Celebrity Colourist Luis Pacheco Answers Your Most-Asked Hair Colour Questions!

The Clairol pro on how to find your perfect hair colour, the best celebrity shades and his most-recommended products
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The Clairol pro on how to find your perfect hair colour, the best celebrity shades and his most-recommended products
Luis Pacheco

As a home hair colourist, I am always looking to the professionals for inspiration—and Instagram is one of my favourite sources. Along with colourists Aura Friedman (@auracolorist), Tracey Cunningham (@traceycunningham1) and Johnny Ramirez (@johnnyramirez1), one of my favourite accounts to follow is Toronto-based Luis Pacheco's (@luiscolourist). Day after day, he posts inspired-by-nature colour jobs that if you didn't know better, would fool you into thinking they were born that way.

Luis has steadily built up his career through years of hard work in the industry. He founded the hugely popular Hair on the Avenue salon as well as the brand-new balayage and hair-painting salon, Medulla & Co. He's earned a reputation as one of Toronto’s best blonders ("Luis arguably does the best blondes in the city," says FASHION). And he's joined the ranks of celebrity colourists such as Marie Robinson in his role as consulting colourist and spokesperson for Clairol in Canada. Though he's incredibly tight-lipped about his celebrity clientele, Luis is rumoured to have coloured the locks of Nelly Furtado, Feist, Juliette Lewis, Tori Spelling and numerous Canadian TV personalities.

I got the lowdown on his best hair colour tips, favourite products and more...

I read that you tried to emulate George Michael's highlights as a teenager. What happened?

It was 1987, and I remember watching the music video to “I Want Your Sex”. I was oddly fascinated by, and became obsessed with George Michael’s perfect caramel highlights paired with a pompadour. I knew I had to have them, so I experimented with my aunt’s facial hair bleaching kit to re-create the look. I ended up with three large blotches of canary yellow at the front of my hairline. I've had an aversion to highlighted bangs ever since.

George Michael highlights

What inspired you to become a colourist?

Both my grandfather and father are painters. I grew up surrounded by colour and was always mesmerized by the concept of combining colour to create new tones.

How did you become one of the country's top colourists?

My career began 20 years ago when I started working as a colour assistant for the iconic Robert Gage. Since then, I have developed my own colouring techniques with inspiration from international colour technicians. My approach is more holistic in nature to reflect my personal endeavours (studying holistic nutrition and practicing yoga). I feel that opening Medulla & Co. has solidified my personal and professional lives—we are a salon-retail concept space where consciousness meets luxury.

Medulla & Co. Toronto

What was your first big colouring job that made you think "I've made it"?

There have been many pivotal points in my professional career where I have felt like “I’ve made it”. Being asked to represent Clairol nationally was undoubtedly one of them. However, I feel as though every day presents a new challenge. ‘Making it’ is more active than passive, and the moments are not necessarily obvious. Achieving a new tone, learning a new technique, or watching your team grow are all signs of making it.

Can you give us the scoop on any of your celebrity clients?

I don’t kiss and tell.

Who would be your dream celebrity hair client?

Hands down, Winona Ryder.

Winona Ryder

Are there any rules for which skin tones suit which hair colours?

Warm skin tones will always suit warm colours, and cool skin tones will always suit cool hair colours.

Can you ever break the rules?

No. The mixing of warm hair tones and cool skin tones creates a sallow effect. And the same happens with the opposite combination. Warm tones consist of yellows, while cool tones consist of blues. When bringing those two tones together, it can create a greenish reflection. Therefore, you should always compliment skin tone with hair tone.

What's the best way for people to determine their skin tone?

The best way to determine skin tone is by checking for blue versus green veins. It will be much easier if you do it in natural light.

Do you think the hair colour we had as children is usually what looks best as an adult?

Abiding by the colour you had as a child is a foolproof way to create perfect harmony between the tone of your hair and the tone of your skin.

Are there certain tones you would recommend to bring out certain eye colours?

It's more dependent on skin tone. However, green eyes are usually brought out with red hair colours (since green and red are complimentary), and blue eyes with darker colours.

Jessica Chastain

Do you think certain tones of hair colour work better at certain degrees of lightness? (For example, would a golden tone be better for medium-to-dark blondes, while ash is best for light blondes?)

