Hair Color Ideas: 5 Things to Know Before You Make a Big Change


Just like chopping all of your hair off, making a major color change can take months of contemplation. You want to make the leap, but you also want to get it right, and it could go very, very wrong. Who hasn’t had that sinking feeling when you're sitting in the salon chair watching the stylist slowly create a hair disaster? (I’ve had plenty – I’m way too experimental.) Nobody — including your colorist — wants that. Here are five things to know to help make choosing a new hair color much easier:

it's going to cost you more than money

The more color you put into your hair, the more damaged it’s going to be. “You should never go up or down two levels (shades) in one appointment from your natural color,” says Sally Hershberger colorist Justin Jensen. “It’s all about keeping the integrity — the health — of your hair in tact.”

Jensen advises that if you are making any major change (brunette to blonde, brunette to red, red to blonde or the reverse of any of those scenarios) you need to factor in three to four appointments. Clients who do want to do it all in one sitting need to get settled for eight hours. And if you're making a switch that big, plan to stick with your new look for at least the near future. “If you are dark brown and are trying to go blonde, that’s a lot to [of strain] put on the hair so you need to be sure. Going back dark again is not happening for a while,” says Jensen.

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Also think about your lifestyle. How often can you visit the salon every season? Be honest. Your answer to that question determines how far you should stray from your natural color. “If you have naturally dark brown hair and want cool, ashy blonde, you are going to see roots within two weeks and will have to be back by four weeks tops,” explains Jensen. “And vice versa, with light to dark and seeing light roots coming through. Whereas if you stick within your natural color range you could last up to three months.” A good stylist will always talk you through your at-home maintenance too, which requires an ongoing commitment.

Changing Your Hair Color Affects the Rest of Your Look

Drastically altering your hair color could mean changing up your style and makeup choices. “For a woman with a paler skin tone looking to go a cooler blonde or brunette shade, she might have to change her foundation and other makeup to counterbalance it,” says Jensen.


We see Anne Hathaway go from brunette to blonde to brunette again in a heartbeat, and think it’s a cinch. “It’s part of their job to keep on top of that, and they’re no different to us — they’re in the salon every 10 days touching that up too,” says Jensen.

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Rihanna’s vivid red looks amazing every time she steps out on the red carpet, but “it’s not something you can keep for six weeks. With those vibrant shades you need to redo and freshen probably every time she has an event.” Take it from the expert: according to Jensen, “the more dramatic it is: the more time, money and upkeep there is.”

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you will probably have BUYER'S REMORSE — temporarily

When looking at celebrity reference pics, you need to be sure you aren’t just looking at the gorgeous person; you are looking at the color – on you. “Hair is one of the main things people look at when they look at you. When you change your appearance in a drastic way – even just one shade darker or lighter, you have to be ready for that change and embrace it.” Even looking at yourself in the mirror for the first few days can be a shock.

There are two times when you shouldn’t change your color

Everyone’s different, but Jensen is all for working with a client after a breakup. New hair, new you! “The only times I stray from having my clients make major changes is a wedding or the holidays when a lot of pictures are going to be taken,” he says. “Because sometimes clients are unsure how they feel about it until they’ve gotten used to it, or have racked up a few compliments. I generally will sway them [to wait] until the next appointment when you have time to get used to it in the [context of the] daily grind.