Beauty Fashion

How to Select the Most Flattering Hair Color If You Want to Go Dark This Winter

Twenty-twenty has been an interesting year for hair. In many areas of the country, salons have been forced to shut down repeatedly due to a worldwide pandemic, and all of a sudden, things we took for granted (e.g., easy, breezy trims, in-person color consultations, and even an impromptu, drastic color change) are difficult if not impossible altogether. Our hearts are with all of the salons and artists who have had to close up shop, and even though many of us aren’t currently able to book an appointment with a stylist or colorist, we still want to stay up-to-date with trends, tips, tricks, and lots of inspiration for when we do have free reign at the salon again.

Interestingly, even though going darker for fall and winter has always been a popular direction (we blame the duskier days and colder temperatures), the lack of access to professional hair artists this year has caused an even steeper climb to the dark side. After all, going darker is pretty much guaranteed to require less maintenance than going lighter, so it’s the perfect way to switch up your hair MO if your next salon appointment isn’t necessarily set in stone.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still front and center, most of my clients, whether they’re blonde, redhead, or brunette, are looking to simplify their routines and their approach to their hair color,” says Kadi Lee, celebrity colorist and co-founder of Venice-based beauty atelier Highbrow Hippe. “That means that many of them have decided to go a bit darker for winter.

Below, we’re sharing some of the best celeb-inspired shades of brown hair we currently have tucked into our Saved folder, and we’re breaking down everything you need to know about potentially going darker this winter. Keep scrolling! 

Even though going darker is a popular hair trend for winter, a cold, dry climate doesn’t do our strands any favors in the gloss and hydration departments. Therefore, there’s some strategy involved if you want to ensure your darker hue looks as rich as possible this season.

“The lack of moisture can definitely impact the vibrancy of hair color,” confirms Lee. “Before I take any of my clients drastically darker, a pre-color moisturizing treatment is a must. At Highbrow Hippie, we recently invested in state-of-the-art equipment that helps to both clean the scalp and get maximum moisture into the hair cuticle—these treatments are performed by our junior colorist Ashley Pineda.”

If you don’t have access to salon treatments, try investing in a high-quality kit like this one from Virtue to simultaneously detox and rehydrate an irritated scalp and/or thirsty strands.

“Once the hair is properly hydrated, make sure you are armed with inspiration photos of color that you like,” Lee continues. “Bring a wide range, as the decision your colorist makes will depend on your hair texture, hair health, starting point, and level of commitment desired. In other words, do you want it to last for a few months, or is a more temporary change desired?”

We love the age-old saying “go big, or go home,” but when it comes to switching up your hair color—especially if you’re dipping your toe into darker waters—the change doesn’t have to be monumental. In fact, celebrity colorist and Redken brand ambassador Matt Rez recommends starting small. (Meaning, don’t alter your base color yet if you don’t really have to!)

“For instance, if you are a light brunette with or without existing highlights and want to go deeper, ask your colorist to gloss you with a deeper shade first,” he explains. “If you are blonde with highlights, start incorporating lowlights to add depth and gloss the remaining highlights deeper as well. Don’t opt for big changes right away in case you want to eventually go lighter in the spring and/or are not 100% going to stay dark for a long time. Changing base to a darker color is a commitment, and it will take longer to eventually transition out of.”

We never want to make generalizations when it comes to hair color because so much depends on your personal taste, vision, and skin/hair tone. However, Rez does point out that it’s usually more strategic to stay on the cooler side of the dark-hair spectrum since those tones naturally look darker. According to Rez, ash tones reflect less light, so they will appear darker than they really are. This is a great way to get a taste for a new, darker hue without fully committing to a darker base. 

“Redken’s Ash Brown color family is perfect for clients who want to go deeper for the winter,” he tells us. “You can have your colorist play with the intensity of these glosses depending on how neutral and/or cool you want the final results. This family of colors will also eliminate any unwanted red tones, which can counteract the richness of a darker shade.”

“When a client wants to try a darker hair color, I always choose a shade that’s complementary to the complexion’s predominant undertone,” Rez explains. “Our skin tone has different undertones: cool, warm, and neutral.” (Psst: Read our full guide for determining your skin’s undertone here.) 

According to Rez, cool undertones have more red and pink with blueish hints, warm undertones possess yellow, peachy, and/or golden hints, and neutral is more balanced and is a combination of warm and cool. 

Of course, how deep or fair your skin is will also impact how a darker hair color will translate. To avoid choosing a dark hair color that will wash you out or look too harsh, Lee recommends the following protocol for her clients.

“Those who are very fair with rosy/peachy skin should aim for tones that accentuate their glow—avoid undertones that are too ashy or blue based. Olive undertones in the skin do well with a rich, neutral color supported by golden or beige undertones. Clients with darker skin tones have some freedom and flexibility to choose a myriad of undertones, from a deep auburn to a rich honey brown to a blue-based shade of ebony,” she says. 

When in doubt, Rez suggests opting for a neutral all-over feel in tone when it comes to hair color. A balance of cool and warm tones paired with a neutral-cool base color will give you the most dimension. 

For everyday care, Rez recommends Redken’s top-rated Color Extend Magnetics Shampoo and Conditioner. Although it is gentle on the hair and won’t strip away moisture, the signature formula will effectively cleanse and hydrate simultaneously, so your color won’t fade as quickly as it would otherwise. Enjoy!

“If your hair isn’t hydrated, your color will not look reflective and vibrant,” shares Lee. “At-home glosses and color-preserving conditioners are amazing at extending the life of your color.” She also recommends being extra diligent about the products you use at home and making sure you prioritize product formulas with minimal alcohol. 

“I recommend the entire scope of Christophe Robin’s Shade Variation color masks to anyone going darker this winter,” shares Lee. “These masks work so well that I sometimes use them in the salon instead of glosses and toners! They are easy and foolproof to use at home, but I do recommend consulting your colorist first so they can let you know how long to keep the product on your hair.”

In addition to at-home glosses and/or color-enhancing conditioners, make sure you have a high-quality nourishing oil on hand to apply to the lengths of your hair. According to Lee, these types of oils not only impart shine, but they’ll also help form a barrier against environmental pollution, a notorious culprit for premature color fade.

“I love Innersense’s Harmonic Healing Oil,” shares Lee. “As an extra bonus, it can also be worked into the scalp and cuticles!”

This Healing Oil from Virtue features the brand’s propriety Alpha Keratin 60ku complex, and according to Lee, it’s a total game changer. 

Since hard water strips color faster and leaves hair extremely dull, investing in a shower filter is one of the simplest yet most important maintenance tips for anyone coloring their hair, but especially for those who are going darker. Lee says this model from T3 is the best on the market. It features a cutting-edge filtration system that delivers a mixture of calcium sulfide, zinc, and copper to reduce free chlorine and remove hydrogen sulfide, iron oxide, dirt, and unwanted odors from your water.

Now that you know all of the best tips and logistics for going darker this fall, keep scrolling for some of the best celeb-approved inspiration. From Melii to Lucy Hale to Zendaya, these are the brown-hair moments we have saved in our camera roll sure to suit every kind of flavor palette. Get ready to screenshot!

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