Better Off Red


I'm not a real redhead. In fact, under all the demi-permanent gloss and product, I'm just another lousy strawberry-tinged blonde. Over the years, I've tried—with varying degrees of success—to sneak my way onto Team Ginger. For example, in 8th grade I was extremely gratified to win the faculty's 'Sun-In Award' for “cheery disposition and precocious ability to turn own hair orange' after dumping bottles of said lightener on my head, repeatedly, in an attempt to bring out copper highlights. My high school senior superlative was 'Most Interesting Head, 1999–2003,' and for a while there my nickname was Vitamin C (admittedly, there were also a lot of glow sticks and fingerless gloves involved). So... you might say this is not new for me.

I'd always flirted with trying red again, but I was also wary of it because, honestly? It's the Furby of hair colors. Natural-looking red needs a lot of attention, and if you don't feed it and keep it entertained, it'll just look sad and irritate your parents. It fades faster than any other shade, but it's also the hardest to remove completely. You've got to maintain it with touch-ups every 4–8 weeks, you've got to keep it moisturized, and you sure as heck can't get it wet too often. You might as well start buying stock in dry shampoo right now, because you're going to spend a fortune on the stuff.

Case in point: I didn't wash my hair for three days after I got it dyed last month—two days, for the record, is the minimum wait. After that, it's the hairstyle Hunger Games. You just try to keep your 'do alive as long as you can.

My hair is only red right now because I met the right colorist, and she uttered those three little words every girl longs to hear: “true, natural redhead.” Kimberley Pierce at Ion Studio is maybe the only human being who could've convinced me that going copper for the long haul was the right decision, but I'm glad she did. Upping the contrast on my hair made my life a little bit more exciting. People have said I seem more approachable, my skin looks less pasty, and I am finally attracting a nerdier class of gentlemen on the dating interwebs (Who's not gonna be single for ComicCon 2014? THIS GIRL). It's kinda been like Kanye's Workout Plan without all the bothersome Kanye!

Ms. Pierce's secret for magical manes, turns out, is actually looking at peoples' hair. When she sat me down, Kimberley gazed deeply, lovingly into my strands for a good five minutes. “In general, I just try to enhance what my clients already have.” she told me. And it's true; my tones are the same they always were. In Nick's words, “It's like she gave your hair a microphone.” Which is nice, because A) I love karaoke, and B) for the first time ever, I haven't needed to change my makeup or wardrobe color choices to complement a dye job. I truly can actually have more fun (thanks, chemicals!).

Another fun hair-coloring fact courtesy of Kimberley: “Redheads aren't really red heads, they're copper heads. All red hair is made up of a base of gold and copper undertones first, which is why they tend to look more natural than cool reds.” I'm also just a fan of warm hair tones in all situations—even non-ginger ones. They really brighten up your skin, which is great for sleepy people like myself who are too groggy to dab on highlighter every morning.

Also, I might sound like Captain Obvious here, but when semi-unnatural redheads do have to shampoo, please use a color-safe product. Clarifying shampoos are great, but they strip dye right out. I've been using John Frieda Radiant Red (it doesn't deposit color like I wish it did, but it's very gentle—and that's what these suckers are for, anyway), and Kimberley's favorite is Oribe Beautiful Color Shampoo.

Questions? Suggestions? Angry rants? Let me know in the comments and my hair will do its very best to respond.

—Lacey Gattis

Lacey Gattis photographed by Emily Weiss in New York on January 24, 2014.

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