Yes, You Can Have Red Hair

BY: Kelly MacDowell |Apr 10, 2015

Ever since she waltzed into the colorful, picture-perfect world of Mad Men, Christina Hendricks has inspired the type of hair envy not seen since Jean Harlow poured actual bleach on her head to create her signature platinum mane. And while we can't all be Christina Hendricks (sigh), Circle Salon colorist Terra Therapos says that we can all rock red hair. It's just an issue of choosing the right shade. "The level of lightness to darkness can vary, but I believe that anyone can wear red or a color that has red in it," Terra explains.

But when shades of red hair range from strawberry blonde to deep burgundy, how do you know which one is right for you? It's (fairly) simple. Here are three factors to keep in mind when going red, as well as what you can expect for maintaining your new color.

Things to Consider When Trying Red Hair

1. Your natural hair color

This is important for both aesthetic and scientific reasons. "Stay close to your hair's natural level and work with the tones that naturally exist at that level," Terra says. Blondes should consider light copper or strawberry blonde; brunettes can play with mahogany and other red-browns.

This will naturally complement your features, but more importantly, it won't upset the laws of science. As Terra explains it, red is the smallest molecule in the color spectrum. So if, for example, you're a blonde, you would need a lot of synthetic color to achieve a deep, dark red hair color. Yet your hair already contains plenty of blonde pigment, which means there simply isn't room for it all. "No matter what your colorist does, the hair will always fade back to a lighter shade," she says.

2. Your undertone

Honoring your skin's natural tone is the best way to ensure your red locks will look sultry, not scary. "Try not to oppose your skin tone with your hair color because you can look washed out," Terra advises. (Figure out your undertone here.)

For those with yellow undertones, Terra recommends a red "that has warmth in it, like a golden copper, auburn, or brown red." She cites Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, and Debra Messing as examples. If you have pink undertones, you should aim for something cooler. Think Nicole Kidman's strawberry blonde or the ruby red sported by Karen Elson and Florence Welch. If your hair is naturally darker, mahogany can be beautiful as well.

Neutral undertones work with most any color. Think about it—Jessica Chastain, Amy Adams, and Emma Stone all have neutral skin tones but have all pulled off very different shades of red. If this is you, use your natural hair color and eye color (more on that in a second) as your guides instead.

3. Your eye color

Although it's a less important factor to consider, the right shade of red can really play up your eyes. Let's circle back to Christina Hendricks. Because orange and blue are complementary colors, her hair and eyes make for a striking match.

By that same token, green's complementary color is red. So good news, green-eyed girls: your peepers will pop against most any red tones. Brown eyes, like brown hair, will warm to warmer hues, like golden copper or auburn.

How to Maintain Your Red

Remember what Terra said earlier about red being the smallest color molecule? That means it takes less time for those molecules to fade away. "Red hair tends to have the most noticeable fading of all hair colors," Terra explains. "Expect to visit the salon more often to keep it looking its best." For more vibrant shades, she estimated touchups every four to six weeks.

To combat color fade as much as possible, it's important to:

  • Use products with UVA and UVB protection on sunny days.
  • Shop for moisturizing shampoos and conditioners that are loaded with antioxidants.
  • Try pigmented shampoos and conditioners, like the red or copper versions from Davines, which will actually add color to your hair with every wash. (Some people have had success extending their red hair color by mixing a bit of red Manic Panic dye into conditioner and leaving the colored conditioner on their hair for about a half hour.)

One of the best things you can do, though, is stop washing your hair every day. That's because those small red color molecules are easily removed by water, and shampoo only hastens their removal. Luckily, these cute, quick hairstyles can help get you through your oilier days.

Oh, and one last thing—if you're gonna go red, really embrace it. "I do believe that there is a red for everyone," Terra says. "But it definitely takes the right personality and vote of confidence to wear it well."

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