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No matter your current base color, transitioning into red hair is easy with these professional tips and tricks.

How to Seamlessly Transition Into Red Hair, Straight From the ‘Queen of Reds’

No matter your current base color, transitioning into red hair is easy with these professional tips and tricks.

We love golden blonde and espresso martini brunette as much as the next hair enthusiast, but something about the vibrancy of red hair makes us absolutely swoon. If you’re curious about transitioning to a red hair color but think it’s too big a jump from your current hue, think again. Seeking a skilled colorist well-versed in the shade can help you pull off a red mane with flying colors (pun intended).

Who better to school us on red hair than the “Queen of Reds” herself, Constance Robbins? Here, the stylist and Matrix brand ambassador shares her expertise on everything you should consider before going red, including specifics about your current base, the best red shades for your skin tone, and tweaking your aftercare routine to ensure your vibrant color lasts.

What do I need to know before going red?

Getting ready to rock a stunning red hair color? There are a few things Robbins reccomends considering before jumping in:

  • Healthy hair matters. Check your hair's health–if it's not in the best shape, consider some TLC before coloring. Healthy hair holds onto red tones better. Trimming dead, split ends is one of the best ways to prep your locks for a new color. You can also lay off the hot tools for a few weeks before your appointment to avoid additional damage.
  • Not all reds are created equally. Pick a red shade that complements your skin tone. There are warm and cool reds. Ask your stylist which works best for you—more on that below.
  • Red hair takes dedication. Red hair requires more frequent touch-ups to keep it vivid. Make sure you are devoted to staying red for a while when you make the switch. For a lower red commitment, Robbins suggests trying coral or rose gold, which will fade back more gracefully.
  • Aftercare is essential. Regardless of your starting color, maintaining red hair requires special care to prevent fading. Deep conditioning masks, sulfate-free shampoos, and heat protectors are crucial for preserving the vibrancy of your red hue.

Good hair day by @realericvaughn and @lennystrand

Can anyone dye their hair red??

Yes, anyone can go red, Robbins says, but the outcome of your dye job may vary based on your starting color and hair texture. For personalized advice, talk to a professional colorist. They've got the inside scoop for your unique hair goals.

Here’s Robbins’ general breakdown of different starting colors and how they can shift to red.

  • Blonde hair can easily be dyed red. The lighter the blonde, the more vibrant the result will likely be. Blonde hair provides a good base for red tones to show up vividly.
  • Gray hair can be tricky to color. Because gray hair lacks pigment, it may absorb the pigments in hair dye more intensely, resulting in a more vibrant outcome. However, certain salon-only formulas (like Matrix SoColor) have designated colors to give you gray coverage and beautiful red tones in one step.
  • Virgin brunette hair takes red pigment beautifully. On the other hand, if you previously colored your hair brown, the lingering pigment can interfere with your color goals. In some cases, you may need a color correction before your red hair color application. Be sure to let your colorist know if you ever colored your hair (even years ago).
  • Fantasy hues (ex., blue or green) can be tricky to turn red. That’s because fantasy colors are often achieved through direct dyes, which can stain the hair, and the residual pigment can affect your final shade. As such, your stylist may recommend fading or fully removing any vibrant color before dyeing your hair red for the best outcome, which may require a few sessions in the salon.

Good hair day by @Korluhairartist

Can all skin tones wear red hair?

Everyone can pull off red hair, but Robbins emphasizes that certain shades work better with specific undertones. She provided us with a skin tone cheat sheet to help guide your decision:

  • Warm Undertones (Yellow, Peach, Golden):
  • Cool Undertones (Blue, Pink, Violet):
  • Neutral Undertones (Balanced Mix):
    • Neutral undertones can often carry both warm and cool red shades well.
  • Olive Skin Tones:
  • Dark Skin Tones:
    • Often, you’ll find the darker your skin, the deeper your hair color can be. Dark skin can rock rich, inky reds like maroon or plum.
No matter your current base color, transitioning into red hair is easy with these professional tips and tricks.

