It’s true that only two percent of the population naturally have red hair, but that doesn’t mean more women can’t enjoy this vibrant, energetic, head-turning hue. You just need to know how to pick the perfect shade of auburn, magenta, strawberry-blonde or orange-red for your skintone.


While most hair colors fall into a scale of one to 10 for lightness or darkness (one being a jet-black and 10 being a platinum blonde), Kelly Van Gogh, hair colorist and creator of Kelly Van Gogh Hair Color, says red hair is different.“Red is a color, not a level, therefore it has its own levels and tones,” she said. “You have to know how dark or light or cool or warm you want it because there are so many different variations.”

For example, level three equates to a violet-red or cabernet, level four would be more of a cooler red and level five is a beautiful auburn color. Levels six to seven are warmer reds, and levels seven to eight are strawberry blonde.When coloring or highlighting to get a red hue, Van Gogh advises using a brown-based shade to add richness and more of a natural look. “With red hair, the brown is there already in the hair’s pigments, so coloring or highlighting based on those underlying pigments will make it last longer.”

Nikki Ferrara, a senior colorist at Sally Hershberger Downtown in New York City, agrees. She says that working with your hair’s natural pigments will best complement your natural skintone. “Choose a red with the same undertones as your skin. For example, if you have yellow undertones, opt for a golden copper. Never try to oppose your skintone with hair color because you will look washed out.”

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Here are Ferrara’s recommendations for choosing the perfect shade of red for your skintone:

Red hair color for light skintones Fair skin looks best with a light, golden, strawberry blonde to a bright copper or red. Avoid wine-colored red and burgundy though because these shades will make you look too pale.

Red hair color for medium skintones Because your skin has more pigments, your hair can too. Opt for a medium coppery blonde to medium auburn shade. Just steer clear of dark eggplant hues as these shades will make your skin appear yellow.

Red hair color for dark skintones Darker skintones look gorgeous with a medium auburn to chestnut brown shade. Super red hues, however, have too much blue in them and will make you look green, so be careful here.

Celebrities with red hair If you want a little celebrity inspiration, just look at Nicole Kidman, Karen Elson and Florence Welch who look fabulous with their light skin and red locks. Julia Roberts is the best example of someone with a medium skintone who always looks great with her red hair, and when it comes to darker skintones, no one does red better than Rihanna, of course!”Red hair looks good because it stands out and it’s a total showstopper,” added Ferrara. “On the right person, with the right attitude, it can be really striking. However, it can also be high maintenance. It rinses out very quickly and you can expect to visit your salon every three to four weeks, so be prepared.”