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9 Pros Share How to Transition Highlights for Fall

Transitioning your summer color for the fall can be a challenge. You definitely don’t want to look washed out or like you neglected your mane, but how dark is too dark? To help answer some of your reoccurring seasonal hair transition dilemmas, we tapped the pigmentation pros to find out exactly how they transition your highlights for fall. Ask and you shall receive—here are their expert tips and tricks for toning down summer color to achieve a subtle (yet necessary) change this season.

All Over Creamy Color

“I always say that as the seasons change, so should your hair color. The goal of this change is to complement your client’s skin tone, which can lighten one or two shades in the fall and winter. For blondes, I love an all-over creamy color for the colder months. In the summer, blondes can look fabulous with more roots and less highlights, but for fall and winter, I like to transition my clients from beachy highlights to a deeper, manicured blonde with more complete coverage. For brunettes, warm baby lights are the perfect ‘pick me up’ to boost skin tone. This is perfect for a client who is experimenting with color for the first time, or someone who wants to brighten up their look with extra warmth. Redken Flash Lift is a great lightener for highlights, year round, and I always finish with Redken Shades EQ to customize the color, neutralize any unwanted brassiness and add condition and shine.” —Tracey Cunningham, Redken Celebrity Colorist

Merlot Tones

“This is one of my most favorite things to do! There are endless possibilities of how you can transition highlights for fall. It really depends on the look you are going for. Some blondes like to transition their white blonde highlights to more of a warm caramel highlight. I have a lot of fun transitioning my brunettes to something darker while still providing dimension. One of my favorite transitions is brunette to more of a merlot tone. You get a unique sexy burgundy reflection.” —Guy Tang, Creator of Guy Tang Mydentity Brand


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Darker Balayage

“I start to shift my color clients from summer to autumn a bit earlier than most colorists because I like it to be a seamlessly subtle transition. For my blonder/lighter clients, I progressively balayage more depth-entailed reflections between the tail-end of July and the beginning of September (balayage placement is key here, as we cannot simply rely on a shadow root). This way, the  autumn-winter highlight foundation/structure is in place, leaving only the easy-peasy ‘gloss and Olaplex’ salon maintenance appointments (a 20-min appointment every four to six weeks) until we do another balayage just before the holidays. Now the topic of going warmer for Autumn: I’m at a place in my career where girls coming to me year-round for red, strawberry-blonde, apricot, fiery hair colors, and fall-time is no exception. I do, however, love to buck the trend, so if you’re feeling the same way, come see me as I love to stir things up and make some noise.” —Chad Kenyon, Colormelt® Creator, Celebrity Colorist and Olaplex Ambassador


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Deepen the Root

“I typically deepen the root to diffuse the highlight, then add a rich gloss to tone everything down and warm it up.” —Nikki Lee, Garnier Consulting Celebrity Hair Colorist

Warmer Low to Mid-Lights

“As we move toward fall, clients want to go warmer.  To do that without glossing the all over color monochromatically warm, I start adding in lowlights to add depth and amp up the warmth with my mid-light technique. That way, I can gloss them a bit warmer all over and keep maximum color and tonal contrast.” —Matt Rez, Redken Brand Ambassador


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Autumn Glow

“My go-to? I use a gloss to tone out highlights and give my client a root shadow close to their natural color. This adds depth to my client’s color. I’ll always leave highlights just around the face and ends, to keep that summer glow and ease my client into their new fall look. The best thing about a toner? It can be a quick and affordable appointment while transforming your look. If your ends are solid, you can add some lowlights to break it up, then add a gloss all over to refresh those bleached ends. The gloss will also add shine that sun and salty water stripped out. The possibilities are endless with toners. You can go darker, warmer, richer, and cooler—your stylist can customize them just for you.” —Jamie Garland, Nine Zero One Stylist


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Caramel Tones

“To transition you color, you can add a root shadow to blend the highlights with your natural color and tone them down by one to two shades to create a softer ombré effect. To warm up highlights, add a gloss with gold or caramel tones to bleached out hair, for a healthier warmer glow.” —Elisabeth Leary, Founder and Creative Director of WHITEROOM


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“Glossing is the easiest way to transition highlights for fall. It’s a low commitment option that helps to add shine and enhance color while making the hair feel better. Ask your colorist to keep the gloss deeper at the crown and lighter around the face to maintain a natural vibe, whether you choose to go with a neutral or more daring look. I like using L’Oréal Professionnel’s DIA Light demi-permanent color for my glossing services.” —Min Kim, Colorist at Butterfly Studio & L’Oréal Professionnel Artist


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Root Smudges

“My main tips for transitioning your summer color is to find something that works with your life/maintenance schedule. If you are somebody who likes to change quite often, semi or demi hair color is the better option. Remember that showing inspirational photos is helpful, but be open to suggestions from your stylist as every head of hair is different. Adding a root smudge is great for a lower maintenance, more lived-in look, while lowlights will keep your hair looking dimensional. If you want to still feel ‘light’ ask for a ‘money piece,’ which means hair is brighter towards the face. Adding a glaze to tone down your bright highlights can give you a whole new look—it’s fun to be open to playing around with different tones from season to season.” —Taryn Arellano, Senior Stylist at LaBelle Day Spas & Salons in Palo Alto, CA and Educator


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Wondering if its worth updating your color as the seasons change? So were we, so we tapped some colorists. HERE is what they think about changing our hair color with the seasons!

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