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Why the dark side has force

With more than half the population sporting a naturally brunette head of hair, why is it that there’s such an obsession with going blonde? PAINT explores the colour options to entice brunettes to play with colour more…

Don’t let brunette clients slip off your colour radar – with a trending return to more natural hair and some big starlets switching it up to go dark after years of bleach, there’s more attention than ever on brunette hues.

“A lot of brunettes have felt like the poor relative in terms of colour choice as of late, especially with bonding protection being launched in bleaches and the choice of tone being so extensive for blondes now,” explains Tim Scott Wright at The Hair Surgery, Schwarzkopf Professional UK and ambassador for tbh – true beautiful honest colour range. “In every colour appointment it’s important for the stylist to get as excited and behind a brunette as they do for blonde hair, to be mindful of offering the same kind of services for brunettes and not think of the technique in a different way.”

Sophie Gibson, creative partner at Hooker & Young, also stresses the importance of explaining the variety of options at the consultation stage to excite a brunette guest into experimenting a smidge: “It’s all about the clients’ needs and lifestyle. If the client wants to keep optimum health and shine to their hair, it’s not always about an all over colour. Be creative with colour placement, adding mixtures of tones and different panels to create illusions in the hair without using bleach,” she says. “By offering different tones, you keep their interest so that they are constantly evolving their hair and it keeps them excited.”

From glossing to balayage, the same concepts of mixing tones and highlights apply equally for brunettes as much as blondes – to miss out on pushing these services, just because a client doesn’t want to go Nordic blonde, would be a mistake. At Rainbow Room International’s Uddingston salon, owner and international artistic director Suzie McGill is making sure that brown-haired clients don’t go under-served.

“We recommend balayage and ombré services regularly to brunette clients, especially as we come into summer when they are looking to add a sun-kissed look to their hair. Healthy, glossy hair is what everyone wants, so we love to offer our brunette clients a bespoke glossing service to top up restore brightness and shine between visits.”

“Brunettes should never be one colour,” agrees Carolyn Newman, international colour expert and educator. “They look great with two or three different colours applied in large sections to create light and shade and gloss. Working with the haircut, I like to layer up panels of different brunette shades and tones to create a multidimensional look.”

Capitalising on celebrity trends is a good way to encourage clients – whether natural brunettes or not – to go deeper and darker. “It’s easy to strike up the subject of brunettes as the hair colour of the awards season,” Carolyn adds, “and we’re predicting the next key trend will be a rich, varied, toned brunette in clean parted bobs – either dressed smooth or with texture. Think Cate Blanchett, Charlize Theron, Emilia Clarke, Irina Shayk, St. Vincent and Dua Lipa.”

The fashion-forward clients at Salon64 in London certainly seem to agree. Senior colourist April Pattara has seen a surge in clients asking for more multi-dimensional yet darker looks. “Hair craves shadows and highlighting to break it up resulting in maximum texture,” she explains. “For those who prefer to stay dark then I go down the route of creating and enhancing a strong shape, as opposed to something soft and delicate. The Wella Professionals Illumina glossing service is really nice for added shine and tone on a natural brunette and one my massive “go to” products.”

One issue that often crops up is that of greys – when darker hair loses that pigment it is much more starkly obvious. It’s no wonder so many women reach for bleach. Lyndsey Ford, head of education for IdHAIR UK, notes that modern product formulation can make a huge difference here: “At IdHAIR we have Hair Paint and Hair Paint Free ranges, which includes an anti-age system that delivers high pigmentation, reflect and shine, perfect for brunettes.”

Our resident PAINTER and new Indola global colour ambassador, Paddy McDougall, stressed the importance of pushing yourself and your clients’ expectations of what brunette work can be. “I think it’s tempting to play it safe. When blonding hair, we are constantly thinking in terms of varying, adding and layering tone, and we need to apply the same concepts when creating brunettes. I love varying the tone and depth vertically and horizontally to create a more bespoke, eye catching colour; melting darker to medium to lighter brown tones down the hair is really nice or framing the face with lighter depths or warmer tones.”