How To Colour The Perfect Brunette with French Brown

Who doesn’t love a little Parisienne chic? One of the things I love about the ooh-lah-lah style of the ladies in the French capital is the gorgeous way they wear their brunette – natural looking without a hint of brassiness.

While working in Paris at Rossano Ferretti’s salon on the Rue Cambon, I realised that French Brown is more than just a hair colour it’s a look – one that is finally becoming more popular here in London.

Throughout my life as a top hair colourist, I’ve noticed that when brunettes start to colour their hair they either go too dark – which is very harsh on the face – or their brown locks start to have an orange cast. I understand how this happens – it can be hard to keep brassy tones away in the sunshine and colour does oxidize – but does every brunette who is a level 5 or 6 need to have hair that looks coloured, brassy and unnatural?

The answer, of course, is no, but it is still happens way too often. The issue is that when a brunette has her hair dyed with a permanent hair colour the underlying pigment is revealed, showing red/orange underlying tones; it’s these reflects that can end up making the hair colour look cheap or unnatural – something I certainly don’t want for my ladies!

So the answer for colouring brunettes’ hair is ammonia-free dyes, and low volume developers with permanent colours. Obviously, I couldn’t survive without my blue and green additives because:

  • Blue cancels orange
  • Green cancels red

So if you follow the colour wheel you should achieve a perfectly neutral brunette – but that’s not the end of the story. A monochromatic brunette – even if it is neutral – lacks the wow factor (in my opinion), and that’s where the balayage detailing comes in.

Foil highlights will only ruin an all-over colour, but perfectly placed ultra-fine weaves will alter the colour. So achieving that chic French Brown is in the detail – balayage placement dictated by the haircut, without getting too close to the root and making sure the ends are lighter than the roots, not the other way round.

To achieve a perfect balayage for brunettes avoid too light pieces in darker bases, the perfect natural-looking effortless brown is when the balayage highlights are a maximum of three shades lighter. And focus on the application – the product needs to be evenly placed otherwise it will give that mottled effect that looks horrid.

My secrets of a perfect balayage for brunettes

A perfect colour comes down to taste, but I don’t believe that a level 1-5 base looks good with level 12 highlights or brassy orange tones, but you do need to lift the natural hair up a few levels – in most cases two-to-three levels lighter is enough – and the end result is all in the glaze.

This model is a prime example of how natural-looking yet modern Balayage can be on darker bases. I used Dia Richesse 7.23 as a glaze and just kept my eye on it to achieve the tone I wanted. If you have a darker brunette who pulls a lot of red, go straight for Shade EQ 6T – it is a godsend that is brilliant for killing any warmth.

When it comes to the lightener, I always use Platinium from L’Oreal Professionnel. It’s the best! I helped to launch it and I love the way it leaves the hair in amazing condition. When you’re lightening brunettes, there’s never any need for more than 30 volume to lift the hair nice and clean.

I’ve noticed that too many colourists want to place highlights up near a brunette’s roots. I always think that looks awful and gives a vile grow out. For best results hand paint the midshafts and ends and add a few perfectly-placed pieces around the face. Do it well and you’ll have a client for life!

Want to learn more about making balayage work for brunettes and how it can increase your revenue? You’ll love my popular balayage courses. I hope to see you on one soon.

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