Ask an Expert: What Is the Right Hair Colour for My Skin Tone?

Updated 05/10/17

Ever wish you had a personal hairstylist at your beck and call, ready to offer expertise on all your pressing hair dilemmas? We did, too, hence our Ask a Hairstylist series featuring celebrity hair guru Anthony Nader. (He’s responsible for styling many an A-lister, and coifs just about every beauty editor in Sydney. Oh, and he's styled hundreds of runway shows and editorials, including our very own shoots with Bridget Malcolm and Samara Weaving.) In this series, Nader offers up the next best thing to a 24/7 hairstylist: a seasoned pro willing to answer all your burning (not literally… we hope) hair questions.

In this month’s column, we asked (another) tricky question—which hair colours are right for each specific skin tone? We asked Nader to walk us through the process of figuring out (once and for all) which undertone group you belong to, and then picked his brain on which hues flatter each one best.

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HOW TO DETERMINE YOUR SKIN TONE

Skin tone plays a crucial role in calculating exactly what to include (or leave out) when your colourist is mixing up your colour. The process can be confusing, and explaining it to a client isn’t always for the faint-hearted. (Sometimes, the heart wants what it wants, regardless of whether or not it's the most flattering option.) That said, if you truly want to figure out which shade suits you best, you can't just slap on any old hair colour and pray it'll turn out well. There are two easy hacks you can use to determine your undertone at home.

I'd recommend trying both before making a salon appointment.

Hack #1: Look at the veins on the inside of your wrist.

  • Make sure you're examining your wrists in natural light.
  • If your veins appear blue or purple, you likely have a cool skin tone.
  • If your veins appear green, you likely have a warm skin tone.
  • If you can't tell (or they appear to be a mix of both), you may have a neutral skin tone.

Hack #2: Hold a piece of white paper up to your face.

  • This may sound strange but the point of the white paper is to see how your skin looks in contrast.
  • If your skin appears yellow or sallow, you likely have a warm skin tone.
  • If your skin appears rosy or blueish-red, you likely have a cool skin tone.
  • If your skin appears grey, you likely have a neutral undertone. 

Now, keep scrolling to find out which hair colour suits you best.

PINK UNDERTONES

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Having pink undertones myself, I find can swing either way when it comes to colour, as long as I don't push things too far. Whichever colour you choose (blonde, brunette etc.) ensure it doesn’t read too warm or too cool—aim for right in the middle, in neutral territory. (Go too warm and you'll always look like you’ve just run up a flight of stairs, and a too cool hue will make your skin look ruddy.) One of the best colouring techniques for this skin tone is bronde. My go-tos are Hailee Steinfeld, Jennifer Lopez and Olivia Palermo.

YELLOW UNDERTONES

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Cool brunette shades like ash brown, and iced chocolate and strawberry look great against skin with warmer undertones. Whether your complexion is fair or deep, ask your colourist what they think about using a cool brown tone to brighten up your complexion. If you're not into a solid shade (me neither), ask your colourist to use foils for dimension and texture—this technique can highlight your bone structure beautifully. My delicious hair colour inspo Pinterest board for women with yellow undertones is all about Priyanka Chopra, Mila Kunis, Miranda Kerr and Emma Roberts.

NEUTRAL UNDERTONES

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For those that want a never-ending summer vibe, well, you’ve hit the jackpot. A neutral-toned complexion is perfect for experimenting with all sorts of blonde shades. Have fun, but keep in mind that anything too warm or golden can make you look sallow. Ask your colourist about hues like honey, biscuit and walnut. To prevent blonde strands from going brassy, I’d recommend using a toner ($40) at home every week or so. On my Hollywood speed dial for these shades are Candice Swanepoel, Blake Lively and Gigi Hadid.

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