Men like color too. Whether it’s maintaining their youthful tones or experimenting with crazy shades, guys are increasingly growing their presence at the colorist. Zayn Malik has experimented with everything from platinum to rose, Wiz Khalifa is known to dabble in purple, and Steve Carell went back and forth on his gray hair before landing in full silver fox territory.
“There’s no reason not to try it out and experiment with your look. It’s not ‘girly’ to look your best, and coloring your hair can really do wonders for a guy,” says Bumble and Bumble colorist Mai (just Mai). That’s not to say that getting colored isn’t a weighty decision. It’s an investment that takes time, effort, and attention. So don’t show up to the salon empty handed—read on for the tips you need to make the right decisions.
Know Your Color
To a degree, you should hand the reins over to your stylist. You are their calling card, so they definitely won’t want you to leave the salon until you’re happy. But some sort of idea about what color direction you’d like to go in is helpful. “Find reference images of the hair color that you like, ideally a few of them and bring them in for your initial consultation with your colorist,” says Kara Hoskins, also of Bumble and Bumble. “If we know what specific shade and tone you’re looking to achieve, we can figure out the best way for you to get as close to it as possible. And we’ll give recommendations based on this, too.”
Don’t Try This at Home
You wouldn’t cut your own hair (right?), so follow the same rules for coloring. Colorists are professionals and know a good deal about getting the shade right. “It is more expensive to go to a salon for your color, but it’s so important to see a colorist to make sure you get the right color and without damaging your hair,” says Mai. “Box color always looks fake and flat, and it’s nearly impossible to know what it will look like on your hair until it’s too late.”
Create a Cohesive Look
The best way to go about choosing a hair color is to consider what fits your overall style. Skin tone and coloring are clues, but a good colorist can help you pull off a variety of shades. Thoughts about your personal style and aesthetic—for example, how you like to dress—should inform your color choice. “If you are a bit more edgy with your style, you can be a bit more edgy with your hair color,” Hoskins explains. “But if you’ve got a suit-and-tie, white-collar type of job, colorful hair isn’t something I’d recommend. Stick to natural colors and err on the side of caution with going blonde, unless you’re blonde to begin with. Style and hair should meld together.”
Don’t Be Afraid of the Gray
Coloring isn’t and shouldn’t be just about covering up gray hair. “Men look great with gray hair. It’s distinguished and elegant and earned… embrace it!” Mai says. But if your grays are something that you do want to downplay, it’s better to approach as camouflage than as a total cover-up. “Less is more and it should look effortless, not intentional. Gray roots on dark hair looks terrible and ages you even more than gray hair would on its own.”
Before even arriving at your hairdresser, you should plan ahead for your bleach or dye. For three or four days prior to your appointment, stay out of the shower. This allows natural oils to build up on the hair and scalp, which serves as a natural barrier against chemicals used during the bleaching and dying processes.
Protect Your Mane
Coloring can come at the cost of some extra damage and dryness. If you have thinning hair, you’re going to want to stay away from a heavy coloring job. “I definitely wouldn’t recommend double processing (bleaching and toning to very light blonde) to guys with concerns about hair loss—bleach is a harsh chemical that can cause breakage,” says Hoskins. And for guys of any hair type, it’s good to follow up your salon visit with a regular conditioning treatment, at least once a week.
Take Your Color on the Road
Once you’ve got a perfectly colored mane, you’re going to want it to last as long as possible. A good color requires proper at-home care to maintain its hue. You’ll need to use shampoo that’s specifically designed for color-treated hair—one that will maintain the vibrancy of your color and protect against dulling and fading. And make sure it’s sulfate free.
For a bleach, purple toning shampoo is necessarily to fight brassiness (i.e. yellow/orange tones). As its natural opposite on the color wheel, purple works against potential yellowy pitfalls.