After 19 months of being puked on and prodded by my beloved son, and just days before my five-year wedding anniversary, I finally womaned up and admitted that I was in desperate need of something that would make me feel--if not hot--then at least warm.
I’d spent the past 20 years experimenting with countless makeup fads, yet my hair never strayed from its natural dark brown roots. The color was rich, I told myself. The maintenance non-existent. And besides, with my dark eyes and olive skin, what other color could I possibly be?
Then I remembered overhearing a stylist once say: “You know how blondes have more fun? Well redheads do what blondes only dream of.” And so, just like Drew Barrymore, Blake Lively, and all those other Hollywood starlets, I heard the siren song of going red.
“You’ll make a great redhead,” Washington, D.C.’s red-hair guru, Derrick Lachney assures me. “It’s much easier for a brunette since you already have the warmth in your hair and skin.” Insert huge sigh of relief here. As a pretreatment, he lightens my ends and darkens my roots to avoid the disastrous dye-job duo of fluorescent roots or hair that’s all one color. “Your ends are always lighter because that’s the oldest hair,” he says. “So the color looks most natural when it goes dark to light.”
Four hours later, I practically float out of the salon, and spend the block-long walk to my car staring at my reflection in every building I pass. Could this dazzling, shiny mane really be mine? The coppery color lights up my face, even without makeup. I look sun-kissed and beguilingly flushed. Even my wardrobe thanks me: All those black staples don’t feel so simple now that there’s a shock of color to wake them up.
So I ask you—why let the genetically blessed 2 percent of the population with natural red locks have all the fun? Just heed these pearls—or should I say rubies—of wisdom that are a must for going rust:
Unless you’re Rihanna, skip the violet- and cherry-red
“Just about any woman can go red as long as it's the right shade—one that’s found in nature," says Lachney. That means a multi-dimensional, warm, cinnamon or copper-based hue. Because creating a natural-looking red is trickier than any other color, and often involves lightening and darkening pretreatments, this is the time to invest in a pro. While the rule of thumb is not to go more than two shades lighter than your natural color, a colorist will find the right shade based on your existing color and texture, as well as your skin tone.
Beware the brows
Unless you want to look like you’re wearing a wig, don’t forget to dye your brows. Go for one shade darker than the red on your head. If you’re blonde, you can get away with using a colored brow tamer like Anastasia Tinted Brow Gel.
Pick up this trio of must-have shampoos to keep color vibrant
“Red is the largest hair-color molecule, so it fades fast, especially on blondes,” says Lachney. To keep it looking lustrous longer, skip daily washes and keep hair fresh with a dry shampoo like TRESemme Fresh Start Dry Shampoo. When you do suds up, choose a sulfate-free cleanser like L’Oreal EverPure Sulfate-Free Shampoo, since sulfates strip the hair of everything, including color. Freshen up color in-between salon visits with a color-enhancing formula like Aveda Madder Root Shampoo.
When it comes to makeup, less is more
For me the irony of going red was that just as I was falling in love with my new bold hair color, I realized I had to break up with my longtime companion, black eyeliner. It looked way too harsh and overdone. For daytime, I love Maybelline Line Express Eyeliner in Bronze. At night, Giorgio Armani Smooth Silk Eye Pencil, in Purple or Green look amazingly fresh. Clashing berry or wine lipsticks have been replaced with sheer gloss that enhances my natural lip color. Try Kiehl’s Lip Gloss in Downtown Peach or Golden Berry. But the star of my makeup show is Nars Blush in Orgasm, which plays up the luminous, sun-kissed look. I use it on eyes and even lips (topped with clear gloss).
Have you ever dyed your hair red? Did you love (or hate) the results?