By Laura Braunstein


Almost every single day, I am asked for color suggestions, be it all over color or highlights/lowlights. There is actually a pretty set science to making these determinations based upon basic color theory. Here is the breakdown:



The first step is figuring out whether you have a cool or warm skin tone. Each tone then has two subcategories. Many people can identify themselves as warm vs. cool pretty easily, but the sub-characterization is where things can go awry. If you're not positive of where you generally fall however, flip your forearm over and look at your veins on the inside. If they appear blue through your skin, you have a cool skin tone. If they appear green, you have a warm skin tone.



A cool skin tone is depicted by having lighter skin for your ethnicity. While the first person who comes to mind as having cool skin is generally the Nordic blonde, and while that is usually a correct supposition, fairer African/African American women, Indian women, Latin women, etc can also have cool skin. Generally speaking, it is lack of pigment that creates a cooler shade across the board. So as it pertains to humans, lack of melanin, a dark brown to black pigment occurring in skin, hair, and eyes, equates to fairer skin. Cool skin can still have undertones of pink or yellow however, they are just less prominent tonally and sometimes not as easily deciphered as they are in warm skin. 



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Often thought of as the rosey skin seen on cherubs and young children in baroque fine art, cool pink skin is fair skin that often looks flushed. If you are fair and have jewel toned eyes (dark blue, dark green or black) and do not tan easily, you likely have cool pink skin. You were likely born with very dark brown/black hair. This hair may have quickly turned to light blonde, but regardless it started as dark. You may also have a harsh contrast between the colors of your eyes, hair and face. Finally, you do not have warm brown or hazel eyes. The hair colors that look flattering with cool pink skin are colors with a blue, violet-red, or violet base such as:

  • White Platinum Blonde
  • Very Dark Brown
  • Dark Violet Red
  • Jet Black



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This is probably the most unidentified type of skin. Many fair people believe that they have pink undertones when they actually have yellow. If you are fair and have light eyes (light blue/grey, light green, light hazel or light golden brown) and have the ability to tan, not well, but can tan a bit nonetheless, you likely have cool yellow skin. You were likely born with ash-dishwater blonde or super light blonde hair and still do not have a harsh contrast between the colors of your eyes, hair and face. The hair colors that look flattering with cool yellow skin are colors with a violet, blue or green base such as:

  • Platinum Blonde
  • Light Icy Blonde
  • Ashy Blonde
  • Ashy Brown



A warm skin tone is depicted by having skin that reads peachy or golden. It can be fairer or darker, but will have a glow to it either way. Often, Latin women are thought of as having a bronzed look that is warm. While this is frequently correct, it is wrong to assume that all Latin women have warm skin. As mentioned before, lack of pigment generally leads to cool tones, meaning that on the opposite end of the spectrum, heavily pigmented tones are generally warm. As it pertains to humans, an increase in melanin often equates to warmth, however accounting for ethnicity is still important. For example, while a fairer Indian woman still has much more melanin in her skin than a typical Scandinavian woman, she still has much less melanin than what is typical for her heritage, generally meaning that she actually has cool skin, not warm. There are always exceptions to every rule, but this is a general rule of thumb.



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This is the definition of skin that glows. If you have a golden cast, have rich dark brown hair, and golden brown or hazel green eyes, you probably have warm pink skin. You also tan pretty easily, and were probably not born with light hair. The hair colors that look flattering with warm pink skin are colors with an orange base or a red undertone such as:

  • Rich Auburn
  • Copper 
  • Caramel
  • Honey Blonde
  • Golden Blonde
  • Golden Brown
  • Milk Chocolate
  • Mahogany 




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This is another type of skin that is often misidentified. Many women with deeper complexions are falsely under the impression that they have a pink cast when they really have a yellow. Beyonce and Shakira are two examples of women who have warm yellow skin. People with this skin tone have a very rich bronzed look that has a bit more of an olive cast. You generally also tan easily and often have hazel eyes, however eye color is the most variable with this type of skin. Usually your natural hair color is not that dark for your ethnicity and you look better with lighter hair in general. The hair colors that look flattering with warm yellow skin are colors with a yellow or orange base such as:

  • Butter
  • Golden Blonde
  • Champagne Blonde
  • Toffee
  • Honey Brown



Remember that hair color is what you make of it. Just because technically jet black hair doesn't go with your skin tone, doesn't mean that you can't throw on enough blush to make it work if that's what you want to wear. For further discussion and insight, book a consultation with us anytime!

