Want blonde hair? You’re not alone. Nearly a quarter of women over 18 have blonde hair—by birth or by bottle.
But enhancing those light locks or exchanging your darker roots for something fairer is not as easy as opting for the hottest blonde hair color on the red carpet or the shade your BFF is rocking.
Instead, you need to consider your skintone.
On a scale of one to 10 with one being the darkest possible hair color and 10 being the palest, if you’re born a natural blonde, you are a level six (dark blonde) to a level 10 (platinum blonde). If you want to change your hair color or add highlights, stick with this basic rule of thumb: Don’t go more than two levels—or shades, above or below your natural color.
For example, a level six can go darker or lighter—to a four or an eight—because this is the most versatile shade. Levels seven to eight have the perfect scenario to add highlights or lowlights and become more of a golden, strawberry or pale blonde. If you’re a nine to 10, meaning a very light blonde, you shouldn’t use an all-over color because you don’t want to contrast your natural tones with anything too dark. If you choose to do anything, add lowlights for dimension and contrast.
“No matter what level you are, always stay within two shades when coloring or highlighting,” advised Kelly Van Gogh, creator of Kelly Van Gogh Hair Color. “Any more than that and you run the risk of looking fake, damaging the hair and having a lot of maintenance.”
According to Ludovic Audesson, senior colorist at Pierre Michel Salon in New York City, choosing the right blonde tone goes hand-in-hand with your skintone. Here are his recommendations:
Blonde hair color for light skintones
Opt for a golden, strawberry or light blonde. Warming up your hair with highlights can add some color and interest to your locks and your face. But because you are fairer skinned, stay away from shades that are white, ash and reddish.
Blonde hair color for medium skintones
Because your skin has more color to it, you can add more color to your hair. A golden hue is beautiful, as is a beige-blonde or even a light blonde. Just be sure to maintain some warmer tones to match your skin. Ashy or orange-based tones will make you look washed out.
Blonde hair color for dark skintones
Stick with darker blonde shades on your hair. Remember, you don’t want to move more than two shades from your natural hair color, so if you have dark skin, chances are your hair is naturally darker too. Caramel or golden highlights can be beautiful. You should avoid tones with too much white, platinum or orange because these will look unnatural with your darker skintone.
Celebrities with blonde hair
When choosing the perfect blonde shade for your skintone, take your inspiration from the celebrities who do it right. Sharon Stone and Reese Witherspoon are both examples of women with fair skin who look amazing with their lighter locks. Jennifer Aniston is someone with medium skintones who pulls off her “bronde” (blonde-brunette) hue perfectly, and while Kim Kardashian has a darker skintone, her caramel highlights add a lot of depth to her long mane.
“Hair color is a mixture of colors,” said Van Gogh. “The darker the blonde to begin with, the more a dye will look toned down. But the lighter or whiter the blonde, the more vibrant the dye will become, so you have to be careful when choosing a shade.”
Another thing to consider when going blonde is your lifestyle, according to Ludovic. “Do you live somewhere warm where the sun is going to affect your hair color? Will you be going in the ocean or pool a lot while maintaining your color?” Those are factors that can change the tone of your hair to a less desirable shade that may no longer work with your skin.
“Being blonde can take 20 years off you and soften your face,” added Ludovic. “Consistent with the cliché, the risk is that sometimes blondes are not taken seriously, but if you pay careful attention to getting the right shade and tone, it can be powerful.”
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