How to Enhance Red Hair

red hair

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently about my hair colour: specifically, is it real, and if not, what the hell is it? (My favourite of these questions so far: “Is that REAL hair on her head?” uttered last week, by an elderly acquaintance who has a habit of speaking about me as if I’m not actually there. Other choice comments: “She’s very pale isn’t she?” and “She’d look better with a bit of colour in her cheeks. I’d like her better if she wasn’t so pale.” )

Anyway, as most of these questions come from people on Twitter and other networks, and I’m physically incapable of writing ANYTHING in 140 characters or less, I thought it might be useful to just write a quick really long post which I can direct people who are curious about my hair to, so here it is!

In answer to the first question I’m always asked, yes, my hair is naturally red. It’s not naturally AS red as it’s been looking recently, though, and there are a few different reasons for that. One is simply that my hair can look completely different depending on the time of year, and the type of light you’re looking at it in. In summer, for instance, it gets much lighter, especially around the temples, where it’s almost blonde. Paradoxically, though, although the colour is lighter at that time of year, it can actually look much more intense, purely because of the sunlight. In direct sunlight, my natural colour is pretty much the shade you see in my recent photos, which is why I generally ignore the golden rule of photography, and take my photos in direct sunlight as often as possible. Yes, it creates harsh shadows and bleaches out other colours. But it also makes my head look like it’s on fire, and who doesn’t want that, I ask you?

In winter, however (or even just indoors), my hair looks much darker, duller and far less red. I’m all about the red, so a few years ago I started experimenting with various different products which would give it that fiery red look it gets when the sun is shining on it, even indoors in the depths of winter. I also wanted to get rid of the blonde streaks at the temples, which are so much lighter than the rest of my hair, and to basically just make the colour a little more vibrant.

The problem with this was that I didn’t really want to dye it. I just can’t afford the upkeep of a salon dye job, and if you’ve been reading this site for a while, you’ll know that I absolutely HATE going to the salon, so the thought of having to spend hours there every six weeks or so, and deal with regrowth etc just really doesn’t appeal. I didn’t want to do it myself either, partly because I am so accident prone that I just can’t imagine that working out well, but also because I’m lazy, obviously. I really just wanted to give my natural colour a bit of a boost, not to change it completely (or permanently), and I didn’t fancy having to spend a lot of time, or to wreck my hair, doing it. No, what I wanted was something quick and easy, which would enhance the colour without changing it, and ideally which would wash out again if I didn’t like it.

So here’s what I’ve been using:

 

Superdrug Colour Effects Conditioner

1. Superdrug Colour Effects Conditioner in Rich Red or Warm Copper Gold [Buy it here]

I’ve written about this product before, and absolutely swear by it. I found this last year, having spent months searching for a replacement for John Frieda’s Luminous Color Glaze and Wella Lifetex Color Reflex Mask, both of which had been discontinued as soon as the respective brands found out how much I loved them. Like those two products, Superdrug Colour Effects is a colour-depositing conditioner, which you use in the shower to add small amounts of colour to your hair. As I said in my previous post, this is actually terrible as a conditioner, and I always have to use another one after it, but it’s fantastic at boosting the colour of my hair. I’ve used both of the colours shown above, but prefer Rich Red, which is a much deeper, more dramatic red. The Rich Copper Gold is a less intense colour, but is also really nice : it would possibly be a better choice for very fair hair, because it’s a little more natural looking.

I like these because they’re really quick and easy to use , and you can build up colour gradually with them. (Or you can build up colour instantly with them, by leaving the product on for too long, and not distributing it evenly. Don’t do that, kids!) Because they’re not permanent dyes, they also wash out easily enough if you don’t like the colour: I think they claim to last for three washes, but I find I can get around a week out of the colour, and I wash my hair every day. Again, they’re also really cheap at £1.99 (I think) per bottle, so it’s not a huge investment.

