Having jet-black hair doesn’t mean you don’t have creative options when it comes to color and highlights. You just need to know how to work with such a dark color—and how to complement it to your skintone.
According to Kelly Van Gogh, hair colorist and founder of Kelly Van Gogh Hair Color, black hair has a lot of red undertones to it. That’s why people with really dark hair complain about it turning red. “Sun will lift the dark pigments in the hair and turn it red—just like a hair dye will,” she says.
Because of this, Van Gogh recommends staying close to your current and natural hue when adding color or highlights. “In order to match your skintone, I would absolutely not go more than two levels lighter,” she said. “When you remove color out of jet black hair, you get a red-violet undertone. The more you lift, the stronger the red. And then orange will come out, which is not always complementary to different skintones.”
So, if you want to add some bling to your dark roots, go for a beautiful red-violet shade of highlights. “Why not?” asked Van Gogh. “You are naturally that tone underneath anyway.” If you go past this stage, you get to a red-caramel or warm brown, which can be pretty too, but be careful not to go much lighter. “If you try to cancel the red out with too much color, it looks really fake, dull and flat with no light reflecting from it.” And if you choose not to color, no worries—black hair is lusterous and beautiful on its own.
Nikki Ferrara of Sally Hershberger Downtown in New York agrees. “Dark black hair is a great statement especially if you have light eyes—it really makes them pop.” Here are her suggestions for matching the perfect shade of black to your skintone:
Light skintones: Dark neutral tones that border on the dark brown side are best. Don’t go too dark though because it will wash you out and highlight any red pigments in your skin.
Medium skintones: Choose a shade that is dark brown, almost black, to complement the color in your skin. Just avoid a reddish-black hue because it will bring out too much yellow in the skin.
Dark skintones: Because you have a darker skintone, you can go with a super-dark-and-bold brown or black hair color. Steer clear of anything with a blue-black tone though. It will bring out too much olive in your skin and may give it a green hue.
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