New year, new you, and…new do? Why not, right? Red hair has been a staple of alternative styles for decades. Hop on Pinterest and you’ll see everyone from punks to goths to e-girls sporting red locks dyed at home with Manic Panic hair dye or, in rarer cases, Artic Fox. While Vivid Magenta may be Pantone’s Color of the Year, good old red’s vibrance not only makes it eye-catching but a great color to start off with if you’re new to dyeing your hair.
We’ve reached out to hair experts to hear their best tips on what steps to take to dye your hair red, how to keep it looking fresh, and what your best hair do options are after you’re done with red hair. We’ve got the past, present, and future covered, see?
Why Red Hair Is the Best First Bright Color to Dye With
So you want to get red hair? Question is, which red do you want to get? Like with every other color, there are multiple shades and undertones of red, each one wildly different from the other. You’ve got your blue-based reds and your orange-based reds. If you have a cool undertone, you’ll want the blue-based reds, but if you have a warm undertone, you’ll want the orange-based reds. Whether a shade of red suits you or not can drastically change how your new red hair do is going to look on you.
Don’t believe us? Just check out this color pick of the same shades of red but with different base colors.
Beyond simply finding your undertone, you might want to try discovering your seasonal color. If you’ve been on TikTok anytime during the past few months, you may have noticed people talking about their colors with terms like “True Winter” or “Bright Summer”. Those are color seasons and they work by accounting for what kind of light, undertones, and overtones suit your complexion best.
With all that in mind, you can probably choose a shade of red that suits you, but if you’re still not sure, don’t be afraid to ask your stylist what would work best for you. Expert opinion and all that.
What to Expect if You’re Getting Your Hair Dyed Red
Alice Rawling, a hairstylist and chief editor at Hairdo Hairstyle, says you might not get exactly what you want, but you will get what works best for you.
“Before you can dye your hair red you’ll need to determine the shade and tone of your hair in order to know how the red will blend with your hair,” She explained to us. Only after that will the dyeing process begin, “The process of red dye application starts from the roots upwards. It is undertaken in this manner since the hair is divided into sections that need different kinds of attention. The roots are close to the scalp hence sweat and body heat are factors to consider.”
There’s also the matter of how much you want your red to show. For some, it’s the redder the better, but the redder you want it seen, the longer you’ll have to wait for your hair to be bleached.
“Depending on how dark your hair color is, your stylist might have to use a color remover,” Says Ghanima Abdullah, a cosmetologist at The Right Hairstyles, “If your hair is dark and you need to bleach it first, it will be more damaging than using permanent dye or color remover.”
Of course, if you’ve dyed your own hair before to experiment with it, you likely already know that and can safely get away with dyeing your hair at home. Otherwise? You might want to go to a stylist and let a professional handle things. A botched bleach job can leave you with melted hair…or no hair at all.
On the upside, red is one of the easiest colors to dye your hair to and often requires less bleaching than turning your hair pastel purple for example.
If you’re doing your red hair at home, Viktor Holas and the hair specialists at Wise Barber have good news, “I would say that dying your hair red can be challenging, but not impossible. To achieve a successful red color, use a high-quality red hair dye, pre-lighten the hair, and use color-safe products. Follow the instructions on the hair dye package.”
Like, to the letter. No cutting corners or skipping steps.
Maintaining Your Vivid Red
Pick a Dye-Friendly Shampoo
Not all shampoos are made equal. Even if you already have one of those “good” shampoos that come with keratin, it may not cut it for red hair. This is because most regular shampoos contain Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS) which makes it bubble but also strips your hair of its natural oils and unnatural dye. The effect isn’t as drastic if you use a non-SLS shampoo, but to get the best results, you’re going to want a dye-friendly shampoo.
“Red fades quicker than other hair colors, whether you use semipermanent or permanent dye. So it’s a good idea to use red color depositing shampoos and conditioners.” Abdullah told us, “You can buy these premade in red, or you can add a bit of semipermanent dye to your shampoo and conditioner. They will deposit a bit of red each time you wash so that your color doesn’t fade so easily.”
Note that she says “easily” rather than saying it won’t fade your hair at all.
Wash Your Hair Less
Sound icky? Your hair will adjust (seriously, check out the “no shampoo method“). The oils and grease in your hair actually protect it from damage and keep it moisturized. Stripping it on a regular basis dries your hair out and can cause your hair to overreact just to counter the stripping. Besides, all that shampoo is going to strip the color from your hair too. The secret to preventing that is to just wash it less.
No Hot Water
We’ve got bad news for our hot shower-loving folks. As relaxing as that warm water might be for you, your hair does not share the same feelings.
“Avoid the heat,” Holas advised, “This will help keep the hair healthy and vibrant.”
This follows more or less the same logic as not drying your hair with a hairdryer every day. Heat damages hair no matter what form it takes. After being bleached and colored, your hair is extra vulnerable and leaking dye. Heat is extra stress on your poor locks.
Changing Your Red Head
After a month or two, even the most well-maintained red hair is going to start fading so you’ll have to reapply dye to your red hair or change to a new color. The overwhelming recommendation from the experts we’ve reached out to is to dye your hair brown. There are a lot of nice shades of brown that will play nicely with the reddish base left behind by red hair dye.
If brown is too boring, Holas recommends choosing colors similar to red in tone and are darker than the red you started with. According to him, this will allow you to dye your hair while letting it recuperate since you don’t have to do a lot of lightening treatments just to get the color to stick.
I had the hots for my now-husband, the moment I saw his ginger hair. Although I must say that I had long thought red heads were the cutest people on earth. But much later, I heard that some communities thought red hair was the sign of a devil! Unbelievable.
Thank for the link to my post,