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Be a Beautiful Brunette

By Carol Kim

Bored of your same old brown but don’t want to make a major change like going platinum blond? There are plenty of ways to bring back the life and shine of your color without making a drastic change. Whether you want to brighten, deepen or just add more vibrance, here are tips and tricks for the best results.

Shine on
If your hair isn’t as brilliant as it used to be, for a quick fix, try a gloss or deep conditioner. “Use a glaze in your shade of brown to make it look richer,” says Sean Gallagher, colorist at Pipino Salon in New York City. It hydrates, smoothes and leaves tresses with a high-gloss finish. Use a deep conditioner each week to maintain the radiance -- it helps seal cuticles and lock in color.

Find the Right Color
If you decide to lighten or darken brown hair, “Stay within one shade of your natural hue for the most flattering results,” says New York City colorist Renee Patronik. To select the best new shade for you, pick a dye that complements your skin tone -- complexions can look dramatically different depending on hair color. Keep in mind:

  • For a cool skin tone with ruddiness, avoid bright-red shades, as they will play up the flush in your complexion; earthy browns like chestnut with wheat or ash highlights are more flattering.
  • If your skin tone is warm, try rich browns like mahogany with reddish, cinnamon highlights. Pass on any yellow-blond shades: They can make your complexion look sallow.
  • If you are fair-toned, you may want to avoid dark-brown colors, which can look jet-black and wash out your skin tone.
  • A simple way to pick the right hair color is to look at old photographs. “If you want to go lighter, look at childhood pictures from the end of summer and choose a dye that matches that hue,” advises Patronik. “If you want a deeper color, check out a photo that was taken in a dim area (your hair will appear darker) and match that shade.”

Application Tips
Once you’ve selected your new brown hue, follow these application tips for deep, rich hair color that lasts:

  • “Since the ends of your hair are more porous than your roots, they’ll grab the color quicker, so apply dye to the roots first, then work down to the ends,” says Gallagher. “You can also mist your ends with water to keep them from absorbing color as readily as dry hair [does],” adds Patronik.
  • When it comes to timing, follow the instructions on the box to the letter. If you wash hair to remove the dye too early, you’ll get brassy results because the dye didn’t have enough time to deposit the color. Conversely, don’t leave it on too long, as you may end up with uneven color where the ends are darker than the roots.
  • If you want to revitalize or deepen your brown color, “The safest thing to do is use semipermanent color,” says Gallagher. “The difference between permanent and semipermanent isn’t how long it lasts; semipermanent just means it doesn’t have the ability to make your hair lighter.”

After you dye your hair, use color-safe shampoos and conditioners to keep your color vibrant -- they’re gentle and help lock in your new shade. Sun exposure, chlorine from swimming pools and daily use of hot tools can fade hair color, so remember to use a thermal protectant with UV filters. When you care for your hair properly, “results should last about five weeks,” says Patronik.


Carol Kim is a New York-based writer who contributes to Us Weekly, InStyle, Seventeen, Lucky and Elle.com
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