Since I first wrote about these, I’ve had lots of emails from people asking if they’ve been discontinued. For some reason, they don’t seem to be stocked in all Superdrug stores, but the good news is that they’re now available online, and you can buy them here: or, at least you can at the time of writing, anyway. Because I like them so much, I have no doubt at all that they’ll be discontinued any day now…

2. Henna gloss

henna gloss

Although the Boots Botanics products mentioned above contain small amounts of henna, I’d always been really dubious about using henna itself on my hair. I know a lot of hairdressers hate it (and are probably about to lecture me about it: all I will say is that yes, I did do a lot of reading before I tried this, so I’m aware of the pros and cons of it…), and it seemed like a really messy, complicated procedure, what with all of the adding-of-ingredients (I’m not good at following instructions, and most of the henna recipies I found seemed to want me to use things like eye of newt, gathered at moonlight by a virgin, and stuff like that) and then sitting around for hours in a shower cap. Also, henna is obviously a permanent dye, not a wash-in, wash-out solution, and that was really NOT what I was looking for.

Then, however, I read about henna gloss. Now, I’m not going to give a full tutorial on this, because this post is already long enough as it is, so if it’s something you want to try, my advice is to Google it first (Here’s a good starting point, but you can’t really read enough about henna before you try it.), but in very simple terms, this involves adding a small amount of henna to your conditioner, and basically creating your own version of a wash-in colour. I’ve done this a few times now, and I really like it: yes, it’s a little bit messy, and do you do have to mix the henna the night before and leave it to develop (Also, although you’re only using a small amount of it, it IS still henna, so it won’t just wash out again), but the benefit for me is that it creates a very gradual colour change, which, again, you can build up, either by repeating the treatment, or for leaving it on for longer. This is much less daunting to me than doing a full-on, permanent dye, and it also leaves my hair feeling nice too, which is an added benefit.

 A quick note on semi-permanent dye…

Other than the products above, I’ve only ever dyed my hair once, and I did it by misake. I used Sante Herbal Hair Colour in ‘Natural Red’, and I actually bought it thinking it was a wash-in, wash-out colour (No, I have no idea what made me think that…), only to discover that it was, in fact, a semi-permanent dye. In retrospect, it was actually a really nice colour: the problem I had with it (and with any hair colour, actually) is that the blonde streaks at the front of my head, being so much lighter than the rest of the hair, obviously absorb the colour more quickly. In this case, they turned a very bright orange, which completely freaked me out and looked pretty bad, although I did like the colour on the rest of my hair. I have a constant battle to find products that will make the red in my hair redder without turning the blonde in it fluorescent orange: I’ve yet to find a solution I’m completely happy with, but I’ll keep on looking! I wrote about my experience with semi-permanent dye in this post, but it’s worth noting that the bottom two photos on that post have an Instagram filter on them which makes the colours brighter – it wasn’t quite that orange in real life!

(Also worth noting that my hair photographs differently depending on the lighting, and I very rarely seem to get a photo that I think is a completely true representation of the colour. I also edit some of the photos to give them a “vintage” feel, or sometimes to correct pictures that are too dark or light, and that can also make my hair look more orange.)

So, there you have it: everything you could possibly ever want to know about my hair colour, and also a ton of stuff no one could conceivably ever want to know. I’ll stop now.

Amber

38 Comments

  • Roisin says:

    This is really interesting, Amber! I’m not a natural redhead but I have been colouring my hair red for the last year or so now so I’m very interested in ways to give the colour longevity. I find the same thing about the John Frieda shampoo, I can never see any noticeable difference after using it – although I have been recently having not been able to get the Boots Botanics one. I love that Superdrug stuff too, and when I go into the store I stock up on it! I must try the Henna gloss, too.

    • Amber says:

      Yeah, I LOVED the John Frieda Color Glaze (so much so that I’m still complaining about it being discontinued about two years after it happened!) but I don’t see any difference with the shampoo and conditioner, and it’s quite expensive if you have long hair (I get through a LOT of conditioner), so I just don’t bother. I’m so annoyed to hear you’ve been having trouble finding the Botanics one too: I have a horrible feeling they’ve discontinued it, and that would be such a shame because it was so good! Boots also used to do an own brand Henna and Horsechestnut deep conditioner which I absolutely loved, too (and which was about £2 or something ridiculously cheap), but I haven’t been able to find it for months now. Don’t even get me started on the new and definitely-not-improved version of the Botanics Soothing Eye Makeup Remover…

      (Honestly, I almost feel like writing to them to complain about what they’ve done with the Botanics line, and I hardly ever feel motivated enough to write and complain to companies!)

