Is Red Right for You?

Fiery russet, elegant auburn, or classic copper — which suits you best? Here, pro tips for choosing your perfect hue — and a no-fail strategy for making it last longer and stay truer.

Red hair
(Image credit: Regine Mahaux/Gett Images)

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

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.

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."

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).

How to be the best redhead:

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.
(Tip: If you can't get a to-go kit, using one of Nice 'n Easy's new Color Boosting Glazes, which will be available in March, can also do the trick.)

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.

5. Don't be tempted by eggplant tones.
Purplish-reds don't look natural and are rarely flattering, says Jennifer J. Choose a color that can be described as "coppery," "auburn," or "strawberry" instead.

MC musts for redheads: