What colour should I dye my hair? A simple guide to pinpointing the most flattering hair shades for you...

what colour should i dye my hair
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When it comes to hair, people tend to have a lot of questions.

What colour should I dye my hair? How can I stop my hair from thinning? How often should I be washing my hair? Which hair dryer is best for me? Will I suit a bob hairstyle? Will a hair mask fix all my problems?

We might not have all the answers right here, but when it comes to what colour should I dye my hair colour, we’ve got you covered.

If you fancy a change of shade, but are unsure which to choose, we don't blame you. We've probably all had a hair colour disaster before; too dark, too light, uneven or just plain brash - it's impossible to tell which colours will furnish your face with life and which will sap it away until it's too late.

But, there are a few guidelines that can keep you right. Read on to find answers to the big question, 'what colour should I dye my hair?' in our guide to the pros and cons of every hue - plus expert advice from top hair experts.

How to pick the best colour for you

First up, pick the shade you want to go – whether that’s black, brown or blonde.

But there's more to what colour should I dye my hair than that. Next, consider the tone of your natural hair colour, whether it is warm or cool.

‘To understand the right shade and tone when buying home hair colour, you must always consider depth,’ explains Clairol UK ambassador and celebrity hairdresser Michael Douglas.

Look out for words like ‘golden’ and ‘chocolate’ for warm tones, and words like ‘ash’ and ‘ice’ for cool.

But how do you know if you suit warm or cool tones?

‘Take a look at your wardrobe and jewellery,’ advises Jodie Searle, Senior Colourist at Michael Van Clarke. ‘What colours do you find suit you best? Are they cooler colours? Warmer colours?’

‘You can do a colour test with pieces of clothing. Take two different colours of clothing, a cool and warm, perhaps a cool light pink, and a peachy orange. Put them one at a time against your skin and look at what colour fabric makes your skin look brighter and healthier. If you don’t wear much colour, you can do the same with silver and gold jewellery. You might be lucky enough to be neutral, and can carry off both warm and cool tones.’

If you’re finding the process of choosing a colour overwhelming, it always pays to visit an expert.

‘In salon, we like to utilise both warm and cool tones for natural looking colour,’ says Siobhan Golden, International Technical Artistic Director at Toni & Guy. ‘That’s what distinguishes between a DIY colour and a bespoke one. An expert will look at your facial contours and be able to determine where best to place colour to highlight your features with tailored tonal combinations.’

As lockdown dragged on and salon doors remained shut, most of us spent the first half of 2020 embracing a more natural look.

Unless you took matters into your hands with a DIY dye or higlighting kit, it’s likely you’ve become reacquainted with your natural colour for the first time in years. And in some cases, it's been a pleasant surprise.

Now salons are ready to welcome us back, it’s not dramatic restyles and bold colours we’re asking for – but natural, easy-to-maintain shades. Something that’s especially important with the risk of a second peak looming over us (and our next appointment).

Instead of all-over colour, which can lead to harsh root regrowth, clients are asking their hairdressers for subtler colour tweaks.

Balayage remains popular, and because it doesn’t lighten the roots, there’s far less upkeep than with traditional highlights. Blondes are choosing creamy, beige shades over bright golden hues, while brunettes are adding more natural mahogany tones into the mix.

What colour should I dye my hair?

Should I dye my hair blonde?

The pros: The obvious choice after a certain age, as grey nestles so nicely amongst ashy blonde - far easier to cope with than the jarring contrast between dark hair and silver regrowth. If you're pale-skinned, burn easily and suit silver jewellery, then cool Scandi-style blondes will suit you. If you're medium or olive skin-toned like warmer accessories and make-up, you'll suit warmer, golden blondes.

The Cons: Highlights or balayage can be time-consuming and expensive, and this is a shade you really need professional colourists to work on, as all-over home dye blonde can look pretty naff if you're not careful. Trickier to get a shine on and prone to yellowing.

The expert tip: 'Talk your blonde through with a professional colourist first,' says Nicola Clarke, Creative Colour Director at John Frieda. 'Bring photos of hair colours you like, choose images of similar skin tones to you, also let your colourist know a little about your lifestyle (for example, how often you can visit the salon, or how you style and wear your hair), as it will help to determine which shade would work - really big colour changes require much more maintenance.'

