All Your Red Hair Questions Answered

This post was updated on June 24, 2015.

I may not be sure about a lot of things in life, but one thing I AM sure about is that I love having red hair.  I've had every color under the sun and I always come back to red.  I would say I average one compliment per day at work, and hearing an employee tell me that they love my hair is something really special, every single time it happens.  I've also noticed that it's a great conversation piece for some of my patients and anything I can do to get their mind off their pain or illness and have some beauty talk is a bonus in my book.

One thing I do notice is that a lot of girls who talk to me about red hair have some self-deprecating or otherwise negative beliefs about it--the two I hear all the time are "I could never pull it off" or "It's so hard to maintain."

Both of those are ridiculous statements!  Firstly, you can 'pull off' whatever you want!  You just have to do it.  I know there are "rules" about warm and cool tones and this and that, and if you care about those things, (I don't) then spend some time consulting with someone who knows their color wheel about what shade of red is right for you.

And red hair is no more difficult to maintain than any other color--I say this with confidence, having been a blond, brunette, pink haired, purple haired, and so on.  There is some maintenance involved of course, and if you're the kind of person who barely likes to set foot in a shower, you might not enjoy the procedures.  I love taking care of my hair because I feel pampered, it's just one of those things I do for myself, and I've learned to look forward to it.  

I will say, I am not a professional stylist and all my training has been trial and error.  Anything that works for me might not work for you and vice versa.  So don't blame me if your hair crisps or turns green.  You were warned.

Now with that disclaimer out of the way: onto all about red hair!!

1. How did you get it so red?/Lightening Questions
Very carefully, haha.  Don't just go out grabbing that 40 volume peroxide and bleaching the shit out of your hair.  A good color to have it before dying is medium-blond, but I've even started with medium brown hair and gotten bright red. If you do need to bleach, use the lowest volume peroxide (I never go above 20) in order to preserve your hair's ability to hold color. When you put peroxide in the hair, the cuticles open up like fish gills.  No color will latch on when they're in this state.  To minimize wasting your time and really ruining your hair, don't leave bleach on long, use the lowest volume of peroxide possible, and let your hair relax for a few days after bleaching before you put the color in.  To get blood red (or any red really) hair you don't need to go overboard and have platinum blond.  A few days of weird muddy brassy "blond" is so worth it when your color lasts longer and looks more even all over.  

Speaking of evenness.  Buy a cheap protein filler.  This does exactly what it sounds like it does.  It smooths the hair strand--even application, uniform color, strengthened hair.  Talk to your stylist or Sally's worker to find out which one you should use--but if you're going red, I recommend the neutral or the red (though beware, it is RED!!!).  So many people color their hair without protein fillers, it makes me cringe.  Just do it guys.  Extra step=beautiful hair.  I usually mix in protein filler with my color, but if it's looking extra splotchy or I'm adding streaks/highlights, I put some in a spray bottle and just coat all of my hair.  

2.  What brands do you recommend?
If you want the reddest of red fire truck red blazing on fire blinding artificial red: Use this brand. 
It's not a traditional dye; that is, it's not something you mix with any peroxide or solution.  It's a hair stain, and goes right on the hair without mixing anything beforehand.  If you're looking to cosplay Ariel or Poison Ivy, this is your best bet.

I personally use the Ion Color Brilliance brand, in the semi and demi permanent shades of red.

Henna is another option that works beautifully, but be warned, it's an entirely different process than the traditional hair dye Western women are used to.  I love Henna.  This is the brand I use.

3.  What is your procedure/maintenance?  
Typically, I buy semi-permanent red hair color for a few reasons...most importantly it is less harsh on the hair.  Box/peroxide dye every three weeks is excessive and will ruin any ability your hair has to hold onto color.  The semi also smells great, with no ammonia, and it's SO easy to put on.  No mixing.

Every four months or so I might do a demi-permanent of the same brand (demi-permanents typically use a 10 volume peroxide and last a little longer) if I feel that my red is getting too dark and I need to lighten it.  I also infrequently buy bleach powder and run just a bit through some strands for highlights, but if you're not experienced at this, have a professional do it.

I try not to use too much heat on my hair.  I let it air dry and if it's looking particularly frazzled I'll put just a few tiny drops of argan oil in it.  Every three months or so, I'll do a deep-penetrating heated coconut oil treatment.  I also trim my hair via the search and destroy method.  

