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Julia Roberts’ Toffee or Taraji P. Henson’s Walnut? Find the Best Hair Color Match for Your Complexion

The right hue brightens and lifts.


Feeling like your hair color could use a boost? Finding a color that flatters your skin tone is important, but it can be difficult. With this in mind, we asked celebrity colorists for the season’s top trending hair hues, the skin tones that they flatter best, and the best at-home formulas (and hair-enhancing tricks!) to play up your beauty. With the right hair color for your complexion, your confidence will soar. We’ve gathered some of our favorite flattering hair colors from celebrities, complete with tips about how to make these shades work for you.

Best for Fair to Medium Skin (Warm Undertones): Toffee

Side-by-side of actress Julia Roberts
Julia RobertsMatt Baron/Shutterstock: Jeff Spicer/BFC

Before: “All-over yellow-tinged hair against warm skin intensifies any redness in the complexion, resulting in a ruddy appearance,” says Mike Petrizzi, colorist at the Chris Chase Salon in New York City, who’s worked with Mandy Moore and Joan Jett.

Now: A mix of both light and dark shades of blond helps pull out the golden undertone in warmer skin for a gorgeous glow.

Get the Look: First, create lowlights using a dark blond dye (like Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Color Creme in #72 Dark Beige Blonde, Buy from Amazon, $17.86). Paint on the color with a clean toothbrush (this allows for more precise placement) to various 1-inch sections of hair throughout the head. Let sit 30 minutes; rinse. Next, saturate hair with a light blond dye (like Clairol Natural Instincts in #9 Sahara Light Blonde, Buy from Amazon, $27); rinse after 20 minutes. This adds a sheer wash of color that tones down any old yellow highlights. Petrizzi’s tip: Treat blond locks once a week with a chamomile tea rinse. Its bisabolol sharpens the warm pigments so blond looks bright, not yellow. To do: Pour 2 cups of room-temperature chamomile tea onto damp hair; rinse after 5 minutes.

Best for Medium to Dark Skin: Dark Walnut

Side-by-side of Actress Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. HensonRoy Rochlin/FilmMagic: Kristina Bumphrey/StarPix/Shutterstock

Before: “Coarse hair absorbs color fast, so it’s easy to overdo it when going lighter,” says Petrizzi. The dry, straw-like result saps the warmth from more golden-toned skin so it looks washed out.

Now: A deep nutty brown adds pretty contrast against skin, and the cool tones of one infused with blue and violet pigments energize skin while giving hair a lustrous-looking sheen.

Get the Look: Apply a cool-toned dark brown dye (like AGEbeautiful Anti-Aging Permanent Liqui-Creme Hair Color in #4A Dark Ash Brown, Buy from Sally Beauty, $10.39) from roots to mid-length, and after 30 minutes, comb the color down to ends for the last 10 minutes of processing time. “Pulling the color down gradually when going from a lighter color to a darker hue keeps the darker shade from looking inky and uneven.” Also smart? Since deep brunette locks can lose their luster over time, Petrizzi suggests using a clear gloss (like John Frieda Luminous Color Glaze Clear Shine, Buy from Walmart, $9.72) twice a month. The clear gloss coats strands with sheer light-reflecting molecules that give hair mega-shine without altering the color.

Best for Fair to Medium Skin (Cool Undertones): Silver

Side-by-side of actress Bette Midler
Bette MidlerEvan Agostini/Invision/AP/REX: Gregory Pace/Shutterstock

Before: The brassy tones of a butter yellow color end up casting an orange tinge on skin so it looks almost rashy.

Now: A platinum silver with ash-blue undertones reflects light onto skin to brighten a cooler complexion. “It’s also a great way to put a modern, polished spin on graying hair,” says celebrity colorist Jordan Aaron from the Ian McCabe Studio in Washington, DC.

Get the Look: Start by lightening the base with a high lift dye (like Clairol Born Blonde, Buy from Walmart, $9.97). Apply evenly to dry hair from roots to ends; rinse after 30 minutes or until hair looks almost white. Blow-dry hair, then apply a cool light blond (like Clairol Professional True Color Permanent Cream Color in #10AV Sunrise, Buy from Amazon, $7.95) from roots to ends; let process 30 minutes, then rinse.

Best for Medium to Dark Skin: Deep Espresso

Side-by-side of actress Lucy Liu
Lucy LiuGetty

Before: The overwhelming warmth of sandy brown hair coupled with skin that has golden or green undertones leaves the complexion looking dull and sallow.

Now: The auburn pigments of a dark coffee hue reflect onto skin to impart instant radiance.

Get the Look: Apply a deep brown dye (like Ion Intensive Shine Hair Color Kit in 5CH Chocolate, Buy from Sally Beauty, $10.99) from roots to ends, let sit 30 minutes; rinse. Tip: Twice a month, pour 2 cups of cooled coffee onto damp hair; rinse after 10 minutes. The brew’s tannins (the compounds that give coffee its dark color) leave a slight tint on hair to preserve the color’s richness — it can even help cover grays.

