Want a dramatic new 'do? The industry's top stylists on how to handle a major hair transformation (and what styles won't suit you)

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Amy Lewis
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Sienna Miller has swapped her signature blonde hair for red, Amanda Seyfried now sports a bob, and everyone from Billie Piper to Kate Hudson is trying rainbow coloured hair.

It’s the year of the dramatic hair transformation, and if the office is anything to go by, lots of us want in.

But if you’re having trouble deciding whether to take the plunge, this is for you.

Chopping off your hair or switching up the shade can be a big, identity-shifting decision; so to help you prepare we’ve consulted the best in the hair business.

From going red to rainbow and chopping your locks into a bob or pixie crop, seven of the industry’s top hairstylists tell us how to go about it.

Will a bob haircut suit me?

George Northwood gave Rosie Huntington-Whiteley her bob, counts Alexa Chung, Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow among his A-list fans, and with his recent in-salon Bob Bar backed by the hair experts at Redken, has sparked a huge global hair trend. He knows if the chop will suit you…

When going for the chop, it’s important to talk face shape and features with your stylist. The general rule is; if you have a hard face with strong features, go for a softer choppy, grown out bob. If you have soft features you can go shorter.

If you’re very petite, a bob works well, as too much hair will consume you. Short bobs aren’t so great for very round faces, however. Instead, go for a longer, grown out bob, which skims the collar bone.

You need to be sure that shorter hair is what you want, so if you’re in any doubt about committing to the cut, do it in stages. Start with a chop to the collar bone, then gradually go shorter.

I always advise customers to come into the salon and try on our wigs in the Bob Bar to see if they like the length. For a DIY trial, simply pin you hair under at the length you’re considering and see what you think.

Shorter hair can be less work, though you might find yourself washing it more regularly as you won’t be able to tie it up between wash days as easily. It will take less time to wash though, and less time to dry too.

Shorter hair tends to need more body, so it’s a good idea to use a volumising leave in spray such as Pureology Levitation Mist. Spray it in at the roots on towel dried hair for instant lift. When hair is dry, I suggest finishing with a lightweight spray like Redken Wind Blown 05, which is amazing for adding texture and some light hold.

If you’re going from long hair to a bob, bear in mind that you might not be able to wear it up as easily. If that’s something that you’ll miss, maybe the chop’s not for you. Otherwise, go for it!

Will a pixie crop work on me?

Multi award-winning hairstylist Adam Reed, co-founder of Percy & Reed, is one of the hair industry’s top trend creators and a London Fashion Week backstage regular. He’ll know if a pixie crop is for you…

It is important that you know what your goal is. Your definition of a pixie crop may not match a classic stylist’s definition, so it’s essential that you clearly demonstrate the look you want.

Collecting images of looks that you love or think you may like is the best thing to do when you're looking for a big change. It is also imperative that you talk to your stylist and ask as many questions as possible. They are the experts and will be able to guide you through achieving the best style to suit you and your lifestyle.

The ideal face shape for short hair is oval. If you have a long face this can be softened with a fringe. A square face can look great with extra length in the sides. If you’re nervous, I would recommend trying something a little longer, and then you can progressively shorten it. If the hair is very curly and you don’t want to spend too much time styling however, I would steer clear of a pixie crop.

Regular trims are essential to keep your hair in great condition, so we recommend a cut every six weeks when you have a short style. Many salons also offer a free fringe trim service in-between appointments too.

The most important thing is to ensure, whatever your cut, colour or style, is that you keep your hair looking healthy and shiny. It is all about treating and conditioning your hair in between your salon visits.

There are some great nourishing oils on the market that will maintain the condition of your hair, and a weekly treatment is also essential to maintain strength and moisture.

Try Percy & Reed Hair's Best Friend Super Softening Range to nourish, moisturise and soften your hair. Our Percy & Reed Quite Frankly Flawless Finishing Polish is also great for styling and defining shorter hair.

Is there a ‘perfect’ hair length for my face?

According to expert hair stylist John Frieda – who has trimmed the tresses of everyone from Twiggy in the 60s to Scarlett Johansson, Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidman – yes, there is indeed a perfect length for each of us. Here’s how he works it out…

All you need to determine the best hair length for your face shape, according to the John Frieda guide, is a normal ruler and a pencil.

