10 Reasons Your Hair Color Is Making You Look Washed Out

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You’ve probably been there before: You slightly tweak your color, and all of a sudden, your skin looks kind of “lackluster.” Here’s what the experts say cause it, and the easy ways to correct it.

1 / 10

You Didn’t Adjust Your Shade Slow Enough

As AJ Lordet, eSalon’s east coast color ambassador, says seasonal hair-color changes are always in demand. “Traditionally, in rising temperatures clients want to brighten their color. Surprisingly, this season is showing a departure from the usual summer blond, and we are seeing clients deepen their allover shade. Both options are beautiful, fun and fresh. Making a hair color change is incredibly exciting, but there’s nothing more frustrating than having your newly updated color wash you out. To avoid this, I recommend adjusting your shade slowly over time, rather than making huge color jumps. Extreme color changes, either too dark or too light, can look unnatural or unflattering against the skin.”

2 / 10

You Don’t Even Know What Your Skin Tone Is

Sounds kind of silly, but most of us probably don’t have this one totally figured out. “With any new shade, it’s important to consider your skin tone,” says Lordet, and adds that an easy way to figure it out, is by taking a sheet of white paper and placing it next to your skin. “If your skin looks yellow or golden next to the paper, you have a warm skin tone. If your skin appears red, pink, or rosy, you have a cool skin tone. To really make your color shine, try to keep your hair color undertone the opposite of your skin tone.”

3 / 10

You Went Out in the Sun

This isn’t necessarily a “I-spent-the-weekend-at-the-beach” problem, but an every day one that can affect color that you may have liked at the beginning, but not so much a couple of weeks out. “When hair color starts looking washed-out, it’s because oxidization from the sun strips away the richness of the color,” says Peter Oon of New York’s Oon Arvelo salon. “Refreshing your hair color with a gloss and conditioning treatment in-between your color appointments at the salon will help maintain your healthy hair and prevent the color from fading. Another tip to help slow down the oxidation process is to stay out of the sun or wear a hat, especially at the beach. Also, keep away from swimming pools with chlorine.”

4 / 10

You Went “Over”

“Overly lightening the hair can certainly add to a washed out skin tone,” Lordet says. “If you are going for a natural shade of blond and accidentally go a bit too light, your skin can end up looking lackluster. If this happens, have your colorist slightly darken your base color. The depth in the root color will create a natural contrast adding warmth back into the skin.” Plus, as she adds, right now, platinum blond is having a huge moment and can look gorgeous on a multitude of skin tones. “If you are set on going platinum, be sure to ask your colorist to tone your hair to combat any unwanted brass that naturally occurs when lightening the hair. Reducing the underlying golden or yellow tones cools down the hair and looks brighter and more flattering against the skin.”

5 / 10

You Broke the “Three-Shade Rule”

While Lordet says she’s a huge fan of dark hair colors, selecting the right shade from brown to soft black can make a huge difference on the skin. “An overly dark shade can end up looking stark or have a matte effect. In general, I like to stay within three shades of the natural hair color when darkening allover. Going more than three shades can make the skin look dull and drab.” Her easy tip if you do go too dark: Simply pick up a clarifying shampoo. “A clarifying shampoo will help lighten the dark color from hair gradually and gently. After a few shampoos you will notice subtle highlights returning to your hair.” 

6 / 10

You Didn’t Go for Dimension

Oon says that it’s not always just going “too far” in one direction that creates a washed out look. “It can also happen when you don’t add in multidimensional shades and tones when you switched it up. Likewise, going too dark sometimes may create a sharp contrast between a person’s complexion and their hair color, unless you have a warm milky undertone in the color.” 

7 / 10

And You Ignored Your Brows

Yes, Lordet says, it’s all about the brows. “A full brow has continued as a strong trend and I don’t see it going away anytime soon. Being a focal point on the face, brows are a wonderful gauge for hair color shade. As a good rule of thumb, keep your base color close to your natural brow shade. This helps create a softer hair-to- skin contrast, which enhances the face. For brunettes transitioning to blond, choose a base color a shade or two lighter than your eyebrows. Going slightly lighter will prevent the hair from looking brassy and prevents damage or breakage. A slightly darker base anchors the allover color. After softening the base, have your colorist paint in some highlights concentrating around the face. The highlights will add a summery brightness to the color with little required maintenance.”

8 / 10

You Walked Right Past the Makeup Area at the Salon

You know that makeup area at your salon? It’s not just there for special occasions. “With any hair color change I recommend a slight adjustment in a client’s makeup,” Lordet says. “Enhancing your face with some highlighter and mascara will bring out the eyes and make the skin glow. If your salon has a makeup artist on site, head over and test out a new lippy to go with your fresh locks.”

9 / 10

You Went Darker Around Your Face 

According to celebrity hair colorist Bianca Hillier, it’s important to have a lighter shade around your face—and that holds true if you are doing a single-process color or covering grays because it will create, what she calls “a fluid color” between the hairline and the base. “These hairs are finer in the hairline, so they can grab the color faster and actually look darker than the rest of the hair if not specifically formulated lighter by your colorist. If you really want to give some natural-looking pops of color to contour the face, make sure to ask your colorist to add a few lighter pieces around the hairline.”

10 / 10

You Ignored Tone When Tackling “Fantasy” Colors 

Hillier says those trendy “fantasy colors” can be tricky since they aren’t technically natural colors. Her advice: Take tone into consideration. “If you have pink undertones in your skin, stay away from cool tones like mint and lime green. Instead, ask your colorist for warmer tones like peach or pink so the hair does not contrast and enhance your skin tone. Same holds true if you have yellow in your skin or you have warm tan skin, stay away from purples and try something warmer, like a magenta, to enhance your skin tone.” Regardless of tone or hair type, Hillier adds that her number-one rule for keeping up good color is hydration. “Try a weekly moisture mask like Olaplex No 8 Bond Intense Moisture Mask, which contains their patented breakthrough technology to relink disulfide bonds for stronger, healthier hair.”

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