Hair Color for Beginners: What You Need to Know

Posted on Apr 12, 2012 by 4 Comments
Hair Color for Beginners: What You Need to Know

I tried my hand at hair color for the first time after my twins were born and it wasn’t pretty. I went into a mediocre salon and without a real plan. I decided to go with highlights but didn’t really know what I should get and if I should go with partial or full, and if I should be doing highlights or low-lights.

Basically, I wanted a drastic change but I had not done my due diligence to figure out just what might work for my personal style, my skin tone and original hair color. In addition to that, I had not educated myself on the general ins and outs of hair color itself.

A disaster ensued which resulted in chunky, horrific highlights, that were later covered with dark color and a realization that I really should have done some research ahead of time.

So, if you’re considering color, below are some basics before you head into the salon to help you set your knowledge base.

Permanent Color vs. Demi-Permanent Vs. Semi-Permanent – Semi-permanent color darkens hair and does not contain ammonia or peroxide; it washes out over a period of time (6-12 washes). Demi-permanent also only darkens hair but lasts 12-26 washes. Permanent can either lighten or darken hair and it requires growing out – which is perfect for those who have grey to cover.  (source)

Highlights vs. Low-Lights – Highlights are when you take small or large sections of your hair and you lighten it 1-2 shades. When you receive low-lights, your hair is darkened 1-2 shades darker than your original color, which adds a different contrast.

Average Cost – If you head to the salon to have your hair colored or highlighted, the whole cut and color evolution will likely run you $75-$100 (or more) depending on the salon you use. Using at-home coloring systems are a much more inexpensive route.

Which Color Should You Choose? – According to Styles 101, it’s important to determine if you fall into one of two categories – warm or cool.

For example, the following skin tones are considered “warm”:

very dark brown, true olive (most Asians and Latinos), medium with no color in cheeks, medium with faint pink cheeks, medium with golden undertones, pale with no color in cheeks, pale with pink undertones, brown or bronze when I tan.

And the following are considered “cool”:

brown with pink undertone, brown with golden undertone, pale with peach or gold undertones freckled, ruddy

There are other factors to consider, like original hair color and eye color when you decide on a new hair color. It’s not something to take lightly…you know, if you want to look good.

Take it from a haphazard coloring gal…learn a bit about what will work best for you before you walk through the salon doors. You’ll feel better about the end result.

Source: Flickr

Posted in: Beauty
Nicole Hempeck

Mother to three - two of which are twins. Nicole is also a freelance writer, editor, blogger, and social media manager - with all her free time.

Read more posts by


  • Pauline

    The time of year also matters. Lighter hair in the summer looks great with a tan, but in the winter can make a person look washed out.

  • CC Fowler

    Wish I had read this three years ago! I did a “color” change two years after my youngest was born and I was in tears for months. Now I am back to my natural dark brown and very happy with my colorist. Having someone who knows what they are doing is key too!

  • angela

    Color can be tricky. I tried going to a box this year. Nothing is drastically wrong, but I’m still going to bite the bullet and go back to my hairdresser for it. I guess I’m more particular than I thought!

  • MeLisa

    It’s also important to keep using the exact same product be it dye, bleach, or whatever. I try to go to the same salon to help with this and always verify they haven’t changed brands! No one wants to wake up to a hair nightmare!