What is hair filler, and do you need it when going from blonde to red?

Some hair colors, like blonde, need a little extra help from hair filler when easing into red. Hair filler works similarly to a paint primer when painting a wall. Blonde hair only has a small amount of pigment (or base color). Filler adds a base back to the hair so the red has something to hold on to. Robbins explains that not all blondes need to be filled to go to red but that the red may look more intense and fade more quickly without filler.

Good hair day by @elodiedreams

How is a rich red look achieved?

Adding dimension, Robbins says, is one of the best ways to make salon reds look rich and luxurious. Having tone-on-tone highlights and lowlights makes red hair look more natural.

Inspirational photos are the best way to get on the same page as your stylist; after all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Go in with an open mind, and your stylist can look at your photos and work with you to customize a color that suits your skin tone, hair texture, lifestyle, and budget.

Good hair day by @macmariec

How much salon maintenance does a red hair color require?

Depending on your preference and lifestyle, Robbins recommends salon upkeep every four to eight weeks. Your stylist can apply a conditioning demi–permanent hair gloss to enrich your current hue and restore faded color.

Good hair day by @bulli_e_pupe_2004

Is going red damaging?

Going red can potentially be damaging, especially if the process involves bleaching or a drastic color change. We always recommend leaving your hair color transformations to the pros instead of attempting a DIY job. An experienced colorist can take steps to minimize damage and maintain the health of your hair. During your consultation, your technician will evaluate your hair's condition before the dyeing process to determine the best approach.

“Open communication with your colorist about your hair's history, goals, and concerns is crucial,” says Robbins. “They can customize their techniques and recommendations to suit your individual hair type and desired red shade while prioritizing the health of your hair.”

To help avoid damage, you can opt for a red shade that requires the least changes to your hair’s natural pigment. For a more extreme color change, your colorist can take steps to mitigate damage and opt for pre-bonded lighteners.

“My go-to is Matrix Light Master Pre Bonded, which has bonders built into the formulation, leaving the hair feeling as healthy as possible,” says Robbins.

Good hair day by @janeair_studio_uz

Do you need to tweak your at-home routine for red hair?

“Absolutely,” Robbins says. By making small adjustments to your routine, you'll help prolong the life of your red hair color and keep it looking vibrant for longer. Here are her top at-home tweaks to help your red color last:

Wash less often.

Washing less frequently helps prevent color from fading prematurely. Dry shampoo is a game changer and can help prolong the life of your color. Robbins especially loves Matrix’s Miracle Extender to absorb excess oil without flaking or leaving a powdery residue.

Use cool water.

Wash your hair with cool or lukewarm water. Hot water tends to lift the scales of the hair’s cuticle, allowing dye molecules to escape so your color fades more quickly.

Use sulfate-free shampoo.

Use the Matrix Keep Me Vivid Shampoo for colored hair to maintain the vibrancy of your red. Follow up with Matrix Keep Me Vivid Conditioner to lock in moisture and color.

Also, try to avoid harsh shampoos. Those designed for oily or dandruff-prone scalps can be harsh on color.

Minimize heat styling.

Heat tools can contribute to color fading. Use them sparingly or at lower temperatures, and always use a heat protector. Robbins’ current favorite is Matrix Food For Soft Multi-Use Hair Oil Serum, which locks in moisture and protects against heat up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Avoid chlorine and minimize UV exposure.

Chlorine in pools can strip color. Wet your hair with clean water before swimming to reduce chlorine absorption, and wear a hat when in the sun for long periods to help protect against color fade.

What shades of red are trending this season?

Robbins notes seeing a lot more clients wanting to experiment with warmer hues to warm up their complexion, like strawberry blonde, peach, gingery copper, and darker cinnamon. As always, though, do what makes you feel your best—because confidence is always on-trend.

Header photos credit: @constancerobbins

RED-y to make a change? Use our salon locator to book a color transformation with a stylist near you. For hair color advice, care, and recommendations, stay tuned to

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