Curious which hair colors are best suited for your skin tone? Wondering if certain shades look better with dark, tan, olive or pale skin? For advice on selecting the most flattering hair hues based on complexion, we turned to the “Queen of Curl” herself, Ouidad, hairstylist, salon owner and creator of her namesake line of hair products, Ouidad: The Curl Experts, and Sondriel Wise, lead stylist and stylist educator at the Ouidad flagship salon in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Both of them have styled celebrities for Broadway shows, the Emmy Awards and New York Fashion Week events.
Skin Undertones Matter Most
If you have dark, tan, olive, or pale skin, that’s not necessarily an indicator of what will go best with your complexion. When it comes to selecting hair color by skin tone, what matters most is your undertone. “You don’t want to clash with the undertone of your skin,” says Sondriel. If you have warm skin undertones, warm hair colors clash, and if you have cool skin undertones, cool shades clash. “The rule of thumb for a hair color that will flatter your complexion is to pick the tone that is the opposite of your skin’s undertone.”
The good news? No matter what color you’re interested in, you can have it customized to be the opposite of your undertone, says Ouidad.
How Do I Determine My Skin Undertone?
“Cool-toned skin has pink and olive undertones, while warm-toned skin has yellow and gold and if you have a combo of any of the above, you’re probably neutral,” explains Sondriel.
But don’t just look at your face or your arms, which can change seasonally. The underside of your wrist is a good place to check, according to Sondriel. Depending on your undertone, you’ll see pink, red, blue, green, or yellow tones. “Veins are a great indicator of skin undertone. If your veins are blue or purple, you’re likely cool toned. If your veins are green, you most likely have a warm undertone,” says Sondriel. “Eyes can give clues, too: If you have a lot of blues and greens in your eyes, then you most likely have a cool undertone. If you have a lot of gold specks in your eyes, usually your undertones are warm.”
Best Hair Colors for Cool Skin Tones
Want to go red, brunette, black, blonde, multicolored or ombre? You can, says Ouidad. “You simply want to choose the warmer shades of any of these hair colors to contrast with your cool skin tone. Cool hair color may make you look washed out.”
For instance, if you want to try black hair, go with a neutral or natural black, but not a blue or jet black. For blonde, look to Nicole Kidman for an example: “Hers is a very cool type,” says Ouidad. “Over the years, she has complemented her skin with warmer-based strawberry blonde and golden blonde shades, not ashy blonde shades.”
Best Hair Colors for Warm Skin Tones
Just like those with cool skin undertones, those with warm tones have a lot of hair color freedom. The trick is to look for cooler shades to avoild looking flushed or “overheated,” which normally happens when you pair warm skin tones with warmer shades. “If you want to try out brunette, the cooler chocolate brown family of colors will work best. If you want to go blonde, go for ashy,” says Ouidad.
Best Hair Colors for Neutral Skin Tones
If you have neutral skin undertones, you’re in luck: Every shade of every color will look good on you, says Sondriel.
Do’s and Don’ts for Color-Treated Hair
Considering coloring your hair? Here are Sondriel’s tips for preserving your color and for maintaining overall hair health.
- Wait two days after coloring your hair before you shampoo it to give the color a chance to settle.
- Use a shampoo formulated for color-treated hair, or a dry shampoo.
- Shampoo less frequently.
- Use cooler water to wash to help keep the color longer.
- Use leave-in conditioners to protect color.
- Condition, condition, condition. Once a week, reach for a moisturizing mask with repairing ingredients to make sure the hair stays shiny. Apply the mask from mid-length to ends.
- Use hot water: Hot water opens the cuticle and causes some of the color to seep out.
- Use clarifying shampoos.
- Use heat styling: If you must use a blowdryer, curling iron or flatiron, make sure to use a heat protector spray on your hair—this will help seal the cuticle and prevent color from getting dull.