When colorist to the stars Tracey Cunningham shares intel, anyone looking to improve their hair style listens. And, after 20 years in the industry, the go-to colorist for J. Lo, Emma Stone, Khloe Kardashian, Jennifer Garner and Jessica Biel, to name a few just launched her first book, “True Color” (available on Amazon) to deliver some Hollywood-approved tips and at-home how-tos. We recently caught up on Cunningham over Zoom—yes, she even has solid advice for keeping up with that “quarantine gray”—to get the inside scoop on how us mere mortals can replicate her hair-color magic.
The Backlight Trick
Cunningham says it doesn’t matter if you are a brunette, a redhead or a blonde, her number-one tip for looking younger via hair color is placing babylights around the hairline. (Bonus: She also notes it’s not a huge investment.) “Just little tiny, very, very fine, fine highlights around your hairline, and maybe a few sprinkled in where you part,” she says. “It really makes a difference— because it almost backlights you. If you notice, when you look at a real brunette as a kid, their hair is always a little lighter around their hairline, the same goes for a redhead.”
One of Cunningham’s famous in-salon prep moves is having clients bring in younger photos of themselves so she can see where their color started—she finds when she replicates that shade, it gives amazing results. “Sometimes I’ll ask, ‘Were you a towhead? Were you super blonde? Were you this? Were you that? Did you have a natural ombre?’ I ask questions and sometimes they’ll bring me a photo. I don’t make it mandatory, but I should!”
Less Is More
Like most things in life, Cunningham stresses that doing too much to your hair is not a good idea. “Over-anything is too much. Less is more—even when it comes to hair color.”
Cunningham doesn’t pause on naming her number-one favorite hair product: Olaplex No 3 Hair Perfector. “It’s so incredible. I just can’t stress enough, if there’s one product you should buy, it’s that.”
While hair color is her career, Cunningham also is first to admit not everyone wants to spend every month behind the chair. “I know it’s not fun! I have a whole chapter in my book about grays and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s like life, it’s so amazing. I can’t even explain it. These girls are beautiful with their silver hair and they’re young. I love looking at the patterns of gray hair. When you look at these beautiful silvered sisters, if they have a lot in the front, it’s so pretty. It’s like the biggest highlight—I can’t explain it, but I love looking at the patterns that are created with gray hair. They’re almost like perfect highlights.”