Called The 2.25-inch Rule, Frieda believes that whether or not short hair suits you is all in the angle of your jawbone, and the distance from your ear to your chin.

After a whopping quarter of a century in the hair business, it's a rule that stylists at John Frieda salons still use today to help clients find the haircut that works best for them.

Here's a simple version of how to do it...

Hold the pencil horizontally under your chin, and the ruler vertically under your ear. If the place where the tools intersect is 2.25 inches or less, then you’ll suit short hair. If not, longer locks will apparently enhance your features and flatter your face shape better.

The experts at John Frieda salons use this technique before chopping any tresses, to help them decide if it's a long bob, a past-the-shoulder length or a super short crop that'll be right for you.

Should I dye my hair red?

Expert colourist Louise Galvin counts Cara Delevingne, Samantha Cameron and Sophie Dahl among her A-list fans. She’s also the daughter of the man who gave Princes Diana her highlights. She knows if you can carry off red…

With such a wide spectrum of reds, from the palest strawberry blush and rich russets to jewel-like Titian, it’s highly likely there’s a tone to suit everyone.

Pale skin tones tend to look best with Titian red - think Nicole Kidman in Days of Thunder - while olive skins suit more blue-based red tones. Anyone with lots of red in their natural skin tone should avoid a ginger hue, as it’ll just serve to emphasise that.

I always recommend highlighting or low lighting rather than single process colour, as it’ll protect hair from damage. The technique also creates subtle warmth and glow in the hair, which is incredibly flattering.

The truly vibrant fashion reds are best suited to shorter styles and will need regular maintenance and trims to keep ends from looking dry and washed out. If you want to achieve high-impact statement reds and do decide to go for an all over colour, remember to ask your colourist for a gloss to use between salon visits, to maintain shine and colour intensity. 

Autumnal shades like copper, hazel, russet and burnt sienna are popular at the moment - there'll be a shade to suit most skin tones and your colourist can help you find the right red for you.

Cool skin tones can take more vibrant red shades that really make a statement, while darker skin tones look great with the burnished coppers. I love using a combination of copper, hazel and chestnut tones to create a beautiful tawny effect on brunettes with light, texture and movement. Cool blondes can add autumnal warmth with soft red hues.

Depending on the shade of red you go for, you may need to alter the colour of your eyebrows. Again your colourist can work with you on this. You don't want your brows to be exactly the same colour as your hair, but will want to keep definition to frame the eyes.

It’s also a good idea to have a make-up lesson at a beauty counter when you change your hair colour dramatically, as different shades might suit better.

Red pigments tend to be the fastest to fade, so it’s important to use an SLS free shampoo like my Sacred Locks formulations, as harsh detergents will strip colour. It’s a good idea to use an intensive treatment mask twice a week too, as it’ll lock in colour, moisture and shine.

Redheads to look to for inspiration are Jessica Chastain, who’s worn every shade of red over the years from strawberry through to a rich auburn, and Bella Thorne, who keeps to a paler palette with pretty soft lights to frame her face.

Can I handle going blonde?

Renowned hair colour expert Josh Wood is one of the industry’s top trend setters. As Wella Professional’s Global Creative Director for colour and with salons around London, there’s nothing he doesn’t know about going blonde…

Big colour changes need the eye of an expert - especially with blonde, when an even slightly-off hue can add years onto your look.

There are no hard and fast rules as to what blonde colour suits who, but a flattering tone for your skin and eye colour are essential. My quick advice is that a cooler blonde works best for warmer skin tones, and a warmer, regenerative shade is best for cooler skin.

There's a blonde in everybody, and with bronde hues being fashionable at the moment that even applies to brunettes. Provided the tone suits the complexion well, I'm all in favour of a good bleach up.

It’s better to build up a blonde tone with highlights, balyage or even painted ends first, before diving deep into blonde. That said, I quite often deal with actresses where a dramatic changes need to happen immediately, so I do love the challenge of a good brunette to blonde transformation!

I’m in favour of a minky blonde this season, rather than sun-kissed. Current trends are moving away from golden tones to a more wheat-beige blonde. It’s a general ‘cooling down’ of blonde, right through to the grey and silver tones we’re seeing.

