Q: How Do I Choose the Right Hair Colour For My Skin Tone?

It's all about undertones.
Michelle Villett
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It's all about undertones.

Longtime readers may recall a post I did last year on Nicole Richie's various hair colour (and hairstyle) transformations. I know not all of you agree, but I LOVE Nicole as a brunette.

But this post isn't about Nicole Richie. It's about choosing the right colour for YOU.

And will you forgive me? I promised this info to you guys a loooong time ago. Here's what reader Alana asked before I got beauty amnesia:

Do you have any "in general” tips in regards to hair colour and skin tone? Can you make your skin look more even by changing up your shade? I would like to transform my skin into peaches and cream gorgeousness too!

Great question! And one that has confounded me for ages. I've been told different things by different hairdressers over the years—some say to pair warm colours with warm-toned skin and cool colours with cool-toned skin... but others say the exact opposite!

So I decided to get this question answered for once and for all by a guy who really knows his stuff! Luis Pacheco has been a colourist for 15 years (!), is the owner of Hair on the Avenue in Toronto and is the consulting colourist for Clairol. (I also hear he's terrific at blondes!) Here's what Luis says about choosing the right colour for your skin tone:

To make your skin look flawless...

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You can't change your skin tone, unless you're using lots of makeup (or Photoshop!). Skin tone can only be perfected by choosing a hair colour that is suitable for it.

If you're a natural blonde or brunette with blue or pink undertones in your skin...

You should maintain a hair colour that is cool in nature (such as a cool-looking ash blonde). Otherwise, sporting a hair colour with yellow tones will result in skin that looks green and ill. Remember, yellow and blue makes green!

If you're a natural blonde or brunette with yellow undertones in your skin...

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You should maintain a hair colour that is warm in nature for the same reasons as above. For example, Jennifer Lopez has a yellow skin tone and is always seen with hair colours that are rich in caramels and golds. Nicole Richie also has a yellow skin tone, so she looks best with warm shades of brown. Hence the flawless-looking skin!

For brunettes I like the Nice 'n Easy Colour-Blend Technology Caramel Collection. They are perfect shades for the summer that will look amazing on warm, tanned skin!

Now for MY two cents:

The only thing I'd add to this is that some of us have skin tones that are in between cool and warm. I fall into this category, so I can usually pull off both warm and cool hair shades. BUT, I think it's best to veer on the side of warmth—it's more flattering on most people. For example, my skin looks MUCH brighter with my current honey-toned highlights than the ashy colour I was born with.

(In fact, even though I begged my colourist Joanna to just do highlights on top of my normal ashy light brown base colour, she insisted that she "warm it up" with an all-over demi-permanent underneath. And I have to admit, it DOES look better. When you mix blonde with an ashy base colour, it can sometimes look grey, which defeats the whole purpose.)

If you're still unsure about what shade will suit you, it's best to consult with a professional. You could splurge on a salon colour job just to figure out your right shade, and then DIY it at home thereafter, once you know what's going to work for you.

I hope that helps! Now tell me: have YOU experimented with different hair colours? What has worked best for you—cool or warm shades?