  • Liz Tea Bee says:

    My hair isn’t nearly as red-red as yours. It was when I was little. Of course, then I hated it and wanted to be blond like my brother and sister. As I’ve gotten older it’s gotten sandier which bums me out.

    I used the John Freida glaze even though it made my hair tangly and I recently found a shampoo, conditioner and glaze by the chain Ulta (we get alimited Boots products through Target and we don’t have Superdrug) and I’ve been soooo happy with the results. The combination of the three has reddened up the blond around my face without looking like I did it with an orange magic marker.

    I’ve had more success with semi-permanant dyes but I can’t actually do them on myself. My hair is really thick and it take two boxes worth so I really need a friends help. I usually end up doing it once a summer and most people don’t comment on the difference. (Last time the girls I was baby-stting for were very excited that my hair was suddenly “Weasley red” when I explained to them that my hair had always been red they scoffed.)

    I haven’t tried henna but I do occasionally go and look at the Just For Red Heads site and think about it.

    It’s amazing how being a redhead becomes such a major part of one’s identity, isn’t it?

    • Amber says:

      I’ve noticed that there does seem to be much more of this kind of product available in the US than in the UK… I’m forever coming across products which sound perfect, only to find that they’re just not to be found over here, or that I’d have to pay a fortune in shipping/import duties, which I don’t want to do because I don’t want to get attached to something that’s always going to be hard to get a hold off. (This is actually why I started doing the henna gloss – I figure the stuff I’m using now will be discontinued sooner or later, and at least I know henna will always be around!)

  • Sarah says:

    Hi, love this article. My hair is ‘sort of red’ which I have been enhancing to a nice coppery gold shade with either the Superdrug wash in wash out in warm copper gold or the Everything for Redheads colour depositing shampoo in Copper. I used to use L’Oreals casting in Butterscotch which was perfect……….until they discontinued it!!!
    I am really interested in the henna glaze idea though,as I was looking for something a little more permanent. Can you tell me which Henna you used – there seem to be so many in so many shades out there.

    • Amber says:

      I use pure henna – has to be body art quality with absolutely nothing added to it. I know you can buy pre-mixed stuff (and can also add other ingredients to regular henna to get different shades: I might do a bit of research on this to see if there’s something that will tone down the orange-ness of it a little), but I’ve only ever used pure henna, which I get from eBay. I should probably also say here that I’ve only ever bought it once – because you only need to use a little bit of it, it lasts for ages! – so I’m definitely no expert!

  • Lindsey says:

    Hearing that Hey, Dollface! is making a comeback has made my Friday. Thanks Amber!!!

    • Amber says:

      Haha, I’m glad you’re happy – I’ve been trying to find time for it for months now, but something else always seems to come up! I won’t be able to update it anything like as regularly as the other sites, but I do have a few new products I’ve been meaning to write about!

      • Liz in Paris says:

        I’m also delighted that Dollface is coming back! I was a bit mystified as to why there’d been no updates since March yet the site was still up. Looking forward to it!

        • Amber says:

          It’s really funny – the main reason I stopped updating was because no one ever commented on it, so I assumed no one was reading! The type of posts I write for it are also really time consuming, though, and it’s quite hard to find time to update four sites every day, so something had to give!

  • Erika says:

    Way back I used to dye my hair to give it more of a reddish color, but now that I am older and wiser, I want to stay away from the chemical dyes! I use henna in my hair from time to time but it is such a pain! I have an unopened container that I have been waiting for the right time to use, and I think I will now after the henna gloss suggestion. Makes it sound so much easier!!!

    • Amber says:

      Oh, I think it’ll definitely be easier: I’ve never done a “proper” henna dye, because it just sounds so time-consuming and messy, but this only takes me 15 minutes (not including the time it takes for the henna to activate, obviously, but because I don’t add any ingredients to it that’s pretty simple, too – I just leave it overnight and it’s ready to use in the morning), and I’ve so far managed to avoid making too much mess with it, which is a miracle for me. If you’ve used henna before, it’ll be a breeze!

