Until April, when I dyed my hair red, I’d never given too much thought to my hair. It was brown, sometimes straight, sometimes wavy, always a little unruly, and never, ever dyed.
For years I’d told those cutting my hair to do what they thought would look good. This served me well, mostly — except for the time I agreed to a buzzed undercut to thin my overly voluminous hair and a cut way shorter than I’d intended. But, even then, I reassured myself with the knowledge that it would just grow back eventually.
I’d thought about “going ginger” in my head for at least two years. I had a single photo saved on my phone that I’d occasionally show friends: “Do you think I could pull off going ginge?” As I thought about it more, however, I realized the idea had probably first taken root in 1998 — when two spunky Lindsay Lohans get their parents back together in The Parent Trap. What power in being a redhead.
Before I took the plunge, I asked my boyfriend and my parents their opinions, and all three objected. But deep down, my mind was already made. My pale skin and blue eyes seemed like a good match.
And then, the opportunity came to have it done by Aura Friedman of Sally Hershberger Salon (definitely New York City’s coolest colorist, who is responsible for far more adventurous hues on Soo Joo Park, Lady Gaga, and Sky Ferreira, to name a few). So off I went to the salon with a case of impostor syndrome. I had no idea what I was doing and did not feel at all cool enough to belong in the minimalist, sleek space. But just a few minutes in Friedman’s presence had me confident I was making a decision that made me cool enough to be there. She was sure it would look good, planned to go a little darker than that cherished photo I’d presented, and educated me on how to take care of my new hue. “I always look at skin tone and eye color first to help me determine the best shade of red for you. If you have a golden skin tone, for example, copper and apricot-y tones have a nice lightness and dimension to complement that,” Friedman says.
The full process took four hours, much longer than I’d expected. The color, as experienced hair dyers already know, is quickly painted on. B3 Brazilian Bond Builder (a brand for which Friedman is a spokeswoman) was added to the color formula, a technology that helps seal the cuticle, protects hair from damage during the coloring process, and extends color retention by up to two weeks. Next came the gloss … and then, finally, the blowout — the first time you really see your new look.
Luckily, I loved it without hesitation.
Later, I picked up a forest green tank top. When I put it on, I felt like Poison Ivy. I was sold. Precisely because I’d never cared much about my hair, the thought of it feeling in any way “special” was invigorating.
Considering going red? Here’s what you should know in advance.
Have a conversation with your colorist to work through what will best flatter you and how to make sure you get the outcome you’re hoping for — because nobody likes surprises on their head. Friedman recommends bringing in specific references. “Try to find photos of celebrities or models who have similar skin tones to you and see what looks best on them. Trying on wigs is a fun way as well,” she says.
Once you’ve decided to go red, there are a few things you should know. Hair color requires maintenance. You should expect to visit your colorist, if you’re going red, every four to six weeks. “The red molecule is the largest, so it can be the most difficult to maintain and keep vibrant,” Friedman says. Also, keep in mind that you might not nail your desired color on the first try: “Depending on the porosity of your hair, it might take a few attempts to achieve your desired color,” she adds. And perhaps even more important than the additional salon time: Your makeup is going to change — but more on that later.
OK, so now you’re a redhead!
Friedman advises that you wait as long as you can before washing your hair for the first time after coloring it. “You need to allow the cuticle to close and stay closed. As soon as you shampoo, the warm water swells the cuticle, and shampoo plus scrubbing roughs it up, which makes you lose the red dye molecules,” she says
Your shower ritual will change a bit too — before the end of your shower, Friedman recommends that you rinse your hair with the coldest water you can handle. This seals and closes the cuticle. Hot water, on the other hand, opens it, Friedman explains, “which causes color molecules to release.” Exactly what you don’t want.
Because I have been loyal to drugstore two-in-one shampoo and conditioner, all of this was a departure from my very low-maintenance hair routine. Thankfully, the products I’ve used since going red are really good and fun to use.
