Going Blonde – Choosing the Right Shade


how to choose the right blonde hair colour

I’m often asked (since I’ve gone blonde, which I shared my journey from Brunette to blonde here pt 2, here pt 3 and here pt 4) just how to choose the right shade of blonde, as the wrong one will wash you out or can make you look and unflattering shade of pink.

There are things you need to consider when choosing a shade of blonde.

1. How dark your hair is to begin with – to get blonde you have to strip the pigment from your hair. This can be a very harsh process if you have a lot of pigment to strip off.  It may severely damage or break your hair.  Lightening your hair more than 3 shades can be difficult without damage.

2. Your skin undertone.  Because hair has red or yellow pigments to start with, and peroxide exposes those pigments, it’s way easier to get a warm blonde than a cool one.  This is why brassiness is so common in blonde or lightened hair.  If you have warm undertone skin, then it’s much easier to go blonde (less processes for your hair to go through).  If you are cool the process is harder, as to get a cooler blonde, you need to go lighter (towards the more platinum end of the blonde spectrum).  The darker your hair is naturally the more red pigment it will have, thus the harder it is to get a cooler blonde.  If you are cool, look for ash shades of blonde.  If you are warm you can try golden or strawberry shades (depending on just how much warmth you have).

3. A hairdresser who listens and understands you.  Now I wish this was not something to consider, but I can tell you that so many hairdressers have wanted to “warm me up” as they don’ t understand how terrible that makes me look.  A colour specialist who understands the complex chemistry to get your hair blonde is important (I’m really lucky that my hairdresser, Karleigh from Anthony Nitson Hair is great at giving me a flattering hair colour).    Changing hair colour dramatically can easily go so wrong, which is why I’d suggest only going blonde with a hairdresser, not trying to do it at home with a box.

Watch this video on choosing the right blonde shade

If you are wanting to cover grey  hair, if you have less than 25% – 50 grey it’s easy to add some highlights (particularly if you have warm skin) to mask the grey, but if you are cool it tends not to work so well if your hair is naturally darker, then you’re better off masking the grey with a dye that matches your natural hair tone (as is sprouting out your head today).  When you hit the 70 – 80% grey point (like I have) then covering with dark becomes so much  harder (skunk stripe anyone?) and that’s the point I decided to make the leap to blonde.

Why not play with a hair colour tool like I did here before you dye to see what it might look like?




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  • Yes! I have been dabbling in blonde highlights for years and my hairdresser (who I love and is an excellent colourist) has been warming me up for years. I had my colours done (with you!) about 18 months ago and immediately went and asked for cool blonde instead of warm and WHAT A DIFFERENCE! I’m so much happier with the way my hair and skintone works together now.

  • It’s easy for me to change my hair color, since I wear a wig. I’m a “warm.” I’ve been wanting to go a little lighter from my ash brown-ash blonde mix, and ordered a honey mix, which was quite wrong for me. The reason this was obvious is that the new color brought out the dark circles under my eyes. Those dark circles are my key to color evaluation for clothing, and they work for hair too!

  • I have a question related to going blonde especially for someone like me who has natural dark hair. What do you do with your eyebrows? I have extremely dark, thick eyebrows. I am not so sure how to balance going lighter and then having these two black patches on my face. What are your thoughts? Should you lighten the eyebrows or just somehow work with the contrasting effect? Thank you so much for all of your informative posts!

  • Well, I have now taken my first stage of going lighter in hair colour. Predominently I have been a deep, cool, bright colouring. My hair was dark brown with grey coming through in places. It is now dark brown, with ash brown low lights and ash blond highlights. Thanks to you,, Imogen I was able to talk to my hairdresser knowledgeably and ensure that she didn’t try and warm me up. I think she did a good job as someone I knew saw me in the supermarket just after I’d had it done and said I looked really well : )

    • That’s really great Anne – so glad to hear that the lightening process is working and that you felt confident talking to your hairdresser! As your hair changes it will also change the colours that suit and also your contrast levels.

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