How To Find Your Most Flattering Hair Color (With Or Without Dyeing It Magenta From a Box First)

I screwed up my hair color at home, but the correction is the most flattering shade I've ever had. (Also, don't bring your pubes to the hair stylist.)
Publish date:
March 3, 2014
shoppables, hair, Kyle White, oscar blandi, skin tone, Hair Color

I've been dyeing my hair out of a box since I was 13 years old. I love the excitement of facing a whole wall of potential shades and selecting a new identity. I love the process of stripping down to my bra and prancing around the house with my hair piled into a goopy bun for 30 minutes. I really like scandalizing my Instagram followers by posting a picture of myself holding the box and watching the "Nooooooo, please don't do it" comments come pouring in like I just declared my intention to drink poison.

Most of the time, it turns out fine and those same people are posting "I love your hair color!!" a few weeks later, not realizing it originated with a dreaded box. But as with anything you do at home, occasionally you get cocky and screw it up. That's what happened to me a few weeks ago when I accidentally dyed my hair maroon.

I have what is perhaps a strange and personal philosophy about my reds -- I believe they should either be a shade of red conceivably found in nature or a really unnatural shade of red ala a fire engine or Rihanna. My cough syrup hair was neither, and thusly, I hated it. But I'm of the "it's just hair" persuasion and I don't want to live in a world where I'm so measured and careful that I don't screw up my hair every now and again, so I tried to soldier on with a hearty "OH WELL." But my heart, it was unhappy.

So when Baze asked me if I wanted to get my hair colored with the amazing Kyle White (who does Jane's hair!) at Oscar Blandi, I was like YEP SURE DO. By this point, after lots of vigorous shampooing, my hair had faded to the point that the shade itself didn't disgust me. But while I didn't hate the shade itself, I didn't think it looked very good on me.

I didn't know how to do my makeup anymore, I seemed to have perpetual bags under my eyes and my whole face looked flushed. Any time I tried to wear my beloved red lipstick, I felt like it was competing with my hair. Worst of all, the "likes" on my selfies had plummeted to a 60-80 average per red-haired photo.

Now I spent the decade from 13 to 25 dyeing my hair varying shades of red and I had never really worried about things like skin tone before. The goal was always to achieve the reddest hair possible, in hopes of embodying the spiritual ideal of a "redhead" -- sassy, spicy, bold, fun, sexy.

But for me, the older I get, the more "pretty" begins to trump "cool" when it comes to my personal aesthetic choices. I love red hair, but I can finally admit that it doesn't look good on me. (That said, my hand will shoot up from my fresh grave dirt to clutch my bangs, flattering be damned.)

Refreshingly, Kyle agreed that there are many reasons to dye your hair besides being "flattering" -- like wanting to look "cool, edgy, trendy, or just different from yourself because you just went through a breakup or something."

Awesomely, he's also a huge fan of home hair color, just not for drastic changes.

"If you have a few grays you want to mask or you're naturally light and want to put in a few highlights, go ahead. If you're a Kim Kardashian brunette and you want to go blonde, that's the equivalent of trying to give yourself a face lift at home. I don't know why people even think that's appropriate," he says.

Another common at-home color mistake? Recoloring the whole head instead of just the roots -- that's how you get bands and rings and eventually turn your whole color inky and flat.

I told Kyle that I wanted something that flattered my skin tone and provided a contrast to my bright lipstick shades and we agreed on what Kyle referred to as a "multitonal fantasy" -- a dark brown with multiple shades of lighter brown highlights. The multiple tones would give the illusion of volume and also help to kill the stubborn red tones clinging to my roots.

Between murmuring orders to this two assistants like a very Zen drill sergeant, he gave me a short list of things women have brought in to color match -- their fur coats, their dogs, a Duracell battery that the client then rolled around in her hair after each process to see if it matched, a life-size cardboard cut-out, a photo of a model in a porn magazine.

"At least once a week people bring me black and white photos," he says.

When I come back from my first shampoo, he tells me he just remembered the craziest color matching story of all time.

