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How do I know what color to dye my hair?

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Deciding what color to dye your hair can be a daunting task. With so many options to choose from, how do you know which shade is right for you? While the possibilities may seem endless, there are a few key factors to consider that can help narrow down your choices. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to find your perfect hair color – from choosing the right undertone, level of vibrancy, and application technique to considering complexion and eye color and expert care tips. Read on for tips and tricks to take the guesswork out of hair color selection.

Determine Your Skin’s Undertone

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a hair color is your skin’s undertone. Your undertone is the color that comes through your skin from underneath its surface. It’s what gives you your overall complexion shade – cool, warm, or neutral. Determining your exact undertone will help you find the most flattering shades for your hair color. Here’s how to figure it out:

Look at the veins on the inside of your wrist. If they appear more blue or purple, you likely have a cool undertone. If they look greenish, your undertone is warm. If it’s difficult to tell and your veins seem a mix of the two, your skin is neutral.

Think about how your skin reacts to sun exposure. Those with cool undertones tend to burn while warm undertones tan more easily. Neutral skin falls somewhere in between.

Consider your overall complexion color. Does your skin lean more pink (cool), peach (warm) or neither (neutral)? Your natural hair color can also give clues – cool undertones correspond to dark brown or black hair while warm matches blonde, red, or light brown shades.

Look at your eye color too. Cool undertones tend to have blue, gray or green eyes while warm undertones match brown, amber, or hazel eyes.

Once you’ve determined your undertone, you can use it as a guide for choosing hair colors that will best complement your complexion.

Warm Undertones

If your skin is warm-toned, you’ll look great in golden blonde and caramel shades. Reds and coppers are also extremely flattering. Stick to hair colors with yellow, peach, or olive bases. Great options include:

– Honey blonde
– Buttery blonde
– Golden brown
– Ginger red
– Autumn red
– Strawberry blonde
– Copper

Avoid cool-toned shades like platinum blonde and ash brown as these may wash you out or clash with your skin. Steer clear of purples and blues as well.

Cool Undertones

For those with cool undertones, cool-toned hair colors often work best. Think icy platinums, ash browns, deep espressos and bold berry shades. Great choices include:

– Ash blonde
– Frosted platinum
– Dark chocolate brown
– Espresso brown
– Jet black
– Raven black
– Violet red
– Cranberry red

Stay away from golden tones, oranges, and reds, which may contrast unflatteringly with your skin.

Neutral Undertones

Lucky you – with a neutral undertone you can pull off both warm and cool shades! Still, it’s best to stay within the realm of soft, neutral and natural hair colors. Great options include:

– Dark blonde
– Medium brown
– Chestnut brown
– Rich black
– Soft beige blonde
– Dirty blonde
– Dark caramel blonde

Extremely warm (bright orange) or cool (icy white) shades are best avoided. Opt for versatile in-between shades.

Level of Vibrancy

In addition to undertone, think about how vibrant or subdued you want your hair color to look. For a high-impact look, go for brighter, heavily saturated shades. If you want something more low-maintenance, stick with softer natural-looking hues. You can also do a mix, with vivid color concentrated on the ends or peeking through subtle highlights. Consider your lifestyle and how often you’re willing to touch up your color when deciding how bold to go.

Permanent vs. Semi-Permanent Dye

Permanent hair dye penetrates and alters the structure of your hair for long-lasting color that resists fading. Ammonia is used in most permanent dyes to open the hair cuticle so pigment can deposit deeper. The results last 4-6 weeks or until your hair grows out. Permanent color is best for major changes.

Semi-permanent dye coats the outside of hair strands without lightening so it washes out over time. Made without ammonia, it causes less damage but doesn’t give as intense or long-lasting results. Semi-permanent works well for trying out fashion colors or temporary highlights. The color typically fades after 4-8 washes.

Demi-permanent dye is in-between – it deposits color inside the hair shaft without full penetration so results last around 24 washes. It’s less damaging than permanent color. Keep these pros and cons in mind when deciding on a dye type.

Application Technique

How you apply hair color can make a big difference in the finished results. Here are some techniques to consider:

– All-over color – Coating every strand the same shade provides bold, uniform color. Best for permanent dye.

– Highlights or lowlights – Lightening or darkening selective strands creates dimension. Foils are placed to isolate hair sections. Works well for permanent and semi-permanent dyes.

– Ombre or balayage – Hair is lightened or darkened gradually from mid-lengths to ends for a soft, blended look. Usually done with foils and lightener.

– Roots only – Refreshing just the regrowth prevents banding between colored hair and grays. Quick root touch-ups every 4-6 weeks can maintain an all-over color.

– Color melting – A gloss treatment blends highlights seamlessly together and adds shine. Done with a semi-permanent glaze.

Consider Your Eye Color

Your natural eye color is another factor to keep in mind when choosing a hair shade. Certain eye colors pair especially well with certain hair hues due to color theory. Getting these combinations right can really make your eyes pop.

Green eyes – Reds, coppers and burgundies make green eyes shine. Brown, purple and navy hair also complement them nicely.

Blue eyes – Blues and violets look amazing with blue eyes, as do platinum blondes. Soft brown shades work well too.

