To Dye or Not to Dye?

In retrospect, I probably should have interjected when one of my best girlfriends told me she wanted blonde highlights for the summer — staged an intervention perhaps, complete with a house arrest warrant and a Britney-style lock down. Instead, she came to me mid-June, with her hair stuffed under a bicycle helmet, moaning something along the lines of, “It looks like a dog pissed on my head.” It was nothing a $9 pint of black hair dye couldn’t fix, but the incident brings up the paramount dilemma that Asian women both young and old face when they get the inevitable itch to change their hairstyle: to dye or not to dye?

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TO DYE

When choosing colors, it all boils down to one thing: skin tone. Basically, skin tones are broken down into two categories: warm and cool. The easiest way to tell which group you fall under is to look at your arm — do the color of your veins appear closer to green or blue? Green-colored veins generally indicate you have a warm complexion, while blue-colored veins indicate a cool complexion. "Warm" women also usually have golden, olive or dark skin, with brown or dark colored eyes, while "cool" women have fair skin, with green or blue eyes. It’s like those "Cosmopolitan" quizzes — are you an autumn or a winter? Asians generally have a golden undertone in their skin color, which makes them fall under the warm complexion category. Therefore the best hair color shades for this type of skin tone are dark or golden browns, and red or auburn shades.

If you are a do-it-yourself kind of girl, make sure you buy hair dye that is two shades lighter than the color you want, since coloring shows up darker on black and brown hair. This is a common mistake amongst hair dye virgins who are often left flummoxed when their reds end up as auburns and their auburns as browns.

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NOT TO DYE

As with all of life’s hard lessons, there is a basic set of rules to follow with little-to-no wiggle room for exceptions. First, harsh pale colors are never okay. Never. White highlights bring back bad memories of "Xtina" Aguilera's skunk hair circa 2001. Just say no, girls — the unanimous rule is that no part of your hair should be lighter than your skin tone. Same goes with platinum blonde, violets and blue shades of black. It'll only make your hair look washed out.

But above all, please do consult your girlfriends and a professional hairstylist before making any unfortunate decisions. Really, it’s a matter of life or dye.

Photo (top) of Lee Hyori from AsianFanatics; photo (bottom) of Kimora Lee Simmons by Retna, Ltd.