Take one scroll through your feed right now and it’s likely you’ll land on an aesthetically pleasing autumnal hair video. In true Christian Girl Autumn style, the transformation clips feature hues ranging from deep burgundy to pumpkin spice, with many citing their love of roaring fireplaces, books, and Gilmore Girls as the inspiration behind them. Among the myriad warm tones, one seasonal shade caught my attention more than any other.
Enter: autumn orange.
What is autumn orange hair?
"When someone says an autumn orange, I think of those really warm orangey tones," explains Kornelija Cecetaite, junior stylist at Bleach London. "It's more a kind of rustic orange, as opposed to a bright color." With that in mind, I booked into Bleach's Dalston salon to undergo a blonde to autumn orange overhaul.
I had little knowledge of what the process would be like, what the upkeep would require, or how to take care of the color at home. Thankfully, Cecetaite answered all of my pressing hair transformation questions over the course of my appointment, providing vital information about what it really means to commit to autumn orange this season.
How do I get autumn orange color?
Cecetaite pushes the importance of bringing a good reference photo to your hair appointment to establish whether your desired shade should be more orange or more brown, depending on your skin tone. Once the ideal color is established, you can discuss whether permanent or semi-permanent color is best. This all depends on the base color and the maintenance level that suits your lifestyle.
As I was working from bleached blonde highlights, we wanted something that would blend easily as my natural dark roots grow out. We settled on a semi-permanent autumn orange color using a Wella toner (this will vary between salons). After applying that all over the head, the color was left on for 20 minutes before being washed out with a mix of Bleach London’s Tangerine Dream and Proper Copper hair dyes mixed with conditioner.
Does autumn orange work on all hair colors?
A reference photo is a good jumping-off point, but the final shade will always depend on whether you are starting from light or dark hair. "Bleached hair acts like a blank canvas," explains Cecetaite. "When you're going from dark, while it is also a blank canvas, you have to go about it in a different way."
When it comes to dark hair, Cecetaite says that while you can get a really nice copper hue, sometimes it won't be as vibrant. "The color will always have a little bit of depth because you're essentially working with the natural color of someone's hair as opposed to bleaching it, which is stripping that out of the hair," she says.
In short? It’s good to establish just how bright an orange you want before the appointment so that your colorist can establish whether the hair will need to be bleached before adding color.
How long does autumn orange color last?
If you want your autumn orange to last long beyond the season itself, there are a few things to bear in mind. "Typically, when it comes to a tint, you’ll find that the first thing that will fade is the orange-ness," explains Cecetaite. "Because the shade is a mixture of brown and orange, it's always the lightest color in the mixture that will fade first, so it will still stay a copper color but not as bright."
Although Cecetaite says the color could start to fade from one month onwards, there are plenty of things you can do to help it last longer, like keeping hair washing to a minimum. "If you don’t wash your hair as often, then you won’t have to top it up as much," explains Cecetaite. Her suggestion? Building up your hair tolerance incrementally.
It can sound like a lie when people say they 'trained their hair' to go further between washes, but Cecetaite says it is possible. Given that I typically wash my hair every three days, she recommended that I try switching to every four days for a week, then back to three, then back again to four and so on, until there isn’t any difference between my three- and four-day hair.
From there, you can continue upping the days between washes, with the goal of washing your hair once a week for maximum color protection. Cecetaite also suggests using a heat-defense spray when blow-drying or straightening, for example, as heat styling can lighten the color of the hair, too.
How do I maintain autumn orange color?
All hair color fades eventually but maintaining brighter colors requires a bit more than your average refresh. "When the hair is bleached, you will find that it will fade off significantly quicker because the dye doesn’t have much pigment to hold onto," explains Cecetaite. "This means if your base is blonde, you will likely have to redo the whole dye again, not just top it with a bit more orange or brown depending on which pigment has obviously faded. The best thing you can do is let it all fade off and then do the whole thing again," she says.
If you want to keep up the color as you go, another option involves mixing the dye in with your conditioner. "Every time you shampoo your hair, whatever fades off you can top up by leaving the dye and conditioner mix on for a few minutes."
For the at-home top-ups, Cecetaite recommended that I try half and half of Bleach's Tangerine Dream and Proper Copper. [Editor's note: A hair red hair gloss, like Kristin Ess Copper Penny, is another at-home option.]
The main thing to remember about looking after dyed hair is that the products you use matter. "It's true when people say a color-saving shampoo will make the color last longer," says Cecetaite. In order to prevent the color fading too much, it’s essential to use products formulated for color-treated hair. Josh Wood Colour Miracle Shampoo and Nexxus Color Assure Shampoo are both great options due to their nourishing, non-stripping ingredients. For those looking for a budget-friendly option, OGX Fade-Defying Shampoo has rave reviews for its sulphate-free formula.
How hard is it to go back to my natural color?
Autumn orange may be the color of the moment but it's always good to think ahead, especially if you switch up your hair often. One of the major things that will affect how easily the color can be changed is how often the dye job has been topped up along the way.
Cecetaite explains that if you add color in your conditioner every time you shower, this will create more buildup on the hair that you will eventually have to get rid of. If you let the color fade gradually before redyeing completely, there will be fewer layers of color on the hair, making it easier to work with further down the line.
In my case, Cecetaite said that getting back to blonde is possible as long as I'm happy with the hair being a warmer tone than before. "With bleached hair, it might end up being a bit more orangey or peach before you can get yourself back to blonde, but I feel like that's quite fun. There is a nice variation between shades."
In other words, the color process is a journey but I, for one, am more than happy to enjoy the ride.
This story was originally published on Refinery29UK.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.