There’s something about flame-hued hair that makes everyone wish they were a redhead at some point. Red hair conveys an otherworldly elegance, and it certainly makes you stand out in a crowd.
And naturally red hair is rare: less than two percent of the world’s population has it.1
But red hair isn’t a single shade of color. Red hair color comes in as many shades as blonde does.
And, like blonde hair, not every shade of red will suit your complexion. Your favorite celeb’s red hair color might not work well on you.
Whether you’re naturally a rare-breed red, or you have a hankering to become one this season, let’s take a look at some of your options.
Determining Which Shade of Red is Right for You
1. Skin Tone
Skin tone is the greatest determinant of what hair color will suit you – no matter if it’s brown, blonde, or red. Hair color for warm skin tones and hair color for cool skin tones can be very different.
If you’ve ever battled with wearing a particular color of clothing – “ I look hideous in orange!” – or a particular color of, say, jewelry, this is because of your skin undertone.
Your skin’s undertone is a subtle color that lies underneath your skin. It’s permanent. Even a summer tan won’t change this tone.
The three main categories for skin undertones are:
- Cool undertones: Hints of blue, pink, or red in your complexion
- Warm undertones: Hints of yellow, peach, or gold in your complexion
- Neutral undertones: No obvious lean toward either of these (warm and cool tones may suit you equally)
The quickest way to determine your undertone is via these two basic tests:
1. Look at Your Veins
Do your veins appear greener or bluer? Bluer = cool undertone; Greener = warm undertone. Neither? You may be neutral.
2. Gold vs. Silver
Does gold jewelry look better on you? Warm undertones. Prefer Silver? Cool undertones. Look great in both? You’re probably neutral.
3. T-Shirt Test
Pop on a yellow or orange tee (or hold some fabric up to your face). Does it make you glow? Warm Undertone. Do you immediately reach for blues and greens instead? Cool undertone.
2. Cool Tones vs Warm Tones of Red
Now that you know your skin undertone, let’s look at some shades of red that will best suit your complexion. You may lust after that Uma Thurman ruby red “Poison Ivy” mane, but if you have warm undertones, it may not be the right pick for you.
Generally speaking, people with cool, pinkish skin undertones can rock a wide variety of red hair color shades. This makes sense because natural redheads are some of the fairest humans on earth. But if you have olive or warm-toned skin, you still have options for shades of red.
Cool Shades of Red
- Ginger (inset): One of the most natural-looking reds, ginger suits cooler skin tones, and especially freckled complexions
- Brick: This cool mix of red and brown tones has a more natural effect.
- Light Auburn: This classic, natural red pairs best with fair skin and blue or green eyes.
- Ruby Red: Less orange than those bright coppers, ruby red has blue tones which suit cool undertones perfectly.
- Crimson: This much cooler shade of fire-engine red will still get you plenty of attention.
- Garnet: This dark red hair looks beautiful on very fair skin tones.
Warm Shades of Red
- Strawberry Blonde: Half red, half blonde, and wonderful on warm skin with light eyes.
- Bright Copper: Think of Christina Hendricks from TV’s Mad Men.
- Honey Copper: Golden honey copper brings shades of red and blonde together, and it works well on warm-toned skin.
- Chestnut: If your hair already veers towards the brunette spectrum, this dark red hair shade will blend wonderfully.
- Scarlet (inset): Rihanna can pull off vibrant scarlet red hair dye, and so can you.
3. Highlights for Red Hair
Another way to introduce, or refresh, red hair color is by simply adding some highlights. It requires a lot less maintenance, too. One of the best shades for this is blonde. A touch of blonde on red, or red on blonde, can really brighten your complexion.
Still not convinced? Consider this:
→ Golden tones of blonde on ginger hair can really bring out the warmth of your hair color.
→ Opt for a balayage technique, where highlights are painted on the ends. This will give you a gorgeous, sun-kissed look.
→ Dark red hair is best left to highlights that are still within the red spectrum or shades of brown.
Are You Prepared for the Red Challenge?
Now, there’s no denying that red hair color can make you the standout in a room. But if you’re not naturally a redhead, it’s essential that you understand that red hair dye is very tricky to work with.
Red hair color requires regular attention, and it can be expensive to maintain.
It can come out darker than you intended when freshly dyed, and then, it notoriously fades fast. You may need touch-ups every 4-6 weeks, or sooner.
But for a fast-fading color, red hair dye is hard to remove completely. So, if you decide to go back to your natural color, it’s may take some time for all of those red undertones to disappear.
Red Hair, Don’t Care
Ultimately, red hair is a load of fun. Once you find “your” shade, you may never want to return to your natural color! Just be sure to speak to an expert colorist about what shade of red is right for you, and let them color your hair like a pro. This isn’t one to try at home in your bathroom.
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