Red is not for the faint of heart. This high-drama hue is passion and a dose of danger all wrapped up in one. So when model-of-the-moment Coco Rocha traded her brunette locks for ginger, there was only one way to keep it quiet until her big reveal: wigs and scarves. In recent fashion shoots, Coco has rocked a daring coppery red, which promises to be the most coveted shade of the season. “Red is the colour of 2009!” enthuses colourist Louis Licari, who transformed the Vancouver-born beauty at his Manhattan salon. “She embraced the change,” he recalls of Coco’s
attitude. “Her line of the day was ‘Should we leave the colour on for another five minutes?’ I thought I might have to chase her from the chair, but I was too smitten to see her go.” The exact formulas are his little secret, but he will disclose that he used a vibrant, pigment-rich Wella on the ends and a more subdued Clairol on the roots.
Signs of scarlet fever can also be spotted in Hollywood, where Isla Fisher and Amy Adams are making waves, and were seen on the spring runways as well. But this red revival is only the latest chapter in a historical love-hate affair with the shade. From the strawberry-blond cascade of curls in Botticelli’s
The Birth of Venus to Titan’s glorious copper-haired goddesses, the look telegraphs feminine perfection as much as lusty temptation. Seen
as hot-blooded, hot-tempered or just plain hot, redheads command
power. (“Out of the ash I rise with my red hair / And eat men like air,” wrote Sylvia Plath.) But is the mystique fact or fiction? “Over the years, I have found that natural redheads are a bit misunderstood,” says Marcy Cona, creative director of colour and style for Clairol. “In my experience, a natural redhead tends to be a bit shy or quiet. However, a person who chooses a bright-red shade to colour her hair generally has a big personality and is confident and looking to be noticed.” For spring 2009, the most popular reds are warm and rich and work really well with medium- to light-brown hair, says Cona. “Red hair has many personalities,” agrees Licari. “It can be funny, sultry or even serious.” But, above all, red is rare beauty, bestowed by nature on a mere two percent of mortals. It’s an instant exclamation mark. “Always remember: If you choose to be red, you choose to be noticed,” says Licari.
Here are some pros and cons to consider before braving the bottle.
Red is not one-shade-fits-all. “Women with a very yellow or olive skin tone have a hard time pulling off red unless they are tanned or apply a good foundation to even out their complexion,” says colourist Rob Pizzuti, owner of Exit Hair Salon in Toronto. As a general rule, he says, cool reds (true red, red wine or raspberry tones) flatter women with very light or very dark skin and black to medium-brown hair, while warm reds (copper red, true copper, amber or fire red) suit peach skin, light eyes and light-brown to dark-blond hair.
To have and to hold
Red is the hothouse flower of hair colour: It needs constant care. It’s the
fastest-fading shade around because red-dye molecules tend to be smaller than others, so they’re apt to wash out from hair fibres more quickly and fade in the sun, says Linda Jacobs, section head of colour research and development for P&G Beauty. Stick to gentle shampoos and conditioners designed to be shade saviours, such as Pantene Pro-V Red Expressions, Kérastase Chroma Riche and Bumble and Bumble Color Support. Keeping your hair well conditioned will help the cuticles retain the dye molecules. “Remember, colour lasts longer on hair that’s in optimum condition,” says colourist Louis Licari. To defend your new hue from sun damage year-round, Pizzuti recommends the Redken UV Rescue line with SPF 40. Avoid deep-cleansing and body-boasting products that dry out hair, and minimize washing and flatironing
“The most important part of a redhead’s hair-colour formula is a rich balance of both warm and cool tones,” says Marcy Cona, creative director of colour and style for Clairol. Even for pro colourists, getting the right red can be a challenge because of the delicate balancing act required between the underlying blue, violet and orange pigments. Stray a bit too far in one direction and the result can reflect off your skin tone in unflattering ways, explains Luis Pacheco, a Toronto-based colour technician.
• If you decide to colour your hair at home, don’t treat it like Extreme Makeover: DIY Edition. “I wouldn’t advise a blonde to go dark red [at home] because that’s just a disaster waiting to happen,” says Pacheco. “Stay within your limits.”
• For bolder changes, you’re better off at a salon — especially if your natural shade is very light — since you’ll need to prep strands with “fillers,” or pre-dye pigments, beforehand. Without fillers, blond hair won’t absorb dark red. “It could look like a pink wash,” says Howard Barr, Canadian creative consultant for John Frieda and owner of The Howard Barr Studio in Toronto.
• If you have to do it yourself, have a friend apply the colour for you. “A lot of the problems we see tend to be with application more than with the product,” says Barr.
• Bridge the gap between salon touch-ups (space them four weeks apart) with semi-permanent colour or a shine-boosting glaze that also adds a touch of colour, like John Frieda Luminous Colour Glaze Colour Shine Gloss Radiant Red.