Best blonde hair dyes

Wella Color Fresh Semi Permanent Colour in pH 6.5 Silver, £11.30

Corrects orange, brassy tones in blonde or grey locks for icy colour and plenty of shine. Keep one in the cupboard to keep your blonde salon-worthy between appointments.

SHOP NOW: Wella Color Fresh Semi Permanent Colour in pH 6.5 Silver, £11.30, Look Fantastic

Moroccanoil Color Depositing Mask in Champagne, £6.85

Combining their much-loved deep treatment mask with temporary colour, this is a doddle to use. Results will vary from person to person, but this will add warm, golden tones to light and medium blonde tresses. Leave on for 2-3 minutes to begin with – you can always add more.

SHOP NOW: Moroccanoil Color Depositing Mask in Champagne, £6.85, Feel Unique

Garnier Nutrisse Permanent Hair Dye in Ice Blonde, £5.79

An easy-to-follow kit for home-dye first-timers, the included conditioner seals the deal for us. Jam-packed with shea butter and nourishing oils, it replenishes all the moisture lost through colouring for soft, swish-able tresses.

SHOP NOW: Garnier Nutrisse Permanent Hair Dye in Ice Blonde, £5.79, Look Fantastic

Should I dye my hair brunette?

The pros: Ever noticed shampoo ads always seem to feature brunettes? That's because brown hair is pretty much always the healthiest-looking colour and easiest to get a lovely shine on. Brown is also easy-peasy to chuck a temporary toner on for the weekend, say aubergine, without worrying about your hair hanging onto it for months. There are so many different shades of brunette you are bound to find one that works for you, from light caramel to warm mocha or deep raven. As a general rule the deeper your skintone, the darker you can afford to go.

The cons: Can look a bit 'flat' if it's all one colour, which is easily remedied with a bit of balayage to lift specific sections. The risk of going too dark, which can wash your out if you're fair-skinned.

The expert tip: 'It's all about Bronde,' says James Galvin, 'A mutli-tonal balayage effect that's much more warm and subtle than all-over flat brown. If you're adding different tones to your hair, go to a salon. That way, you avoid patchy roots from overlaying new colour each time.'

Best brown hair dyes

John Frieda Defy Grey Brunette Blending Blow Dry Foam, £6.99

A fuss-free way to conceal greys, apply to clean hair before locking in with your blow-dry. The colour builds up every time you apply, so use with every wash until you reach your desired shade. After that, once a week should be enough for maintenance.

SHOP NOW: John Frieda Defy Grey Brunette Blending Blow Dry Foam, £6.99, Boots

Rita Hazan True Colour Ultimate Shine Gloss in Brown, £21

An in-shower solution for brunette that’s lost its ‘oomph’, this helps to revive your shade between colours. It leaves hair extra glossy too – a nice treat before an evening out.

SHOP NOW: Rita Hazan True Colour Ultimate Shine Gloss in Brown, £21, Selfridges

Schwarzkopf Color Expert in Dark Brown, £6.79

Teaming hero hydrator hyaluronic acid with their patented OMEGAPLEX, hair is cared for both during and after the colouring process. Patch tests are non-negotiable when it comes to permanent colour to help avoid an allergic reaction – don’t forget yours!

SHOP NOW: Schwarzkopf Color Expert in Dark Brown, £6.79, Boots

Should I dye my hair red?

The pros: You'll be something of an original, with only around 4% of the European population boasting red hair. Red is great for any blonde who fancies a change and works well on grey hair, as it conditions and camouflages coarse texture. If you're worried about dull skin this is a great option as extra warmth in your hair gives energy back to your look.

The cons: Red can fade quickly so is reasonably high-maintenance to keep your colour vibrant and lovely. Certain shades can look a bit brash or unnatural, so it's super important to get this right, plummy shades in particular can look a tad retro.

The Expert tip: 'Blue-toned reds such as berry and claret are great for cooler skin tones,' says Redken colour ambassador, Lisa Shepherd. 'If you're dark or olive-skinned, then mahogany or gold apricots would look amazing. Ideally, you want a variety of tones to create light and shine. I would never recommend just using one tone, as that would look fake. If you see me colouring, I will be surrounded by about ten mixing bowls at one time!'

Best red hair dyes

Josh Wood Colour Cherry Gloss Semi-Permanent Treatment Gloss, £19

Recharge your colour and condition your hair in one swoop with this game-changing gloss. Use as a semi-permanent way to liven up light locks, or between permanent dye jobs to refresh your shade. This true cherry red really suits darker skin tones.

SHOP NOW:Josh Wood Colour Cherry Gloss Semi-Permanent Treatment Gloss, £19, Josh Wood

Fudge Paint Box Creative Semi-Permanent Colour in Red Corvette, £11.45

Colouring your locks can leave them dry and brittle, but luckily this is packed with moisturising ingredients and plenty of keratin (the protein hair is made from). Use on dark hair for a hint of burgundy or bleached locks for a true red result. One application lasts for up to 30 washes.

SHOP NOW: Fudge Paint Box Creative Semi-Permanent Colour in Red Corvette, £11.45, Look Fantastic

Schwarzkopf Live Intense Permanent Colour in Real Red, £5.79

Creates a bold, head-turning red from the comfort of your bathroom. Just be sure to use with dark towels to avoid any staining. This is permanent dye, so will last longer than the temporary glosses and colours.

SHOP NOW:Schwarzkopf Live Intense Permanent Colour in Real Red, £5.79, Boots

Should I dye my hair pink?

The pros: If you’re itching to try something new with your blonde, a temporary pink tint is a great way to have a little fun. Most semi-permanent dyes will stay put for around 10 washes, depending on the health and original colour of your hair.

The cons: It’s not possible to get a strong pink colour on dark hair without bleaching first. And to avoid damage, that’s not something we’d recommend doing at home. If you’re a bleach blonde, it’s also worth noting that bleached hair is more porous, meaning your wash-in pink tint could stay put for longer than you’d planned.

The expert tip: ‘To get that beautiful delicate pink, the natural base colour needs to be blonde or light blonde,’ says Siobhan Golden, International Technical Artistic Director at Toni & Guy. ‘But do bear in mind that pink tends to fade quite quickly. For those with darker hair, I’d opt for a soft rose accent with a bit of red mixed in to lift it slightly.”

Best pink hair dyes

Bleach London Rosé Shampoo, £7.50

Everything from pollution to chlorine can leave blonde hair with an unwanted green tinge. A quick rinse with this pink-toned shampoo will be enough to reverse the damage, or, leave on for longer to add a soft pink tint to your locks.

SHOP NOW:Bleach London Rosé Shampoo, £7.50, Look Fantastic

L’Oréal Colorista Permanent Gel in Rose Gold, £5.99

Loved your wash-in pink? Commit to a longer-term shade switch-up with this permanent gel. Just 30 minutes is enough to transform light locks into a flattering, rose-tinted pink. If you have long hair, use more than one box for an even finish.

SHOP NOW:L’Oréal Colorista Permanent Gel in Rose Gold, £5.99, Boots

Should I dye my hair black?

The pros: Similarly to brunette, deep, jet-black hair boasts a gorgeous mirror shine. It really flatters darker skin tones, and can create a cool contrast with fair skin and blue eyes too.

The cons: Black hair is tricky to pull off, and can be draining on some complexions. If your hair is not naturally dark, it can take a lot of upkeep to keep roots at bay too. Think carefully before committing to such a dark hue as you’ll have to use hair-damaging lightening products to lift it if you change your mind.

The expert tip: ‘It’s a very difficult process to get back to a lighter shade once you’ve gone as dark as black,’ explains Jodie Searle, Senior Colourist at Michael Van Clarke. ‘You could always try a dark brown shade or even a wig before taking the plunge.’

Best black hair dyes

Clairol Natural Instincts Semi Permanent Hair Dye in Black, £6.99

If the chemical waft of ammonia is enough to put you off home hair dye – give this a try. The non-drip formula is easy to use, and is gentle enough for all hair textures.

SHOP NOW: Clairol Natural Instincts Semi Permanent Hair Dye in Black, £6.99, Boots

Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Colour in Black Sapphire, £6.99

Boasting five different shades of black, Olia is well-worth a try if you’ve got a particular hue in mind. It offers 100% grey coverage too.

SHOP NOW: Garnier Olia Permanent Hair Colour in Black Sapphire, £6.99, Boots

We hope you now know the answer to what colour should I dye my hair? Happy hair dying!