Blonde needs to always look in premium condition, so a good care regime is super important. A treatment like Colour Saver from Wella once a week is a good idea, plus a deep cleaning yet gentle shampoo, a luxurious conditioner and a spray to protect from heat damage. I've created a blonde glossing mask as part of my Guardian of Colour range with Marks & Spencer, to help keep blonde and highlighted hair looking fresh between salon visits.

Don't be afraid to experiment with blonde – there’s always a fix if you go too light, and we can tone down even the brassiest of blondes.

Can I pull off rainbow hair?

From Jourdan Dunn’s blue streaks to Georgia May Jagger’s multi-coloured strands, bold hair is the look of the moment, and colour technicians at London's Bleach hair salons are at the heart of it. Loren Miles can help you pull off rainbow hair…

It's definitely important to take skin tone and natural hair colour into consideration when going for bright colour. And also what you wear.

People with naturally dark hair tend to suit warmer tones for example, and those with lighter hair tend to look best with cool tones like blue, grey or green. Someone with a very pink skin tone perhaps wouldn't suit a warm pink or red because it’ll highlight this.

That said however, it is possible to make a warm or a cool version of every colour. So if someone is set on pink for example, we can always make it a little peach or slightly lavender to suit.

Warm tones tend to fade out the hair quickly (your pinks, peaches, reds, oranges) whereas the cool tones can stick around for a while. So if you're just flirting with the idea of colouring your hair and want it to be very temporary, it’s best to stick to the warm colours.

There isn't a specific hair type that doesn't suit rainbow shades, but the hair does need to be very light naturally or in a good enough condition to be bleached. We always test the hair, and if for some reason the condition isn't strong enough to take the lifting process (because of damaged ends, colour build ups etc) we advise the client to have a good haircut, use some treatments and then come back.

Once your colour is in, using a protein-based shampoo and conditioner will help to rehydrate and strengthen your hair. The protein puts strength and elasticity back in, which is really important for over-processed and brittle bleached hair.

If your hair becomes dehydrated, try to use products that don't contain alcohol or sodium - these chemicals will dry the hair out more. I'd recommend using a nourishing hair mask like our Reincarnation Mask once a week to deeply condition.

There’s no right or wrong way to go bright; some people come to us for a complete change and they want it to be as extreme with it as possible, while others want to just do the very ends for a subtler look. We're seeing an increase in people coming in for bright yellow hair and the moment - it's great.

Playing with colour is addictive, we see almost everyone return for more.

Can I handle going brunette?

Award-winning colourist Jo Hansford has handled the hair of everyone from Anna Friel and Elizabeth Hurley to the Royal family; she knows how to handle a brunette hair transformation…

If you're planning a drastic change, blonde to brunette for example, head to a wig shop first to give yourself an idea of how such an extreme change will look. If you have very fair features, the look might not work for you.

You’ll need to consider your make-up and fashion choices, as with this kind of transformation your whole look will change. The colourist should advise on a shade that’s right for your skin tone, so be sure to have a consultation.

It is always best to go darker gradually. At my salon we start with a temporary vegetable colour that washes out, before doing anything permanent. Be mindful that it isn’t easy to reverse a light to dark colour change, though highlights and ombre are a great idea if you do feel that the new colour is too dark.

I love tortoiseshell shades for this season and always suggest going two shades warmer for the autumn and winter months. My Jo Hansford Ecaille technique is a great way to try going darker for the first time, as it marries two different depths of light colour with chocolate shadows. For the warmer skin tones we recommend Ecaille Matt with ash tones, to give the look a slightly cooler edge.

When going darker you need to make sure your hair colour doesn’t look too dense and ‘wiggy’.  Adding some lowlights will help to create a more natural look.

Condition and shine are paramount for healthy looking hair colour. You will also need to be wary of colour fade, especially if you are going from blonde to dark. Using the right aftercare products is essential. I’d recommend using a weekly intensive masque treatment such as the Jo Hansford Expert Colour Care Intensive Masque, to really nourish and condition your hair. It’s also essential to have a sharp cut to keep your hair healthy.

If you are going from a lighter colour or highlights to an all over colour, you will need to consider the increase in maintenance too. All over colour requires a touch up every four to six weeks, as opposed to highlights which need attention every 8 to twelve weeks.


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Amy Lewis

Amy Lewis is a freelance writer and editor, a lover of strong tea, equally strong eyebrows, a collector of facial oils and a cat meme enthusiast. She covers everything from beauty and fashion to feminism and travel.