The Pro Guide To Make Red Highlights Work On EVERY Color

Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images.
We're down to bleach our hair to oblivion, or try coffee-colored balayage, but red hair — strawberry blonde, rusty copper, blazing auburn, and the like — has long been considered a color category reserved for the 2% of the population born with it. But as it turns out, those warm, red shades we're currently craving are totally achievable on every hair color. The trick is knowing what to ask for at the salon.
"Red-tinged highlights add dimension and tonality to the hair," explains colorist Stephanie Brown. "No matter your natural shade, it looks gorgeous when you infuse, or lift up, those red undertones." Plus, vibrant orange-red color works to instantly brighten up many skin tones, which is perfect for minimalists who feel too groggy to dab on highlighter in the morning.
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Ahead, we've compiled your guide to going red, inspired by some of the best red looks we've seen on your favorite celebs. Plus, we've sussed out the best advice from the pros on how to take your hair — be it jet black or mousy brown — to a vivacious red that will have people asking, "Is that your natural color?"
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If you have auburn hair...

Wedding Crashers gave us more than just an early crush on Bradley Cooper, it left us with a lasting obsession with Isla Fisher's auburn hair. If your hair is a similar shade of red brown, or even auburn-adjacent, you can add a super-soft strawberry blonde highlight around the face, which celebrity stylist Andrew Fitzsimons tells us will add a little more contrast between the red shades to really make it pop.
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Photo: Anthony Harvey/FilmMagic.
Jessica Chastian's soft red color is a bit lighter and more orange in tone compared to Fisher's. "When highlighting red hair you want to keep the orangey tones in the color," hair pro and resident redhead herself, Kristin Ess tells us. "A natural balayage technique will always look more natural than a foil highlight — plus the grow-out process is very low-maintenance."
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Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic.
If you have black or dark brown hair...

Colorist Anthony Holguin tells us that the trick to adding a warm highlight over dark hair is to ask for a light, caramel brown with red undertones like Karrueche Tran did here.
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Photo: Samir Hussein/WireImage.
"Hair lifts in stages, meaning warm highlights can show orange, yellow, or bright white," Holguin explains. "To achieve a red tint on black hair, your colorist should use a blend of yellow and pale yellow color." This will give the color an auburn-y richness without it looking fake or brassy, like Jourdan Dunn shows off here.
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RiRi has taken her hair blazing red before — and it was fresh — but we can't discount her soft, copper balayage color, circa 2013.
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Photo: Dan MacMedan/WireImage.
Colorist Cherin Choi tells us that when weaving red tones through very dark hair, it's important to place the color properly to complement the cut. Dascha Polanco's red highlight is super faint, but adds warmth around her face when coupled with a chin-length bob.
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Photo: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic.
If you have medium or light brown hair...

If we didn't know any better, we'd bet money that Riley Keough was a natural redhead. But the purposefully grown-out brunette roots (and her current color) tip us off that the wash of copper color over shiny loose waves actually came courtesy of a stellar dye job. To pull it off, ask your colorist to add a rich red highlight, which will take your color from mousy brown to vibrant and multidimensional. Oh, and bring this photo of Riley.
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When Julia Roberts took her naturally light brown hair to rich auburn for her roles in Pretty Woman and My Best Friend's Wedding, the color (and perm) swiftly became iconic. Since then, the actress has gone full platinum, but we're most obsessed with the in-between color. These shiny, bright blonde highlights brighten up her strawberry base like a dream.
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Photo: Karwai Tang/Getty Images.
Like Roberts, Rachel McAdams now rocks white blonde hair color. But back in the day, she was Allie in The Notebook, with these romantic faded rose gold waves that we just can't forget. Want something this vibrant? Ask your colorist for shade that's a little brighter than expected want since red hair tends to fade faster.
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Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.
If you have blonde hair...

The key to taking blonde to sandy gold — a la Blake Lively — is to lift and highlight the copper undertones. Brown explains that the approach can be subtle. "You only need to lift hair a little bit, because dirty blonde may already have those red tones, they just need a boost," she says. A few cinnamon lowlights help, too.
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Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic.
If you're naturally fair, it's easy to feel washed out by a drab blonde color. If you can relate, try taking your hair to the sparkly light red shade, like the one that Christina Hendricks wears so well. Brown recommends adding clear gloss over the color to really boost the shine.
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Photo: Michael Tran/FilmMagic.
Emma Stone often switches between a platinum blonde color and a deep auburn, which has now become her signature. If your hair is naturally a shade of dirty blonde, one way to ease into red — without going full-on Stone — is to weave in a few copper lowlights before a red gloss treatment. If you like the way it reads, then you can take it further at your next appointment.
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