Balayage - Why Is It All The Rage And Should You Want It?


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Modern highlighting began in the early 1900s with the development of the cap with cutout method. A cap was placed on the head and strands of hair fed through holes in the cap. The cap separated out desired strands from the remainder of the hair and allowed for those pieces to be colored without affecting the protected hair. The main challenge with this method was that precision and consistency were often lacking. In the 1970s, balayage began as a technique in Paris. In its classic French form, strips of cotton were used to separate sections of hair painted with a bleach product that created lighter strands. The method allowed for the artist applying to have a visual for the first time of exactly how the hair colors would layer and where exactly they would fall. The downside to the method was that the liquidity of the lightener products created unwanted saturation and messiness that was hard to control for the majority of stylists. In response, the concept of foiling developed in New York in the late 1970s and become mainstream by the early 1980s. Instead of cotton being used to create separation by creating lift of the hair off of the scalp, aluminum foil would be used to create a packet so to speak that the selected strands could rest in with product applied. It had finally become possible to highlight hair in a very controlled fashion without product bleeding but with the ability to visualize and create evenness. So how and why has balayage made such a comeback you may ask?


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Hair color producers recognized that if there could be a way to control the consistency of lighteners rendering them to be more like a paste than a liquid, that free form hair painting, without messiness and unwanted bleeding, would be possible. They knew that this would be very appealing to professionals as artists. So the product companies pumped capital into development and figured out a way to mix a clay additive into the lightening products without making them volatile. This created a lightener with the consistency of old fashioned toothpaste, spreading in such a way so as to create almost no saturation nor bleeding. And voila all of a sudden about 4 years ago, balayage without cotton as a barrier, pegged as American balayage, was born. 


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While I personally believe that a true master colorist can create the same outcome employing a wide variety of techniques including both balayage and foiling, here are a few reasons why modern balayage can really stand out. Because typically small panels of hair are painted with balayage vs. very thin bundles of hair with foils, a little bit goes a long way. It's easy with just a few pieces around the hairline and along the part line to create an entirely different look that has very minimal impact on the health and/or texture of the hair. Balayage is also very easy to strategically place as there is nothing impacting the visual of the hair's volume and position for the stylist applying. Next, generally speaking, the balayage route is actually pretty economical. While your appointments may be costly, the soft transitional color usually prevalent in balayage leaves you only having to touch up every 4 to 5 months. Finally, balayage highlights give the illusion of fullness because they add dimension to your overall color. And because hair lightener causes the surface of the hair shaft to expand in order to allow the formula to penetrate, highlights will actually increase the diameter of your hair, making it heftier overall. So what are the negatives? Despite vast consistency advancements having been made, balayage is still pretty hard to do well and it's not uncommon to get a botched job if you see someone who isn't very experienced. Additionally, the clay additive has a drying effect that prevents the lightener from being continuously progressive. What does this mean? Unlike more traditional lighteners, it can lift the hair to be 4 shades lighter, but generally cannot continue past that point. So if you have medium brown hair and want to be a cool light blonde, balayage is realistically only going to lift you to be a deeper warmer golden blonde. It's important to realize that most of the images that you see in magazines and on Instagram have had multiple sessions already where the pre-lightened hair gets lightened again in order to work towards a brighter look. As always though, the best thing to do is to consult with an experienced color master to determine the best methodology to achieve the desired results. Consultations in our salon are always complimentary!

How To Wear Your Natural Waves




There are countless articles, posts and tutorials on how to manage curly hair. Curly hair, without a doubt, can be a real beast (pun intended), so discussions about how to handle it are more than warranted. In my opinion however, there are not enough discussions about how to handle and enhance wavy hair. Most of us neither have straight nor curly hair. We fall into the camp of having inconsistent wave patterns that never seem to look good when dried naturally mixed with some degree of frizz and fluffiness. Every once in a while, generally after having been at the beach and in the ocean, our hair looks AMAZING! But somehow replicating that seems darn near impossible and out of frustration we put our hair in the frenemy category and all together just give up. Believe it or not however, most wavy hair can be made to look gorgeous as long as the right haircut, hair length, products and setting technique are in the mix. I hope to at least inspire you enough to give it a try with your own locks.