Best for Fair Skin (Cool Undertones): Red Wine

Side-by-side of actress Julianne Moore
Julianne MooreGetty

Before: The lackluster look of light, faded red hair makes fair skin appear even more pallid.

Now: Rich red tones in a shimmering auburn shade boost the peaches-and-cream glow in porcelain skin, says colorist Rick Wellman, who’s worked with Tina Fey and Brooke Shields. “And the bold, luminescent hue helps hair look soft and shiny.”

Get the Look: Apply an auburn dye (like Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Color in #6.43 Light Natural Auburn, Buy from Walmart, $16.45) from roots to ends and let sit 35 minutes; rinse. For lasting color, Wellman suggests treating locks once every other week with a cranberry juice “mask.” The berry’s red pigments restore vibrance to the fiery hue. Simply pour 2 cups of cranberry juice onto wet hair, then cover and let sit 10 minutes; rinse.

Best for Fair to Medium Skin (Warm Undertones): Pink Lemonade

Side-by-side of singer Tanya Tucker
Tanya TuckerGetty

Before: The straw-like, depth-free look of overly processed blond hair leaves an unflattering yellow cast on fair skin.

Now: Infusing light blond hair with subtle touches of pastel pink is a fun, youthful way to boost skin’s natural flush, says celebrity colorist Mike Petrizzi. “Plus, the dimension of the rosy tones throughout helps hair look instantly twice as thick.”

Get the Look: Apply soft pink highlights with a semi-permanent color (like L’Oréal Paris Colorista Semi-Permanent Hair Color in #300 Soft Pink, Buy from Target, $10.99) onto 1-inch sections of hair. Let sit 15 minutes, then rinse. To prolong the freshness of the pink tones without having to reapply highlights, Petrizzi suggests using a color-depositing conditioner (like Overtone Original Rose Gold Daily Conditioner, Buy from Overtone, $18) after shampooing. It deposits rosy pigment back onto strands.

Best for Medium to Dark Skin: Caramel-Kissed Mocha

Side-by-side of singer Queen Latifah
Queen LatifahGetty

Before: Highlights that are too light, too bright, and too brassy create a jarring contrast against bronze-toned skin.

Now: A toned-down beige brown complements the deeper warm skin tone for a softer, more youthful appearance.

Get the Look: First, darken the base with a light brown hue (like Revlon Colorsilk Beautiful Hair Color in #46 Medium Golden Chestnut Brown, Buy from Walmart, $3.47) from roots to ends. Let sit 25 minutes; rinse. Then use a highlighting kit for dark hair (like Clairol Nice’n Easy Balayage for Brunettes, Buy from Amazon, $16.49) to paint ½-inch and 1-inch sections of hair around the face; let sit 15 minutes, then rinse.

Best for Fair to Medium Skin (Cool Undertones): Toasted Chestnut

Side-by-side of actress Geena Davis
Geena DavisGetty

Before: “Bleach-blond locks have a way of highlighting the dulling tones of mature skin,” says colorist Rick Wellman. “It’s especially noticeable with cool skin.”

Now: “The mix of gold, red, and brown pigments in a chestnut hue imparts glow-reviving warmth to skin,” says Wellman. “The kaleidoscope of tones adds volume-enhancing dimension too.”

Get the Look: Apply a medium brown dye (like L’Oréal Féria in #51 Bronzed Brown, Buy from Amazon, $14.99) to dry hair from roots to ends. Let sit 30 minutes; rinse. Then, to boost strand shine: Mix 1 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of water and pour onto wet strands; rinse after 1 minute. Do twice a month. The vinegar’s acetic acid dissolves buildup that dulls dark hair and seals the cuticle so dye doesn’t seep out.

Bonus Tips for Gorgeous Hair Every Day

Over-washing hair is a surefire way to fade color fast. To the rescue: water-free solutions to create hair that’s voluminous, hydrated, and fresh — no shower required.

Greasy, limp roots?

Opt for a dry shampoo foam. Unlike powder sprays that just coat the hair, a foam formula dampens roots so they dry with some lift. Look for one containing tapioca starch (it sops up dirt and oil) and vitamin B-5 (it thickens hair), like Pantene Cheat Day Dry Shampoo Foam (Buy from Amazon, $19.88) for clean hair with oomph.

Straw-like strands?

Hair that’s been colored is much more likely to become dry and brittle. For water-free hair hydration, try a dry conditioner like Kristin Ess Style Reviving Dry Conditioner (Buy from Ulta, $15). Nutrients in the spray, like sunflower seed oil and avocado oil, seal moisture into hair’s cuticle to hydrate from deep within. And it won’t weigh hair down like leave-in conditioners can.

Smelly locks?

From sweat on the scalp to the onions you just sautéed, porous hair easily absorbs the smells around it. Instead of using a scented hairspray, which masks odors temporarily, try a hair “deodorant” like Dove Care Between Washes Go Active Hair Perfume (Buy from Dove, $4.99). It’s made with special molecules that blend with, and neutralize, odors so they’re gone for good. Bonus: The alcohol-free formula won’t dry out locks.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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