Nowadays, hair can be any color under the sun, and making a choice based on your skin tone and undertone is a tried-and-true way to make a decision. Still, certain skin tones can be trickier than others, and olive skin is one of them. We spoke with top colorists Ariel Hauck, Rita Hazan, and George Papanikolas and asked them to share the most flattering hair colors for olive skin tones. Read on to see examples and determine which to ask your stylist for the next time you're in the chair.
How do you know if you have olive skin undertones ? An easy way to find out is by looking at the color of your veins around your face and neck. If veins appear green on the skin, you have an olive undertone.
New York City colorist Ariel Hauck recommends leaning towards a sandy or beige platinum if you're after this bold look. "If done correctly, this color on olive skin tones is stunning and definitely a statement." Talk with your stylist to make sure you get the right blonde for you.
Don't let your natural hair color hold you back if you're looking for braids or locs in a drastically different shade. Zoe Kravitz went blonde all over her base before adding her braids. Make sure your natural hair and scalp are sufficiently conditioned after such an intense lightening treatment, though.
Rapunzel Silvery Blonde
One thing to remember: If you do go platinum, you'll have to commit. "This color is high maintenance and can cause some damage if not done correctly, so do your homework on the colorist you are seeing," says Hauck.
Consider using a purple-toned shampoo, conditioner, or both to help combat brassiness, the tone that takes icy platinum colors into that questionable yellow territory.
All-over Soft Blonde
Taking blonde all the way up to the scalp is undoubtedly impactful, but grounding it in some darker roots is a softer approach, as is keeping the blonde beige instead of white. It can reduce the number of those frequent maintenance appointments and make growing the color out a little more forgiving.
Variegated Honey with a Dark Root
There are light, medium, and dark shades of honey in Nicole Scherzinger's hair, all paired with a more natural root for low-maintenance color.
"A perfect in-between honey of not too ashy or not too warm can be olive skin tone's best choice," says Hauck. "It’s sexy, effortless color." We love Zendaya's color paired with a seriously smoky eye for maximum pop and honey's varied tones within her style.
Delicate, Subtle Honey
"If you want to go lighter, this color is a great balance," says NYC colorist, salon owner, and brand founder Rita Hazan, whose clientele includes celebrities like Beyoncé. Here, Sofia Vergara's color is less of a color and more of an overall lightening effect.
You can achieve this with a colorist by asking for balayage, baby lights, or highlights. Remember, though, there are about as many colors of honey as people to wear them, so make sure to bring in reference photos of the specific "honey" you want.
According to Papanikolas, caramel tones are incredibly flattering on olive skin. "Caramel in a warmer tone is a beautiful way to illuminate an olive complexion," he says. "Caramels have golden undertones, which creates a beautiful sun-kissed end result."
Hauck agrees, saying, "Caramel highlights will always be a safe zone for people with olive skin. It's always sexy and always complements light or dark eyes." She recommends choosing a colorist whose work shows plenty of warmth in the desired color and asking for subtle highlights toned to caramel.
Chunky Caramel Pieces
If you don't want to commit to all-over caramel, a few lighter sections through darker hair is a great way to add dimension without a stark contrast.
This deep, rich brown color isn't as harsh as full-on black and keeps the undertone flattering, like here on Olivia Palermo. "Chestnut or chocolate colors have warm tones to them to counteract the cool undertones in olive skin to give it a glowing look," Hazan says.
The sweeping strokes of light in Minnie Driver's chocolate hair complements her hazel eyes beautifully, and there is no red in her color to clash with her skin tone. "Chestnut has some reddish tones to it, and for the right olive-toned client, it could be pretty," says Hauck. "I normally don’t like having any red pigments with my olive-toned clients and would push them more in a caramel-toned [direction] instead."
If the color you want to try is darker than your natural tone, you can always opt for a semi-permanent color if the idea of permanent change is intimidating. Semi-permanent color coats the hair shaft instead of changing it from the inside—however, the color will fade faster.
Face-framing Chestnut Highlights
Lighter strands around the perimeter of the face, like Ashley Graham has here, can be a romantic variation on all-over chestnut.
Lean into mysterious, witchy vibes with mocha colors, which work on practically everyone. "Mocha is a balanced neutral shade of warm and cool and complements most skin tones, but especially olive complexions," Papanikolas says.
Mocha with Babylights
Another mocha bonus: It's a no-fuss color. "This color is also low maintenance and can be achieved by asking your hair colorist for baby lights all over, toned to a nice mocha," says Hauck. You'll end up with something like Padma Lakshmi has here.
Glossy Mocha With a Hint of Chestnut
Zoe Saldana's signature mocha waves contain just the barest hint of chestnut lowlights for a subtle, understated dimension that keeps the dark color from hanging too heavy.
Baby Pink Ombré
"If you’re looking to spice things up, I would suggest maybe a baby pink or purple that would suit this skin tone best," says Hauck. Keeping the pinkest color towards the ends of the hair can take away from the shock factor.
The tone of the purple on this curly 'do isn't so light that it will wash out the wearer, making it perfect for a color experiment.
Itty Bitty Mocha Ends
Just the teeniest touch of color at the ends of your strands will break them up, as seen here on Shay Mitchell, and keep them from looking like a long, dark curtain.