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Hair Dyeing Tips

We always seem to want what we cannot have, which explains why the 97% of us who aren’t natural redheads long to be Ginger from Gilligan’s Island.

Don't Be Scared! Take a Snapshot as a RedHead
Representing only 3 percent of our population, natural redheads are, indeed, hard to come by: Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Marilyn Monroe (pre-peroxide), Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn, Franka Potente (Run Lola Run, The Bourne Identity), Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City), Tina Louise (Gilligan’s Island) and Megan Follows (Anne of Green Gables). Of course, if you live in England, Ireland or Scotland, your chances of being born a natural redhead more than triple (around 10 percent).

Others, like Lucille Ball, acquire their color from a bottle after realizing they will land more acting gigs as a redhead. And romance novels are legendary for saucy sirens whose bold style fuels our belief that red delivers instant sexuality.

Perhaps this explains why so many women aim for flame when coloring their hair. But going red poses special challenges. Shades vary drastically—from those emulating amber waves of grain, to sunset skies, to strawberry blonde, to auburn attitude—and choosing the wrong one will clash with your complexion.

Determining the right red depends on your skin tone. Each of us has yellow and blue pigments in our skin, and one will prove to be dominant. Take a sheet of white paper, place your arm (palm side up) against it, and study the contrast. You should be able to discern warm yellow or cool blue tinges in skin tone. Here’s a basic cheat sheet:

  • You’re “cool” if your natural hair color is bluish-black, dark brown, medium ash or golden blonde. Your skin will be pale, with pink or no undertones; medium, with pink, golden or no cheek color; very dark brown (some Latinas or Africans); or true olive (Asian). “Cool blues” do well with blue-red hair shades, such as burgundy, ruby, garnet, cherry or bordeaux.
  • You’re “warm” if your natural hair color is red, reddish or golden brown, strawberry blonde or natural golden blonde. Your skin will be pale, with peach or gold undertones; brown, with pink, butterscotch, copper, caramel or golden undertones (some Latinas or Africans); or freckled. “Warm yellows” do best with copper, cinnamon, ginger, russet and strawberry shades of red hair color.

If you cannot tell the difference, ask your hairstylist or the makeup artist at your salon for a 30-second consult.

Red hair must be regularly refreshed and maintained, as the line of demarcation between roots and color will be pronounced. It’s generally best to have a professional colorist deal with red hair—especially if you also require gray coverage. (Red dye often turns gray hair a cotton-candy pink.) A professional can offer sound advice on keeping your locks lustrous and vibrant, and her work will last longer than home coloring. She is licensed to work with more sophisticated color formulations and can effectively mix colors to achieve the desired result. She knows how chemicals interact and can add extra dimension with highlights (lightening selected strands for contrast) and lowlights (darkening selected strands to complement your natural color). She can also “glaze” hair after it has been colored to add tone and depth.

If you choose to color at home, start conservatively. Choose a red shade that’s very close to your natural color. Women of color will find new lines designed for their special needs, such as Clairol’s Textures & Tones, which is enriched with Brazil nut oil for added moisture. (Ethnic hair tends to be dry.)

Use a semi-permanent (washes out in six to 12 shampoos) or demi-permanent (washes out in 12 to 24 shampoos) color. You can experiment with other shades in the future, but your goal is to establish a baseline.

Always perform the recommended “patch” test in advance to ensure you won’t have an allergic reaction. A “strand” test is also advisable so you can preview your new shade. Wear the enclosed plastic gloves to avoid staining your skin and nails.

If you wind up with undesirable carrot-hued locks, call the toll-free number on the product’s box for an emergency consultation. Company representatives have talked thousands of women through color correction. If the problem is extreme, run—don’t walk—to your nearest salon!

Regardless of who colors your hair, maintain your red tresses by following these guidelines:
  • Use a shampoo formulated to enhance red hair. It will contain fewer detergent ingredients and provide more moisture. Try L’Oreal’s Color-Care or Redken’s Color Extend lines, which help retain color and offer UV protection. Aveda’s madder root shampoo and conditioner are plant-based products that warm red tones.
  • Shampoo with cool water. Hot water fades color.
  • Condition every time you wash. Select a red-enhancing conditioner.
  • If you hair isn’t too oily, try a leave-in conditioner, which helps protect hair.
  • Apply a deep-conditioning treatment or hydrating mask once a week.
  • Minimize exposure to sunlight and chlorinated water, which contribute to fading.

Whether you're contemplating a drastic change of hair color, or just curious to see what you would look like with latest celebrity hairstyles, be sure to browse the stellure hair styling website and take advantage of their free trial offer. Go to

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