How to Find the Best Red Hair Color for You

Don't go red before you read this.

red hair
(Image credit: Getty Images/Design by Jennifer Chalet)

Hair transformations can be super exciting (a new bob! those highlights!) but they can also be a little panic-inducing (how short *is* this? I didn't want bangs!). Perhaps the most daunting of all hair changes, though, is going red—it's bold, it's bound to be attention-grabbing, and it's rife with opportunities to be a little more than you bargained for.

So to make sure that you get exactly what you want, check out these must-know tips and tricks for any ginger-to-be.

Is red right for you?

If at least two of the following apply to you, it may be right to go ruby:

1. Your skin is on the pink side. There is a "right" red out there for most women, says Jennifer J, a Matrix celeb colorist and owner of Juan Juan Salons in Southern California (she colors Julia Roberts's auburn mane), but women with cool or pinkish skin pull it off best. Conversely, women with golden or olive skin have a tougher time finding one that's flattering.

2. You're no wallflower. Red is a head-turning hue, and you have to be self-assured enough to accept the stares, says Tasha Forgash, color specialist at Shag Salon in Boston. Colorist Sarah Gold, the guru behind Lindsay Lohan's formerly flame-colored hair, concurs: "Remember, red hair is like a sequined dress — it walks into the room before you do."

3. Your hair is in fairly good condition. If your strands are very dry or damaged, they will have a hard time holding on to small, red color molecules (which seep out of even the healthiest hair fairly quickly). Your mane has a better chance of becoming radiant red if it is well cared-for (read: you deep-condition weekly, get regular trims and don't heat-style every day).

three shades of red hair

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How can you maintain a red color?

1. Wash your hair as infrequently as possible. Ideally this would mean twice a week, says Parvine Klein, a colorist at the John Barrett Salon in New York City, but every other day will suffice if your hair is oily or very fine, says Jennifer J. On alternate days, you can rinse your hair with tepid (never hot) water if necessary — or dust your roots with a dry shampoo.

2. Avoid harsh shampoos. Most dandruff treatments are tough on colored hair, says Jennifer J. But they are death to redheads, accelerating the fading process by weeks.

3. Ask your colorist for a "to-go" kit. Jennifer J gives her redheaded clients a small vial of their hair color (at $45 a pop) to apply two weeks after their salon visit. This keeps the color looking bright and fiery all month long.

4. Cover up. Red hair color oxidizes faster than any other, says Forgash. So, if you're going to spend a lot of time outdoors, use a styling product that contains UV filters — or throw a hat or scarf over your strands.

three shades of red hair

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How do you change your makeup routine after going red?

1. Avoid dark, smoky eyes. They compete with your attention-grabbing tresses, says Paula Dorf, a celebrity makeup artist.

2. Do think pink. Pink lip color and blush look gorgeous on redheads, despite outdated advice to the contrary, says Dorf.

3. Don't match your brows and hair; it looks bizarre, says Danilo, a celeb colorist.

1. John Frieda Radiant Red Color Protecting Shampoo, from $5;

2. Aveda Madder Root Color Conditioner, $21;

3. Hamadi Shea Hair Mask, $24;

4. L'Oréal Paris Vitamino Color Express Care System Gel Masque, from $33;

Alanna Greco

I'm a writer and editor based in New York City. I love a good coat, a well-articulated feminist rant, and face masking (yes, that’s a verb) like it’s nobody’s business.