Kendall Jenner, Sydney Sweeney, Anya Taylor Joy, Jennie and Megan Thee Stallion lit up the moodboards with various iterations of red. Whether for work or play, they made red hair haute (pun intended). First of all, compared to blonde, red is easier for our hair as we have crimson undertones in Asian hair!
Here, we have a few colourists — CK Kharkanis at Yann Beyrie, Eimaer Mitchell at Toki Lim and Andrea Claire, a freelance hair and makeup artist and licensed hairdresser — who have answered our top burning questions about maintenance, what type of red we should go for, if bleach is ultimately necessary and why or why not we should try box dye (short answer, unless you’re an expert — don’t!).
What type of red suits Asian skin tones?
Andrea Claire (AC): As we know, there are many Asians so we can’t base a colour recommendation on ethnicity, and skin tones vary. You want the red to complement your skin, not contrast with it. For cool skin tones, use cool hair reds and warmer skin tones, warmer reds.
CK Kharkanis (CKK): Bright, vivid fashion reds work well on anyone that can rock the whole look! Cool blue/violet- based darker reds contrast and work with fair slightly pinker Asian skin tones. Warmer reds can pair well with yellow and tan Asian skin tones.
Eimaer Mitchell (EM): All colours are personal and no two people see them the same. It’s a must try experience. Coppers can be fabulous on both darker and lighter skin. Mahogany and burgundies are particularly nice near dark skin. But, also very dramatic on lighter skin.
For those who want to try box dye, what are some dos and don’ts for trying to achieve the same color on the box?
AC: As a licensed hairstylist, recommending box dye is not something we typically put a stamp of approval on. So, I try to arm clients with information that leads them to success vs. tears of horror in the bathroom mirror. First you need an understanding of the numbers. Hair colours use a number system: 1 or a 100 series is black; 9 or 900 is blonde. The numbers after usually determine the undertones ie: .1 – Blue, .2 – Violet, .3 is Gold, .4 is Copper, .5 is Mahogany, .6 is Red, .7 is neutral matte, .8 is Mocha. If you are a natural level 4 but grab a box for a 9 – you will not become blonde, especially if you have black, thick hair. Box dyes are usually successful for one to two levels of lift or going darker.
CKK: Don’t go by the picture of the hair on the box. Identify how dark your natural color is and choose one or two shades lighter not more, otherwise you’ll get hot roots!
EM: Don’t do it.
Red fades very easily. How often should we use color depositing shampoo, hair mask and conditioner?
AC: First, know that everyone who has hair has underlying pigments of red, orange and yellow. Your natural level will determine how much. Artificial reds fade easily because it’s the smallest colour molecule [and] it’s the hardest to get into the hair shaft, plus the hardest to get out as the red pigments can linger. Colour shampoos are great to help maintain rich and vibrant reds. I recommend using a porosity equaliser or doing a mask prior to a colour shampoo. Lather and let sit on 5-10 minutes for the stain effect. The healthier your hair is, the better results you get for colour. Having a clear semi-permanent colour over your fresh colour helps with fadeage too. Clear can be used over any colour and I love them for sealing in colour for the tropical climate.
CKK: Make sure the color depositing haircare matches the undertone red that you want to enhance (cool vs warm). Also, leave on for extra time for more deposit or mix with regular shampoo/conditioner if it’s too concentrated. Finally, if your ends are dry, the color may become more saturated so don’t leave too long if your hair is dry or porous.
For those who want to dye their hair but are super active, how can they protect their color before and after exercising?
AC: [Sweat from] Exercising won’t affect your hair colour but excessive washing, sun damage, chlorine can. Use a shampoo and conditioner formulated for colour treated hair. These have UV and environmental protectors in them to help with the longevity of your hair colour. If you tend to get super sweaty, consider a sweatband to help absorb your sweat to reduce the need for over washing — this protects your skin from breakouts too — win-win!
CKK: Make sure to use oil or swim hair protectant and always use a swim cap. Shampoo kills color so a rinse, air dry and dry shampoo helps preserve color.
EM: Have a good stylist, they’ll walk you through the process. Check in regularly with them. Colour shampoo and conditioner is a must.
Red is one of the colors that can be achieved without bleach. For bleachless reds, what differences have you encountered with it versus achieving the ideal red with bleach?
AC: Bleach allows you to get more lightness and/or a dramatic contrast. How bleach essentially works is, it eats away at the hair shaft removing colour whereas colour will gently go past the cuticle, lift pigment from the cortex and deposit new pigment. If it’s not done to maintain the integrity of the hair shaft, you can lose a lot of the structure resulting in breakage or a cotton candy situation. If I am bleaching and glazing/glossing, I prefer a semi vs a permanent colour.
If you are wanting to forego bleach then you can get up to [four] levels of lift with colour. So essentially, bleachless reds are more gentle for the scalp and hair health but are limiting if you want an extreme contrast or dramatic red. The results with semis, permanent or bleach and glaze are very different. Talking to your stylist and showing pictures of both what you like and dislike gives us the opportunity to educate you on what’s achievable, how long it will take, cost and upkeep. This is why artists need to be respected. It’s an education that involves math, chemistry, art and colour theory.
CKK: Non bleach works well only if hair doesn’t have any previous color on it virgin hair. So, permanent red tones [without] bleach and then “seal it” with a semi-permanent.
EM: Bleaching achieves the brighter shades on naturally dark hair .Reds on dark hair without bleach can have warmth and depth too. Talk to your stylist about the best options.