High risk, high reward: Going blonde is a bold move. When the colour comes out right, you end up looking like a celebrity. But if the blonde is a little too brassy or ashy or one-dimensional or just all wrong for your skin tone, then you've just wasted a ton of time and money at the salon. I've been there. Don't scroll back to my Instagram photos from 2014.
That's just the thing, though: There's isn't only one skin tone that can pull off blonde. If you follow the five key pieces of advice below, it's possible to find a super-flattering blonde hair colour whether you have deep skin with red undertones, medium skin with neutral undertones, fair skin with yellow undertones, or any combination of dark and light, warm and cool.
To help you come out of the salon with the most becoming blonde possible, we hit up one of the most skilled blonde colourists in the business, Matt Rez, a Redken Colour Ambassador and celebrity colourist at Mèche Salon in Beverly Hills. Rez is responsible for the blondes we've seen on Chiara Ferragni, Lili Reinhart, Eiza González and more (including me!).
Keep scrolling for his extremely useful tips for finding the best blonde for your skin tone.
1. Keep your base colour natural (or close to it).
Keeping your base colour natural or as neutral as possible is what Rez calls his biggest general rule. "Embracing and incorporating your natural or what was your natural pre-going-white (grey is an illusion) hair colour is key when going blonde!" he says. "Our skin tones and hair colour play off of each other, so by eliminating your base colour, the final blonde result completely will cause for a clash."
A neutral base will be the most flattering place to build from. Not to mention, lifting your base too high could result in brassiness and even more damage to the hair. "Avoid base bumps and lifting your base colour when possible to avoid the unwanted red and orange brassy tones when going blonder," Rez says.
2. The blonde should have the same balance of warm, cool and neutral tones as your skin.
"No one has all one-tone skin. We would be completely flat and cartoon-like if we did," says Rez. We all have shadows, contours, freckles and different undertones in various areas of the face. And just like we have balances of neutral, warm and cool tones in our skin, we need them in our hair. "Our hair colour needs to reflect that, especially if we are going lighter," Rez says, "so I always make sure there is a mirrored equal balance of those tones in my clients' hair colour in order to be a flattering colour change."
For example, Ciara has overall cooler undertones than Zendaya, so Ciara's colour ends up in the taupe region of the blonde spectrum, while Zendaya's is more golden. Their skin isn't 100% cool or warm, but that balance will look slightly different for everyone.
Achieving the ideal tonal balance is not something all colourists do automatically, but Rez accomplishes it using a customisable technique he invented called the Midlight colour technique (sort of like a more complex balayage), which basically means he incorporates a client's base with multidimensional highlights that are tonally balanced and connected.
3. Know the difference between cool and warm versus light and dark to accurately communicate to your colourist.
"There are so many variations of ," says Rez. For examples, check out the differences between the cool blondes on Sofia Boutella in the photo at the start of this section and Margot Robbie at the bottom of the story.
In artificial colour as in natural colour, no two people will ever have the exact same colour. "It's a reference and or an inspiration photo—a variation of that may be possible," says Rez. "Think similar, not same."