Glossy, thick, sleek, shiny: these are just a few words to describe the follicular advantages that most Asian women I know are blessed with. Jealous? As a naturally dull-, mousy-, flat-haired Caucasian, you bet I am.
But let’s talk colour now. Because for Asian hair, that’s when things can get a bit dicey.
As you know, we’ve been talking a lot about the Ombré hair colour trend here—which involves a gradual change in colour from darkest, at the roots, to lightest, at the ends—and I’ve received a couple of reader inquiries about whether the look can be done on Asian hair.
The good news is YES! It can. (And don’t worry, there’s no bad news.) But I thought I’d take this opportunity to pick the brain of our favourite hair colour genius (and the guy who did MY Ombré a few months back), Luis Pacheco, consulting colourist for Clairol and owner of Hair on the Avenue in Toronto.
What I wanted to know was: Is Asian hair harder to colour? (It is.) Can it be DIY’d at home? (It can.) And what are Luis’ tips for choosing the right shade, whether it’s for an all-over colour or a trendy Ombré look? Read on…
LIGHTENING ASIAN HAIR WITH AN ALL-OVER COLOUR
First, let’s talk about why Asian hair is actually more challenging to colour. According to Luis, it’s because of the “thickness, darkness, and concentrated levels of pigment.” Tsk tsk. That means it can resist holding on to the colour AND, with attempts to lighten it too much, it can go brassy. (Great.)
To avoid that happening, there are a couple of things Luis advises. First, you want to stay within two levels of your natural shade. I know that’s not quite as exciting as a radical change, but as you can see on Miss Lindsay Price here, going from a dark to a just slightly lighter brunette can still be really pretty:
Also nice on Kelly Hu:
Now this is a bit lighter still, but I ADORE Devon Aoki’s hair here. (If I’m not mistaken, her natural colour isn’t too different from this anyway.)
Maggie Q’s shade here is similar, but on her, it’s borderline—maybe a fraction too light.
And here’s Lindsay Price again… I think this is definitely getting into the “too blonde” territory. The condition of her hair doesn’t look great here.
So definitely be careful with the lighter shades: not only do you risk the dreaded brassiness, but too light of a tone on Asian skin can also wash out your skin tone.
When you’re picking the shade itself, you want to stay away from cool colours: anything with blue, green or violet undertones. Instead, because Asian skin has golden tones, you want WARMTH. “Asian women tend to have golden skin tones, so they look best with warm shades like golds, coppers and reds,” says Luis. “Your safest bet is to choose a warm tone in the gold or caramel range.”
One solution is to buy more than one box of the hair dye you’re using. Seriously—if your hair is very coarse, or long, or both, you can’t expect one measly box to do the job. So you might need two or three to get the best results.
Solution number two: a new product you might want to try is the brand new Nice ‘n Easy Color Blend Foam from Clairol (which we’ve been talking up here and here lately). Because it’s a foam, the formula gives you “more product volume, and [it's] easier to spread,” says Luis. “These two factors combine to help ensure that the hair is completely covered and saturated with colour.”
Tip: No matter what colour you use, if you’re covering grey, leave it on for an extra 10 minutes, since Asian hair can also be very stubborn.
And another tip: Even though Asian hair is actually pretty resilient, according to Luis (even with colour, it doesn’t dry out as easily as other hair types), make sure to use a good conditioning treatment after colouring. The best ones come in your box of hair colour, such as the ColorSeal Gloss in Nice ‘n Easy.
ENHANCING/DARKENING ASIAN HAIR WITH AN ALL-OVER COLOUR
Somewhat less exciting but also less risky is to simply enhance your Asian hair with a SOOPER close colour match. “My personal favourite for Asians is natural shiny black or darkest brown,” says Luis.
Think Olivia Munn:
Or Lucy Liu:
Shades that Luis recommends to get this look: Nice ‘n Easy Color Blend Foam in #2 – Black, Perfect 10 in #2 – Black, or Natural Instincts in Ebony.
OMBRÉ COLOUR FOR ASIAN HAIR
Okay, now let’s talk Ombré. The only examples of it I could find on Asian hair that even come close were on Maggie Q again. Although I’m not even sure you could call this Ombré—it looks more like balayaged highlights at the ends.
Here’s another Maggie Q shot. Kind of Ombré-looking, right?
And then there is this unfortunate Sandra Oh highlighting experiment:
Yikes. So instead let’s look to a couple of celebs who, while not Asian, have naturally dark brunette hair AND wicked Ombré colour.
Did I say have? Okay, that should be past tense in the case of Ashlee Simpson-Wentz. This was pretty before she hacked it off and dyed it blonde…
Shenae Grimes has a slightly softer look:
To get it: Follow the instructions here for how to DIY your Ombré at home. (There are two sets of how-tos: one for already highlighted hair, and another for virgin hair, so choose accordingly. If your hair already has a dark permanent dye in it though, I suggest seeing a pro for advice before attempting this at home—colour cannot lift colour.)
Be very, very careful when you’re working on the degradation of colour. According to Luis, on Asian hair it needs to be a really seamless transition from dark to light. You do NOT want a stripe around the bottom circumference of your hair.
Plus: When you’re choosing your Ombré shade for the ends, stay away from anything too blonde—it’ll look weird. Follow the same advice as above re: warmer colours. (Think caramel tips! That will look HAWT.)
So tell me:
Are you a fan of lighter or Ombré looks on Asian hair—or do you prefer a more natural look?
If you’re Asian, do you or have you ever dyed your hair?
Luis’ last piece of advice: “Never, ever go blonde!” Anyone with me on this? Case in point: