You can turn the clock back-way back-simply by changing the color of your hair. Yes, covering gray does help, but with the latest technology, you can do more than that, says colorist Patrick McIvor, owner of the eponymous Color Studio in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. "You want to recapture how your hair looked when you were a child, with a subtle contrast of colors," he says. Called the multi-tonal effect by pros, it's not only a huge salon trend, it's also the most flattering hair color any woman can have. Benefit number one: It softens your features (and wrinkles, too). Benefit two: By reclaiming your little-girl hair color (or even copying your daughter's), you'll end up with the most natural-looking hue. And though this multi-tonal process was once better left to a professional, it's now something you can do at home.
Who Should Try It
Multi-tonal color just means there'll be contrast in your hair-a nice mix of highlights and lowlights against your base color. You may associate highlights only with blondness, but every hair color has its own complementary highlight (picture tiny ribbons of chocolate, caramel, red, or gold), says Julia Youssef, assistant vice president of L'Oréal USA Technical Center. "Whatever your shade, highlights will make it look more natural," explains Michele Fury, a color specialist at Roy Teeluck Salon in New York City. "Untreated hair has a variety of different tones; that's why hair that's been dyed all one color can end up looking flat and harsh. Knowing this, salons usually blend more than one tone." Plus, once you go multi-tonal, your roots won't show as fast (they're much more obvious against a solid color), and you'll need fewer touch-ups.
3 Ways to DIY
Before you choose a product, decide how much contrast you want. Here are your options-all of which will work whether or not you've already colored your hair.
For Subtle Dimension
Go for single-process color with built-in highlights-they'll refresh your own hue and bring out its different tones in one step. We like L'Oréal Féria Multi-Faceted Shimmering Colour or Clairol Nice 'n Easy with Color Seal Technology.
For More Visible Contrast
Add dimension to your base color by painting on highlights or lowlights wherever you want them. To try: Garnier Color Breaks or Revlon Custom Effects Highlights or Lowlights (both products use a foil-free technique similar to the salon process called Balayage, in which colorists paint on highlights where clients need them most).
For a Little Drama
Look for a two-step kit that contains (1) a single-process shade to deposit color, and (2) highlights. To try: L'Oréal Couleur Experte Multi-Tonal Color System. Or you can paint on highlights and lowlights using the Garnier or Revlon kits shown below.