Hair colouring: Are you a contraster or a blender?

Don’t worry, I didn’t know what these terms meant until last week either.


Your eye colour is on a similar colour level to your base hair colour. (What your roots are/what your natural colour is.) Creating a blend of similar toned colours is most flattering for you. If you go too stark in contrast, you’re not doing your hair OR your eyes (or skin tone) and favours. Take Jennifer Lopez for example. She is all warm chocolate eyes and so when she blends in chocolate and caramel and toffee tones together in her hair, it is perfection on her. If she were to go bright, cool blonde or dark ashy brown: no good.

Famous Blenders include:



Your eye colour is on quite a different level to your base hair colour, and the best way to accentuate this interest and excitement is with a contrasting hair colour, at least around eye level. If you go for hair colour that is too similar to your eye shade, you can look washed out, or, uh, boring. (THE WORST THING EVER.) This is where people like Kristen Stewart are perched, with piercing light green eyes bought to life with dark, contrasting brunette hair. If she went soft light blonde, it would be too similar a level to her eyes, and do nothing for her.

Famous Contrasters include:

Have a good think about whether you might be a contraster or a blender, as chances are it will provide some impressive clues as to why your hair colour is or isn’t working for you, or if perhaps there is something new you should try. It can be a bit tricky, I should admit. Some people can be both a Blender and a Contraster. And there are nuances within eye colours, for example, like the difference between dark blue eyes and light blue eyes. A dark blue eye (think Drew from Big Brother for those of us danguses who watched it) will look fantastic with a darker brown hair base, (Contraster) while a light blue eye colour (think Cameron Diaz) is much more of a Blender, and is suited to a lighter, blonde base.

I learned all of this as I had my hair colour done last week at Xiang salon in QV, Melbourne. This was my first (finally!) Melbourne colour and cut, but I was several post codes from nervous as my colourist was Dani Solier, who owns the salon with her boyfriend Jamie Furlan (who cut my hair perfectly: all one length to thicken up my super fine hair). Dani heads up the L’Oreal Professional Colour Team so she knows things. She is a top bird and the clever dame who did my hair at the Logies last year. Five stars.

Anyway. I explained to Dani I was enjoying my underlighting, but was feeling like I might like a slightly darker brunette shade around the face. Keep seeing Megan Gale look all amazing with her dark hair and getting jealous. And, was feeling like since the last colour had faded (my laziness being the reason) it was all a bit… meh. Dani gently agreed, and explained that because I am naturally a Contraster (light eyes, dark base colour), when my colour is too similar to my eyes and there is no contrast, I looked washed out.

And godammit, she was right.

Dani decided to use the new range of L’Oréal Professionnel INOA shades (of which Alexa Chung is ambassador… which gives you some idea of what L’Oreal’s motive is… natural, cool-girl hair) to create DEFINITELY NOT OMBRE HAIR despite the product name, (because I explained to Dani that I was very uninterested in two-tone or dip dye hair) but lovely, very-subtle natural reflects and colour graduation around the mid-lengths and ends for excitement and texture. I looked at the images from the campaign to see what I was waltzing into and was pleasantly impressed. This isn’t balayage circa 2010. This is all new shit.


The result: A gorgeous dark, cool, ashy (all VERY important words to use with your colourist if your natural hair is cool-toned and you wish to avoid redness or gold in any way shape or form) ammonia-free gloss up top, then lived-in, subtle highlights seamlessly blended in below. It’s not hugely different to my previous underlighting, but there is definitely way more contrast, and THAT is what I like.

I’m a BIG fan because it does nice things for making my eyes stand out, but still offers lots of (much-needed) texture because of the ribbons of lighter hair below.

I promised Dani that I would not be a naughty shit and let the highlights get all blergh and the gloss get all dull by neglecting to use specialised colour protect shampoo and conditioner, and of course, I would always protect my hair before heat-styling.

She seemed satisfied with that.

Are you a Blender?


No idea?


Responses to this drivel: 35 Comments
Responses to this drivel ( 35 )
  • Sara

    Ah-mazing Zoe! And recommendations for someone in Sydney who could work similar sorcery on me?

  • Mitch & Mia

    Thank you for this – what a great and very informative blog! I now know what color to use on my hair and my friend’s hair.

  • Emma

    The Kitchenaid pic… you are such a goober Zoe! Haha!

  • Katiepie

    This is my fave colour on you yet Zoe! I do think you look great blonde too because you just know how to make it work *applause*. Even though I have brown eyes, I feel like I am a bit if a contraster. I think. I could also be a blender. Ah geez. My base colour is pretty au natural (blender) but have graduated lightness (contraster). If I am too dark I look really pale but if too light I look washed out. I need a little somethin’ somethin’ to keep the balance right. I try and do the same thing with clothes. I LOVE the colour navy right, but it looks quite rubbish on me unless I have something to “lift” it i.e contrasting necklace etc. Sorry off topic but its kind of related… Kinda…
    PS congratulations on the bun in the oven – it will be an awesome journey! x

  • Lara

    This is hard… I have natural red hair (think Nicole Kidman) but dyed blonde (think Nicole Kidman) but my eyes are hazel/green. Am I a Blender or a Contraster?

  • Sarah

    I cant work out which I am! My eyes are a mix of brown, green with goldy flecks. My natural hair colour is mid/dark brown. I’ve been blonde and its work on me but if I go too light brown, it washes me out. Dark chocolate brown also washes me out. I guess I’m more likely a blender but not an easy call.

    • Fruity

      Sound like a blender to me… Those gold flecks might be the giveaway… Perhaps look to someone like Mila Kunis (she goes warm brown shades) for inspo?