Brown eyes – Warm shades like caramel, gold and cinnamon flatter brown eyes. Blacks and rich chestnut browns also enhance them.

Hazel eyes – Reddish browns and honey blondes play up the shifts of green, brown and gold in hazel eyes. Rusty auburns work great too.

Gray eyes – Cool shades like silvery grays, lavender and icy blonde bring out the multifaceted hues in gray eyes. Bright whites accent them too.

Skin Tone Considerations

Your complexion shade should also help guide your hair color selection. Here are some flattering choices based on skin tone:

Fair skin – Pale complexions suit lighter hair colors like platinum blonde, light ash brown, pastels and soft reddish hues. Stay away from harsh dark shades.

Medium skin – Those with medium skin look great in brunette, auburn and chestnut shades as well as golden and caramel blondes. Reds, berries and chocolate browns also complement medium skin tones nicely.

Olive skin – Warm copper and burgundy shades flatter olive complexions. Darker espresso browns and deep raven hair colors also work well. Avoid ashy tones.

Dark skin – For dark complexions, rich black and espresso shades look beautiful. Vibrant reds, purple-tinged burgundies and deep browns also pop nicely against darker skin. Keep shades cool to neutral.

Test Strands Before Coloring

It’s always smart to do a patch test before coloring your whole head. Apply a small amount of dye to a section of hair near your neck at least 24 hours before your full application. Check for any irritation, inflammation or reactions during the test period. This helps identify sensitivities before commitment. You can also pre-test a color strand to see if you like the shade before going all in.

Doing a Strand Test

To test how your hair will take to color:

1. Choose a small section of hair near the nape of your neck or behind your ear.

2. Separate the strand and apply the selected dye following directions.

3. Leave on for the recommended processing time, usually 10-30 minutes.

4. Rinse thoroughly and dry.

5. Observe how the color develops over 24-48 hours. This will give you an idea of how it will look all over.

6. Check for any negative reactions like itching, redness or irritation.

ble heading Can Technology Help You Pick a Color?

With more aspects to consider than ever before, technology is making it easier than ever to visualize hair color before you dye. Here are some cool ways apps and online tools can simplify the selection process:

– Online hair color try-on apps – Upload a selfie and virtually try on various hair shades. Some options are Modiface, Style My Hair and Hair Color Try On.

– In-salon color visualization tools – Many salons now use tablets and software to show you what your hair will look like in different hues. It makes for easy consulting.

– AR hair color apps – Technology like Modiface uses augmented reality to show real-time hair color previews on your live image from your phone’s camera. The future is here!

– Color match quizzes – Answer a few questions online about your skin tone, eye color and more and color match systems will recommend personalized shades.

While still not as foolproof as doing real test strands, today’s hair color tech offers more preview options than ever before. Take them for a test drive!

Maintenance Tips for Dyed Hair

Once you’ve found the perfect shade, maintaining your color and keeping hair healthy should be top priorities. Here are some essential care tips:

– Use a sulfate-free shampoo to preserve color vibrancy and minimize fading. Limit washing to 2-3 times per week.

– Rinse with cool water instead of hot to lock in color longer. Hot water opens the cuticle causing faster fading.

– Use a rich conditioner after every shampoo to replenish moisture and smooth the cuticle. Target color-safe formulas.

– Apply a weekly nourishing hair mask to boost hydration and shine.

– Protect hair from the sun with UV-filtering products to prevent fading. Hats help too.

– Get a gloss treatment in-between dye jobs to refresh color and add reflective shine.

– See your colorist regularly to touch up roots and keep color looking its best. Stick to the recommend timing.

– Use a clarifying shampoo once a month to remove product buildup that can make color dull.

Going to a Pro vs. DIY Dyeing

Should you head to a salon or DIY it at home? There are benefits to both approaches. Here’s a quick comparison:

Professional Salon:

– Expert color consultation for best shade match
– Consistent all-over application and blending
– Highlights/lowlights done with foils for precision
– Access to professional strength dye formulas
– Lower risk of damage from mistakes

DIY Box Dye:

– More affordable and convenient
– Lets you experiment and change color frequently
– Can touch up roots and grays as needed
– Less sitting time required
– More risk of uneven results if unskilled

To get the best results, you may want to color at home between professional salon appointments. Combining both methods gives you flexibility plus optimal color.


Choosing a hair color you’ll love requires considering many factors – your skin tone, eye color, style preferences and maintenance realities among them. While the process may seem complicated, keeping these tips in mind will help simplify your decision. Determining the most flattering shades for your complexion, desired vibrancy level and application technique lays the groundwork. Testing strands pre-color, maintaining hair health post-color and combining DIY touching up with pro salon appointments can perfect the results. With so many gorgeous options, you’re sure to find your color match. Just take it one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ll have the hair hue of your dreams!

Hair Color Best For
Platinum Blonde Cool skin tones, light complexions, blue/green eyes
Strawberry Blonde Warm skin tones, peach complexions, light brown/hazel eyes
Chocolate Brown Medium to olive skin tones, dark brown/black hair
Caramel Highlights Neutral skin tones, brown/blonde hair
Cherry Red Fair to medium skin tones, green/hazel eyes
Ash Brown Cool skin tones, dark hair, gray/blue eyes