I Ditched My Signature Blonde For The New Year’s Hottest Hair Color Trend
And I’m never going back.
Like many disaffected women are wont to do, I fell victim to boxed hair color in college, deciding on a whim (read: after a vat of homemade sangria) to dye my naturally light brown hair copper red. In the decade-plus since then, I’ve tried all manner of shades for my 2B curls, dabbling with camel coat blonde, beachy golden highlights, and pale ashy baby lights. Still, I felt the pull of that brazen scarlet color of my early 20s — if maybe a bit more flattering and nuanced. So, I decided to visit my longtime colorist Colleen Flaherty armed with inspiration photos of the perfect red brown hair color to shake up my look for the new year.
First and foremost, I will say that switching up your color in any drastic way feels much less daunting when you have someone behind the chair who *really* knows you and your hair. I’ve seen Flaherty for over three years now and she always understands the assignment with whatever shade I ask for. Secondly, I felt uniquely qualified to go red again since my dad is actually a natural ginger and has strawberry blonde hair (which might be why my blonde color is prone to reddish and brassy tones if I don’t use all manner of purple shampoos and masks). So I was pretty confident that I could pull off the look — it was more about finding the exact shade that suited my complexion.
Sure, celebrities like Gigi Hadid and Ciara flirted with flaming red hair in summer 2021, but as a beauty editor I know how challenging it can be to maintain that type of intense, brilliant shade — red, sadly, tends to fade the fastest. I’m also lazy to a fault with my hair, so I needed something that a bi-monthly color depositing mask could handle (I recommend the Christophe Robin Shade Variation mask in Chic Copper). That’s why the red-brown section of the color wheel felt so appealing — although I think I said a reddish-blondish-brownish color at one point... again, find a colorist who speaks your language.
Anyway! Off I went to Spoke & Weal’s Flatiron location, where Flaherty and I chatted about the shade and whether or not I wanted the color to be more of a balayage color melt or extend all the way to my roots (I chose the latter). “The shade I used for you is close to your natural hair level,” she tells me a few weeks after my appointment. “I chose that because it would look the most natural to you. I feel like the vibe we were going for was more of a strawberry blonde that looked like it could actually grow out of your head.”
Then it was onto the foils — so many foils — before saturating my dark roots with an ammonia mixture to “expose the natural remaining pigment in your virgin hair, which at your specific natural level is orange yellow,” says Flaherty. I typically never get color all the way up to my scalp, and the experience was a bit *spicier* than I’m used to, but nothing crazy (like, say, a double process platinum). “[My] best advice is to not wash your hair one to two days prior to on-scalp application for color,” she says, which will help minimize any discomfort or burning.
After 20 or so minutes, it was time to rinse and gloss the color at the shampoo bowl, and already I could see how stunning it was, and... how natural it looked on me.
As she dried and styled my new muted copper hair, suddenly my hazel eyes looked greener, my complexion looked brighter and more sunkissed, and my light brown brows (which I hadn’t tinted in over two months) complemented the new color perfectly. “I also chose more of an orange-yellow hue to complement your eye color and skin tone,” Flaherty adds.
I always like to let fresh color settle in for a bit post-appointment, but after three days I washed my hair with a color-safe shampoo and conditioner and styled it as usual and the color still looked shockingly natural. It’s eerie when you pick a shade that looks like it could 100% be your natural hair color (minus all the fresh grays I’ve collected in my 30s). And not for nothing, my partner, who I always knew has a thing for blondes, commented on my red hair no less than 10 times over the course of the day — a welcome bonus.
So, is it the most drastic hair transformation I’ve ever done? Not necessarily — in the right light it almost appears like my signature sandy blonde. But it is the type of subtle change that makes your entire beauty look seem fresh and exciting again. I feel like the shiniest version of myself (insert copper penny joke here), even on the days when I can only muster a swipe of tinted lip balm and not much more. Perhaps my 21-year-old self wasn’t so off base when she picked up that box of red hair dye after all — she just forged the path that allowed her thirty-something self to finally achieve the red hair color of her dreams.