," says Licari. "A blonde can become a strawberry blonde, a brunette can go auburn."

Secret Weapon: "Red hair requires the most upkeep because the hue washes out faster than any other dye," notes Licari. Prevent fading with a color-depositing shampoo. "But if your hair is too porous, the ends might start to get darker," he warns. "In that case, use the color-depositing formula less frequently."

John Frieda Luminous Color Glaze in Radiant Red (opens in new tab), $9.99.

Garnier Fructis Fortifying Color Shield Shampoo, $3.99.

Louis Licari Ionic Color Preservation System Instant Deep Treatment (opens in new tab), $26.50.

Redken Color Extend Shine Enrich Serum (opens in new tab), $16.


Color Theory: "The best way to go from dyeing your gray to an allover silver is to do it gradually," according to Sam Gruen, a colorist at Salon AKS in New York City. "Permanent color can't be removed, but you can highlight the ends to break up the darkness. Leave your dye on for less time so it's translucent and the silver's not as harsh growing in."

Self-Help: Sunlight and hot showers open up the cuticle, causing oxidation. To keep silver bright, Gruen recommends color-protecting UV filters and blue or purple color-correcting shampoos to neutralize the yellowness. "If you overdo it, you can tone down the blue with a clarifying shampoo," she adds.

Parlor Tricks: "Non-pigmented gray or white strands are dry and coarse. A clear keratin treatment can make your mane more shiny and manageable for up to five months," says Gruen.

Secret Weapon: Watch out for discoloration from your tap water, warns Gruen. "Dry silver hair is like a sponge for minerals, which can make your color look dull, green, or rusty. Install a water filter on your showerhead or drench your hair with filtered water before you shampoo."

Phytargent Gray and White Hair Shampoo (opens in new tab), $24.

Jonathan Beauty Water Shower Purification System (opens in new tab), $95.

Terax Latte Clarifying Shampoo with Silk Protein (opens in new tab), $20.

Aveda Damage Remedy Daily Hair Repair (opens in new tab), $24.

Coppola Keratin Complex Thermo-Shine spray (opens in new tab), $16.


Color Theory: "Two types of blonde are popular right now," says Los Angeles--based colorist Lorri Goddard-Clark. "Fun, sexy Lady Gaga platinum and highlighted honey like Heidi Klum's."

Self-Help: Brighten dull locks with Goddard-Clark's pantry recipe: Mix 1 cup of baby shampoo with 2 tablespoons of baking soda; comb through hair; cover with a shower cap; sit in the sun for 10 minutes; then rinse. "With heat, the mixture works to open the cuticles and release unwanted yellow and green deposits," she explains.

Parlor Tricks: For a sun-kissed look, Goddard-Clark suggests a technique she uses on Reese Witherspoon: starting highlights a few inches away from the roots.

Secret Weapon: "Chlorine is one of blonde hair's worst enemies," says Goddard-Clark. She recommends coating strands with olive or jojoba oil and tying them back before hitting the pool: "The oil acts as a wet suit that also leaves hair shinier after washing."

Paul Mitchell Color Care Platinum Blonde Shampoo (opens in new tab), $11.95.

L'Oréal Paris EverStrong Overnight Repair Treatment (opens in new tab), $8.99.

Avon Advance Techniques True Blonde Tone & Protect Leave-in Spray (opens in new tab), $6.

Fekkai Salon Technician Advanced Color Care Rapid Results Moisture Mask (opens in new tab), $35.