Wavy Hair Types

Each category of hair has a correlating number and letter to term and describe it. Wavy hair is type 2, while straight is type 1, curly type 3, and coily type 4. Each category then has an A, B, and C designation to further differentiate subtleties.


Type 2A Wavy Hair (fine): This type is loose, with an “S” shaped pattern, and is on the thinner side (having a circumference of less than 2 inches when tied in a ponytail). I have this hair on my own head. This type is usually relatively easy to manage and style, however it can easily become fluffy looking or just appear limp and lifeless if given the wrong cut or styled poorly. This is hair that needs a just below shoulder length or shorter haircut that focuses on keeping the ends as thick and as full as possible. In essence, a simple one length haircut is the best choice unless we're talking short bob or pixie territory, then the options open up a bit. Length and therefore weight is challenging with fine wavy hair because it can be pulled straight so easily. Additionally, layers most often detract from fullness by leaving the already somewhat piecey ends as little whisps. In summation, if you want to try to wear your natural waves and you have fine hair, keep it mid-length and simple. 


Type 2B Wavy Hair (medium): This hair type has a more prominent “S” shaped pattern, and resembles the highly coveted beachy wave. Although gorgeous and drooled over by all who don't have it, this type tends to be on the slightly frizzier side of the spectrum and can easily look messy and unruly if not cared for. Wearing it with some length and weight generally helps to defy frizz, however because it is still only medium in texture, too much length and weight will leave it limp and lessen its wave pattern. Striking a balance is key which generally equates to wearing it between shoulder and bra strap length-wise with simple classic layers that create a 4 to 6 inch differentiation between the shortest pieces and the perimeter length. This provides enough weight to help with smoothing but also enough removal to prevent the hair from becoming triangular in appearance.


Type 2C Wavy Hair (coarse): This type has a very distinct “S” shaped pattern, and is borderline curly at some points. Curly wavy hair tends to be frizzier and thicker. Although this type is more resilient (because of its thickness), it is also more resistant to styling. It is best to take advantage of its resiliency and keep this type of hair long. With length and weight, the curls tend to relax and the waves soften and become much more consistent and even. 

Styling Musts For Wavy Hair Types


Don't Throw Your Hair Up In A Towel

Toweling is often the downfall of great hair. Cotton is not gentle on the hair's outer cuticle layer and almost always manages to rough it up thus creating frizz and fluff. If you must towel, swap in a microfiber hair towel, which will at least be a lot kinder to your hair. The best thing to do however, is to simply wring your hair out in the shower with your hands and either diffuse it, or even better, let it drip dry.


Only Comb Your Hair When It's Wet

Brushing your hair when it's anything but sopping wet can cause instantaneous frizz. The best thing to do with wavy hair is to comb through it either in the shower, or right after getting out when it is still dripping wet. Particularly with type 2A, fine hair dries so quickly that is has to either be combed immediately or not at all.


Use The Right Products

A sea salt spray in conjunction with a leave-in conditioning spray is the perfect cocktail for a healthy balance of hydration and texture defining for type 2A hair. The fact that both products are sprays, and therefore light in weight, will keep your strands from becoming weighed down and limp, but will also provide frizz protection and wave enhancement. We love the Sea Salt Spray from Davines and Uniq One All-In-One Spray from Revlon. Type 2B hair still needs some wave enhancement so the Sea Salt Spray is again a perfect product choice. For conditioning, we love the Brilliant Universal Styling Creme from Aveda. It is formulated for use on hair that will be both air dried as well as blown dry and does not leave a gucky feeling of residue, but does seal in moisture, define texture, and add shine. Type 2C is a little bit of a different animal needing defrizzing and curl lengthening more so than curl encouragement. We love the Be Curly Curl Controller from Aveda for this. It is a great one-stop-shop product that lengthens while controlling volume and frizz and also conditions with babassu oil. When applying any of these products, you want to make sure that all of your hair is evenly coated. Even and ample distribution of product throughout the entirety of the hair shaft is key to consistency in your wave. Finally, be sure to apply product when your hair is just past the point of dripping wet, but has not yet begun to dry.


