Why red is the hottest hair colour and how to rock it

Redheads are no longer the butt of jokes. Celebrities including Emma Stone and Madelaine Petsch are rocking red hair — and you can too. Here’s how.

From copper to ginger, auburn to magenta, red hair — be it natural or by the bottle — is a red-hot beauty trend.

Ready to jump on board? Whether you want to dye your locks or simply enhance your natural colour, here is what you need to know about being a redhead, choosing the right shade and caring for your tresses.

Why is red hair so popular in 2024?

The red hair trend started in 2022 after Kendall Jenner was photographed sporting a copper mane.

Since Kendall’s dramatic colour change, the trend has been on an upward trajectory, with a number of other celebrities — including Emma Stone, Madelaine Petsch and Dua Lipa — rocking fabulous red hair on the red carpet this year.

Those in the know say the hue’s growing popularity is partly due to its versatility, as there is a shade to suit everyone.

Why do some people have natural red hair?

Like blue eyes or dimples, red hair is linked to several genetic mutations associated with the MC1R gene.

When you inherit two copies of the mutated MC1R genes, you are more likely to have red or blonde hair, freckles and fair skin.

The mutations also appear to increase the risk of some health problems, including increased sun sensitivity, increased pain sensitivity and some diseases.

Redheads are reportedly also more sensitive to temperatures than their non-ginger counterparts.

It is not all bad news, though, with other studies suggesting red-haired women respond better to painkillers and that redheads are less sensitive to stinging pain in the skin.

Hair colourist Tarryn Cherniayeff says the MC1R gene also determines how natural reds will take colour.

“People who carry this gene feel pain differently; for colourists and clients, it’s important to understand how differently redheads will take to colouring practises, which is why strand tests and patch tests on skin are always highly recommended,” Tarryn says.

What to know before you dye your hair red

Before you pick up the dye, it is important to know what you are getting yourself into.

Tarryn says a professional consultation is an essential first step before subjecting your hair to any colour change.

“I would book a consult with your colourist to discuss what’s involved, so you know if this will suit your lifestyle, if you can handle the upkeep, and if it’s even possible to achieve with your current hair state,” she says

Will red hair suit you?

Tarryn, who has been hairdressing for more than 20 years, shares that her favourite part of colouring is that there is no right or wrong.

“This is where your colourist will come into play,” she says.

As there are many variations of red — including auburn, burgundy, copper, ginger, cherry and mahogany — Tarryn says your colourist can help you choose the most complementary undertones to suit your features and complexion.

Kenni Hair owner Tess Tankey says most people can rock a shade of red, but choosing the right tone and depth of colour is key.

“Those with (a) fairer complexion, light eyes and freckles would look fab with coppery reds and strawberry blondes, whilst those with warmer undertone skin would look amazing with darker auburns and mahogany reds,” Tess says.

How do you go red?

So, you have decided to make the leap and picked out the perfect shade of red for you.

What now? Goldie Sydney master colourist and stylist Gabriella Gerdes says it is always best practice to leave the heavy lifting to the colouring experts.

“There are so many techniques and formulas available for professional hairdressers — it’s best to leave it in our hands rather than come to us with a disastrous home job,” Gabriella says.

“We have the tools and knowledge to get you to your dream colour; trust us!”

Tess says doing a patch test first, frequently deep conditioning your hair and scheduling regular colour touch-ups are her top tips for great red hair.

How do you take care of red hair?

No matter the colour, it goes without saying that any dyed hair has the tendency to become brittle and dry, and inadequate care can cause the colour to be stripped from it faster.

“Think moisture and colour-safe products, and talk to your colourist about at-home custom toning,” Tarryn says.

Regular cuts and minimum heat styling will also go a long way to ensuring you have the best-looking locks, she adds.

Red pigments in hair colour are hard to maintain because they fade easily, which means you’ll also want to avoid excessive shampooing and sun exposure where possible.

Tess says washing hair less frequently, rinsing with cooler water and protecting hair from UV damage by wearing a hat or using a heat protectant are key to preserving your coloured mane for as long as possible.

Regardless of whether your red locks are faux or natural, if you want more vibrancy, a demi-permanent tint will boost red pigments minus the long-term colour damage.

However, Tess says after a transition through a lighter red phase and having lost its vibrance, artificial red hair will eventually go grey.

There is good news for natural redheads though, as Tarryn says the pigment in the hair that causes it to be red merely fades over time, causing it to turn into a shade of blonde or white, but never grey.

How do you get rid of red hair?

Whether you eventually tire of being a faux redhead or simply want to switch up your natural look, there may come a time when you want to get rid of red hair.

Gabriella says although red colour can be fast to fade, it can be difficult to remove as it is quite stubborn.

“Red can be removed by lightening it out if needed; and (by) using a trusty colour wheel, we can always counteract the red and neutralise it with other tones,” she says.

As for natural redheads, Tarryn says the process a professional takes will depend on what your next look will be.

She adds that naturally red hair can be lightened; however, the red will always come through.

If you want to take a turn to the dark side, she notes, a colourist may cover over the red.

“Each colourist has their preferred methods, which may include detoxifying shampoos, colour removers and sometimes foiling,” Tarryn says.

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Originally written by Charlotte Brundrett, January 2020. Updated by Ravisha Rajapaksha, May 2024.