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Redheads are having a moment — how to get (and maintain) the shade of the season

The expert behind my big transformation calls this color the "hardest to get, hardest to keep and hardest to get rid of," but these products will save the day.
TODAY Illustration / Courtesy Audrey Ekman

On a sunny, early summer afternoon in the Catskill Mountains upstate, I found myself in a completely unfamiliar position: seated in the salon chair of a celebrity hairstylist about to transform my ‘do from the mousy brown I was born with into a bold red color.

Having never strayed from my natural dark brown locks, I was nervous. But, I’d been pining after red hair since a slew of A-list celebrities debuted the shade earlier this year, so I decided to test out one of 2022's biggest hair trends.

And after the initial shock of seeing myself with a different hair color, I was ready to rock it outside of the salon. Since dying my hair the new red hue, I have gotten more attention than ever before. According to Chelsey Pickthorn, celebrity hair and makeup artist (and the mastermind behind my own redhead transformation), the reason for this could be that red hair makes a statement.

“When a beautiful red color walks into the room, heads turn and everyone notices.” Pickthorn said.

Convinced that you need to give a shade of red a go? We have the scoop on the bright trend and Pickthorn explains how to get — and expertly maintain — your dream red hair.

What is the red hair trend?

It seems like everyone has tried out red hair recently. Whether celebrities are going red for just a week or they’ve been rocking an iconic ginger hue for decades, the color is having a major moment. It’s not just celebrities who are hopping on the trend — since going red myself, I’ve noticed friends debuting new, fiery manes on social media at a much higher rate than I ever did before.

And it turns out that I'm not the only one picking up on this piqued interest. While online searches for red hair have been popular for years, search interest for specific tones, like copper and strawberry blonde, has spiked recently. In addition, searches for celebrities with red hair are way up.

So, what is it that makes the prospect of red hair so enticing right now? It may have something to do with the trickle-down effect of those high-profile celebrities debuting the look. “When you see someone major make a change to their look, it can inspire you to want to do the same,” Pickthorn theorizes. “You think ‘if they can do it, why can’t I?’”

How to get red hair, according to an expert

In order to achieve the perfect red, you have to consider your current color. “Your foundation is the most important when creating any shade of red,” Pickthorn explains. “Depending on what you start with, there are many ways to achieve a signature red.” If you go into the appointment as a natural blonde, you may not need any lightening agent to get to red, while someone with darker or dyed hair may need to use bleach to lift the hair a few shades.

In my case, Pickthorn worked to apply the color in four sections of the hair, starting with my roots and working down. She explained that each part of the hair processes differently, since the roots of the hair are affected by heat from the scalp, while the ends of the hair are more keratinized. According to Pickthorn, if you were to put the same mixture on the roots and the ends, the roots would probably get really hot while the ends would turn out dull and murky.

To create her gorgeous reds, here are the professional products Pickthorn recommends.

Wella Koleston Perfect Permanent Creme Haircolor

This is one of the products Pickthorn mixed into the custom color she created for my hair transformation. It has over 2,000 perfect five-star reviews on Amazon and reviewers say it can easily mix for the perfect shade.

Pravana ChromaSilk Creme Hair Color

According the brand, you can thank keratin amino acids for the silkiness and shine this formula provides while depositing color. Pravana is one of Pickthorn's go-to brands for creating reds.

MANIC PANIC Psychedelic Sunset Hair Dye

Another formula that Pickthorn leans on when mixing up the perfect shade of red for clients is Manic Panic's hair dye. In addition to being made in the U.S.A., the brand says that the formula is cruelty-free and vegan.

Redken Chromatics Prismatic Hair Color

Redken has some really lovely reds in their lineup. When it comes to mixing up the perfect color, Pickthorn says she often uses the brand's products to achieve the best shade for her clients.

How to maintain red hair, according to an expert

Red can be a pretty high-maintenance color. According to Pickthorn, “red is the hardest to get, hardest to keep and hardest to get rid of.” To keep up with the quickly fading shade, clients should plan to touch up and refresh their red every 6-8 weeks. “Anything longer can cause color inconsistencies,” Pickthorn explains.

Along with suggesting regular color refreshes, Pickthorn passed on some tips for maintaining reds. She recommends avoiding products containing sulfates, alcohol or citrus ingredients, which can sometimes be found in shampoos and other hair products. When it comes to showering, wash your hair “the least amount possible,” Pickthorn advises. “The more days you can go, the longer your color will stay looking fresh.”

Here is what Pickthorn recommends to maintain red hair colors.

Iles Formula Haute Performance Shampoo

Iles Formula Haute Performance Conditioner

I really like the way that my hair feels after using shampoos and conditioners for color-treated hair like this one, and I also love the serum that comes in the brand's value set. For longer-lasting color, Pickthorn recommends shampooing and rinsing with cool water.

Davines Su Hair & Body Wash

Davines Su Hair Mask

Davines Su Aftersun

Davines' Su line was designed to protect your hair from the sun, according to the brand. Pickthorn recommends using a UV protectant while spending time in the sun and wearing a hat to keep your color from fading.

Kerastase Soleil Masque

Pickthorn also recommends this option from Kerastase for protection from the sun. The brand claims that this mask protects sun-exposed, color-treated hair against harmful UVA and UVB rays.

oVertone Haircare Daily Conditioner

According to Pickthorn, a color-extending conditioner can combat fading and keep your red looking vibrant for longer. Semi-permanent dyes like this one can be great to revive color without damaging your hair.

Davines Alchemic Conditioner

In addition to being great for extending the life of color-treated hair, this conditioner is a favorite among natural redheads looking to liven up their color. It promises a boost of vibrancy that can help hold you over until it's time for a proper red refresh.