A Guide to Hair Color

How to arrive at the best of all possible shades? Our panel of superstar colorists answers your most-asked questions.

By Lois Joy Johnson

Expert Help"I’m not getting older, I’m getting blonder" used to be the mantra of women over 40. But sultry brunettes like Teri Hatcher and blonde/brunette betweeners like Diane Lane and Calista Flockhart make a good case for staying closer to our roots.It’s hard enough choosing a lipstick, let alone a 24-7 cosmetic like hair color, without a little expert advice. The color pros on our panel have a waiting list of clients stretching from New York to L.A., but here, their attention’s on you — and on your top questions about color selection and maintenance.MORE’s Color ExpertsBrad Johns Avon Salon and Spa creative director and consultant to ClairolBrian Keller Frederic Fekkai Salon and Spa, Palm BeachLouis Licari Louis Licari, New York and Beverly HillsBeth Minardi Co-owner, Minardi Salon, New York CityLouis Viel Co-owner, Miano Viel Salon, New York CityJoel Warren Co-owner, Warren-Tricomi Salon, New York CityThe Fine Art of Being a BlondeQ. I went blonde at 20 for fun, then even lighter at 35 to soften lines and brighten me up. Is this my lifelong shade?A. "Hair color should be fun, not a jail term. A good colorist varies the color as you age. Your skin loses pigment, and the amount of gray affects coverage techniques and formulas. You’re also dealing with textural changes, like thinning (from hormonal changes) or increased coarseness as your percentage of gray rises. You should always adjust your hair color — going warmer as your skin gets paler, or changing to formulas designed for your current level of gray." — Brad Johns Q. I don’t mind my roots showing, but it looks more chic on 20-year-olds than it does on me. What do I do?A. "Layered cuts take the fear out of roots. Bangs, pieces, and a choppier effect help blur boundary lines so you don’t see obvious regrowth at the hairline or part, like you do with bobs and blunt cuts." — Joel WarrenA. "A perfect one-color look at 40 can appear unnatural. A little darkness at the roots is not bad at all. In fact, coloring roots a half shade darker is a pro trick to create depth and realism when skin tone and hair color are very similar." — Louis LicariQ. My hair color is washing me out. I’ve been self-tanning or adding more blush to compensate. What’s wrong with my color?A. "It’s probably too ashy, too white, or too beige. When your hair begins taking on the hue of expensive fur, tell your colorist to brighten it, warm it up. Show her pictures of Sheryl Crowe, Kim Cattrall, and Christie Brinkley." — Brad JohnsA. "Very light blond color can wash out some complexions, especially olive or deep honey — going too platinum can age you 10 years." — Beth MinardiQ. Will going blond flatter wrinkles and fine hair?A. "Going softer in color, not necessarily lighter, flatters textural changes in maturing skin and hair. Sometimes a few highlights are all you need, but blonding creates less contrast between scalp and hair, making it a good option if your hair is thinning. Combining several shades of highlights — soft golden blond, light buttery blond, and strawberry blond, for example — has a cosmetic effect on skin that’s pale, sallow, or lined, but the right mix depends on your skin tone. Ask your colorist to use a range of highlight shades, not just one." — Louis VielQ. How blond is too blond? What’s the boundary between classy and trashy at 40?A. "Most women want to look sunny and radiant, not punked-out. Women in their early 40s tend to ask for gold — they’re more into the sun-kissed surfer blonde ideal. Women in their 50s, who first got hooked on blonding with frosted streaks, ask for champagne or cool, ashy blonde. I think everyone looks better in warmer golden tones, though." — Brad JohnsQ. My highlights don’t blend away my grays like they used to. Sometimes my hair looks gray-blond right after a touchup.A. "It’s time to add a single-process color to your base. You can still highlight over that, but the overall color underneath will add more coverage." — Louis LicariStaying Brunette, and Loving ItQ. My Demi Moore-like hair has always been my signature. Now, at 40, it’s hard-looking (and thinner) instead of hip. Should I give it up?A. "No.

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