By Jennifer Mason
May 13, 2015 @ 2:00 pm
Alex Reside for (2)

My natural hair color is a light, mousy brown. To add contrast, I began highlighting it in my teens, and by my mid-twenties (around the time I started going gray) I had so many highlights that I was essentially a blonde. Every colorist I worked with assured me that the hue was right for me because it looked natural, it blended in well as my roots grew in, and the upkeep was low-maintenance. That’s all well and good, but there was one problem: I was seriously bored with my hair color. Each day, on my commute to and from the InStyle office, I looked at the other train passengers and noticed that every other woman’s hair looked a lot like mine. I decided I was ready for a transformation and spoke to Gregorio Ruggeri, of New York’s Ruggeri Salon, about going brunette. He was enthusiastic about the idea—and we set out to choose a color that complemented my complexion.

If you’re thinking of making the leap, consider these tips Ruggeri gave me to make sure you’re ready to hit the bottle, too.

RELATED: Find the Best Hair Color for Your Skin Tone

Scour the Internet
First, I searched for images of dark hair colors that I liked, and then narrowed the photos down to women with light eyes and light skin with olive undertones, just like me. I showed the pictures I’d found to Ruggeri, and we settled on the hair color of financial TV journalist Maria Bartiromo, circa 2006.

Experiment with Swatches
I was worried that I might look pasty or like I was wearing a brown wig. Gregorio brought out a selection of brown hair swatches and placed each one next to my face until we pinpointed a hue that brightened my complexion.

Go the Semi-Permanent Route
Ruggeri recommended that we test out the look by first using a semi-permanent color rather than permanent dye. That way, if I hated the way I looked with dark brown hair, it wouldn’t be as challenging to revert to blonde.

An hour and a half later, I was a multi-toned brunette. I love the color, and almost immediately, people began to compliment me on my blue eyes. A few even told me I looked younger. Next time I’ll definitely opt for the permanent formula.

PHOTOS: Try On Brunette Celebrity Hairstyles with Our Virtual Makeover Tool