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Why Red Hair Fades (And How to Keep Red Looking Vibrant)

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redhead beauty keeping red hair vibrant and brightMore and more, it seems, ladies are coloring their hair shades of red or adding red tones to give their manes some more grrrr. I’m my own example. I love the way the sunlight hits my hair and seems to set it on fire when I’ve got it a nice deep red. People are always asking me how I get this vibrant color – but the trick isn’t getting it, it’s keeping it.

The only problem: whether you’re faking natural ginger a la Amy Pond or channeling a fire engine like Eva Marie, red fades quickly. Want to know the reason behind this? It’s actually pretty interesting (to a person like me who enjoys useless trivia, anyway). Okay, here it is:

Many years ago, the FDA determined that the red dye stock used in the haircolor industry caused cancer in rats when given to them in very, very high amounts. (So do aspartame and sunlight in humans – it seems most anything in excessive amounts causes cancer. Heck, water in very high amounts causes drowning. But I digress.)

The dye stock that the original red hair dye was replaced with has a larger molecule size. The original’s smaller molecule size helped it seep better into your hair. The new one, frankly, sucks more at getting inside because it’s just too big. Think of you and your skinny jeans. If we replaced your butt with a larger one (and many of us have unintentionally performed this experiment at home), we’d have much more trouble successfully squeezing it into your denim than we would if you had a booty appropriately sized for its container. Much like your love handles, the newer, fatter red molecule falls quickly out of your hair strands. The More You Know!

Although you can’t stop the fading completely, here are a few precautions you can take to slow it down.

  1. Wash your hair less frequently. For those of you that wash your hair every day, it’s inevitable for any color to fade quickly. If possible, try waiting every other day or even two days if you can stand it. For the extremists out there, you can aim for once or twice a week. The less frequent, the better.
  2. When you do wash your hair, use color-safe shampoos. My pick: Artec by L’Oreal, a line of color depositing shampoos that help keep the red in your hair longer.
  3. Rinse in cold water. Warm water washed the color out more easily, so washing with cold water will help to keep your color looking brilliant.
  4. Try a color glaze like John Freida’s Red Glaze or Matrix Shade Memory to give your hair a mini-refresher course in crimson shades.
  5. Lastly, skip the box color. Stick with professional coloring or, if you’re a cheapie DIY MacGyver type like me, buy your own pro color from a beauty supply like Sally’s. Not only will this be healthier for your hair, but it will also help in getting more of the specific color you want. Box color can fade much more quickly. Just be careful mixing, for God’s sake. Some of these colors are really tough to play with and even professionals who get paid the big bucks can mess it up. And I’ll bet 10 bucks you miss a spot on your crown. Just sayin’.

3 thoughts on “Why Red Hair Fades (And How to Keep Red Looking Vibrant)”

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