Maths was never our forte, but we’ve found an equation we can get behind: the formula to discover the perfect hair colour for you. And we mean perfect. The right colour can make your eyes pop, your skin less sallow and way more wow, as well as make you feel as vibrant and downright sexy as Alexandra Burke on Strictly
We’ve all had a hair colour disaster at least once in our lives (ours involved an at-home box of dye and a lemon), but what if we told you that we can guarantee you will never have a bad hair colour service again if you follow the general rule below? It’s basically down to three things: eye colour, skin tone and hair colour. A good colourist will always take these things into consideration, but salons are taking it one step further with increasingly scientific approaches to choosing the right shade – and it all comes down to a secret formula, according to Wella Professionals. The brand’s formula considers how each of the above three elements (skin, eyes and hair) should be used:
WARM + WARM + COOL
COOL + COOL + WARM
In essence it means if you have a warm skin tone and brown eyes, then your hair colour should have a cool tone to it. And if you have blue eyes and pale skin, your hair colour needs an injection of warmth.
“But blondes can be warm and brunettes can be cool – if you get the tone right you will literally glow,” explains Robert Eaton, creative director of Russell Eaton salons and a Wella Colour Club member.
Why does this formula work so well?
“Beauty is precognitive,” explains design strategist Richard Seymour, whose TED Talk ‘How Beauty Feels’ formed the basis of Wella’s initial research into its colour formula. “It’s formed in the subconscious and then delivered to the conscious mind,” Richard stated during his talk. To pinpoint just how we perceive attractiveness in-salon, Wella conducted an Eye Tracker test, a tool used by NASA to assess our emotional response to external stimuli. The eye tracking technique was used on professional hairdressers while evaluating which colour to apply on a client to find out what colours elicited a positive physiological response.
Wella found that colourists already took into account a client’s eyes and skin before assessing their hair colour, but the brand took this one step further to take into account the ‘temperature’ of the eyes and skin.
Wella discovered that, while shades matching the ‘temperature’ of the eyes and skin scored high, the introduction of a single cool or warm hair colour element to contrast with their testers’ facial features significantly raised attractiveness ratings – not only is hair colour enhanced, but eye colour appears more intense (blue eyes look bluer and crisper, brown eyes richer) and, when the cool-warm balance is right, skin appears smoother, even-toned and brighter too.
“I often hear clients saying they once went blonde or brunette and it didn’t suit them – this is probably because it was the wrong tone/temperature for them, not because they don’t suit being blonde or brunette,” says Robert.
Bye, bye swatch book
And it’s not just Wella salons working out new ways to make sure you walk out with the right shade, salons all over the country are throwing out the swatch book (a good thing too as a colour swatch is done on virgin hair so isn’t necessarily the effect you’ll get) and using new techniques to find out which shades suits you best.
The Francesco Group is so sure of its Skin Tone Analysis that the salon group claims you won’t even feel the need to wear make-up. The analysis is a variation of Wella’s formula in that it looks at whether you have a cool palette or a warm one to establish if a darker or lighter palette compliments your complexion.
Claire Chell, creative colour director at Francesco Group, argues that: “Skin tone is not dictated by eye colour, natural hair colour or how dark or light your skin is. It is determined by whether colours blend in or stand out against your features.”
She adds: “Traditionally, holding different hair colour swatches against your skin was the only way to determine if a colour suited you, but it is not an accurate way of seeing how a colour will react to your features. A Skin Tone Analysis is conducted using drapes in pinky tones, peachy tones, golds and silvers. You can physically see how these colours transform your complexion.”
Blue Tit takes this one step further by looking at your veins to determine your skin tone and what hair colour will suit you best (much like you do when choosing a foundation for your skin).
“The client will either have a cool, warm or neutral undertone to their skin, which is what determines the right shade to use, and a great way to check this is by looking at their veins in their forearm,” says Declan Haworth, from Blue Tit Dalston.
If they have predominantly blue veins then they have a cool skin tone, green veins tend to be a warm skin tone and a mixture of both or no predominant colour is a neutral skin tone. “A key point to consider is that even if you are naturally very fair, you can still suit a dark brunette colour as long as it is the right tone. For example, if you are fair with a cool skin tone and blue/green eyes, you would suit a cool espresso brunette instead of a mahogany brunette,” adds Declan.
Bloggs Salons in Bristol and Stil in London both use pieces of fabric and moodboards when discussing colour with their clients. Bloggs has a colour cape alongside warm and cool mood boards that have images of shoes and handbags to determine what colour would not only suit you, but suit your lifestyle. “All of this information gives us a really good understanding of colours and techniques that will and won’t suit the individual. These are then held up against the skin to see which colour palette suits and makes your natural tones come to life,” says Bloggs’ owner, Joe Hemmings.
Bloggs also asks you to bring in your favourite lipstick or item of clothing that you feel makes you pop when you wear it. “If a client brought in a bright red lipstick this doesn’t necessarily mean they want bright red hair, but it might mean that they want to stand out ,” Joe adds. “It’s about creating a total look rather than just hair.”
For Stil’s owner, Christel Lundqvist, it’s about getting the client to understand what shades she wants and what will suit her, which is why Christel prefers to reference things such as fabrics rather than swatches.
A 360-degree approach
Skyler London, meanwhile, has a ‘Trinny and Susannah’ style mirror room, so you can see your reflection no matter where you look and with a bulb that changes from light to dark, cool to warm. The 360-degree approach means there’s no getting away from discovering what your hair colour really looks like in the daylight (trust us, we’ve been there, done that and we were shocked at how yellow our blonde hair had become), but it helps the salon colourists understand what tones suit your skin.
“We also use colour capes,” says Skyler. “The two capes – one cool and one warm – have different tones on them. When placing them up to the skin, it is possible to see the effects it has on the skin.”
For Skyler, as with Christel, it’s about getting the client to realise which shades suit them best. “We naturally understand what suits people, but getting the client to truly understand what suits them and why is extremely powerful. It’s that wow moment when their eyes open in astonishment at what a difference the right shade can do for them,” she adds.
Oh, what a terribly grown up way to get your colour sorted in the salon – excuse us while we go bin all of those DIY boxes…