How to Choose the Perfect Red Hair Shade— From Strawberry to Copper

How to Choose the Perfect Red Hair Shade— From Strawberry to Copper

Megan Thee Stallion with cherry coke red hair

@theestallion / Instagram

If you follow pop culture trends, you’ve probably seen your favorite celebrities experimenting with different shades of red hair. So, it should come as no surprise that red hair is popping up more IRL, too. “Once you see models such as Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski [with red], we see an uptick in clients coming in looking for the best red” for themselves, says colorist Staci Barton.

While going red is probably not something you want to try at home—”[Shades of red] are custom bespoke colors achieved best by a professional colorist,” notes hairstylist Michelle Cleveland—if the idea of high-maintenance hair color doesn’t scare you away, this may be your year to go bold. “Red is timeless; it’s just about finding the right red for you,” says Barton.

Read on to find your perfect shade of red with help from Barton and Cleveland.

Meet the Expert

  • Staci Barton is a hairstylist, colorist, and the owner of Slate Hair Studio in Westchester, New York.
  • Michelle Cleveland is a hairstylist and the owner of Hair Addicts Salon & Extension Bar in New Jersey.

01 of 12

Strawberry Blonde

Rachel McAdams Strawberry Blonde

Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images

How many hair colors can Rachel McAdams pull off? The limit does not exist. Both experts note that this strawberry blonde is typically most flattering on a fair skin tone and can be a good transition shade for your intro to red hair. “If you’re blonde considering going red, try warmer tones in the blonde family first to let your eye adjust to the tone difference before committing to the depth,” suggests Barton.

To achieve this look, use level 9 with golden reds, says Cleveland.

02 of 12

Light Copper

Emma Stone Light Copper Hair

Mike Marsland / Contributor

Much like strawberry blonde, Emma Stone’s light copper best suits a fairer skin tone. Unlike strawberry blonde, however, copper sits more at a neutral red (as opposed to leaning warm).

To achieve this look, use level 8 with a brown-red tone, Cleveland shares.

03 of 12

Light Bold Red

Lindsay Lohan Bold Red Hair

@lindsaylohan / Instagram

While we're on the subject of iconic red-haired women in Hollywood, we'd be remiss not to mention Lindsay Lohan, who has made us envy her natural locks since The Parent Trap days. Lohan's light but bold red hair is the perfect melt of copper and strawberry.

The experts warn that this look may give your colorist a run for their money, and once you start getting into this level of red, you'll need to be ready to commit. To achieve this look, use level 7 with a red-brown tone.

Byrdie Tip

“If I can give any advice as a stylist to anyone looking to go red, step away from the box dye,” advises Barton. “Consult a stylist, and highly consider semi- or demi-permanent color. I warn blondes, especially, because getting your previous blonde back is difficult to achieve once you go red and typically will require multiple appointments.”

04 of 12

Medium Copper

Jourdan Dunn Medium Copper Hair

Samir Hussein / Contributor

Jourdan Dunn's copper curls were practically made for her and are the perfect subtle red. Ideal for an olive to brown skin tone, this look can be achieved by mixing a level 5 with medium red to achieve a barely-there tint.

And if you aren’t ready to fully commit, this is a shade that can be achieved with less: “If you are a brunette without highlights and virgin hair, it’s your lucky day,” reveals Barton. “Depending on your desired outcome, [this look] can possibly be done with just a glaze or toner.”

05 of 12

True Red

Sadie Sink Red Hair

Christopher Polk / Contributor

If you're wondering how to achieve Sadie Sink's true red hair—same. One might argue that you must be born with such a color for it to look this good; the experts say your best bet is mixing neutral and warm medium reds with a level 5 or 6 to secure this look.

Bring extra inspo photos to your stylist if you want to go this bold, and note that it won’t be easy to upkeep. “In general, reds, coppers, auburns, and mahogany will all be high-maintenance colors,” Barton notes. “They require cold water when shampooing, color-treated shampoo, and possibly even a color-depositing conditioner. This is all between your regularly scheduled [glazing and toning].”

06 of 12

Bold Cherry

Megan Thee Stallion Red Hair

@theestallion / Instagram

Megan Thee Stallion’s bold cherry locks are, in fact, real hot girl sh*t (IYKYK). Reds with violet undertones are especially complementary against darker skin tones and really pop against them.

With a shade this vibrant, there’s even more of an imperative to have an expert color your hair (no matter how tempting it might be to use a box dye). Plus, this look will likely require bleaching of the base first—so a salon visit is a must.

07 of 12

Bold Copper

Zendaya bold copper hair

Jeff Spicer / Stringer

We are thoroughly convinced Zendaya could dye her hair any color in existence and make it look flawless, and this bold copper is no exception. Copper-based reds are great for olive or light brown complexions, the experts note.

To achieve this look, use a level 5 with a medium brown-orange tone.

08 of 12


Tyra Banks Auburn Hair

J. Shearer / Contributor

Tyra Banks has never been afraid to go big and bold with her style, and the same goes for her hair. This throwback Tyra look is the perfect auburn that strikes the ideal balance between red, brown, and golden tones.

To achieve this look, you'll want a level 4.5 base mixed with brown-red.

09 of 12

Dark Auburn

Shay Mitchell Dark Auburn Hair

Phillip Faraone / Stringer

Blink twice, and you might miss the hints of red in Shay Mitchell’s dark auburn hair, making this the perfect intro to red for those with darker hair looking to dabble in something new. This shade is perfect for a range of olive to darker skin tones.

To achieve this look, mix level 4 with a dark red-brown tone.

10 of 12

Dark Cherry

Kelly Rowland Dark Cherry Hair

Steve Granitz / Contributor

Dubbed “cherry cola” hair by TikTok users, Kelly Rowland’s signature 2001 hue has made a major resurgence. We can’t say we’re surprised—it’s an iconic shade that looks flawless against darker skin tones. And in case we haven’t reminded you enough, it’s best to hit the salon for this color so you know it’ll be executed right.

The experts note that achieving this type of look will be a process, combining a dark base (likely level 3) with blonde highlights dyed with a bold cherry red to get the extra pop of color.

11 of 12


Sophie Turner Wine Red Hair

@sophiet / Instagram

Some shades of red can complement all skin tones—from fair to deep—and wine red is among them. Sophie Turner is serving Queen of the North energy with this fierce look, which can be achieved with a level 5 base with cherry red and warm toner.

12 of 12


Lala Anthony Burgundy Hair

@lala / Instagram

Lala Anthony’s burgundy hair keeps coming back in style (and for a good reason). The gorgeous blend of deep red and purple complements her hazel eyes and neutral undertones.

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