Red hair is bold, sexy, sassy and fun. It stands out in ways that other hair colors just can’t compete with, especially when it catches the light in just that certain way. But very few of us are naturally blessed with this gorgeous hue, from pale ginger to rich auburn, so if we want to feel like a flame-haired bombshell a la Christina Hendricks or Florence Welch, we’ve got to fake it.
Red can be one of the hardest hair colors to achieve, since it tends to fade quickly, and the wrong shade can send you to the clownish side of the spectrum. Here are some natural red hair color tips, and organic red hair dye brands that can safely get you the vivid shade you’re looking for, including healthy and all-natural henna.
At the Salon: Aveda Plant-Based Hair Color
Nobody does red hair color better than Aveda, and if you want to avoid the pitfalls that can come with at-home dye jobs, putting yourself in the hands of a pro is your best bet. The brand’s full-spectrum permanent dyes are up to 99% naturally derived, with plant-based formulas instead of the petrochemicals that typically make up permanent hair dye. The nice thing about going to a salon is you can have a color custom-mixed to ensure that it’s just right for your skin tone, and the colorist can blend different shades to give your overall look more depth.
Aveda isn’t the only option for safe, organic red hair color, of course. Look for a salon in your area offering organic, non-toxic options, and check out the brands they use online before making an appointment.
At-Home Permanent Red Hair: Naturtint and Herbatint
If you’d rather just grab a box off the shelf and get it over with, there are a few options to choose from. Whole Foods and other natural food stores offer brands like Naturtint and Herbatint. Herbatint is free of ammonia, alcohol, fragrance and parabens, and uses less peroxide for a more natural-looking result; the Environmental Working Group (EWG) gave it a safety score of 2 out of 10, (lower numbers indicating a safer product). Red shades range from light copper blonde to ‘flash fashion’ crimson red, and they can be mixed to create your own custom shade. The same goes for Naturtint, which scored a 3 from EWG. These box formulas aren’t perfect, but they’re a big improvement over the conventional store brands.
Not sure which shade to choose? When it doubt, go lighter. You can always dye it again if the results aren’t bold enough for you, but it can be hard to fix cherry-red hair that’s darker and more dramatic than you wanted.
Making a Big Commitment: Henna
By far, the healthiest and most permanent option for red hair color is henna. Totally plant-based, henna bonds with the proteins in your hair rather than just coating it in a very long-lasting reaction that’s hard to reverse. Because it has a sheer effect, working with your own natural hair color, the results tend to look fairly natural, with lots of dimension.
You can control the hue of your results using the custom formulas described at HennaForHair.com, which incorporate other natural ingredients like coffee, hibiscus petals and lemon juice. Always try it out on a small piece of hair before coloring your entire head.
Temporary Red Hair: Vegetable Dyes
If you want to give natural red hair color a try, but you’re feeling a little commitment-shy, try a temporary rinse. Vegetable dyes like Manic Panic can be used over your current hair color (assuming it’s not too dark) for a subtle effect that washes out in a week or two. Manic Panic is vegan, PPD-free and never tested on animals, but some formulas do contain parabens. Learn more about the ingredients at Bonzai Aphrodite, and make sure to do an allergy test before use.
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