If you've been rocking the same hair color for a while now or if you're a hair dye virgin, it's time to take some risks. If you ask us, hair changes are just as important as life changes, and it might be time for you to flaunt a color you never thought you could. It's easy to play it safe, but now is the time to experiment with daring hair colors that look stunning on dark skin tones. Just take Nicole Richie's advice—embrace your hair evolution.
While there are no hard-and-fast rules, if you want some guidance, look to your skin tone and undertone as a starting point. We talked to three expert colorists to get the scoop on how brown-skinned beauties can rock any and all shades out there. Keep scrolling to see some beautiful hues for darker skin tones.
Keke Palmer looked like a literal goddess with this lilac-glazed buzz cut. The monochrome lipstick moment also sent us into a lavender dream state. Here's hard proof that purple looks good on an array of skin tones. "Lavender is an amazing color," says Joie Wallace, expert colorist, educator, and CEO of Sessions by Joie. "Lavender with an icy edge works for a girl who is very trendy and carefree."
Ciara seriously can do no wrong in the hair category. This was a toss-up, but blonde CiCi might be our fave. The way these golden highlights (plus her face-framing layers) pop against her skin is everything. Once you've achieved the lightness, different blonde tones—like honey, caramel, and sandy beige—are easy to switch between as color fades, says Jafra Bryant, an expert colorist, who does pop-up salons in Los Angeles and Seattle. "Your colorist can switch your gloss, keeping multi-faceted hair color and making the blonde a medium amount of upkeep," she says.
This modern twist on dark hair keeps the hair cool-toned, for that icy look that we've seen on blonde and marries it with traditionally warm-toned brunette locks. The secret to achieving this look is to have your colorist take you all the way to a blonde and then back down to make sure all red tones are removed, says Wallace.
If you're interested in a color that involves lightening your locks, it's important to consider the texture and sensitivity level of your hair. "The straighter the texture, the easier the lift," says Wallace. "A tighter texture needs to be lifted more slowly."
Brown-skinned beauties—like the inimitable Gabrielle Union—look amazing in chocolate colors. It can be a good option for clients that need color correction, says Wallace, because the lifting that takes place doesn't have to be so intense. "It's all about the health of the hair," she says.
A beautiful, coppery wash can be a great option for anyone who wants to experiment with color but doesn't want to go full-on rainbow right away. "It’s better than bringing the hair all the way to a blonde," says expert colorist Leysa Carrillo, brand ambassador for Mizani and Redken. "The hair will lift to a level six or seven (light brown), and I consider the underlying colors of this level (oranges and golds). The color will take and look best when applying a dark color to it."
Kelis has effortlessly donned a rainbow of hair colors, so this was a tough decision. Something about this dusky gray shade looks incomparably chic. Pastel tones like silver and gray "are always a favorite for everyone, mostly because they're very soft and seem the most forgiving or noncommittal for some to first try with fun color options," says Bryant.
How could we forget the moment Teyana Taylor revealed her auburn blunt bob? If you're lusting after this look, have a good talk with your colorist about choosing the right tone to create this soft shade. "No one wants to walk around with a brassy, warm, super-orangey tone," warns Wallace.
Luscious Royal Purple
As gorgeously proven, purple is the IT-girl shade for deep skin tones. Justine Skye, aka The Purple Unicorn, loves this hair color so much that it's become a part of her brand. However, a color this dark can be more of a long-term step than others. "Keep in mind dark purple, although forgiving, is more of a commitment-type shade that can take a few sessions to remove depending on the next hair color route," says Bryant.
Dip your toe into the pastel pool with some cotton candy color. The upkeep of a baby pink mane may be intimidating, but don't fear. "There are a lot of good at-home rinses, such as Bleach London ($12) tinted washes, or have your colorist make you a little color care package to reapply your custom pastel shade at home," recommends Carrillo.
Iman is the epitome of "goals." This light-catching champagne-blonde hair looks absolutely radiant on her and brightens her complexion. Love the color but not keen on the placement? You've got options. "Different blondes can be achieved in multiple ways, whether it be highlights, balayage, bleach-and-tone for an all-over look, or color blocking," says Bryant.
Only an unapologetic soul like SZA could wear a carefree hairstyle as perfectly as this red. This bright red shade speaks for itself—"Red is for the hot girl," agrees Wallace—and looks quite perfect paired with fluffy, disco-worthy curls.
Bright red hair colors, in general, might need more maintenance than other choices. "One thing you have to keep in mind is the fade," says Wallace. "All colors do it, but [reds] have a higher fade level." She recommends a colored shampoo or color-depositing conditioner to help extend the color as long as possible.
Ombré as a technique can give your colorist a lot of freedom to create just what you like. The further apart the two colors, the more dramatic the contrast will be; Kelly's deep-brunette-to-honey fade puts an edgy twist on more traditional color choices.
Rose Gold Realness
"I'm more partial to a honey blonde or warmer blonde like a rose gold for darker skin tones because the warmth plays together, making the darker skin tone look beautiful and supple," says Bryant, and this gorgeous mohawk has us inclined to agree. The subtle ombré effect on this style makes it even more striking.
We love Alfre Woodard with this deep, dark mocha hair. The teeniest hint of lighter color dispersed throughout keeps this shade dimensional instead of flat and heavy. "Mocha is for the woman who wants just a little something," advises Wallace.
If you're riding the color train all the way to the full-unicorn stop, we're excited for you. With a dramatic change like this (and any color appointment, really), make sure to have an honest conversation about your expectations with your stylist, and let them explain what's technically possible in turn, advises Wallace.