Amy Lawrenson (a natural red head) investigates why this hair colour is so popular right now, whether it will last and most importantly how to get the look right.
Caring for your Colour
‘Red hair colours do have a tendency to fade quicker than others’ says Nick Malenko, so you really need to take care of it. ‘Red hues always fade faster because of the chemical makeup of the colour pigment, the red pigment is slightly smaller than a normal pigment therefore fades quicker’ explains Christel Lundqvist at HOB Salons. Whichever stylist you ask they will recommend a shampoo and conditioner specially formulated for coloured hair. ‘The best way to keep colour bright and vibrant is to use all product that are geared toward coloured hair. Look for words like colour preserving, colour safe, sulfate free’ explains Ursula Stephen, Rihanna’s hairstylist.
L’Oreal Professional, Kerastase and Redken all have great ranges and it’s worth spending a little more on your shampoo and conditioner as red can fade so quickly. ‘With superior quality ingredients in each and every product and substantial money allocated to research and development professional hair care sets a definite standard in hair retail and allows you to trust the product as you should’ says Christel.
Schwarzkopf has just launched a new, more natural range specifically for coloured hair. The Essensity Care Collection (schwarzkopf.co.uk) is really gentle which means the products won’t strip the colour from your hair and in turn should fade more slowly, plus the in salon colours, of which there are six red shades, are ammonia-free (but are still effective enough to cover greys) so you can go a vibrant red even if you’re sensitive to traditional colour formulations. It’s also worth noting you need to protect your hair from the environment – UV and pollution can dull and fade the hair faster – Frederic Fekkai’s Technician Colour Care range works well.
When it comes to heat styling, Jo Hansford recommends you ‘minimise damage from heat styling and blow drying wherever possible’. Use a heat protector every time you style and make sure to use an intensive treatment on the hair every week.
Eventually the colour will fade, but there are a couple of tricks to really boost the colour in between sessions. Visit your salon for a glossing treatment. Cheaper than an all-over semi or permanent colour it will add a hint of colour and lots of shine to your hairstyle. Alternatively, head to Hersheson’s for its Gloss Shine, £20 for 100ml. The formula contains colour pigment that enhances the red, ‘they’re great for adding vibrancy to your hair before a night out’. Choose from Russian Red for warm tones and Gypsy Red for cool tones; if you’re a customer they can tailor make your own shade.
While all hairdressers will maintain that you should visit a salon, your budget won’t always stretch to this – there are new shoes to be bought after all. If you’re brunette and want to DIY your red hair Sibi recommends you use a ‘temporary colour that will just last a few washes, stick with just adding a hint of red. If you like the shade you can go for a semi-permanent, but anything longer-lasting should be left to the professionals.
For blondes going red it’s really tricky to get the look right at home. You should first use a vegetable dye in a dark copper or blonde to get rid of any really white highlights, to even out the hair tone and help the colour stay red (rather than going a washed out pink) for longer. Then dye over that with the red colour of your choice. The same process will take place in a salon if you go from blonde to red, you’ll always need a base colour.
Getting it right
The easiest way to get the look right is start subtly. ‘Use your natural hair colour as a base; don’t try to go more than a couple of shades lighter or darker. Cheryl’s red hair works because the colour has the same depth as her natural hair shade – it just infuses some warmth’ explains Sibi.
If you want to go for a big change, find a good colourist. Jo Hansford has had a couple of customers go to her asking for ‘Rihanna Red’, ‘I will only do this if I genuinely think it is going to suit them’ she says. If you want to go bold but you’re not sure it will suit, Jo advises trying a wig in your chosen colour first.
You also need to make sure your colourist knows exactly what you’re aiming for, sometimes what you want can get lost in translation during a consultation. ‘Take a collection of magazine cuttings and pictures of looks that you like, and take them with you so the colourist can advise you’ says Nick Malenko. Sibi agrees, ‘by seeing pictures that you like your colourist will get a feel of what you like and can adapt it to suit you’.
The Celebrity Barometer
Next, look to the stars as inspiration for the type of style you want to emulate, for example Rihanna is far edgier than Christina’s 50s style; great references for a redhead barometer. Christina Hendricks’ shade is relatively easy to achieve especially on blondes, followed by Florence and Karen in the middle and at the more difficult end of the spectrum sits Rihanna and Cheryl, whose hair colours suit people with naturally darker hair.
‘Christina Hendricks has more of a coppery-red which is an easier shade to pull off – it suits the classic cool English complexion as well as sitting nicely with some warmer skin tones’ explains Andrew John, Colour Director at Percy & Reed. ‘Cheryl’s red typically suits darker skin tones and it’s a similar story with Rihanna’s colour’ he adds.
Is the look for you?
‘Women are more confident nowadays. Red is a more adventurous and unique shade to opt for. There is a sea of women with highlights and brunette hair; red makes a real statement’ explains Sibi. Red is a rare hair colour with only around 2% of the population estimated to be born with it, so if you don’t have it, fake it.
If you want to go red it’s worth knowing a few things before getting started. Hairdressers will offer guidance on different reds suiting different skintones, but Sibi has an easy trick so you can find your perfect red fast. ‘Try on red lipsticks. If you find you suit orange reds then you have a warm skintone and if you suit more blood reds (with a blue undertone) you have a cool skintone. From there you can select the red you want to be. Florence and Paloma are warm, while Cheryl and Rihanna are cool’.
Where did it all start?
It started with Mad Men and Christina Hendricks, a natural blonde who has been dying her hair copper since the ripe old age of 10 (she recently revealed she recommended Karen Elson to do the same to her mousy brown hair back in the ‘90s). And two of the biggest music stars to emerge in the last couple of years, Florence Welch and Paloma Faith both have fiery red hair. Florence has been dying hers since the age of 9, inspired by Ariel from The Little Mermaid. Now Rihanna and Cheryl have ditched their sensible brunette hues and jumped on the flame-haired bandwagon.
‘Our customers feel more confident to ask for red hair because there are celebrities out there now that they can take inspiration from’ says Sibi Bolan at Hersherson’s.
But it’s not just the A-listers who are turning red. ‘Celebrities have certainly prompted more clients to ask for reddish hues. However, I wouldn’t say they were solely responsible for the trend; styling seen on the catwalks, trend predictions from last season and the time of year are all factors’ explains Nick Malenko, Senior Stylist at the Royston Blythe salon. And Anestis Cobella agrees, 'The Autumn/Winter catwalk collections in February focused on red shades more than usual. Cobella has in turn focused more on red this autumn and our predictions have paid off. Red lowlights, red all over colour or red hair wefts are currently hugely popular'.
Tom Ford features a red head in his lipstick adverts, while Karen Elson had a comeback in the recent Louis Vuitton campaign. And the trend sees no signs of waning, even though red is traditionally thought of as an autumnal shade; every model at the S/S 11 Mulberry show flaunted a coppery red ‘do, inspired not by Florence, who was sitting front row, but a new girl on the scene, model Julia Johansen.