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Let’s talk about hair color. Yes, your natural hue has its advantages, complementing your skin tone and eye color without much effort (or investment). But some added highlights, lowlights, or even a full-on pigment pivot can instantly elevate your beauty game from standard-issue to striking — which is where the best colorists in New York and L.A. come in.
It’s true that a great hair color can both enhance your complexion and elevate your overall beauty aesthetic, but it’s not alway so easy to find someone who understands exactly what you want and/or need. A golden bronde or caramel ribbon brunette can vary greatly from salon to salon if you’re not careful.
So, who to trust with your hair?
Luckily, a growing guard of highly specialized colorists are decorating NYC and L.A. in a rainbow of eye-catching shades, helping their loyal clientele achieve gorgeous dimension and tone that elevates hair from a feature to the feature. Whether you’re a fan of pastel pinks or beige blondes, midlights to ombré, mane options abound, and when executed with care, the choice can take your entire aesthetic to the next level. Below, a selection of sought-after stylists (each known for signature approach to color) from coast to coast —and their impressive client lists.
Jenna Perry: Hot Girl Hair
“My aesthetic has inspired my celebrity and beauty/fashion industry clientele to note my (and Jenna Perry Hair Studio’s) results as ‘Hot Girl Hair,’” says Jenna Perry, whose client list includes Bella Hadid, Jennifer Fisher, Emily Ratajkowski, Chloë Sevigny, Maude Apatow, and many more. Perry is sought after for her custom balayage, with results that are thoughtful, effortless, and natural-looking.
Colleen Flaherty: Dimensional Color
Though she specializes in all types of color, Colleen Flaherty favors organic-seeming hues. “I get the most excited about natural, dimensional color,” says Flaherty, who works out of Spoke & Weal. “Something that complements someone’s skin tone and eye color and looks like it could have grown out of their head,” she says. On the flip side, Flaherty enjoys taking people red, and fashion colors like purple, blue, green, and more. “It keeps my job interesting and fun.”
Emaly Baum: A Good Grow-Out
“I like to think of myself as a well-rounded colorist, helping each client get the color of their dreams by leaning into their natural tones. That being said I have gained quite a following of blondes,” says Emaly Baum, owner of Beauty Supply, a low-key boutique salon on Centre Street in SoHo. To give her clients longevity between appointments, Baum focuses on a good grow-out, and has found fans in Scarlett Johansson, Chloe Fineman, Alison Roman, Frida Aasen, and Rachel Antonoff.
Phoebe Nathan: Creative Color
“My favorite creative color to do is pink,” says Phoebe Nathan, a colorist at the East Village’s Blackstones salon. “It’s totally customizable to look beautiful on every skin tone, and is only as much commitment as you want or need it to be.” Nathan — whose clients include Misshapes DJ Leigh Lezark and musician Cautious Clay — also specializes in rich brunettes and soft, low-maintenance balayage.
Rachel Bodt: Effortlessly Sexy
Celebrity hairstylist Rachel Bodt is all about color that makes an impact, which is likely why her client list is so extensive: Frank Ocean, Kate Hudson, Georgia May Jagger, Pom Klementiff, Tilda Swinton, Paulina Porizkov, and Beyoncé have all turned to Bodt. “My specialty is effortless sexy hair that makes women feel sexy and empowered,” says Bodt. “I love looking at women and their hair and making their color bring out their best features.”
Illeisha Lussiano: Texture is Everything
At The Way on Madison Street, Illeisha Lussiano expresses her artistically based background through the medium of hair, serving clients like Jessica Gonsalves, Brittany Luse, Shaniqwa Jarvis, Brooke Devard, and Antonia Hylton. “My specialty is interpreting color to seamlessly complement every complexion and enhance each texture,” says Lussiano, who believes the next big trend is bound to be reinvention. “The process of hair coloring has changed tremendously, so now it’s just about people being open to taking new risks.”
Malcolm Cuthbert: Natural-Looking Color
Native New Yorker Malcolm Cuthbert has been assisting hairdressers at New York Fashion Week since he was 16 years old, eventually traveling to Paris Fashion Week to work with the likes of Guido Palau and Sam McKnight. Cuthbert — who counts FKA Twigs among his clientele— creates natural-looking color that grows out seamlessly and makes taking some time between salon appointments a welcome part of the process.
Marie Robinson: A-Lister Fave
Owner of the eponymous Marie Robinson Salon, with locations in NYC’s Flatiron and in Miami, Marie Robinson has made her name as a colorist for editorial, advertising campaigns, feature films, and an A-list roster of faithfuls that includes Emma Stone, Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Scarlett Johansson, and more. Robinson’s craft centers on creating color that doesn’t look too “done,” instead focusing on what works best for each individual’s features. And with a client list like hers, it’s obvious she’s at the top of her game.
Tracey Cunningham: Ombré Bronde
One of Hollywood’s favorites, stars like Lily Aldridge and Jennifer Lopez rely on Tracey Cunningham for her blend of bronde and ombré. “Hair is almost always darker at the roots and lighter at the ends, so this trend is the perfect choice for many clients who are looking for low-maintenance color,” says Cunningham, who notes that maintaining hair health is crucial to achieving the best results in the salon. “Multi-dimensional colors and ombré provide a very natural look and can be tailored with warm blonde to red tones depending on the client’s hair color and skin tone.”
Aura Friedman: Detail-Oriented
A longtime colorist at the New York institution Sallly Hershberger and in Los Angeles, Aura Friedman views hair color as part of a much larger picture that includes personal style and physical features. By paying attention to the details, Friedman is able to create a cohesive color story that feels organic, cool, and striking, as evidenced by clients like Jennifer Lawrence and Lady Gaga.
Christopher Pierce : Expert Eye
From his chair at West Hollywood’s Andy LeCompte Salon, Christopher Pierce has developed a reputation for his impeccable eye for color — from rich brunettes to pale blondes to emergency color-corrections, and everything in between. Aside from focusing on skin tone and eye color when choosing the perfect shade (particularly for those going red), Pierce maintains that at-home care and maintenance are crucial for maximum impact.
Lorri Goddard: Tried-and-True Techniques
Chloë Moretz, Reese Witherspoon, Gloria Steinem, Emmy Rossum, and Lily Rose Depp go to Lorri Goddard for her super-specialized styling. “Hair is my canvas, achieving entwined reflective texture is my passion,” says Goddard, who has spent her career perfecting her techniques. These include Foilayage, a combination of hand-painted balayage highlights and foiled out pieces for depth, and The Smudge, brush-painted color at the scalp to subtly shift base and blend out tonalities.
Matt Rez: More Midlights
As a celebrity stylist in Beverly Hills, Matt Rez focuses on midlights and multi-dimensional color for the likes of Hailey Bieber, Kaia Gerber, Angelina Jolie, Margot Robbie, and Adele. Previously at Meche salon, Matt now shares a private studio space with partner and celebrity hairstylist Adam Campbell. And though he’s a master of his craft, Rez makes it a point to attend continuous color education courses to keep his skills on point.