At the Alexander Wang show this season the most eye-catching accessory on the runway wasn’t a handbag or a purse. It was the cognac red ponytail, dubbed ‘the Irina’ inspired by model Irina Kravchenko’s henna-ed hair and replicated by Guido Palau across a cast of model clones.
It seems like every celeb we’ve seen lately is suddenly a redhead. Shailene Woodley is freshly dyed for her role as Mary Jane in The Amazing Superman 2, Glee‘s Dianna Agron recently traded blonde for ginger, hair chameleon Rachel McAdams is red, and even Megan Fox–the perennially sultry dark bombshell–went red (check her out here). And with Jessica Chastain’s red locks everywhere the last few months and Christina Hendricks back on the air as Joan on Mad Men, we think it’s safe to say you may be tempted to try this color.
We spoke to experts Marie Robinson (Clairol’s Color Director) and Christophe Robin (L’Oreal Paris Global Hair Colorist), as well as Sea of Shoes‘ Jane Aldridge (preeminent red-headed style star), to understand the ins and outs of the color: How to get it, how to keep it, and how to know if you’re ready for the life-changing decision–and we say this without a hint of hyperbole–to go red.
If you want haircolor that blends in, stop reading now. Red, as Robinson says, is a “look at me” color. According to a study of blondes and redheads conducted by Pureology, Redken’s sister line for color-treated hair, redheads are much more likely to self-identify themselves with adjectives like “fearless,” “self-confident,” and “sensual.” That means, according to the study, that someone like Emma Stone feels 71% more fearless as a redhead than as a blonde. For Aldridge, red was a way to stick out in Dallas, “where being tan and blonde is the way to go,” she told us. “I am neither of those things, and I like red hair as part of my identity. It is a romantic retro color—you think of Titian and Rita Hayworth.”
For Robin, the adorably charming haircolorist of choice for none other than Catherine Deneuve, red has always been a favorite for its comfort factor. While almost everyone else I interviewed for this story used various synonyms of the word “daring” to describe red, Robin poetically called it, “the anti-crisis haircolor”–almost the antidote to economic downturns, hiring freezes, and news of the sequester. “Times are difficult right now and people are looking for comfort. And when times are a little gray, reds are the best colors to make you feel good.” He added, “[Redheads] have the sensuality and the sex appeal of blondes, without being a blonde.”
Should you choose to go red, it’s a surprisingly versatile color that can be adjusted depending upon your skintone. Robin’s general rule: “The darker your skin tone, the darker the red hair color should be.” Robinson cautions that if you have a more olive skin tone, “you want to be careful with how red you go,” and instead look at more copper and ginger shades. Fail-safe colors are auburns and chestnuts, which “almost anyone can carry because [they] add a little color and warmth to your skin.”
We’ve mentioned before that red is also the color most in danger of fading, so maintaining it is a priority. Click through for all the tips we’ve picked up, like Aldridge’s favorite conditioner (which smells like Dr. Pepper!), home haircolor suggestions, and DIY remedies (Hint: save that $11 beet juice you just bought for your hair).