4. How often do you have to dye it?
I put on the semi-permanent about once every three or four weeks, and the demi-permanent maybe every four months.  

5. Doesn't it fade quickly?
Not really, no.  The key is not over-peroxiding your hair, because then it loses the ability to keep the color past a few washes.  So, if your hair is damaged, look into semi-permanent hair color, or stains, and invest in a good hair repair regime.  Focus on repairing the damage and not damaging any further.  You'll never get the color you want if your hair itself is unhealthy, broken, and brittle.
  I also only shower maybe once every 3 days.  

PS Yes I do take hot showers!!! People assume I wash my hair in cold water to keep it so vibrant. My cold shower days are over, I don't live in the forest anymore.  But again, it all comes back to the health of the hair in general.  My color can last with a few hot shampoos because the hairs themselves are for the most part, pretty healthy.  

6. How do you keep your hair strong? 

See above.  Don't use peroxide-based dyes if your hair is weak.  Consider a hot oil treatment every so often.  The most beneficial thing I've done for my hair, however, is henna.  You can read more on this through google, but essentially, henna is like steroids for your hair.  It has keratin and other great proteins that really help the thickness of the individual strands and strengthens them.  If it wasn't for henna I'd probably have melted hair by now.  Henna does make your hair dry, as any protein will; just follow your henna up with a hot oil treatment or a good, penetrating conditioner.

Another note on safety: Don't just use any henna.  Henna dye is not regulated by most food and drug corporations around the globe, and since it typically ships from India, anybody can slap the word 'henna' on some ground up powder and call it a day.  If you've read of black henna and skin burns...you'll know it's nothing to mess around with.  You want pure ground up henna, nothing more.  It's probably safest to order it online.  Again, I use hennahut.com.  Another option is going to your local Indian Food Store and asking for henna powder for henna tattoos--it's the same dye.  

7.  How do I use henna to dye my hair?

In a nutshell: you put the powder in a plastic bowl.  No metal.  Get a jar of lemon juice, and mix with the powder until the consistency is like yogurt.  Again, stir with a wooden or plastic spoon.  No metal.  Cover the henna, put it in a dark place, and let it sit anywhere from a few hours to overnight.  Then you put it on your hair the same way you would hair dye, and cover it with a processing cap.  You can leave henna on as long as you like!!! I sometimes get lazy and go two or three hours.  There's no consequence except beautiful hair.  You rinse it out the same way you would hair dye.

Some people don't like the smell of henna; I LOVE it.  It smells like sweet grass.  You can smell it as you're mixing it, so if you don't like what your nose knows, then don't put it on your hair.  The smell doesn't really linger, it goes away just as soon as the henna is washed out. 

8. Does your hair color stain?

For the bright red hair color I used to have  Yes. But I've never had it permanently stain anything except bathroom porcelain.  So keep away from the sink!! Clothes, however, as well as skin and bedding etc....they've always washed out for me.  You might end up with a few pink spots on your favorite dress though.  It's your call how much/how often/how intense your red hair is.  


  1. Red heads are the best, hands down.

    1. Not sure why I just now saw this but hell yeah!!!!

  2. Now I really miss dying my hair! I've also had it every color of the rainbow (and blue, purple at pink at one point) and didn't have my natural hair color for 8 years! About 2 years ago I let it all grow out and saw my natural hair color for the first time in forver and have kept it that way, except for the pink underlayer I did a couple months ago. (Though I'm dying it back to brown tonight! haha) I think more than anything I just hated having to lighten it so often because my hair was brown.

    Red hair really does suite you!

  3. Your hair looks so lovely dear! iT REALLY SUITS YOU!

  4. I used to be a redhead! For about a year or so. (I went as the Little Mermaid for Halloween - http://wild-spirit.net/post/34829640110/halloween-2012-i-dont-have-to-say-who-i-am)
    It was the best and probably the most fun hair color to have... Except it's a pain to get rid of! Thankfully though the salon did a great job and after a lot of money and two salon trips, I'm now a blondie! :p

    Camie Juan

  5. what shampoo & conditioner do you use? I just dyed my red hair dark red.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. wow...your hair looks so great.......plz tell me the brand name of color you used

  7. The first top picture.... What did u use to obtain that color specifically?

    1. That was henna from the website I listed in the entry :)