Emma Stone's Colorist Tells Us How She Keeps Her Red Hair Looking Fresh

Photo: Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images.
Ever since Emma Stone's breakout role as a quirky redhead in 2007's Superbad, people have been bringing photos of the actress to her longtime colorist, Tracey Cunningham, and requesting the same treatment. From glossy auburn waves to strawberry-blonde highlights, Cunningham has made the megastar into the the most natural-looking redhead who was actually born blonde. Here, she opens up to Refinery29 about how she first started working with celebrities, what everyone should know about going red, and what Emma Stone is really like to work with. The following interview was told to Megan Decker and edited for length and clarity.
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"Superbad Red"
My work with celebrities started with Portia de Rossi, who I started coloring when she was on Ally McBeal. Then, my business started growing by word of mouth, and I was getting referrals from big stars. Then one day, I got a call from Judd Apatow, who I knew well because I had been working with his wife, Leslie Mann. He told me he was directing a movie called Superbad starring this young actress, Emma Stone, who was just a teenager at the time. He said she was a natural blonde, but he wanted her to be a redhead in the movie, and he needed me to make her red.
I remember meeting with Emma shortly after getting that call, and she was such a doll, I loved her immediately. At the time, when she was around 17 or 18, she was already experienced in coloring her hair — it's naturally blonde, but she was coloring it this sort of murky brown color at that time. Without hesitation I made her really red — and she looked incredible. We’ve been working together ever since, and I always credit Judd for bringing us together.

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The Redhead Who Was Born Blonde
I always tell people that one of the biggest reasons why Emma's hair looks so incredible red is because she looks like a redhead. Despite the fact that her natural color is blonde, the red suits her so well. It's a unique case, because almost everyone in Emma's family has red hair except her. Her mom is a beautiful natural redhead, and it's actually on both sides of her family. I think there's something about those genetics that make the red shade look so gorgeous with her skin tone and her eyes — it's just a look that she can pull off exquisitely.
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The Key To Natural-Looking Color
Since I've been coloring Emma's hair for years now, it's become a science — but it's not easy. I have to credit her longtime hair stylist Mara Roszak, because her cut and the way her hair is styled makes a huge difference in the way the color reads. But because Emma is very blonde naturally, the color is tricky to get right. The secret to her red — actually, the only thing I’ve ever used on her — is the Redken Shade EQ gloss.
That color gloss is amazing because it feels like a conditioner, but it actually stains the hair. It’s not a real color dye, but because it's acid-based, it lays so nicely on the hair, giving it that shine. And the great thing about Emma's hair is that her natural color blends really well with the red stain that we give her, so the grow-out isn't too severe or obvious.
Photo: Josiah Kamau/Getty Images
The Emma Effect
Ever since we made Emma red, she became this sort of hair icon — and clients ask me for her color all the time. But what many people don't realize is that no hair color is the same, and everyone's starting point is different, so the coloring process varies, especially with red. If someone wants Emma's hair, and their natural color is dark brown, I have to take a completely different approach than the way I treat Emma’s color. As a colorist, you have to switch gears and think about the process differently. Everyone can get that red color, but the technique will have to be tailored to the individual.
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The most important thing to keep in mind when switching your color — whether you're a natural brunette going red or a blonde going darker — is that breakage is very real. Drastically flip-flopping your color to different ends of the color spectrum is the worst thing you can do for your hair. You need to be patient and accept incremental color changes, because that's what's going to protect your hair in the long run.

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The Pro-Approved Color Maintenance Plan
No matter what you do to your hair color-wise, a good maintenance regimen is important. In my opinion, Olaplex No.3 is the best pre-treatment for your hair, and I recommend to all my clients. Work a good amount through your hair about an hour before you shower and throw it up in a bun, then let it sit. I always say you can put it in your hair right when you wake up, and go about your morning routine, and then hop in the shower and wash it out.
Then when you're in the shower, use the Olaplex No.4 shampoo, followed by the Olaplex No.5 conditioner, which is nice and hydrating. If your hair is super dry, I also like the Redken All Soft line — those products are all great. I also am constantly recommending the Redken Extreme leave-in spray for people looking to get their color to look super glossy after a blow-dry or a heat-styling treatment. Truthfully, any color — be it red, blonde, brown, or jet-black — will look exponentially better on healthy, nourished hair.
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