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Find the Right Hair Color for You

Whether it comes from a kit or a salon service, here's how to find (and keep) your perfect hair color match

You Want: Shimmery Blond

Right Hair Color Good Housekeeping article At home: Lustrous blond is the result of more than just bleach. This sought-after shade is often a blend of artfully applied highlights and lowlights — no small feat if you haven't been to beauty school. The best candidates for at-home, multifaceted honey tones: women who were blond as kids (their skin is more likely to be a good match for blond hair) and anyone with gray mixed in with their blond or light brown (gray strands will look like highlights when you coat them with semi- or demi-permanent dye, says Michael Casy, color director at Salon Eliut Rivera in New York City). Because most women go lighter than they should, Casy suggests that you buy one shade darker than the blond you're most drawn to at the store — and make sure your "before" color is also featured on the side of the box. If your hair is more than 40 percent gray, use a permanent dye to cover the silver before adding highlights. Try L'Oréal Paris Couleur Experte Express with Easy-Glide Highlighter ($20, drugstores), which pairs up permanent color and a highlighting kit in one box.

At the salon: See a pro for more dramatic lightening. But do listen if your colorist discourages you from making a big change. He may be trying to prevent a high-maintenance hair disaster that requires twice-monthly return trips to the salon. If you decide to go more than a couple of shades lighter, ask your colorist if there's a drugstore color you can use to touch up your roots when you can't make it back to the salon. Or for quick coverage on the go, try Oscar Blandi Pronto Colore Pen ($23, Sephora), a purse-size pen that covers dark roots for a day at a time and comes in five shades, including two blond hues.

Color care: The lightening process damages hair, so dyed blonds often require a combination of gentle cleansing and deep conditioning to restore the fatty lipid layer surrounding the cuticle and to add shine. Use shampoos specifically for color-treated hair. Or create your own gentle shampoo by mixing a teaspoon of your favorite brand with a cup of warm water in a plastic bottle, suggests Casy. Shake it up, then pour over hair, lather, and rinse. Follow up with a conditioner that helps prevent breakage on bleached hair. We like John Frieda Sheer Blonde Lustrous Touch Strengthening Conditioner ($6, drugstores). Skip hot-oil treatments: The oils can get trapped in porous blond strands and weigh them down, according to Barbara Lhotan.

You Want: Richest Red

Right Hair Color Good Housekeeping article At home: Red is the toughest color to get right on your own, since bold reds can look cartoony if you're not expert at applying them. Unless you're a natural-born redhead, go for a more approachable auburn hue. Your best bets are brown-based colors that have red or auburn in their names. You'll still get some russet tones — without the risks. When covering grays, use permanent color, and choose formulas that have some brown or neutral tones, since pure-red pigment doesn't adhere to gray very well, and you can end up with — yikes! — pink highlights. (Do a strand test first.)

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