Hollywood celebrities flock to Tracey Cunningham for the best hair color. (Photos: Getty Images)
When it comes to celebrity hair color, we might as well bow down to Tracey Cunningham. The Los Angeles-based colorist is behind the light-infused strands of many of Hollywood’s best heads of hair. And though she has become particularly known for blondes over the years — among the famous faces to grace her chair at Meche salon are Khloé Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow — Cunningham is also quite the expert with brunettes (Jessica Biel) and redheads (Emma Stone). Below, she speaks about her latest work and what exactly to ask for next time you head to the salon.
Jennifer Lopez at the American Music Awards. (Photo: Getty Images)
Right before Lopez’s hosting duties for the American Music Awards, Cunningham tended to the star’s hair, which was dark because she had been shooting a new show called Shades of Blue. “She landed at like 4 in the morning in L.A. and she had to do Idol the next week and she was rehearsing for the AMAs,” Cunningham says. “She said, ‘I’m done with this character, I need to go back to being me.’” To achieve the necessary lightness but still maintain a natural look, Cunningham deployed a combination of highlights and balayage. “Colorists are usually foilers or balayage, but it can look great together,” Cunningham says.
Khloé Kardashian with blond hair by Tracey Cunningham. (Photo: Getty Images)
Sometimes patience pays off. With Kardashian, Cunningham gradually lightened her hair over the course of a year. “The idea is that when somebody wants to go blonder, you just highlight the dark pieces each time until there aren’t many anymore,” Cunningham explains. To keep strands healthy, the famed colorist also adds Olaplex to the bleach each time she lightens. “When you color your hair, you break the bonds in your hair; Olaplex strengthens the bonds,” she says. (Pro tip: While Olaplex won’t condition hair, it will help curly hair hold its curl better. “Shakira loves it as a leave-in,” Cunningham says.)
Gwyneth Paltrow at the Goop pop-up opening. (Photo: Getty Images)
Cunningham used to do an overall base color plus highlights for Paltrow, but recently the Goop founder decided to grow it out. “She’s a little rootier and because we’re not doing the base anymore, it’s not as blond,” Cunningham says. “We just do highlights — about half a head.”
Emma Stone’s signature ginger locks. (Photo: Getty Images)
A natural blonde, Stone pulls off red with aplomb thanks to Cunningham’s shimmering color. Her secret weapon? Redken Shades EQ gloss. To achieve Stone’s recent strawberry blond, Cunningham actually had to first start with baby-lights. “Emma had finished a theater role and we had went for a really bright red — like a ’20s look,” Cunningham says. After the role wrapped, Cunningham did baby-lights all over the head. “It looked very blond but we had to first make it bright,” the colorist says. “Then we did a strawberry Shades EQ gloss over it. This way there was light and color variation.” A natural redhead actually has many colors in her color, she adds.
Bryce Dallas Howard
Bryce Dallas Howard is a natural redhead. (Photo: Getty Images)
Cunningham met Howard through Stone as the two actresses met on The Help. Unlike Stone, Howard is a natural redhead, but she still changes up her color quite a lot. For a movie role she recently shot with Matthew McConaughey, “we did her golden-strawberry,” Cunningham says. The process started first with allover highlights (“Bryce was coming off from a dark red,” Cunningham says) and then finished with a Shades EQ gloss. “The glosses really liven up your hair,” Cunningham says, adding that you can up a golden tone through the product as well.
Jessica Biel’s multidimensional brunette hair. (Photo: Getty Images)
The glowing new mom is no boring one-color brunette. To achieve Biel’s multidimensional color, Cunningham lowlights her hair with big, thick panels of dark color and then adds fine highlights. “The end result is a little deeper and a little lighter,” Cunningham says. To top it off, she finishes with a red all-over gloss. “This warms everything up,” Cunningham says, noting that Biel’s hair is a tad ashy naturally. But the key to a lovely brunette is all in the details. “The one-color job always drags people down and it never looks natural,” Cunningham says.