4 Must-Know Hair Color Tips and Tricks
A surprising secret to looking as young and vibrant as you want to? The right hair color. With the perfect hue, you’ll feel confident, and friends, family, and even strangers will be asking: Did you do something different? If you’ve been coloring your hair and have been visiting your trusted stylist for so long, you might think you’ve got it down to science. But it’s time to rethink a few things and mix it up. There are some tricks of the trade you’ll want to keep in mind the next time you head to the salon. We asked Los Angeles-based expert colorist George Papanikolas for his best tips and tricks to get the perfect shade, whether you’re opting for red, black, brown, or blonde hair. Some of the tricks and ideas might be surprising—like it’s okay to show some roots as a blonde, because it looks equal parts natural and youthful. Or, if you have dark brown or black hair, go one shade lighter than your natural color so it looks younger and softer. And since we all know that a trip to the salon isn’t always easy on your wallet, Papanikolas also shares tips for maintaining the color afterwards, from how to shampoo to special treatments you can apply. For some shades, you don’t want to wash your hair for 48 hours, and for others you’ll want to avoid using hot water. Read this before you schedule your next appointment, make these subtle tweaks, and then bring on the compliments.
Achieve a Richer Red
Wake up watered-down red hair with a jolt of shiny copper.
How to get it: Redheads have a lot going for them—it’s scientifically proven that seeing the color red increases metabolism and heart rate. The downside: It’s the shade that can fade the fastest (even if you’re a natural!). "Red hair tends to dull as we age," explains Los Angeles–based colorist George Papanikolas. To make yours more vibrant, ask for an even, single process using a warm copper. Then get a gloss (it’s like a topcoat for your hair) to add shine.
How to maintain it: “The dye molecules in red color are larger than those in other hues, and since they can’t penetrate the hair shaft as deeply, they fade quickly,” says Papanikolas. He recommends waiting 48 hours after dyeing to wash, shampooing a few times a week using a color-safe formula and lukewarm water, and applying a color-enhancing treatment. Try DpHue Color Boosting Gloss+ in Burnt Copper ($30; sephora.com).
Try a Brighter Black
Lighten just the ends to keep dark hair from falling flat.
How to get it: “For dark brown or black hair, going one shade lighter than your natural base color always looks softer and more youthful,” says Papanikolas. Ask your colorist to add a few sun-kissed highlights to just the ends of your hair—this is a subtle version of ombrÃ©, called sombrÃ©. It creates dimension, which you need to prevent dark hair from looking solid. Another option: Go darker than your natural color, but only by one or two shades.
How to maintain it: Since you’re dyeing the most damage-prone part of your hair—the ends—it requires TLC to prevent splits and brassiness. (This goes double if your hair is textured.) Avoid using hot water, which can cause the hair cuticle to open and lighter ends to fade. Dab a leave-in conditioner onto ends; try Schwarzkopf Gliss Color Guard ($5; target.com).
Related: What You Can Learn From 8 Women Who Embrace Their Gray Hair
It’s more than okay to go gray. In fact, for some women, embracing their gray hair can be freeing and makes them feel authentic. Plus, not to mention, you’ll save time and money when you won’t have to head to the salon for touch-ups. We spoke to eight women (ranging from ages 32 to 67 years old) about why they decided to embrace their gray hair and how it makes them feel. Their stories and confidence will inspire you, even if you don’t have a strand of gray hair on your head.
Go for a Honey-Kissed Brown
Break up blah brunette with tinsel-like gold and amber highlights throughout.
How to get it: “Brown hair looks more youthful with a few honey and amber highlights painted on throughout the hair to give it a ‘bronde’ effect,” says Papanikolas. Bronde—a shade that sits between brown and blonde—is best achieved by balayage, a highlighting technique in which a colorist paints on dye freehand, without foil or a cap, for a soft, graduated finish.
How to maintain it: The goal is to prolong the tone of your highlights, since they tend to turn brassy or dingy. Wash your hair with a violet color-depositing shampoo every third time you shower. Since purple is opposite yellow on the color wheel, adding it helps counteract brassy tones. Try Matrix Total Results Brass Off Shampoo ($13; ulta.com).
Score a Moodier Blonde
Go back to your roots—having some depth at the base actually looks more natural and youthful. Yesss.
How to get it: “Many women tend to go super blonde to mask gray hair, but this washes you out,” says Papanikolas. The trick to a youthful blonde is keeping depth at the roots. Ask your colorist for a base color to conceal grays (if needed), then highlight every three months, focusing on pieces around your face to brighten up your whole look.
How to maintain it: To prevent your goldilocks from turning straw-like, shampoo less frequently, using a sulfate-free formula, and apply a moisturizing treatment, like Rahua Color Full Hair Mask ($62; sephora.com). Air-dry when possible, since hot tools can weaken fragile hair. When it comes to darker roots, embrace them. Hey, that’s easy!