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Color can be used to enhance - or completely change - your natural hair shade, but it's vital to choose right color, and the correct process to achieve that look.

Choosing your hair colour

Hair and skin are colored by the same substance-melanin. That's why the colour of your hair generally matches your skin tone. Those with olive skins have dark brown hair, while white blondes have very pale skin. Finding a colour that suits you has to reflect this. The simplest way to avoid mistakes is to choose a colour no more than two shades lighter or darker than yours-it will always suit you. If you are using highlights (lighter streaks in the hair or lowlights (darker streaks) you can go up to four shades different with no consequences.

If you are totally changing your colour, however, you have to pick your shade carefully. The wrong one can age you by years, make you look pale and washed out, or cause your features to vanish even with a truckload of make-up. Like make-up, your choice should be made on whether you have cool or warm tones in your skin. Cool-toned skins need ashy or 'light' blonde and brunette shades and bluey blacks; warm skins need shades based on coppers or reds (strawberry blonde, for example) and brown blacks rather than true blacks. And remember the shade on the box is normally what you get if you put the colour on white hair-what will happen on yours could be very different.

Choosing your hair colouring type for hair style

Whether you want an all-over colour that will be gone by morning or subtle lights that will last for months, there's a colour process for you. But success relies on choosing the right one.

Temporary colours : Also known as wash-in, wash-out colours, they are water-based and lightly coat the hair shaft with colour. They last until the next wash. While wash-in colours are great to try out a new look, they do come with a couple of caveats. If you have highlights or bleach on your hair, be warned-they will stick to this longer then to your natural hair, leaving you with some very strange streaks when you wash out. Also, colours will wash out if it rains too heavily, and may rub off on pillows or white outfits.

Semi-permanent colours : These coat the outer hair shaft and penetrate the top layer of the cuticle, creating a colour that will wash out after four to six washes. Semi-permanents are best for those not completely committed to hair colour, but be warned, this convenience also means they will fade quickly if not protected from UV rays or bleaching agents like avoid washing your hair for two to three days after the initial application. If you have the opposite problem and can't stand the colour, washing-up liquid will strip the colour. Just make sure you condition well afterwards.

Tone-on-tone colours : Between semi-permanent and permanent colours, these use low levels of peroxide to help the colour penetrate the hair shaft, but wash out rather than grow out after five to twelve weeks. Because semi-permanent colours contain no bleach, you will find that they don't always work well if you are trying to lighten dark hair. This is where tone-on-tone colours really come into their own, as they lighten without the commitment (and roots) that come with permanent colours. Care advice is the same as for semi-permanent colours, but the washing-up liquid trick won't work very well.

Permanent colours : These colours use ammonia or other chemicals that open the hair shaft and allow the colour to penetrate into the cuticle, staining it permanently. The colour will last until it naturally grows out, thought poor maintenance may cause the colour to fade and you will lose the glossy sheen that makes tinted hair look so good. Always wash with shampoos made for colored hair . Finally, when your roots come through, colour them alone. Appling permanent colour to the whole head over and over again is the fastest way to break hair.

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