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“Blonde, Please”

By award-winning colorist and educator, Sherry Ratay

“I’ve heard some version of that line hundreds of times over the years; but I never just pick up the foils and proceed as requested,” says Sherry Ratay. The reason? “There are a multitude of different blonde looks on the hair scene, and not every one is suited to the client sitting in front of you.”

And that’s why this superstar colorist always begins with a really good, “investigative” consultation, taking note — from the moment she meets her client — of everything from handshake and body posture to voice and personal style. Then, Sherry continues with questions once the client is in the chair: What do you like about your current hair color? What do you NOT like about it? “When I know what stays and what goes, we proceed further,” she explains. What kind of commitment to color are you willing to make? A visit every 2 -3 weeks? Every 4 -5 weeks? 6 – 8? 12 -14? These answers guide her to a blonde that meets all the criteria — anything from double process; going only 1 – 2 levels lighter than the natural shade; highlighted dimensional blonde; Balayage with babylights; or even platinum.

Why is this elaborate consultation so critical? Because each of these applications requires completely different time obligations at the salon…”There’s no point in giving someone icy platinum hair if she’s dead-set against dealing with roots for 8 weeks.” From there, it’s on to an examination of the existing natural hair color, skin tone, eye color, and — most importantly — personality. “Once you nail down the granular details, you’ll find that you’re pointed directly to the perfect shade, depth, tone, and technique for your client,” assures Sherry.

Here, four popular blonde categories — and the benchmarks Sherry uses to assess who gets what…


  • Olive skin tone, ranging from dark to light
  • A cool to neutral undertone
  • Possibly a very light blue cast to the eyes (the result of increased eumelanin — the cells that also determine the natural darkness of your hair)



  • Warm skin tone
  • Orange, yellow, and peach cast — especially noticeable in freckles
  • Eye color ranging from green to deep golden-brown (green eyes may have an amber shade encircling the pupil, a pigment known as pheomelanin)



  • Both warm and cool skin tones can pull off this pinkish-cast blonde, because it comes in a wide variety of shades
  • Best rule of thumb: The warmer the skin tone, the more gold in your formula; the cooler the skin tone, the more rose you add.



  • The only blonde for which it’s acceptable to throw out the rules. This icy, fashion-forward shade works on the right person, but it’s a subjective call. Consider your client’s personality, her makeup, hairstyle, wardrobe, and general sense of style.
  • Make sure they commit to seeing you at the salon every 2 to 3 weeks for touchups.