Yes, and yes! Similarly, copper shows best on light-to-mid ranges of colours, and red tones—think true reds, auburns and anything reddish purple—show best on mid-to-dark ranges of colours.

Which celebrities do you think are great examples of complimentary skin tone and hair colour?

Alexa Chung’s caramel colour really compliments her warm skin tone and the darker colour really brings out her gorgeous blue eyes.

Alexa Chung

In the same way, Margot Robbie instantaneously became more striking when she paired her light eyes with dark hair, making sure that her brown was a neutral tone to compliment her neutral skin tone.

Margot Robbie

Jessica Chastain and Christina Hendricks undoubtedly rule the world of pairing the right red with the right skin tone. Their cool, peaches and cream skin tones are perfectly complimented by the warmth of their light copper hair.

Christina Hendricks

How do you suggest finding the right shade of home hair colour?

The important thing to remember when using at-home hair colour is that you’ll get the best results if you’re realistic about what you want to achieve. Boxed dye (pre-mixed colour) is formulated to take the guesswork out of getting that perfect, natural-looking shade of brown, red or blonde.  Your best colour results will come if you opt for something either two levels lighter or darker than your natural hair colour. To determine tone, look to your veins—if they are green, opt for warm tones like gold and auburn, and if they are blue, opt for neutral, cool or ash tones.

That said, if you’re trying to achieve something radically different to your natural colour, then your best bet may be to see a professional.

What are your best tips for covering grey hair?

Traditionally, warmer shades were the way to go because yellow pigments are generally more effective at covering greys. In the past, women with lots of grey might've also needed to opt for darker shades than they wanted, to ensure full grey coverage. With the new Clairol Expert Collection Age Defy hair colour, there’s no need for compromise. Women with resistant greys can go as dark or as light as they want, and don’t absolutely have to go warm because the advanced formula is double-pigmented for better colour penetration.

Clairol Expert Age Defy Permanent Colour

For women with lots of grey, maintenance isn’t only about the colour but also the condition of the hair. When hair turns grey, it’s more than just the colour that changes—the texture and behaviour of it changes too. Clairol Expert Age Defy is formulated to help target the seven signs of aging hair that include: breakage, dryness, coarseness, frizz, unruly and lacklustre hair, and of course, resistant greys. The pre-treatment texturizing cream helps to soften hair before colouring and the Pro-V ColorSeal conditioning therapy helps to not only lock in colour but also keep hair soft and shiny. I would always recommend using this deep conditioner once a week after colouring.

Which products do you recommend the most to your clients?

I recommend Clairol Nice ‘n Easy Root Touch-Up because it allows you to maintain your colour between visits by matching even salon colour, which is especially helpful when I know my clients are going out of town. I always suggest adopting an aftercare regimen of colour-safe products.

Clairol Nice 'n Easy Root Touch-Up

What is your ultimate can't-live-without-it hair product?

Personally, I love oils or hydrating crèmes—anything that will make your hair look lived-in.

What's your favourite hair colour trend for summer 2014?

Polychromatic tones and tertiary colours. These are primary and secondary colours mixed to create teals and fuchsias. As well, I love digital tones and colours inspired by today’s social media filters.

Polychromatic hair colours

What hair colour look do you wish would go out of style?

Foil, spaghetti highlights to the root.

What's the one thing you wish women would start doing with their hair?

I wish women would embrace their natural texture and colour, staying within two to three levels of this shade. Hair colour is meant to enhance and amplify—I don’t believe in making people over and diverting too much from their natural colour. You should only go as light as your hair would naturally. It’s nice to have fun—with polychromatic tones, for example—but important to be realistic with what you can maintain on a long-term basis.

Medulla & Co. Toronto salon

What is your best beauty tip?

Sleep, water and learn to love yourself.

Do you have any advice for aspiring colourists?

It’s a long-term devotion. You have to constantly evolve. Learn the rules and then break them.

What's next for you in the future?

Intergalactic space travel with a big bowl of organic bleach.

Keep up with Luis and his colour creations on Instagram, Twitter, and at Hair on the Avenue and Medulla & Co.