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How to maintain red or unicorn hair | Bright colored hair routine

How to maintain red or unicorn hair | Bright colored hair routine

Vibrant, sexy and bold, intense shades of red or candy-colored hair are sure to turn heads. Red has certain advantages, for one it’s a lot easier on your hair and wallet than bleaching dark hair blonde, and If it suits your eyes and coloring, you’ll never want to go back. Only problem? It fades faster than you can say dye job.

Same goes for the unicorn manes you see all over Instagram. They look beautiful straight out of the salon, but can fade and look quite different weeks later.

Photo by Andrew Foord

Photo by Andrew Foord

My hair has been varying shades of red since 2012 when I took a leap of faith and I told my colorist to go for it as he studied my faded blonde locks and asked me several times if I was really sure about this. My hair at the time was over-processed and ashy from years of bleaching and highlighting it from dark brown to a buttery golden shade.

It may not seem like a huge jump, but I had been scarred by an early beauty disaster. After I chopped my own hair to chin length at age 8 to look more like Posh Spice I swore off taking risks when it came to beauty. Not only did I get grounded, it was not a good look for me. Turns out I'm more of a Ginger than a Posh.

So I even surprised myself when I stepped into an upscale Park Avenue salon and declared I needed a transformation.

Thankfully I loved the change – and five years later I haven’t gone back.

My hair is a subdued ombre auburn right now, but using some of these tips I can easily turn up the intensity of the red. Here are my best tips for keeping the red or any bright color in your hair.

Shampoo the right way. Sulfate-free formulas are a must. Most common ones are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate but there are others  Harsh detergents strip color out of your hair and are drying. Try to avoid silicones as well, as they build up and can dull color over time. Look for oils (except coconut oil as it can remove color), aloe vera, and vitamin E in the ingredient list. Lately I’ve been using baby shampoo because it’s so gentle.

Also try to shampoo less frequently.  Keep it to every other day maximum. This really keeps your color brighter longer.

Deposit color. There are a lot of color depositing shampoos on the market that are too subtle to really make a difference. The only one I absolutely recommend is De Lorenzo Novafusion. This stuff is really, truly amazing. The color is rich and vibrant and it lasts for several shampoos. It’s cruelty-free and vegan as well! This is an Australian brand that's fortunately gained popularity in the U.S. recently, so it's easy to find on Amazon, Sleek Hair, and I think even Walmart now. I use it in Fire Red and it is the perfect red: not too orange, not too pink, just a flattering shade. It adds so much shine to your hair it literally sparkles in sunlight.

Photo by Dan Doyle

Photo by Dan Doyle

Use it no more than once a week to avoid buildup. Although this product has nourishing ingredients, it is just a tad on the drying side, so make sure you use a heavy conditioner afterwards.

Gloss it up. I like using a gloss (read: demipermanent) once every couple of months to freshen color. I use the salon-favorite Redken Shades EQ in Rocket Fire and Cherry Cola, alternating depending on how much red I want, the season, etc. I buy this on SleekHair along with developer, a mixing bottle and gloves. It’s easy to use - just mix it with developer and apply all over your head. Leave on for 20 minutes and rinse and shampoo as usual.

This lasts for a month or so on me.

DIY tip: If you color your own hair at home and use professional products, you can make your own demipermanent by mixing the color you use to dye your hair with a 10 volume developer. I have tried this and it deposits color and won’t lift or lighten, so roots will be unaffected.

Disclaimer: please try this only if you have colored your hair with pro products and have some knowledge of color theory. I don’t recommend using box dyes as they are very damaging and a “one size fits all” approach to hair. If you’d like tips on learning to color your own hair, click here.

Rinse right. Always rinse your hair in cold water. If you can’t stand a cold shower – so, uh everyone on the planet? - at least rinse in cool water at the very end to close the cuticle. Red fades quickly because the molecules are too large to fully penetrate the hair shaft and they literally slip out of your hair. Cold water closes the cuticle and seals in the color.

Use a hair oil. If your hair is damaged or porous, use a pre-shampoo oil once per week. I use this by Phyto. It contains protein to build up your hair in places where it is lacking. Think of it like primer for hair; you’re filling in the porous spots in the cuticle so color can apply evenly.

Hope this helps! Any good tips I missed? Let me know in the comments.

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