Red hair runs in my family but, sadly, I didn't get the gene. While my sister's hair was a beautiful Titian red growing up, mine was the same mousy brown as my parents – and the hair envy didn't stop there. From Ariel’s postbox red mane to Britney’s scarlet shade in the video for "Toxic" and even the fictional Jolene with her "flaming locks of auburn hair", the colour has always inspired me. That's why I was happy to see the hue return with a vengeance for AW19 – and it's never been more stylish.
A quick scroll through Instagram and Pinterest serves up hundreds of thousands of red hair trends, from fire tips (a red meets orange dip-dye) to mulled wine and pumpkin spice hair. So I decided to bite the bullet and get my hair dyed professionally. I chose Shout Hair in London's Streatham, a cool, rustic salon with a price list that won't break the bank. I told my hairdresser, Jenny, that I was ready for a change but didn’t quite know what to go for. When she told me that she had been dying to colour my lengths a velvety red for years, it felt like fate.
The first step was discussing the exact shade. I felt comfortable letting Jenny do what she wanted – my relationship with her is longer than the one I have with my boyfriend of almost four years – and trusted her judgement completely. That said, I wanted to start out slowly to see how I'd feel about the drastic change, so we settled on a vibrant auburn at first. Two subsequent visits to the salon have taken me to a much brighter shade that reminds me of red velvet cake, another autumn/winter hair trend taking over Pinterest.
I was worried that the darker hue would highlight my pink skin but it’s actually incredibly flattering on fairer skin tones. What I would say is that a consultation is really important. Jenny showed me which shades would look best with my complexion (typically burnt reds with copper undertones) and which might not be as great (rich purple-based shades), and she was totally right. In other words, when going for a nuanced colour like this, it pays to trust the pros.
Contrary to popular belief, the dyeing process was actually quite simple. Because of the existing balayage in my hair, the tips are a much brighter, fiery red than the top two thirds of my hair, which was virgin quality (hadn’t been dyed at all). As a result, dyeing the entirety of my head was fairly easy and didn’t involve any further bleaching, which can put a lot of people off. On my first visit, it only took around 45 minutes and one attempt to get my hair to a shade of red that we both loved. This is mainly because my hair was mostly undyed, so chat to your hairdresser beforehand about what to expect.
As my appointment came to an end, we got on to the dreaded topic of maintenance. Jenny explained to me that red is one of the more difficult colours to opt for as it’s the fastest to fade but also the hardest to remove entirely. This is because the pigment clings to the hair more intensely than others. However, I've found the perfect routine and have managed to make it fairly low maintenance, avoiding the typical monthly visits to keep my colour topped up.
The first port of call is good haircare. A friend of mine, who is also a hairdresser, once told me that there’s no point in spending £100+ on professional hair colour and then using products that aren't compatible with it, so I picked up the Bed Head by TIGI Colour Goddess Oil-Infused Shampoo For Coloured Hair, £17.95, and Conditioner, £29.45, both of which have rave reviews online. Sure, they're a little pricier than high street shampoos but they come in massive bottles, nourish and strengthen coloured hair with shea butter, vitamin E and keratin, and smell like caramel.
Once a week, I use the Maria Nila Colour Refresh in Bright Copper, £12.59, as a shampoo, with the Evo Fabuloso Copper Intensifying Conditioner, £21, to brighten the colour and keep it from fading further. Both of these products contain pure pigment, which is why I only use them once a week, so that they don’t completely alter the colour too much. It does mean I can leave it longer between appointments, though, and I head in every two months instead of every four weeks. Since the first visit it has only taken around 30 minutes each time to cover any roots and refresh faded strands.
Overall, my new red tresses make a nice difference after six years of having my hair bleached and balayaged, which can be drying and stressful on hair. Amazingly, I always walk away from the salon with super soft hair. The new texture and shine has also changed my curl pattern, and it settles into the structure much more easily, making it simpler to manage. I may have made the change in time for autumn this year, but it certainly isn't just for the colder months. This time, the red is here to stay.