Before even washing my hair, Friedman recommends using Nexxus Color Assure Pre-Wash Primer.This hair primer prevents brassy, dull color. It helps to seal in color while repelling water at the same time, so you can avoid that overdue-for-a-trip-to-the-salon look even longer.
Again, Friedman recommends keeping shampooing to a minimum. But her pick for a deep cleanse is B3 Brazilian Bond Builder Color Care Shampoo. If (like me) that’s tough due to grease-prone hair, try a cleansing cream to extend the time between full shampoos.
Here’s how to hack that step: Friedman suggests that you “add a cap of apple cider vinegar to one gallon of cool water and rinse your hair with it. The acid forces the cuticle to close.” If you’re lazy, like me, reach for a product of the moment — DP Hue Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse, a shampoo and conditioner substitute that utilizes the ancient, purifying ingredient and nourishes hair with the addition of ingredients like aloe vera and argan oil.
After shampooing, take the salon secret of glossing home with you. I assume you could do this at the salon too, but in the four months since I’ve gone red, Rita Hazan Ultimate Shine Gloss: Red has worked wonders for me. It’s an orange-hued frothy foam (it smells amazing too) that revives color and shine in under a minute between shampoo and conditioner.
In my longer, more luxuriating showers, I massage my scalp with Davines Alchemic Conditioner Copper, a color-depositing conditioner you can leave on and allow to saturate your hair for up to 20 minutes, reviving and reupping the red factor. On lazier days, I reached for Shu Uemura Color Lustre Brilliant Glaze Conditioner, which I distribute from the middle to the ends of my hair, and it leaves my strands shiny and my color intact.
With colored hair, it’s also important to be careful with the heat tools. Friedman says that an added step of protection before using such tools is “crucial for longevity if you’re going red.” Her pick? Use Nexxus Color Assure Glossing Tonic before applying heat to the hair to protect from loss of color.
Finally, you’ll need a great hair mask. The B3 Brazilian Bond Builder Instant Restore and Protect Reconstructor can be used once a week after shampooing, in place of conditioner to provide major strength and hydration to the hair,
Finally, the makeup.
The one other crucial thing to consider before making a major hair change is the fact that your makeup will need to change too. I knew how to do my makeup for my pale skin, dark hair, and brown eyes. But with my bolder hair color, I had to totally reassess.
I turned to a true pro, Sonia Kashuk, makeup artist and founder of Sonia Kashuk Beauty, for some tips on how to best complement my new hair color.
Related: The Guide to Makeup for Redheads
Tip #1: Lips: For a look focused on lips, Kashuk says, “Bright pink lips and cheeks look gorgeous on redheads.” For a fresh pop of color, let the bright lip be the main focal point with a color like Satin Luxe Lip Colour SPF 16 in Parisian Pink.
Tip #2: Eyes: “Earthy neutrals and green are the way to go for the eyes,” she says. To achieve “that incredible contrast,” Kashuk suggests her line’s Eye Shadow Quad in Mother Nature and Longwear Eye Definer in Green. Pair this with a soft pink lip, like her Shine Luxe Sheer Lip Color in Sheer Pink Lust — neither too nude nor too bright, which, according to Kashuk, keeps the face in perfect balance.
Tip #3: Skin: “Another beautiful color combination to try is a warm bronze face,” says Kashuk. She recommends a subtly shimmery bronzer, like the Chic Luminosity Bronzer, to give the skin a natural glow and recommends coupling that with a coral-y pink blush like Crème Blush in Rosey. Keep the eyes neutral with the Eye Shadow Quad in Bronzed Beauty, “the play on the warm golden colors on the eye and face will look amazing,” Kashuk notes. Finish the look with a soft pink lip like SK Velvety Matte Lip Crayon in Pinky Nude, with some Ultra Luxe Lipgloss in Fairest Flush in the center of lips to add dimension.
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