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How to Choose the Right Red for You

November 17, 2020

4 Min read

Red hair is all the rage this season, and as we finish off a tumultuous 2020, you might as well go big with a fiery shade of red that will be sure to turn heads. But if you’re not a natural ginger, figuring out which hue is right for you might be trickier than expected. The answer? It’s surprisingly skin deep.

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According to Mike Petrizzi, hair colorist at Chris Chase Salon in Manhattan, fairer skin types that have a hard time tanning and have creamier undertones look great with warm reds, like auburn, strawberry, or copper. “People who can tan and have more olive complexions should go cooler—think merlots, cranberry, and cherry reds,” he says. 

If you have a more neutral skin tone, Lizzie Caplan, Balayage and Creative Color Specialist at Soon Beauty Lab in Fort Greene, says you can probably go either way. “Rihanna is proof, in my opinion, that confidence will sell any shade of red.”  

Before you decide to turn up the heat on your hair color, it’s important to note that red will definitely take some more effort to maintain than other hair colors. “I always tell my clients to wash their hair in lukewarm to cool water to prevent fading, though it’s easier said than done with cooler weather approaching,” says Caplan. “I’m a big fan of using a weekly tinted conditioner to maintain vibrancy between appointments.” After you decide to make the red plunge, make sure to use a pre-shampoo mask to help hair color from fading. Additionally, it’s always smart to use a color-safe shampoo and conditioner to maintain vibrancy for as long as possible, too. Caplan warns that if you aren’t ready for lots of maintenance work, dying your hair red is not for you. “If you’re not one for steady maintenance, stay away from reds,” she says. “Basically, red fades quicker than any other color, so it needs to be refreshed—pulled through to the ends more frequently.” Plus, it’s more difficult to completely strip out of hair, should you decide you want to go back to a cooler or ashier tone.

Fair skin tones

 
 
 
 
 
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Petrizzi suggests going with a warm red shade if you have a fair skin tone. “Shades like auburn and copper help to spice up fair skin tones—these are often the shades I use for blondes who have been overbleached and need to add warmth and sophistication,” he says. 

Caplan loves a ginger blonde for fair skin, like Jessica Chastain or Nicole Kidman. “The creaminess of pale skin is complemented by a softer tone,” she says. “Conversely, you can’t go wrong with a true classic crimson red—depth will make light eyes pop, and bring out rosy pink cheeks.”

Medium skin tones

 
 
 
 
 
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For those with medium skin tones, Caplan suggests a natural auburn. “Chocolatey red-brown can bring out freckles, eyelashes, and brows,” she says. “ It’s also the easiest red to ease into or out of, if you’re dipping your toes in for the first time.”

Tan skin tones

 
 
 
 
 
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According to Caplan, bronzy babes can benefit from some bold vibrancy. “Raspberries, magentas, cherry colas, or fuschias—go big or go home,” she says. “If the skin tone is cooler, go with a dusty or smoky rose.”

Dark skin tones

 
 
 
 
 
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For those with dark skin tones, look no further for inspo than Queen Latifah, who’s rocked a “ginger bronde,” as Caplan likes to call it. “The warmth [of the shade] draws us into her chestnut brown eyes—try a rich violet-based red for a bolder look.”

Deep skin tones

 
 
 
 
 
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For a deeper skin tone, Caplan suggests keeping depth at the root to anchor the look, then highlight with a rich mahogany or plum-red.

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