I’ve always been insanely jealous of my sister’s red hair. It’s bright, it’s dimensional, and it’s natural. I didn’t get those magical hair genes. I have normal, plain, brown hair—like Crayola Crayon Brown—and I’ve yet to come to terms with it.
I’ve colored my hair a few times in the past, but never more than a shade in either direction (plus one DIY ombré experiment of which we don’t speak), but I’m always itching to make a bigger change. I decided to talk to Kari Hill, L’Oréal Paris Celebrity Colorist and colorist at Meche Salon in Beverly Hills, about my color identity crisis and find out what you really need to consider before booking a color appointment.
Related: Babylights Are The New Highlights
“The first thing I ask a client is if they’re ready for the commitment,” says Hill. Depending on the color change, it can require more upkeep. You have to consider how often you are willing to color your hair—and how much you are willing to spend.
Once you’ve decided to commit, it’s all about finding the right color. Your skin tone plays a big role in this step. “If you have yellow undertones in your skin and you’re a warmer, golden blonde, then a warmer, golden brunette will be a good tone for you,” she says. “If you have cooler, pinker undertones and you’re more wheat-y blonde, you’ll want to stick with more of a cool, icy brown.” Even if you know what color you want going into the process, make sure you ask your colorist if you need a cool or warm shade; you want an expert opinion.
If you’re thinking about going darker, know that it’s a change you’ll need to stick with; there is no easy way to go from light to dark and back to light. “It’s not a one day process, it’s a good three visits,” says Hill. Blonde hair tends to be more porous—especially at the ends—which means the color can fade quickly and you’ll have multiple applications.
Likewise, if you’re thinking about going lighter, take it slowly. It’s more damaging to your strands, and depending on how dramatic a change you’re making there’s a good chance you’ll need more than one appointment. “See how the health of your hair takes the color. If you want to go a lot lighter—more than two shades—it will take more than one visit.” Unlike the celebrities that often make a drastic hair change in just one day, it’s not recommended to go from a dark color to a high lift blonde in one visit.
Another thing to consider when making a big color change are your eyebrows. That dark brow-meets-light hair look—which we’ve seen on everyone from Cara Delevingne to Kate Upton—isn’t going anywhere. But if it’s not for you, Hill says it’s common to lighten the eyebrows by lifting the color. “The rule of thumb is when you lift, you pull warmth. You can take the edge off without necessarily making them blonde,” she says. This will pump up your brows without making them brassy or orange. For those going red, it can be good to add a bit of dye to the brows halfway through the process to warm them up. “They don’t need to match exactly, but you don’t want a cool, ashy brow with a pretty copper head of color.”
Related: The DIY Hair Trim
You’re not done yet. After the colorist has done her part, it’s time to do yours. Platinum blonde and red hair require the most maintenance, but all colored hair needs care. “Platinum might be the hardest to maintain because it’s damaging on the hair,” says Hill. “And you have to do your roots all of the time.” Red isn’t nearly as damaging, but it takes a lot more elbow grease to keep the color fresh.
The best way to keep your hair in good shape is to make sure it’s as healthy as possible before you go under the dye. Do a few deep-conditioning treatments at home the week before you color your hair and lay off the hot tools. (If you go darker, skip the treatments post-dye as they can fade your color faster.) Whatever you do, use a color safe shampoo and conditioner post-dye job.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably ready to take the leap. As for me, blonde’s suddenly sounding like a good idea.