If you really want to erase the unwelcome signs of hair aging (dull color, lack of shine, grays) try these hair color ideas before assuming any box of hair dye is the fountain of youth.Luckily, you can ditch those grays and restore the vitality of yesteryear with a little hair coloring 101.

The first—and probably biggest—hair color idea is this: Don’t attempt to return to your roots. Meaning, the exact color you had when you were in grade school may not still be flattering against more mature skin.Instead, look for a slight variation of your natural shade, says David Stanko, Redken Creative Consultant for Color. “Generally, nature is not wrong,” he says.Coloring aging hair also requires taking our complexion into account. Not only do lines and wrinkles creep up, but skintone can change and become red (from conditions like rosacea) or yellow. The key is to find the right balance between hair color and skintone, says L’Oréal Professionnel Celebrity Colorist, Eva Scrivo, of the Eva Scrivo Salon in New York City. Otherwise, you can wind up looking too harsh or tired. “Women with yellow skintones need warmer hair colors, while women with red skintones need a cooler hair color to balance their look.”

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Whether you want to go bold or stay subtle, following certain tricks when adding a new hue to your ‘do can shave years off your look. Just follow these expert tips depending on your hair’s natural color:

Black/Dark Brown Hair

“As a woman ages, it would benefit her to become slightly lighter,” adds Stanko. “So as a little girl, if you were a soft black or dark brunette, some degree of brunette would be appropriate, but not too dark because dark colors accentuate other dark colors.” Meaning, it can put the spotlight on age spots, dark circles under the eyes or flaws on the skin.“When hair is really dark and the gray starts to kick in, it bothers women tremendously around the top or temples where they can see it,” says Stanko. “The idea is to blend and cover her gray, keep her dark, rich and shiny, but not make her too brassy chocolate-y.”Try going one to two shades lighter than your natural hair color, and opt for some highlights around the face—just make sure they are a lighter brown or caramel color, not blonde because that would add too much contrast against a dark base. (Skunky highlights are never a good look.)

Medium/Light Brown Hair

All browns are not created equally, says Scrivo. “There is a world of brown and the key is to find the right one for you.” To do that, choose a shade that is one to two shades away from the natural color you had in your 20s, and add highlights that are two shades lighter. That way, you avoid a monotone look. “You want to have numerous shades within your palette,” adds Scrivo. “Go a little lighter through the ends, a little deeper at the roots, with natural-looking highlights. You want to mimic what nature would do on its own.”

QUIZ: How Old Does Your Hair Look?

Red Hair

As redheads age, they don’t necessarily go gray immediately, according to Scrivo. “They tend to fade, become a murkier and look washed out.” To reclaim youthful ginger locks, you have choices: brighten the hair with a glaze, use a color-enhancing shampoo to bring out its natural pigment, or add a few highlights.Just be sure your red doesn’t come off looking fake. “There are reds that are obviously artificial,” Scrivo explains, “like blue-based or violet-based that look like red wine or sherry. These are not typically created in nature.” Dark or bright red locks can make a statement and be beautiful, but sometimes they need a few highlights or a bit more copper to look natural and make you look younger. “That way it’s softer, more believable and more flattering,” adds Scrivo.

Blonde Hair

Blonde hair may not show grays as easily, but it tends to get dull over time. “The mistake some women make when they go gray is to cover it with blonde if they weren’t a natural blonde to begin with,” says Scrivo. This can make you look unnatural and washed out.

The other thing that can be unflattering is to go too light against a light skintone. “If you don’t have enough depth in the root area, that can show more lines and wrinkles,” advises Scrivo. To prevent this, don’t opt for a single monochromatic blonde. Add some highlights and lowlights for dimension, whether they’re strawberry blonde, light brown or caramel colored. This will add depth and help reflect light, which can make you look more youthful.

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Gray Hair

If you are embracing your gray hair, that doesn’t mean you have to skip the coloring altogether. “It’s a white canvas,” explains Stanko, “so if you paint it with the right color, it can take the edge off.” The key is to enhance the gray and give it a flattering hue. “My trick is to do bleach highlights all over, explains Stanko, “because it can bring out a soft yellow that I can then tone with a demi-permanent color, and she’ll walk out with a blanched almond blonde.”Glazing, using lowlights or even layering in some salt-and-pepper wisps can also add depth and make gray hair look younger. And don’t forget to protect your silver strands with heat-protecting styling products. Otherwise, blow dryers or hot irons can turn it into an unflattering shade of yellow.

The bottom line? When coloring aging hair, just remember, choosing a shade that complements your skintone and adds the right contrast can mean the difference between looking hot or not. And make no mistake, as we age, we can definitely still look hot!

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