20 March 2023

Nuances Nouveau, Hair Color is a Fashion Statement

Take ten minutes to relax and enjoy some chromo-therapy here on these pages. Your aura will thank you!

Thanks to the enormous strides taken in hair color technology and products in recent years, we are seeing an ever wider range of possibilities that go far beyond just covering grey. Today hair color is a fashion statement, with women and –yes, even men– venturing into palettes we never would have thought possible not so long ago, with techniques and innovations that have changed forever the hairdressing industry. So in this feature article we wanted to bring you the most spectacular imagery, depicting the broadest spectrum of hair colors and coloring techniques possible today. And we asked those in the know, some of the leading color gurus on the planet, to talk about what’s trending today, what will be trending next season, and how you can participate in the amazing world of color.


Celebrities have always been an inspiration here. Matrix Celebrity Stylist George Papanikolas points to Christina Hendrix’s strawberry blonde. But Amy Adams’s burnished locks and Emma Stone’s signature hues are also often requested. Going red is no longer about copycat color, and almost no one talks about auburn anymore. Today you can ask for a bespoke tone, as the lingo reads like an 5-star menu. Look for words like paprika, saffron, merlot, russet, tangerine cherry, and strawberry.

And don’t stop at red! Think of the many nuances of blonde. And why not think a rainbow of blue, yellow, green or purple? Ian Michael Black, Technical Director of the Aveda Global Artistic Team, declares that this spring and summer is about having fun with your hair color. “It’s all about playing around with the hue you’ve always wanted to be to find the right saturation for your skin tone and personality,” he claims.

Another trend stylists are noting is something ‘monochromatic’, but with more depth and dimension thanks to new techniques and products that make any great cut a magical one. Wella Professionals Top Artist Mark DeBolt reveals his artistic eye when he draws an analogy, “An example from nature is the red intuition rose, which has a deep crimson red base or ‘hip’ that graduates to shades of fuchsia and blush throughout the petal. Shade on shade dimension like this creates a supernatural harmony within the color design.”


All our experts generally agreed on one point: ombré is here to stay. However, they also all foresee it evolving into something much softer and more subtle, also thanks to new free form application techniques. Papanikolas suggests it for brunettes who want to go lighter, saying “When it’s done in a way that looks sun-kissed, it always looks on point. Instead drastic dip-dyes look dated.”

OYA’s Joseph Bogart also envisions more gradual transitions in tone – and with an added advantage! “It is a great choice for those who need to cover gray, as it can be re-touched easily without affecting the lighter tones.”


Wella’s Mark DeBolt has no doubts: “Our beauty culture is celebrity driven. Many clients look to the red carpets for their inspiration.” All the experts we asked were on the same page with this. “But,” Goldwell Global Master and Lead Artistic Director, North America John Simpson is quick to note, “the way they wear it is inspired by youths and street-inspired urban looks.”

And all hairdressers are getting increasing volumes of input from social media and sites like Instagram and Pinterest. Aveda’s Ian Michael Black also noted that, “More and more clients are becoming aware of what’s on trend and are willing to take risks and make changes.” Vadre Grigsby, Pravana Artistic Director, agrees and recalls, “When Nicole Richie’s colorist used ChromaSilk to give her to give her a custom lavender shade, within days it was all over social media, blogs, and more. They can definitely drive the trend!”


But while such drastic measures might work for celebrities, there are many factors that we mere mortals should take into consideration before turncoating, such as hair condition and texture. In any case, any colorist worth his or her salt would never do this in one visit, but gradually, perhaps starting with highlights and subtle contrasts.

Papanikolas is well aware of the risks involved. Their new identity as a blonde or a redhead means all new make-up and wardrobe. So trying these kinds of looks on a whim is never a good idea, as it takes a few months to perfect and it’s usually not easy to return to the original color.” Goldwell’s Daniel Rubin offers, What I do are adjustments: adding warm or cool accents or spicing up the base shades. If the client likes the results, she may opt for a full force color and cut makeover, tying the two together as they work in unison.”

Sometimes you find a colorist / budding psychologist, like Aveda’s Ian Michael Black, when he says, “I recommend making big changes when it suits you at the right time of your life. You don’t need a big change to stay on trend, just incorporate elements of trends into what you already have.”

And a true professional will always warn you to take into consideration exactly how much you are willing to invest in your new look –in terms of both time and money– in the salon and at home. OYA’s Bogart cuts to the quick, “Is your new cut and color lifestyle appropriate?” In other words, are you willing to make a high-maintenance commitment? With a cut and color every 3 weeks? And a new palette may even imply more than your seasonal change of make-up and mani trends. Pravana’s Grigsby dolefully reminds us, “A big change from blonde to red can suddenly have your favorite lip color missing the mark. So it’s important to budget for make-up purchases when making a big hair color change.” Ouch!


The “de-coloring” trend towards platinum can be disorienting. We thought color was about covering grey! Thank goodness Aveda’s Ian Michael Black, enlightened us! “We are seeing this trend hit two distinct demographics. First, it’s about the younger generation having a hair color they would never have naturally. It’s about making a statement and doing something that is on point,” he explains. “For the older generation we are seeing a lot of women embracing their white hair as a very sophisticated look.” He continues, “That being said, having fabulous naturally white hair still takes a lot of work. They are still having glossing –either clear or soft ash– to keep high shine and tone down unwanted brassiness to keep it chic.” John Simpson concurs, “They keep your hair natural while providing tones to your grey. They brighten and shine.” Who knew?


Ahhh… you might well sigh! Such level-headed wisdom! Such insight! Such sensitivity! Good men – and colorists!– are hard to find! But not impossible. The colorists we asked recommend 2 opposite options. The first is online. DeBolt suggests salon reviews on Yelp and CitySearch. Papanikolas notes that most colorists are posting their work on Instagram, where you can see exactly what it is you want. The other suggestion is the classic low-tech word-of-mouth! This can be as simple as asking women you see with gorgeous hair where they have theirs done. They will most likely appreciate the compliment and you may get your dream referral.

Make an appointment and then let your feminine intuition take over. Does the colorist evaluate your skin tone and eye color? Does he ask about your lifestyle and commitment to stylings and using color protection products at home? Can he answer questions about allergies and the properties of the products he uses? As DeBolt recommends, “Trust your gut feeling. If you don’t feel like he or she understands what you are looking for or cannot articulate why or why not a look may not work for you, move on.” Above all, John Simpson urges, “Make sure their approach, training and technique are clean and what you crave.”


Mark DeBolt reminds us all of the incredible power that colorists wield: “Beauty changes lives,” he bite-speaks very matter-of-factly. “I recently transformed a client with natural medium brown hair to a beautiful shade of Hitchcock blonde à la Grace Kelly. After styling, she stood taller, her eyes were brighter, and everyone could see that she felt more beautiful. Diana Vreeland once said, ‘Within every girl there is the possibility of arousing emotion. Without emotion there is no beauty.”

By Marie Scarano


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