What Nobody Tells You About Going Red

Making the decision to color your hair red is exactly like making the decision to fly to Hawaii for Christmas instead of going home to see family in Iowa. It’s a somewhat scary, unfamiliar concept that feels so out of the norm and you can’t help but wonder what your family and friends will say. But it’s also something you’ve always played with the idea of in the back of your mind. And let’s face it, it looks like it would be an absolute blast.

I’ve helped a lot of women take the jump into coloring their hair every shade of red. And to my knowledge, the only unintended consequence has been an epic amount of fierceness. From brown-reds for those ladies who are nervous of fully committing, to orange-reds for those women who really want to stand out. From Poison Ivy from Batman red for women who know their hair is an accessory to complement their style to violet-reds for women who like to add some cool tones to the mix. But what I’m cautious of every time I help a client make the transition is making sure they understand all there is to know about the process. Red isn’t a simple color and there is a lot to consider when making decisions about whether it’s for you. Before you take the plunge, check out this list of what nobody tells you about going red. Except for your very own HelloGiggles virtual stylist, that is!

Red doesn’t penetrate the hair strand easily. Because the molecules in red pigment are much larger than the molecules in other colors, the first few times you try to go red, the color won’t fully penetrate and stain the hair. In turn, you’ll end up with a lot of fading that can sometimes make the color look more translucent and old. A lot of women assume this has to do with lack of skill on a stylist’s part or faulty color, but that’s not in fact true. This is completely normal and something every unnatural red-head has experienced. To cope, use a red pigmented shampoo in between colors to prevent fading and give more vibrancy. Another great tip if you want to try red without dealing with unattractive fading is to go for more of a brown-red. That way when the red fades out, you’ll be left with a nice, warm brown and not a kind-of-pink-kind-of-red hot mess.

But once it’s colored, it’s there to stay. Because that red color has such large molecules, it’s also a disaster to try and get out of hair. After a few color applications, those molecules are really stuck in place and can only be taken out of the strands slowly and over time. Most women resort to covering it with a very dark brown, trying to grow it out or lifting it out with bleach. But lifting it out with bleach can be quite damaging, growing it out can take up to a few years and covering it with brown won’t necessarily take away the red since it will still be there underneath. I have gone red twice now and I’ve also taken countless clients from red to another color.

I’m convinced that the absolute best way to do this while keeping your mane in tact is to slowly add highlights to the hair. The lifting will take a lot of the red out and also break up any red that will remain. Over time, your tresses will end up lighter, more neutral and most importantly, they will be still be healthy and shiny. After about three highlight sessions, you will have significantly less red and can decide whether you’d like to continue to go medium brown or blonde or whether you’d like to deposit a darker, brown color. But before you decide to make the change in the first place, make sure you are ready to deal with the process of removing that color as well.

There are so many shades to choose from. Sometimes I’ll have a client come in for a color session with four different inspirational photos of four different shades of red. When I start picking apart the differences and really trying to get to the bottom of what my client truly wants to have on her head, she often doesn’t even realize they are all different undertones. Just in deciding on a darker red color, you can choose between a violet-red or a brown-red. And for a medium or light hue, you can go with a bright cherry red, an orange-red or a cherry-cola red with an equal balance of brown and violet-red. We are talking everything from Snooki’s current cherry cola red to Christina Hendricks more natural red. From Nicole Kidman’s orange-red blonde locks to Rhianna’s infamous bright, true red. Do yourself a favor and look over tons of photos before deciding on what you’re drawn to. And when you do head to your hairdresser for the big coloring, bring those photos with you to make sure you can show exactly what you want!

Choose the shades for you based on your skin tone. I’m convinced that anyone can go red as long as they have the right undertone and pigment. To find yours, all you have to do is figure out what your skin tone is. If you have more of a blue or green undertone, that means you are cooler. If you have more of an orange or red undertone, you are warmer. Then just match warm colors with a warm face and cool colors with a cool face. Oftentimes when I meet a woman who says she hates herself in red and I can see photos of her past color, I can tell it was the wrong undertone for her. Such a simple change and she would have absolutely loved it! The right shade for you should bring out the warmth or coolness in your face and make you look glowing and dewy, similar to how a great bronzer can make you look.

If you are having a hard time figuring out what your skin’s undertone is, a great trick is to hold up items of green, blue, red, and orange up to your face and paying attention to which colors seem to dull and which seem to brighten. And if you still can’t tell, defer to your stylist’s expertise. But certainly don’t be afraid to try red if you’ve had a bad experience! All you need is the right undertone that can bring out the best you!

And if you still aren’t sure, consider these additional factors. Just like with any big hair color change, you’ll have to consider your wardrobe. When you decide to go red, you’ll have to factor in each outfit with your crazy, new color! Go bold and dramatic if that’s your style and use your hair as just another accessory to add color. Or if you tend to go more sophisticated with blacks, whites and creams in your wardrobe, your red can be that youthful, fun pop of color that you might be missing. Makeup is another big factor that needs to be considered. I still recommend a great red lip with your new ‘do, but make sure the undertone of the makeup doesn’t oppose the undertone of your color. And be ready to tone down the bulk of your makeup as well.

My favorite thing about going red is that I can get away with a touch of bronzer, a swipe of mascara and a neutral lip while still looking fashionable and put together. If you aren’t looking to make any of these changes and you prefer to stick with a more low maintenance look, red might not be the color for you. But if none of this scares you and you’re up for a big change, make an appointment with your hairdresser and get ready for the most confidence-boosting color you’ve had yet!

Filed Under