The most flattering red hair colors for every skin tone
"Christina [Hendricks] has the most beautiful porcelain skin, and this vibrant carroty auburn creates a beautiful contrast against it," says colorist Marie Robinson, who has worked with Hendricks. We tend to agree: A hair color described as carroty wouldn't normally sound too appealing (see: Carrot Top), but on superpale skin, this rich shade lights up the face and makes features stand out. When considering a shade this vibrant, Robinson recommends keeping the length of your hair in mind: "This color looks most beautiful when the hair is kept at a sophisticated length," she says. "If Christina had superlong hair, you would just see that and you wouldn't see her."
"It's such a natural, Irish-looking red—like Celtic Barbie," says colorist Kristin Ess (who, it's worth noting, is also a redhead). When your fair complexion is neutral like Julianne Moore's (meaning it doesn't have overtly pink, yellow, or olive undertones), that gives flexibility: "She can carry pretty much any red," says Aura Friedman, a colorist at the Sally Hershberger Downtown salon in New York City. To keep color this fresh and shiny, Ess recommends adding a gloss treatment over the color, which you can have your colorist do at the salon. (Or try an at-home treatment, like John Frieda Clear Shine Luminous Color Glaze.)
"Emma [Stone] is fair with yellow undertones, so this less-vibrant red works well on her," says Friedman. Although Stone has often been blonde over the past few years, we love seeing her return to her roots (pardon the pun) with the color that made her famous. "This muted red brings out the peaches-and-cream tone in her skin, making her look like she's glowing," says Robinson, who has worked with Stone. "Vibrant reds can make women with this skin tone look a bit paler."
Amy Adams has experimented with a slew of different reds, but this brown-based shade is one of our all-time favorites. "It's almost an Irish setter red," says Friedman. Good on dogs, better on Oscar nominees. "It's equal parts red and light brown," says Ess, who adds that women with a pale olive complexion like Adams's should avoid going too orange or too warm. Those tones tend to clash with olive skin tone or make it look slightly sallow. "You want to keep the neutral tones in there," she says.
The model-slash-actress has spent the past ten years as a blonde, but she recently made a change to red with the help of Friedman. "Molly [Sims] has fair to medium skin with golden olive undertones, so we went with a strawberry red," she says. "For women with this skin tone, dark, rich copper and golden reds like Molly's are more flattering than cool reds, like scarlet or crimson."
"The tonal variation in the front really works with her skin tone," says Ess. "With this type of red, it's good to highlight first and then gloss over it, so the color is broken up a little bit and doesn't look like a wig." If you have a medium skin tone like Kate Mara's, consider going darker at the roots as she did to create a visual separation between your skin and hair, so it doesn't all blend together.
Natural brunettes, take note: This is how you do red in a flattering way. So why does it work so well? "When you have deep olive skin, you want to keep the ratio of red low, so this subtle hint of it is great," says Ess. To get Eva Longoria's look, ask your colorist for "golden chestnut with coppery highlights throughout," says Robinson. "The glimmer of red looks subtle and pretty."
"It's like red velvet cake," says Ess of the singer's rich shade. "The darker your skin tone, the more blue-red you should go. Orangey, warm reds can look like an accident against darker skin tones." Friedman adds that keeping a dark color at the root like Rihanna has helps this shade work well: "It makes it look less clunky and more purposeful," she says. Other flattering reds for those with Rihanna's skin tone or darker? "Blue- and purple-based reds, like berry and wine, look amazing with darker skin," says Ess.
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It seems like someone started a rumor years ago that red hair only looks good if you have one of three skin tones: fair, fairer, and fairest. We're here (along with Rihanna) to officially set the record straight: We've found a wide range of gorgeous reds for a similarly wide range of complexions. Here's how to get your perfect shade.