Everything You Need to Know About Dying Your Hair

Jennifer Lopez lightens her trademark honey color for the 2015 Billboard Music Awards

Jennifer Lopez lightens her trademark honey color for the 2015 Billboard Music Awards; image: FayesVision/

Types of Hair Color


Permanent color is necessary when you want to drastically alter the color of your hair. This color process uses a hydrogen peroxide and ammonia-based product that lifts the cuticle layer to allow for color deposits deep within the hair shaft. The color can’t be washed out, but it can gradually lose its intensity over time.


Semi-permanent color does not last as long as permanent color. Color is coated on the outermost layers of your strands as well as absorbed lightly within the hair shaft depending on the porosity of the hair. (Note: Porous hair absorbs more color than nonporous hair.) It can’t lighten hair. Color lasts up to three months, gradually fading away with each shampoo.


Temporary color or rinses coat the outermost layer of your hair strand. It can’t lighten hair, so instead it’s often used as an enhancer to your natural color, making it darker or richer. When applied to pre-lightened or very porous hair, temporary color may stain the hair shaft. It’s safe to use after a chemical relaxer process and will fade away after a couple washes.


Henna deposits color onto the hair, but can’t lighten strands. It’s a natural, plant-based alternative to chemical dyes. It doesn’t contain harsh ammonias and peroxides, and often imparts thickness and shine.

Choosing the Right Hue

When choosing a color, use your skin tone, eye color and original hair color as a guideline. “Women with very fair hair, light eyes and fair skin who want to go lighter should try cool tones like platinum, wheat, champagne or even pale silvery grays,” suggests Aura. “These tones all work well with their complexion. They should just stay away from warm shades with yellow in them since yellow enhances pink in the skin and will make porcelain complexions look ghastly.” 

For women with dark hair and dark eyes, Aura prefers tinted highlights as a gentler option for a light, sun-kissed look that is flattering against darker skin tones. “The painted on light brown highlights are stunning. They’re not brassy. They’re soft, subtle, very natural-looking and just give you a glow. You can literally do six months without touching it up.” 

Natural redheads are a rarity and Aura is loathe to drastically change their gorgeous, natural shade. “If you want to kick up natural red hair, add golden or strawberry blond highlights but you shouldn’t go lighter than that,” says Aura. “And, if you want to enrich it, glosses are a nice way to enhance the natural color.” Generally, going red is not a problem for women with darker hues. “Since the underlying pigment for brown hair is naturally orange, it is usually not an issue when dying your hair red. Problems occur when you want to go lighter,” says Aura. “I use a higher ammonia content than peroxide when I paint on highlights. Because what happens with peroxide, the higher the percentage, the more drying it is to the hair and the more underlying pigment you’re exposing it to. And for brown hair, it’s that brassy orange color.”

As for the current hair color crazes of pale silvery grays, platinum and pastels, Aura suggests that dark-haired beauties, especially those with thick, coarse hair, stick with darker versions of those trends. “To get those lighter colors, you have to bleach the hair and that can cause major damage to your hair’s integrity. Instead, try shades that are less taxing like dark grays, honey blonde and bold shades like teal and vibrant violet.” For those hues, you won’t have to lighten your natural color that much.

However, if a color trend is unflattering, Aura prefers that women skip it altogether and just flaunt a shade that suits them best. “If you are an olive tone or a golden hue, try surfer sun-kissed hair (what most people call ombré); keeping some of the depth of the natural color at the root is very flattering and allows you to go as light as you want on the ends, balancing you out,” says Aura. “For a glowy complexion booster, honey blonde and rose gold looks amazing on olive or golden skin tones.” And for women who are of a warm brown skin tone, she suggests light brown with honey at the ends or as a fun experimental option, they could try teal.

[ Next Page: Tips for Coloring at Home and Caring for Color-Treated Hair ]