The Best Hair Colors for Dark Skin Tones, According to Gabrielle Union's Stylist
This year has inspired a large-scale hair metamorphosis for countless women. For many of us, it's the first time we've been tasked with caring for our hair so independently without regular visits to our trusty hairstylists. For Black women in particular, this has meant learning all about our natural textures and shedding many of the stigmas associated with our curls and coils. Not to mention, many of us have officially taken up hair masking as a new hobby.
But now that we've had a few months of a hair reset, it feels like a good time to make a change. If that's where you are now, you might be considering a new hair color to set the tone for your Q4 vibe. "One of the misconceptions I’ve found Black and brown women hold is that they can’t wear lighter color in the winter," says Larry Sims, celebrity hairstylist and co-founder of Flawless by Gabrielle Union. "We are reprogramming these misconceptions and learning to be free."
So what do you say? Ready to explore some new color options? Ahead, check out 11 of the most beautiful hair colors for dark skin tones, according to the pros who know best. And don't worry—we've also outlined all the best products to keep your new color popping all season.
Right out of the gate, Sims identified jet black as his favorite hue to see on dark skin. "Black hair on dark skin looks really rich and regal to me," he explains. "The hair looks fuller, thicker, healthier, and shinier, and there's something really exotic and striking about it."
According to Sims, a heat protectant is crucial in guarding against heat damage as well as UV damage from the sun when your hair is colored. "Not only does this protect your hair from heat with blow-dryers and flat irons, but it also protects your hair from damage from sun exposure. It’s good to protect the hair, especially if colored, from potential sun damage," he says.
This in-between tone is on the darker end of the brown spectrum but is not quite black (hence the brack moniker—get it?). Michelle Sultan, hairstylist and Imbue's creative director and brand ambassador, says this is the shade to go for if you're into super-dark colors. "Almost every hair colorist I know has had at least one client that has turned up with black box dye wanting to lighten up, and this can be an extremely long and costly experience," she says. "Rich, dark browns always make the hair look super healthy and give the hair the ability to reflect light. As a result, it can look super shiny, which is always a bonus."
"To maintain your hair color, I recommend a sulfate-free shampoo such as the Imbue Curl Liberating Sulphate Free Shampoo, which gently cleanses the hair without stripping the color," she instructs.
Sultan says one way to bring dimension to an otherwise dark hair color is to go in with some strategically placed lowlights. "Go for these tones to make your hair look fuller, but maybe introduce caramel or honey lowlights to break up any density around the face," she suggests. "The 'money piece' is a buzzy trend this year and always looks amazing on women with darker skin. It also gives the illusion of the entire hair being colored without the commitment of doing the full head."
Make sure your hair is glossy and smooth with a rich serum to seal any frayed ends and really make your color pop.
Sims is also a fan of warming up the color a bit to really complement darker skin tones. "For darker skin, I highly recommend caramel browns. They really pop on dark skin and brighten up the silhouettes on a person’s face without being overwhelming," he says.
Whether you have to lift your color to achieve a nutty brown or can achieve the look with a more subtle deposit of color, Sims says a hair mask is the key to making the color last. "I definitely recommend incorporating Flawless by Gabrielle Union's Repairing Deep Conditioning Masque as a protein treatment," he says. "This helps to rebuild the strength of your hair, which could potentially be compromised depending on what color you decide to go with."
Sultan agrees that nutty browns look beautiful on darker skin tones and thinks cooler caramel hues are also a great look. In fact, they're her favorite! "My favorite hair color to see on darker skin has to be a cool caramel that isn’t brassy or orange looking. This normally means that the person has spent well and seen a professional colorist that understands undertones and the universal color wheel," she says.
A few drops of this leave-in conditioning treatment will help keep your color from going brassy, which Sultan warns against.
If you're looking for a richer, more unique shade, Sims has a suggestion that is so perfect for the cooler months. "I highly recommend a burgundy red on darker skin. The warmth and richness of the color just illuminates the skin," he says.
This leave-in conditioner spray is formulated with an amino acid complex to smooth the hair cuticles so color stays vibrant longer, UV filters to protect against sun fading, and vitamin-rich sea buckthorn to nourish your strands.
But burgundy isn't the only color in the red family that looks gorgeous against dark skin. According to Sultan, most of them do! You'll just have to do your due diligence in finding the best match. "Red hair always looks hot on darker-skinned women, but be careful not to clash with certain skin tones. As a rule of thumb, I would advise that darker skin tones should go for more blue red, while those with slightly lighter skin can go for a more orangey red. It’s a bit like choosing the perfect red lipstick—if it makes your skin glow then it’s the right red, and if your skin tone looks flat or sallow then it’s probably not the best choice."
This deep conditioner intensifies warm reds by depositing just a touch of color as it nourishes the hair. Keep it on hand to guard against a flat-looking dye job.
Honey Blonde (With Highlights)
Beyoncé and her hair team have nailed down the perfect shade of blonde, and Sims agrees that it's one of the best choices for those with darker skin tones. "You can never go wrong with a honey blonde with highlights," he says. "The warmth of the honey blonde mixed with the slight lightness looks creamy against the skin."
Make sure to protect your hair against breakage caused by weakened bonds. Hairstylists have been using Olaplex during the bleaching process for years, and this at-home treatment is the perfect washday addition for ensuring your hair continues to thrive.
Sultan thinks you can go as light as your desire! "A major hair color misconception when it comes to Black women and their hair is that going super light can only result in damage," she says. "I love a Black-girl blonde! I would advise that you go blonde with a lot of caution, as lifting your hair up by more than several levels can damage the hair." Moral of the story? Leave this kind of dye job to the pros to avoid damage.
"Hair that has been colored, especially lighter hues, can sometimes be quite dry despite using the best products. I always recommend that my clients use the Imbue Curl Restoring Intensive Mask for a great moisture boost as well as giving the hair a great protein hug, which helps to get curls, coils, and kinks back to their beautiful best," says Sultan. If you notice your hair needs some extra love, she recommends wearing a heated cap to help the product penetrate the hair shafts even better.
"Honestly, today, Black and brown women can wear anything. Playing with hair color should be engaging and freeing," says Sims. "Pastels such as soft pinks and powder blues look amazing and gorgeous on Black and brown skin," says Sims. Getting those hues woven into styles like box braids or twists is an easy way to try out the color without committing to the dye job that could be timely and high-maintenance. And Sims's biggest piece of advice for pulling off this look? "No matter what hair color choice you present to the world, just own it and wear the color and style with confidence."
If you do decide to go the braids route, you'll want to make sure to have an edge styler on deck to smooth down baby hairs around the perimeter. Sleek edges are always a vibe.
"I love vibrant colors on Black and brown women," Sultan adds. "My belief is that, if you have the confidence to wear pink, green, blue, yellow, or even all of them at the same time, you should wear your hair with confidence and without the weight of other people’s judgment! My only ask is that your hair is as healthy as it can be." Wearing a wig featuring all these vibrant colors is a work-around for ensuring your natural hair isn't compromised.
Whether you're depositing a vibrant hue into your own hair or a wig, washing will likely result in lots of color bleeding. Use a dark towel that won't show stains.
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