Red is the blazing hot trend in hair color this season. Longtime redheads Christina Hendricks, Florence Welch and Karen Elson stand out with an almost angelic glow of gorgeous color framing their faces. And hardly a day goes by that we don't hear of some celebrity — such as blondes Scarlett Johansson and Blake Lively or brunette Rihanna — switching to a ginger tinge.
The color makes a bold statement, and whether someone spent a few hours in a colorist's chair or was naturally blessed with red tresses, the punchy hue is as much an attention-grabber as any bold accessory.
"I've always thought of red as a state of mind," says Marie Claire magazine beauty director Ying Chu, who adds that only 2 percent of the world's population has naturally red hair, though many adopt the color for its striking qualities. "The color portrays a fiery, seductive, standout personality. One can hardly blend in the crowd when sporting it — think Florence Welch, Julianne Moore, Lucille Ball."
Colorist Vanessa Spaeth at the Andy Lecompte Salon in West Hollywood, Calif., has observed a stronger demand for red hair in the past few months. Spaeth says a few of her clients were inspired by the crimson-wigged models in Mulberry's spring-summer 2011 runway show last fall.
"Those red wigs had my fashionista clients in a frenzy," she says. "The fear of red is being washed away."
In addition to full-on red, she has been adding tones of apricot and strawberry shades to color formulations for her blond clients, to give them a warm pinkish hue similar to Lively's new look.
But as trendy and eye-catching as red hair can be, it takes serious maintenance for the color to stay rich and vibrant for more than a couple of weeks at a time.
"Typically, red has always been stubborn and almost impossible to keep up," Spaeth says. "It's the hardest to keep in, and the most difficult to completely get out." She attributes this to the large size of the red molecule in the dye, which makes it more difficult to bond to the cortex of the hair.
Spaeth says that how well the color will last starts with the way a stylist processes the color concoction in the salon. "It's important that your colorist is consistent with the kind of toners and glosses they use during the coloring process. These help keep the vibrancy, shine and luster that red so commonly loses."
In between getting roots touched up or color totally redone, have gloss treatments, advises Begona Fernandez de la Vega, colorist at the Frederic Fekkai salon at Melrose Place, Calif. These will revive the color and add shine.
She recommends caution when using shampoos that are red in color and claim to put the shade back into your hair. "Shampoos with red in them tend to dry the hair," she says. "You can use them once every two weeks but not more than that."
She and Spaeth recommend products including a Davines shampoo and conditioner for color-treated hair and Fekkai Salon Technician color-care products. The latter contain Galanga root extract, known for having anti-fading properties.
Fernandez de la Vega also recommends that some clients use a hair mask once a week to condition, add shine and help the red last longer. People with normal to thick hair should use a mask once a week, she says. But for thin hair, masks are too heavy and a better option is to use a deep moisturizing conditioner after shampooing.
But what about the 2 percent who have naturally red locks? They don't have to worry about color fading the same way dyed redheads do, but naturally red hair does tend to bleach easily in sunny summer months, Fernandez de la Vega says. She is adamant about sun protection on red hair, through a UV-protective hair spray or cream.
Even with all the maintenance required to keep red vibrant, women can't seem to get enough of the hue, whether it's a delicate shade of apricot or a rich shimmery auburn.
"More and more of my clients want red hair," says Fernandez de la Vega, who tailors the color to suit the client's skin color and hair type. "I'll start most of them off with a subtle shade of red, and those who like it are always a bold shade of copper a month or two later. Red hair shows a strong personality, and people who go red want to be seen."