Set Your Waves

In order to get really defined-looking waves, you need to give your wet locks a little push in the right direction. Your hair will dry in the shape that you leave it in, so the more attention that you pay to twisting your waves and placing shape in your hair, the better your outcome will be. This means, as mentioned, wringing excess water out of your locks rather than overdoing it with a towel and, after working the product into your hair, twisting your locks into spirals. We recommend taking 2 inch by 2 inch box sections throughout the head, however if you need to take slightly bigger sections because of time constraints, the method will still work.


Ask For Help

If you try all of the above at home and your hair just isn't coming out as you'd hope, call us to schedule a styling lesson. We're always delighted to help!

What To Do With Fine Hair


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Those of us who have the shared experience of fine hair know that the daily struggle is real. Between feelings of our hair being flat, limp, lifeless, flyaway, and boring, it can be hard to appreciate what genetics gave us. The fact that our hair dries quickly and smoothes out easily is hardly a consolation when it looks almost exactly the same no matter what we do. While it's important to try to remember that the grass isn't always greener on the other side, I am definitely not here to lecture anyone on their emotional reasonableness. What I can provide are a few tips for maximizing and working with what you've got.    

(1)     Cut Choices

Each hair on our head is preprogrammed to max out at a certain length. On people with fine hair, this is often shorter than on others. This means that if you want to wear long hair, not every hair is going to be able to reach the desired perimeter length. What do you do, you may ask? If you are committed to wearing your hair as long as possible, keep it simple, a one length cut is the best haircut for you. You can have your stylist cut in a minimal amount of face framing pieces, but skip the layers. They'll only end up detracting from the look of a clean strong line and leave your ends looking scrappy after only a few short weeks. Peggy, pictured to the left, has this simple cut. If you're interested in trying a shorter style, a long bob (lob) is generally great for fine hair. The defining characteristic of a bob is a strong line and since all of your hair is capable of growing to your shoulders, voila, it's easily achievable. The minimal amount of graduation put into a lob will also help your hair to tuck every so slightly under creating the illusion of thickness, a definite bonus. Finally, if you're really interested in going short, you can't go wrong with a pixie when you have fine hair. As long as the cut is not so short that your scalp is shining through, removal of length always means removal of weight. What does this translate to? Locks that are short always have an easier time gaining volume and thus the look of fullness, no matter what the precise shape. 

(2)   Using Color To Create Interest

Slight variation in color creates the illusion of depth and dimension and therefore fullness. For us fine haired girls, this is key. Even if your first inclination would not be to add color to your hair, you may want to reconsider. Adding a highlight and lowlight that is one shade lighter and darker respectively, than your natural hue, will not change the overall appearance of your color much, but will add tremendous variation to your palate, thus creating dimension. The subtlety will leave you with a very low maintenance look that will barely be noticeable as it grows out, meaning that you could do it once and let it go without a problem. For those of us who would color anyway, paneled looking highlights and lowlights help to create the look of depth within the hair. Conversely, a very finely woven highlight that just creates an overall lighter look, is actually not as beneficial. It's important to be able to really see the color differential because that's the best way to add interest. In Peggy's hair, pictured at left, you can see a lot of variation without it looking stripey. This can be achieved with both a foil and balayage technique. Any talented NYC hairstylist, but especially everyone in our west side salon of course, will know what is best for you in particular.

(3)   Conditioning

It's very easy for fine hair texture to become damaged because the molecular makeup of the hair is actually weaker when compared with coarser hair. Fortunately, there are many great products on the market that can reinvigorate hair with both protein and moisture. Shampoo. It's important to use a gentle shampoo that is sulfate free and not full of other harsh cleansing agents. When shampooing, focus on the lather at the scalp and simply allow the product to run over the ends while rinsing. Unless you were rolling around in the mud, there's really no need to rough up the cuticle layer of your hair by scrubbing your ends unnecessarily. Conditioner. Conditioner is key to keeping fine hair strong and moist. Don't be stingy, really fully saturate your hair with conditioner after each shampoo and if possible, allow it to really seep in for a minute or two before rinsing. While you can use the same shampoo every day, you want to rotate your conditioners between a protein conditioner made to rebuild and a moisture conditioner made to rehydrate. We swear by the Dry Remedy and Damage Remedy conditioners from Aveda in our NYC hair salon and in our own showers at home. Proper conditioning definitely makes a huge difference. 

If you'd like to continue this conversation and customize it to talk more about your own hair specifically, give us a call! Consultations are always complimentary!