With reds making a comeback, we checked in with the experts for tips on how to help clients find their perfect shade, and how to make reds wearable in any season.
While we’ve grown accustomed to clients choosing to go lighter with hair colour in summer and darker in winter, red can be a surprisingly versatile shade that’s ideal for rocking all year long.
“Red is one of the coolest sections of the palette that we get to work with because there’s something for everyone,” says Chelsea Sutherland, Contessa 2021 Atlantic Hairstylist of the Year and owner of Chelsea Laine Salon and Colour Bar in New Glasgow, N.S. “For people who are typically blonde or brunette, there’s the biggest variation within the red world— from sheer to super saturated and vibrant, there are colours that can work for anyone.”
For some colourists (and clients), the idea of red hair might seem intimidating. However, it can be a lot easier to achieve than you may think.
“Sometimes we get bogged down in trying to interpret trends very literally,” says Sutherland. “We’re still seeing a lot of lived-in hair, even with this red trend. We’re seeing a lot of powdery, diffused tones. Also, soft, peachy, iridescent golden and lighter tones that can still translate and be appealing to a typical blonde client all the way through to rich and saturated mahogany tones that would be more appealing to brunettes.”
“Being a redhead doesn’t have to mean the shade is fiery red,” adds Romie Allard- Pigeon, a hairstylist at Apart Studio in Montreal and a member of Schwarzkopf Professional’s #SKPCanSquad. “Sometimes you need to embrace more natural tones. People have been embracing their natural colour more than ever this year, so we need to continue with this vibe. For example, natural copper and darker reds are usually a must for brunettes. For blondes, I always go with a little touch of papaya that’s closer to a strawberry blonde.”
While a consultation is important for all clients, it’s even more critical when a client is considering a major colour change, or if they want to try out a new trend.
“During the consultation, you’ll want to discuss your client’s future hair colour goals,” recommends Sutherland. “How deep of a commitment are they looking at? You also want to ask about the experience they want—are they looking for a dramatic result or something more subtle?”
“You need to know if they only want to try it, or if it’s something they want to embrace, since it will totally make a difference in how you’re going to create the red,” says Allard-Pigeon. “You need to know if the project is going to evolve, or if the client only wants to be red for a few months.” Sutherland suggests looking at your client’s natural undertones in their skin, lips and eye colour for guidance on narrowing down the shades. However, she says it’s all about striking a balance between suitability and personal preference. “Some people might be able to rock a strawberry blonde but they may be opposed to any warmth,”
she says. “Then, you can get into dimensional work, and they might be more comfortable with a rosy, peachy hue rather than the standard coppery strawberry blonde. Meet in the middle so it’s something that they’re still comfortable with.”
“Stylists and clients don’t always speak the same language, so photos are the perfect way to Make sure we’re visualizing the same thing and have the same expectations. I can see what they vibe with and what speaks to them, and then we customize it.” — Chelsea Sutherland, owner of Chelsea Laine Salon and Colour bar in New Glasgow, N.S.
PRO TIP : While colour protection shampoo and conditioner are a must, so are heat protection products (for wet and dry hair) since heat styling can not only cause damage—it can also strip colour and result in duller hair.
Taking the Plunge
While you may feel the need to proceed with caution when working with red tones, being too careful can also have its pitfalls.
“It can be equally disappointing for a client if they get too much, just as it is if they don’t get enough,” warns Sutherland. “If we’re too cautious because we’re nervous of the change, we’re kind of cheating them out of this big impact that they might be looking for. I often ask that in the consultation: ‘What would be more disappointing: If it’s too red or not red enough?’ It helps clarify and find out where they’re at and and how hungry they are to really experience being a redhead.” Whether a client is opting for a more muted or vibrant result, discussing
how long they need to wait between appointments to maintain their colour is just as crucial as the types of products they should use, since both can impact their long-term hair colour goals. “If they want to be an icy blonde in the summer, we won’t necessarily make them a raspberry merlot unless that’s what they want and they understand the sacrifice,” says Sutherland. “Consent and consultation prior to any red service are non-negotiable.”
“Red hair always fades very fast, so you need to find the perfect balance with the personality of your client and how they handle their haircare,” says Allard-Pigeon, who prefers semi- or demi-permanent options for clients who like to change their hair colour frequently, and permanent for those who want to keep their red colour for at least a year. “I really like doing redheads with glossing and playing with different shades. If a client asks for red and I know she washes her hair every day, I’ll go for a more pigmented red that will last.”
“For red hair with deepness in it, I usually suggest creating a lighter base with a balayage or highlights first to put some light to the natural colour, and after I work with gloss,” she adds. “I like to see my client first to break the base with a balayage or highlights, and after six to eight weeks they come back in just a gloss. Then I redo the balayage or the highlights every four months.”
PRO TIP : Both Sutherland and Allard-Pigeon recommend asking clients to bring in photos of their hair inspiration, but also advise to look for photos of people with the same eye colour and skin tone as your client to make sure you’re both on the same page about the end result.