Personal Hair Advisor: Choosing a Color

Personal Hair Advisor: When you are on a quest for the perfect hair color, there are two things you must take into consideration: the type of color that is best for your hair and the shade that will best complement your skin tone.

The two main types of hair color are permanent and semi-permanent. Permanent color is the only color that can cover gray. If your hair is more than 30 percent gray and your primary motivation for coloring it is to cover the gray, permanent color is your best option. Many people shy away from permanent color because they are afraid it will cause serious damage to their hair. But with the improved formulations most products have today, this is very unlikely. In fact, permanent color can actually make gray hair less wiry and can create a smoother, softer texture.

When it comes to maintenance, permanent color usually lasts for about five to seven weeks. After this, roots start to show and it's usually time for a touch-up. Semi-permanent color will also last for about five weeks, but does not contain the peroxide and developer of permanent hair color. Unlike permanent color, it does not penetrate the hair shaft -- it only coats the hair. Consequently, it will not effectively cover gray. Semi-permanent color is a great option for women who already have beautiful color, but would like to add more shine, depth or shading to their natural color.

Now that you've selected the type of color that's best for your hair, it's time to pick a shade. Here's a rundown on popular color options:

Auburn: This is a very popular color with many women, but overall I recommend avoiding it. Auburn hair can bring out red tones in the skin, and might make you look older.
Blonde: As a general rule, only a fair-skinned woman with some pink undertones in her complexion should attempt the blonde transformation. Women with olive and darker complexions can end up looking a little green when they go blonde.
Brunette: Overall, this is a very flattering shade for most women. It's great for olive-skinned and darker-skinned women, but the contrast can also be striking on fair-skinned women.
Red: A color I love. If you have naturally blonde locks, this fiery shade will warm up your skin and look fabulous. Women with darker skin can also go red, but should opt for a darker hue.

All of these shades are also options for highlights. Many women think highlights have to be blonde, but coppery, amber or tortoise highlights are also lovely. And if you do choose blonde highlights, you don't have to go with a bright blonde. Also, if you're just starting to go gray and are not ready for permanent color, highlights are a great way to cover the gray and avoid harsh roots. Have fun picking your color!

So what color suits you best? Tell us your decision on the Choosing a Color? board.

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