Going Blonde? How To Pick The Right Shade For You

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embedPhotographed by Amelia Alpaugh.
If you haven't noticed, we're hesitant to trust just anyone with our precious strands. But, Kyle White — lead colorist at NYC's Oscar Blandi salon — is pretty much the end-all-be-all of hair color. And now, the man that's worked on the tresses of both Jessica Alba & Kate Winslet is lending his mane chops to R29.

In my career, I've worked on just about every possible hair color you can think of. And, while I like to think I'm pretty good with all the hues out there, blondes seem to get me the most recognition.

I’m convinced that blonde is a mood enhancer. Sure, I have no science to back up this claim, but it’s the only color women request from me to make them feel better. They'll say something like, "I was in a really bad mood before I got my highlights, and now that I'm blonder, I feel so much better!" or — I heard this one last week — "I’m not feeling well. Could you make me extra blonde today?"

I always say that blonde is more than just a hair color: It's an attitude, a state of mind, and for those who truly love their blonde locks, it's a lifestyle. I think blonde hair works for everyone; it's just a matter of creating the right shade. So, whether you’ve gone blonde before or are just considering it for the first time, here are some of my tips to getting the perfect blonde for you — and how to make the color last.

The most important factor to consider when choosing any hair color is skin tone, closely followed by eye color, then time of year, and lifestyle. Girls with fair skin and light eyes will look more natural with lighter shades of blonde while ladies with dark skin and eyes work better with darker blonde shades.

If you have pink undertones, avoid having warmth in your blonde. It will make the skin look flushed in the same way that wearing a red shirt might. Opt for cool tones like sandy blondes and beige blondes. If you have an olive skin tone, opt for golden blonde tones that will bring warmth to your face and make skin appear less green. Try buttery, honey, and strawberry blondes. If your skin tone is neutral with no pink or green undertones, then go for either warm or cool blonde hues. Play around with your strands to see what you like the best.

Of course, it’s a natural progression to go lighter with your blonde in the summer when skin has a sunny (faux!) glow. You’re spending more time outdoors, and when the earth is closer to the sun, it casts a more yellow light, so you don't need that extra warmth in your blonde. The exact opposite is true in the winter, when we're not spending as much time outside; the earth is further from the sun, so it casts a blue light. This is when you want warmth and depth in your blonde to replace that summer glow we no longer have naturally.

Lifestyle is the last consideration when choosing the perfect blonde. How much maintenance are you willing to have? If you’re a new mom, or you know you're in the wash-and-go habit, then you'll want a low-maintenance shade. Don't stray too far from your natural color. For a low-maintenance blonde, try a few face framing blonde highlights to start, and if the upkeep seems doable, up the amount of color from there.
FW_RebeccaMinkoff_SS13_090812_114_AmeliaAlpaughPhotographed by Amelia Alpaugh.
While I still maintain that with the right attitude anyone can pull off blonde hair — you have to own it! — here are the most common mistakes women make when dying their hair blonde.

Blonde hair should never be the same color as your skin. Contrast between hair color and skin color is the key to not looking washed out. And, orange is not a shade of blonde. Trust: Brassy doesn’t work for anyone.

Multi-tonal blondes are the most beautiful, and you can add dimension with highlights and lowlights. A common mistake is to just keep layering highlight on top of highlight, and before you know it, your mane is entirely blonde (and usually very damaged). Be sure to keep your tresses in check by periodically weaving in a contrasting color. The waves of lightness and darkness will create the illusion of depth, tricking the eye into seeing fullness. As far as I'm concerned, hair can never look full enough!

Lastly, keep it healthy! With the advancements in hair coloring over the last few years, there is no reason why anyone who wants to be blonde can't do it without frying your hair. But, because the lightening procedure (which physically strips color from the hair) can be very hard on hair texture, be sure you're putting in the work to keep it looking and feeling great by shampooing only when needed. A weekly leave-in treatment can do wonders, too!