There’s something about the red-brown color of auburn that just suits every season, and this year the trend is still going strong into winter. Take it from Joico Global Artistic Guest Artist, Mark Mileti: "Auburn is always a tried-and-true trend tone," he says. "So much so that I find my blondes and brunettes who are color shy to even request warmer highs and lows to be infused in their chosen blonde or brunette. I find it pretty regular… Once the weather gets cooler, the hair color gets warmer." Keep reading to see whether you prefer copper, sun-kissed, plum, or true red auburn.
Meet the Expert
- Mark Mileti is a Joico Global Artistic Guest Artist with more than 25 years of experience as a hair colorist. He is currently the head colorist for Studio B Salon in New York City.
- Ryan Sanger is a hairstylist at Bomane Salon in Beverly Hills, California. There, he specializes in hair color and extensions.
Emma Stone has worn every shade of auburn. Here, she wears a perfect example of copper auburn, which Mileti describes as "a copper color with a slightly brown base and a hint of gold." It's a "more mellow sister to copper, the slightly saner cousin to burgundy."
Warm and Rich
Sanger calls copper auburn the true shade of auburn. It's a color that's overall incredibly warm and rich—just like the metal, he explains. Try warming up a naturally darker color by adding copper auburn highlights, as seen here on Taraji P. Henson.
Just like any other hair color, there are different shades and levels of auburn. Here, Karen Gillan opts for a brown dye with red-gold undertones instead of a more fiery and undulating red shade. It's always a good idea to bring in photos and examples of the shade you're going for so you can avoid any miscommunication or disappointment in the end.
Brown base colors have a tendency to turn to blonde as their committed hair change, but copper auburn allows more time between salon visits by working with that chocolate-toned base, instead of replacing it entirely. You'll still have brighter ends, and they'll melt into your natural base seamlessly while fooling people into thinking that any regrowth is an effortless and intentionally blended color job.
If you want to gradually make your way into auburn territory, going for more of a sun-kissed tone might be your best jumping-off point. Sun-kissed auburn is a "deeper more red base with lighter and less vibrant ends," Sanger says. "The main difference between them is the gloss/base color that adds the specific tone you want to see."
To get a sun-kissed shade of auburn, ask your colorist to place highlights close your ends to brighten the overall look and add more dimension. When it comes to aftercare, Sanger recommends the Davines Alchemic Shampoo ($27) and Conditioner ($31) "to preserve and enhance the tones in your hair," he says. For this shade specifically, use the "Golden" version, because it will keep your strands bright.
And then there are the few like Jessica Chastain, who rarely needs to get her color done because she has a uniquely natural copper tone to her auburn strands. When you take a photo of your desired shade in to your colorist, keep the natural base color of your reference in mind to help set realistic expectations.
We're predicting this natural, sun-kissed auburn gradient is the hair color trend to get you through any season. If you lean on the side of cascading waves and effortlessly undone braids, this gradient shade has your name all over it.
Use Multiple Tones
To avoid a harsh, unnatural color, Mileti says to concentrate the most vivid hues mid-strand. "I like to concentrate bright slashes of color through the body and ends of the hair to create the warmth, fire, and passion that we associate with reds or auburn. Multiple tones are applied via highlighting and low-lighting to create personalized auburn hair color."
It's In The Eyes
If you're in love with the idea of auburn hair but aren't sure which shade to choose, Mileti says to look at your eyes, not your skin tone. "When determining whether a person can be a great auburn, the truth is in their eyes. I always look for warm flecks in the eye—copper or golden tones. Even blue eyes can have warm undertones."
Plum is a shade of auburn for people who are color-averse to brighter tones when it comes to their dye preferences. This darker hue was practically made for wearing throughout the autumn and winter.
Brighter tones aren't the only ones in need of at-home care. Darker, cooler colors also need some TLC for vibrance and longevity. Sanger recommends using the same Davines Alchemic Shampoo and Conditioner he recommended for sun-kissed auburn, but this time in the "Silver" version, as to keep the cool plum undertones intact.
A Hint of Violet
Plum auburn can be described as having "a violet tone to it and is overall a deeper auburn," Sanger says. This shade can look almost chocolate brown in some lighting because its red tones are less fiery and more subtle.
Preserve Your Color
"I always remind my clients that auburn is a commitment and proper products are paramount," says Mileti. Sticking to color-preserving products can double the longevity and vibrancy of hair color, thanks to the oil and peptides found inside.
"A true primary red tone can be as bright and vibrant as you want, or more subtle and natural," Sanger says. A punch of vibrant red like we see here on Madelaine Petsch is sure to make your auburn standout among the rest.
One of the many reasons auburn seems to be a color we can't resist is its ability to add depth to our strands. The fact that it has so many color variations gives a lot of room to play with highlights and lowlights, and create a customized shade that is one-of-a-kind.
"When I formulate [color] for clients and a fiery auburn is desired," Mileti explains, "it is very important not to go too far from the natural color so as not to throw off the eye color or skin color. Too many times reds are unsuccessful because they go too fiery at the base (or root), drawing away the woman’s natural coloring."
Avoid Red Roots
If you do decide to make the jump and go for something brighter, Mileti recommends staying away from too much color at the roots. He says it's the make-or-break habit to dyeing your hair with a red undertone.
Is auburn a low-maintenance hair color?
Not exactly. Auburn tends to fade relatively quickly, making it generally more high-maintenance than other hair colors. It's worth noting, however, that your natural hair color will also play into how much upkeep your auburn color will require. Generally speaking, a brunette will have an easier time maintaining auburn hair than a blonde since it's closer to their natural color.
Can I dye my hair auburn at home?
Technically, yes, but this may be more or less difficult depending on your natural hair color and the shade of auburn you're going for. For example, certain shades may require bleaching hair first. It's best to seek out a colorist.
Who are the best candidates for pulling off auburn hair?
Auburn is a versatile hair color making it flattering on nearly everyone. Of course, to find which shade of auburn will best suit you, consider your skin tone and eye color. In general, those with fairer skin will find lighter and/or brighter auburn flattering. On the other hand, if you have a darker skin tone, you might gravitate toward deeper reds. Medium skin tones have more flexibility and can go warmer or cooler with their auburn color.