How to Lighten Your Hair a Few Shades

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Lightening your hair a few shades can have big benefits, especially as you get older, says celebrity hair colorist Rita Hazan in “O” magazine. You may think you need a dramatic change to make a big impression, but going just a few shades lighter can brighten your face and make you look younger. A subtle difference is also one you can pull off with a home color job, since dramatic changes require professional assistance to get right, says Hazan.

Step 1

Choose a permanent hair color that contains peroxide and ammonia — semi-permanent colors won’t lighten your hair. Choose a color that’s a few shades lighter than your regular color in a shade that’s described as neutral, ash or natural to prevent brassiness, recommends Hazan.

Step 2

Give your hair a deep conditioning treatment one week before you plan to color, advises Nicolas Cornuot, spa director of Phyto Universe in New York City, in “Women’s Health” magazine. Conditioning your hair repairs surface damage that could cause your hair color to be streaky and uneven.

Step 3

Skip shampooing your hair for at least two days before you color to get the best results and reduce risk for scalp irritation, recommends Nathaniel Hawkins, a hair stylist for Tresemme, in “Women’s Health.” Your hair’s natural oils will protect your scalp from the chemicals in your hair color.

Step 4

Do a strand test by preparing a small amount of your hair color according to package directions and applying it to a patch of hair about an inch wide just above your ear, recommends Sharon Dorram of Sharon Dorram Color in “O” magazine. Check the color development regularly so that you know how long to leave the lightener on your hair.

Step 5

Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly all the way around your hairline to protect your skin from being stained by your hair color.

Step 6

Use a comb to part your hair into sections. Twist and clip each section as you go so that you can be sure you color all your hair evenly.

Step 7

Prepare your hair color according to the package instructions. Start at the back of your head, where your hair is darkest, and apply the color to your hair from root to tip, one section at a time, working your way toward the hair around your face. Let the color sit on your hair for the length of time you determined in your strand test.

Step 8

Rinse the color from your hair completely with cool water until the water runs clear. Follow with a moisturizing conditioner. Many hair color kits contain one, but if yours doesn’t, you can use your favorite conditioner.

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