Red hair is a showstopper and, surprisingly, incredibly versatile. You can go auburn, cherry, orange-red, burgundy, and beyond. Trying a vibrant color for the first time can be scary, so we're here to give you some expert guidance before you take the plunge. You may be inspired to try a DIY at-home highlighting session, but our expert colorist Vauneeka Sutton advises making an appointment with a pro. (Mainly to guarantee you get the look you're hoping to achieve the first time around, especially if your hair is chemically-treated or natural.)
"On virgin non-color treated hair, red highlights can be achieved using hair color only depending on the vibrancy desired," says Sutton. "Natural hair sometimes needs an additional kick of power because of the many cuticle layers. So, for bright cherry reds and coppers, bleaching will provide the best end result because it allows the orange undertone to be exposed, giving a great foundation for toning or glazing with red."
Below we'll share 15 examples of reds on a variety of skin tones to reference the next time you visit your colorist.
Meet the Expert
Vauneeka Sutton is a professional colorist and assistant manager of education at Color & Co by L'Oréal.
CHOOSING A SHADE: According to Sutton, red hair can work on a variety of skin tones, but you'll want to consider your undertone. "A super-easy way to identify your skin tone is, if silver jewelry flatters your skin best, you have a cool skin tone. If gold jewelry flatters your skin best, you have a warm skin tone. If your skin is flattered by both, then you have a neutral skin tone." She suggests copper and auburn for warmer skin tones, merlot and burgundy for cooler skin tones, and if your skin is neutral, you can try both warm and cool shades of red.
MAINTENANCE LEVEL: "Red hair color, in general, can be high maintenance," explains Sutton. "Fading and loss of vibrancy are often experienced by red color wearers. Red highlights can be maintained by using a color-safe shampoo and a red-colored conditioner on a weekly basis." In addition to at-home maintenance, she suggests getting a fresh glaze of red every 4 to 6 weeks.
SIMILAR SHADES: Copper, auburn, and burgundy
PRICE: Full highlights and balayage typically start at $230 and go up from there.
Red Hot Curls
Brightening up curls, especially around the face, can make your features pop and add dimension to your hair.
Cropped and Red
Having cropped hair is even more of a reason to play with color. Here, Brittany opts for fire red coils to match her red lips and nails.
Sleek Face-Framing Auburn Highlights
Red highlights can be as subtle or as vibrant as you want them. This sleek bob and hints of red framing the face coupled with the bandana screams '99 and The 2000s.
Subtle Pops of Red
Monica is known for her expert hair skills and gorgeous curls. The pops of red throughout her curls are perfect for the person with coils that wants a slight, easy-to-maintain change.
Subtle Red and Gold
Red highlights don't need to be stark and bright—even on blonde hair. This example of a faded crimson hue melted into flaxen waves is just the fall hair inspiration you may be searching for.
Copper Red Highlights
Not quite ready to go full-on red? Copper highlights are in the red family and look great on warm brown skin tones.
Bob With Red Highlights
Fiery red paint added to this fresh bob is a whole mood.
Red Highlights With a Bang
When it's time for your appointment, let your stylist know how you wear your hair, so they can add money making highlights to your fringe.
Burgundy Red Pixie
Burgundy highlights and a pixie cut are the perfect recipe for a fall color and cut session.
Red Highlighted Box Braids
Adding highlights doesn't have to be permanent in some cases. Try adding highlights to a protective style if you're thinking about highlighting your hair for the first time.
Faint Merlot and Blonde
The darker lowlights here make the inclusion of faint red highlights more seamless and subtle than an all-over one-dimensional blonde shade.
If you're growing out red hair color or want a more rooted look, ask your colorist to focus the color toward the ends of the air.
Cherry Red Pixie
Okay, this look isn't quite highlights, but it was too good not to share. The hair, the lips, and the red brow are just *chef's kiss.*
Cherry Red Curl Cropped 'Do
Here, you not only get a glimpse of the red highlights, but you can see Davina's hair texture shine through. A mousse with excellent hold will help lay curls down and make them pop, too.
Red highlights really transform in the sun—case in point, these highlights that err on the side of copper when the light hits just right.
Red Ombré Fringed Puffs
We can't be sure if this hair color was intentional or if Jonell is growing the red out. Either way, we love this look.
Copper Red Finger Coils
Jalisa's copper-red finger coils are hydrated and poppin'. When you color your hair, moisture is key.
Cherry Red Ombré Twist Out
Dark roots with pops of red seem to be a fan favorite amongst naturals, and we see why.
Pinot Noir Hightlights
We love the dark burgundy color melt throughout the raven strands here.
Strawberry Color Melt
Rather than traditional highlights, this wash of strawberry color on dirty blonde hair makes for the prettiest all-over rosy tone.