  • Louise says:

    Hair’s a funny thing. When mine’s short like now it’s super duper dark, but if I grow it it’s a dark aurbrun, then I always try to bring the red out more with shampoos etc. At the moment I’m embracing the super duper dark though. You have the most beautiful hair I think, I wish it was mine.

  • vivalasvegas says:

    Personally, I think your natural hair color is fine. Why mess with perfection?

  • Vix says:

    Hi Amber, your blog makes me chortle tea through my nose on a regular basis so thanks for that! I dye my hair red (I think you’re SO lucky to be that natural red, I COVET!) and have done for years but since ‘THEY’ stopped doing my favourite semi-perm dye I’ve found I’ve had to resort to permanent and as a result not do it so often, so inbetween times I use the superdrug radiant red ‘conditioner’ as a shampoo-sometimes leave it on for hours. It definitely prolongs the depth of colour big time. Just a thought
    x

    • Amber says:

      I go through phases with using it as a shampoo, but my hair is too greasy to do it all the time unfortunately: leaving it on for longer definitely makes for better colour, though!

  • Elizabeth says:

    hey, it might be just me but neither Forever Amber or Shoeperwoman are loading at all.

  • Moni says:

    For those who live in or near Germany:
    The drugstore chain Rossmann carries this product: http://www.rossmann.de/qualitaetsprodukt/farbglanz-shampoo-rot.html
    I’m brunette myself, so I haven’t tried this one yet, but I Amber has gotten a few bottles and should be able to tell if it’s good. :)
    They also have these shampoos for brown and blond hair, and I’ve used the brown version for a while. It was okay, but I didn’t really like the scent. I have now started to use the “Balea Professional Braun Shampoo” from dm (a different drugstore), which I highly recommend. Unfortunately that one only comes for brunettes and blondes…

  • ClodyQ says:

    Thats brilliant news,
    Bring on the new hey, dollface.:)
    I also love that superdrug colour,have a little stockpile just incase……I also suffer from the discontinuation fear, they have sadly discontinued the alabaster shades in bobbi brown….such a shame.

    • Amber says:

      I know, I was completely gutted when I heard – and I just KNOW the Dainty Doll line probably won’t be around forever either, so it looks like I have to start the search all over again!

  • Kets says:

    Hi Amber,

    I am an Indian and like most Indians prefer Henna to give copper tones (which look brilliant on most dark hair) to my hair. You can buy pure henna for very cheap in almost any Asian grocery store (these are scattered at various places in and around London).

    Hope this helps.. :)

    Kets
    ps: Love your blog and style of writing.. am a fan!

    • Amber says:

      Hi Kets,

      I actually discussed henna in the post – pure henna is what I use for the henna gloss which is number 3 on the list! We’re very far from London, unfortunately, but it’s easy to find here in Scotland too: I’m lazy, so I just buy it online!

  • Henky says:

    Oh I so feel your pain with discontinuing products you love :/ It always seems to happen. I ran out of my body art quality henna stockpile about two months ago, and found that no India shop (we don’t have any ethnic markets here) carries it. I went to a whole mess of herbal/natural pharmacies and couldn’t find any body art quality henna anywhere. I finally found it in a health-store, paid for it through my nose, had to argue with the staff who tried to give me something they swore was henna but was in fact a whole mess of things except henna to find one.single.box of pure henna. Now my roots are showing and I’m dreading the search for new henna again -.-
    I agree that the application of henna can be a pain, especially since I prefer to let mine set in for 6-8 hours, but I found it’s quite worth it. I now need to trim my split ends twice a year instead of the usual every other month and it doesn’t seem to wash out as much as any other product/dye I used.
    I do, however, occasionally miss having an unnatural and shocking red/fuchsia hair colour, but I keep reminding myself how much my hair grew in the past year or so I’ve been using it.

  • Rose says:

    Hi Amber

    I have red hair too which goes lighter in summer but I kind of like it- I consider it natural highlights

    I used to buy the boots cheap shampoo for redheads which smelt gorgeous but I threw it out in the end as my hair did change colour when I used it and became more orange.