  • Alex

    I am definitely a contraster- I naturally have pale green eyes and mousy-brown hair. Exciting stuff. You look amazing, Zoe! Does anyone have any recommendations for an at-home dye in an ashy, dark brown colour (no red!!)? Thanks!!

    • Fruity

      Hmmmm, I’ve tried a lot over my time and they were always warm, never cool/ashy. Start by looking at ‘ dark blonde’ shades (actually what my brunette shade is classed as) and avoid words like warm, chocolate and rich at all costs.

  • Jen

    Hahaha at the Kitchenaid photo!
    What specialist colour products are you using? I’ve got freshly dyed hair too and need a few good recommendations. Thanks!

  • Grace

    No idea! HELP! I have greeny hazel eyes and am naturally a very dark brown. And need some help and inspiration! Please!

    • Fruity

      Dark green? Probably a blender.
      Light green? Probably a contraster.
      Chat to your colourist and ask them what will be most flattering…

  • Hayley

    Any one have any suggestions for a great hairdresser in Brisbane who would be able to achieve this?

  • Sarah

    Hi Zoe, I absolutely love reading about all your info. You’re probably the person I’ve learnt the most from, about beauty as well as writing. You along with other beauty gurus (YouTube, blogs, and the likes of Lauren Conrad) have inspired my beauty blog. I was wondering if you would be interested in checking it out because I would love that! http://Www.patchworkbeauty.wordpress.com – you hair is looking damn good at the moment by the way!!

  • Jo

    Hi Zoe, my hair is ultra, ultra fine but I always thought cutting long layers into it helped it to appear thicker (?)

    • Fruity

      My intel is that the more blunt the cut, the thicker the hair will look and feel. I definitely tend to agree; wispy layers on my hair just look shit.

  • Sarah

    Hi Zoe,
    Great post!
    I guess that makes me a blender then – blue eyes, blonde hair. I want to try some balayage or something similar to the first picture (Blondey) from the L’oreal campaign. Any suggestions for what terms to use with the colourist so I don’t end up with a drastic two tone look? I have a cool skin tone – english rose – and I’d like a contrasting darker blonde from my usual natural blonde.

  • Sophie

    Help! I have green/hazel/but more green eyes. My natural hair colour is a medium/mousey brown… I guess on the lightish side? I’ve had pretty much every hair colour in my life (blonde, red, black etc Etc) but most recently had my hair VERY natural with some light balayage in the ends which felt a bit bleh and then, in the last 3onths, I hanged it to an all over very glossy VERY dark (very-could look black sometimes but it def isn’t) brown, as I went to a fancy ball and wanted contrast with makeup dress, more impact etc. the response has been VERY positive but I don’t know of its washing me out and making my hair look a but flat due the all one colour…. ANYWAY am I a contrastor or blender?? Please help x

  • Anastasia

    I can’t work out which one I am My eyes are green. My natural hair colour is mid brown. Blonde and brown both work for me. I guess I’m more likely to be a contraster not an easy call. Any colour suggestions for the upcoming summer months?

  • tara

    From a distance my natural hair and eyes are basically the same colour or at least a very similar light goldy Brown. Up close my eyes are greenish brownish gold with bits of blue. I guess that makes me a blender? I can’t do light blondes or dark browns anyway since they wash out my already pale skim

  • Unknown

    Frst off Zoe, have been following your writing (blogs, books) since I was in high school. I love your writing style even more than the tips you impart, both have been instructive (your writing helped me figure out my own ‘voice’..which was a tad Dickensian before, the tips made me the go-to beauty friend who has helped loads of ppl by passing them on).. Ah where was I..yes..just wanted to say that your writing now has a real strength to it, you have perfected it, this piece in particular was marveeellllsosusususuduhch! I don’t care much about my hair, too much faff, and yet this post helps clear some things up. (At risk of sounding like an English teacher, I say this, but really, am just an admiring reader). Recently dyed my hair a terrible shade of clownish orange, but thankfully was able to take it down to a tone similar to your own.

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  • HellB

    I used to be a contraster – green eyes and varying shades of brunette/dark red hair for many, many years. Then over a period of three years I’ve gradually lightened up to become a blender with my now golden blonde hair. My colourist keeps it cool with ash-toned foils to stop it becoming brassy and I really like it – I think it’s quite youthful and flattering and definitely hides the greys in my regrowth MUCH easier than dark hair. I think I’m one of the luck ones – contraster or blender seems to work for my skin and eye colouring, but the secret is always a good colourist – someone who can take you where you want to go and make it the most flattering for you on the way.

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  • Lucy

    I have one light green eye and one dark brown eye… I suppose I should accept defeat?

  • Abby

    You looked stunning! That’s true – you need to take into consideration the eye colour and the natural skin tone when choosing a new hue or highlights for your hair. It makes all the difference even with these little details. Also, it makes your facial features stand out like it does with the eyes 🙂

  • Grace

    Zoe, this ashy cool brown is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for. Thanks for a great article! As a natural blonde (now mousey underneath) I was super blonde in high school then switched to the dark side, having faked the dark super-contrast look since starting uni. Some people love it (when it’s in its va va voom mood) but most of the time style wise I’m more of an au naturale girl – little to no makeup type girl – and so the lack of polish seems to not do the contrast look justice. Currently fading out my light brown dye alongside growing out a choppy bob (not a pretty combo) and am in the do-I-go-dirty-blonde-or-ashy-brown dilemma phase. Think the blender/contraster idea is genius, although I do think your lifestyle and personal style (maintenance, polish etc) all do make an impact on how a look can carry.

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  • tracy

    I have green/hazel eyes and love violet, warm chocolate haircolours. Contraster? Reds don’t really do it for me..makes me look brassy.
    Great advice.

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