Red hair is having a serious moment right now. The hair-color trend really took off at the start of 2021 and hasn't slowed down since. Over the last year or so, we've seen countless celebrities try variations of the color. Sophie Turner went orange-red, Zendaya went auburn, Gigi Hadid went copper, Ciara went cherry cedar wood, and SZA went fire-engine red, to name a few.
"Red hair is that color everybody wants to try," celebrity hairstylist Kiyah Wright tells POPSUGAR. (This is, of course, if you're not a natural redhead.) "They've done the browns, they've dabbled into highlights, and they're like, 'Oh, I want to try something different.'"
It's hard to say what is contributing to the hair-color success - maybe it's in part because of Zoom fatigue or that we're still not over that year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when hair salons shut down - but everyone wants in on the "daredevil color," as Wright likes to call it.
But before you grab a box of bright-red hair dye or book an appointment with your stylist, there are a few things you should know about dyeing your hair red. Keep scrolling to learn what the process is like, how to find the best shade of red for your skin tone, and tips for maintaining your red hair color after you leave the salon.
Tips For Dyeing Your Hair Red
There are two ways to go about going red: see a professional, or DIY. If you go the boxed-hair-dye route, you'll only be able to achieve all-over color; if you go to a professional hair colorist (which would be our recommendation), they'll be able to customize the look to your liking.
At the salon, the process will always start with a consultation and potentially a patch test. "Depending on your hair history, natural level, and desired tone, the in-salon process can look a little different for everyone," Justin Toves-Vincillone, professional hairstylist and Authentic Beauty Concept partner, says.
Virgin hair has the most options available. "You can choose a single-process, permanent color that will deliver a natural red tone or go vibrant with a double-process red with a highly pigmented finish," Toves-Vincillone says. Virgin hair can also choose from a larger variety of shades of red.
Hair that's already dyed blond or another light shade will require a slightly different approach. "You can ask your stylist to use a demipermanent gloss for a high-shine, natural red tone; a semipermanent overlay of high-impact red; or you can start building in a rich red with gradual, permanent hair-color applications," he says.
Lastly, if you have dark, color-treated hair, the process for going red is a bit more involved. "You are more than likely looking at a color-correction situation," he says. "This is because dark, permanent hair color, especially boxed color, is removed with less predictability than virgin hair." But that doesn't mean all hope is lost - a professional stylist should be able to help you achieve your desired look.
Do You Need to Bleach Your Hair Before Dyeing It Red?
Whether or not your hair needs to be bleached before dyeing it red depends on your existing color. "In some cases, bleaching your hair before coloring it red can help showcase the true vibrancy of the red tone," Toves-Vincillone says. "It is not necessary to bleach your hair before red hair color unless you have dark, artificially colored hair to begin with."
How to Find the Best Red Hair Color For Your Skin Tone
The secret to pulling off red hair is picking the right shade. "It really does depend on your skin tone," Wright says. For fair skin, "coppers really work well," as does vibrant strawberry blond - just look at Gigi Hadid, Nicole Kidman, and Barbie Ferreira. If you have darker skin, Wright recommends bright cherry reds, coppers, violets, and ruby tones (picture Ciara and Rihanna).
Consider looking at your skin's undertone (which can be warm, cool, or neutral), and look for complementary tones on the color wheel.
How to Maintain Your Red Hair Color at Home
For many people, the most daunting part of going red is the care it requires in the weeks and months after leaving the salon. "The one thing about redheads is you definitely always worry about maintenance," Wright says. Toves-Vincillone adds, "To be honest, red tones do not stick around for a very long time, but there are things you can do to keep your color vibrant and true to tone for longer."
One way to slow down the fading process and keep your color looking as good as it did the day you dyed it is to change up the way you shower. "Wash you hair less frequently, and only use cool water," Toves-Vincillone says. "As cool as you can handle, as warm and hot water can almost literally erase pigments from your color-treated hair."
Using products specially formulated for color-treated hair also helps keep your ends hydrated and healthy. Wright loves the OGX ColorGlam Ultra Hydrating Hugs Shampoo ($7) and Kisses Conditioner ($7) for this. "We want something that's going to maintain the vibrance [and] keep the hair hydrated."
Another tip: take care when using hot tools to style your hair. "Keep heat-styling temperatures to a minimum, and always use a heat protectant, such as the Authentic Beauty Concept Blow Dry Primer ($25)," Toves-Vincillone says.
You can also use a tinted hair gloss or pigmented conditioner to revive color, like the DpHue Color Boosting Gloss + Deep Conditioning Treatment ($35). "You can use these as needed and be mindful [that] the more often you apply, the deeper the tone can get."
How to Remove Red Hair Color When You're Ready For a Change
To give it to you straight: "Removing red tones can be a challenge, so make sure you're ready to commit to the color red before actually coloring your hair," Toves-Vincillone says. When you're finished the with look, a colorist at the salon will be able to do a color-correction service to remove any lingering pigment on your hair. "This usually includes multiple decolorizing washes and color-balancing toners." However, the good news is if you grow tired of your current red hue and want to try another one, it's fairly easy to do so.
Now that we've covered all of the most frequently asked questions, keep scrolling for red hair-color inspiration.