"One time this woman came to me with a swatch of hair bundled and tied with a thread and said she wanted to match it. I said OK, no problem and the whole time I was dyeing her I would periodically check the swatch. Matching is a whole other level of skill, because it's got to be exact, so I would hold it up to her head to check every now and then. Finally, we were done and she said 'I'm so happy you matched that because I want my natural color and I haven't gone gray south of the border so I washed that and flatironed it."

In my opinion, the fact that she flatironed her pubes is what really takes this story to the next level.

Anyway, after a few rounds of highlights and glosses and shampoos (at one point three people were blowdrying my hair at once like I was in "The Wizard of Oz" or "The Hunger Games"), I was a brunette again!

I don't think I could be happier with my new hair color. I feel a million times more confident and attractive and I think I'm a convert to flattering hair. Sorry, 13-year-old wannabe punk rock me.

According to Kyle, the 4 main factors in selecting your most flattering hair color are 1) skin tone, 2) eye color 3) time of year and 4) lifestyle.


Kyle told me that I have a warm skin tone with lots of pink, therefore all that maroon close to my face was just making me look redder. He chose to cool off my hair color (as best as possible -- because this was corrective work, it sometimes takes a few applications to get it 100 percent perfect.)

There are a few tricks for determining your skin tone. Check the veins in your arm -- blue veins signify a cool skin tone, while greenish veins point toward a warm skin tone. If your eyes have silver, white or gray flecks, you probably have a cool skin tone, while gold or brown flecks go with warm skin tones.

To be honest, I still find all of this totally confusing, so if you can't determine your skin tone, consider seeing a professional for help.

To further complicate things, it's not as simple as "X skin tone always goes with X hair color," but there are some basic guidelines.

"If you have a lot of pink in your skin, you should avoid having warmth in your color. It will make you look flushed. You should opt for cool tones like sandy blondes, and coffee browns."

"If you have an olive skin tone you want to opt for golden blonde tones that will bring warmth to your face and make your skin appear less green. Try buttery blondes, and chestnut browns."

"If your skin tone is neutral and has no pink or green, than you can go for either warm or cool hues."


"Light-skinned, light-eyed girls will look more natural with lighter shades. While dark-skinned and dark eyes work better with darker shades."

Kyle points out, however, that there are always exceptions, like Zooey Deschenel and Megan Fox who look "incredible with dark hair."


"It's a natural progression to go lighter and paler with your color in the summer when your skin has a sunny glow. You're spending more time outdoors. When the earth is closer to the sun, it casts a more yellow light, so you don't need that extra warmth in your color." "The exact opposite is true in the winter, when we're not spending as much time outside and the earth is further from the sun and casts a blue light. That's when you want warmth and depth in your color to replace that summer glow we no longer have naturally."


"Lifestyle is the last consideration when choosing the perfect color for you. How much maintenance are you willing to have? If you're a new mom than you'll need a low maintenance color, so don't stray to far from your natural color, maybe just a few face framing blonde highlight or something semi-permanent so it'll wash out gradually? Are you a lawyer? Then a natural-looking color may be best, so the judge takes you seriously in court. Or maybe you're in a rock band? Than you need something that pops on stage, like a platinum blonde or vibrant red."

Kyle is admittedly a "little over the top" when it comes to maintaining your color -- he sounds utterly appalled when describing women who will just wash their hair with "whatever happens to be at the gym."

"Women tell me 'But it was just that one time!' You only need one time to strip all your color out!" he cautions. I leave, frankly, terrified to wash my hair.

In addition to washing as infrequently as possible with sulfate-free or low-sulfate formulas, he recommends using a hair sunblock like Philip Kingsley's "SwimCap" when you're spending time outdoors, comparing a beach day without one to "soaking your Manolos in salt water and leaving them lying out in the sun."

Similarly, heat styling can fade color, so he recommends using a thermal protectant when blow-drying or flat-ironing. Since healthy hair holds color better than damaged hair, he's a big fan of essential oils especially coconut oil, and recommends sleeping with it in if you can.

If Kyle sounds a little intense, it's clearly because he loves what he does, and ultimately he has a refreshingly laid-back attitude toward hair -- he continually reminds me that it's not plastic surgery. "It's changeable, so change it up! It should be fun."

For my part, I'm having a lot more fun as a brunette. And perhaps most importantly, my brown-haired reveal selfie gets 301 likes. I'M BACK, BITCHES.