    Have you any idea nowadays of your real hair colour?

    I tried the John Frieda range, didn’t really like them much either, still have 2 half opened bottles.

    • Amber says:

      Sure – I’ve only been using the Colour Effects for about a year, and I don’t use it all the time, so it reverts back to its natural colour pretty regularly!

  • Jasmine says:

    I love your post! I absolutely love the boots botanics red range and thought I was going mad going to every boots looking for it, glad I am not alone. I actually phoned boots and they confirmed the line has been discontinued! Such a shame, maybe we should start a petition to have it re-stocked. But you are so right all the red hair care products eventually get discontinued, I was using the leave in spray conditioner by Quantum Reds a few years ago until that too went. One product I have found that is good is the Davines Alchemic Conditioner for red hair – it’s a little expensive but if you use it as a mask once a week it lasts a while!

  • Gemma says:

    The best colour depositing effect I’ve ever had was (and continues to be) a home made one – cheap thick conditioner and a little bit of bright red vegetable colour, like Directions or Manic Panic. My hair is much more pillarbox red than yours, but still, might work out well!

  • Gemma says:

    Hi
    Do you know the name/colour of the ‘Pure Henna’ you used on your hair?

    • Amber says:

      Hi,

      Henna is the name of the plant and “pure” just means that it hasn’t had anything added to it – it doesn’t come in different colours in its pure form. If you Google “pure henna” you should find lots of information on it!

  • Lindsay says:

    Hi Amber, I’ve recently run out of my stock of Boots Botanics Red shampoo and conditioner and am a little devastated, I can feel my hair getting more and more orange with every moment. Have you found an alternative that you recommend?

  • Dana says:

    Hi Amber, I just wanted to say thanks for recommending the superdrug wash in was out conditioner, when I first read about it I thought it will never work, when I was in my teens I hated my red hair so was forever trying to get it blonde with the wash in wash out stuff unsurprisingly, it never took to my hair, but now I accept and actually quite like my red hair, I bought extensions but the hairdresser could never colour match them to my exact colour so today I bought the superdrug stuff and attempted to add red highlights to the brownish extensions, well it came out perfect, an exact match infant so I’m super happy!

  • Anna says:

    Hi Amber

    I was cheated by the hair gods and robbed of the red hair that should have been mine. My brother got it! I was wondering if you could recommend a styling product for him everything he uses on his, curly, hair makes the colour look really dull and a bit lank. Any suggestions gratefully received!

    • Amber says:

      Hi Anna,

      My hair is stick straight, so I’m afraid I don’t know anything at all about curls: these are just all of the products I use myself!

  • Paula Vianna says:

    Hi Amber!

    I’m from brazil and, right now, my hair is very ginger.
    Naturally i’m a very dark golden blond but I’ve been to hell and back to turn it orangy-red-natural-looking so I learned a few things: I use permanent dye, it’s from alfaparf and it gets the job done, but my hair has a very strong golden shade to it, that even with the constant colouring (I do my roots every 2 weeks) it keeps shining through like it or not (it also helps that I live in rio de janeiro and it’s a tropical country and the sun is constantly at overheating mode).

    So since I decided not to ruin my hair by using the permanent dye on all of it, I just do the roots and keep the rest of it by what they call here a ‘colour wash’ or ‘shine wash’, meaning: you take a little of the permanent dye, adds a little bit of 10% developer and lots of cream, i use the cheapest tresemme hair mask, keep it in your hair for about half an hour and done.

    We also have a colour-depositing hair mask called C. Kamura Banho de Brilho in Conhaque, it’s a very rich, very reddish orange, it’s such a gorgeous colour! But it doesn’t last very long.

    this is my hair color: http://instagram.com/p/WfHxkhEc8T/

  • JoW says:

    Reading this with much interest and I’m definitely going to give these lovely little pots a try (if Superdrug still do them) as I’d like to intensify my natural red hair sometimes too. On a side note, it often seems to me that it’s more socially acceptable to have dyed red hair than natural red hair…

  • Tara says:

    Hi Amber! Any suggestions on a product comparable to the Superdrug conditioner that can be purchased in the US? Doesn’t look like they ship international =(

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