Red Hair

How to Find the Best Red Hair Dye: Getting the Red Hair of Your Dreams

Red is the rarest hair color in the world, so it’s no wonder why so many people want this holy grail hair color! But whether you want to dye your hair red or if you’re a redhead who wants to try a different shade, finding the best dye can be a process. I understand what this is like — I naturally have dark hair, yet I’ve dyed my hair red multiple times.

In my experience, I learned a thing or two about choosing the best red dye. If you want to know how to find the best red hair dye, read my guide!

Bottom line up front: The last thing you want is to be unhappy with your red hair dye. In addition to looking at the packaging, research different shades of red hair, know the dye type you want, do a strand test, know your skin tone, mix dyes for the perfect color, use a reputable brand, and follow red hair trends if you’re unsure of which dye to use. For full-coverage permanent red hair dye, I recommend Clairol Nice n’ Easy the most.

How to Find the Best Red Hair Dye

Let’s get right into it! There are many considerations that you should make to find the best red hair dye. Here are the tips that I learned along the way.

Research Different Shades of Red

Red Coily Hair

There are so many shades of red hair out there! From a light color like strawberry blonde to a dark color like mahogany, from a bright color like red-orange to a subtle natural red, and even a cool-toned red like raspberry, there are countless red hair shades that you can choose from. I suggest researching the different shades of red hair dye and finding the one you like best.

Use the Box as a Guide

I’m wary about this advice because the model’s hair on box dye isn’t always exact. However, looking at different hair dye boxes in the store is a good first step. What I like to do is research the actual brand and dye color. You can find reviews on Google and YouTube so you can see what the hair dye looks like on real people.

Do a Strand Test

Before you dye your whole head, you should always do a strand test. There are many reasons why. First, a strand test will tell you if that dye offers the color you’re going for. You can also see how the color looks on your base color and if it matches your skin tone and undertones. Plus, performing a strand test is recommended to ensure you’re not allergic to the hair dye.

To perform a strand test, find a strand of hair in the back that isn’t visible. Apply a small amount of dye to this strand. Follow all application instructions set by the brand.

Consider Dye Type

Red Hair

There are different types of hair dye, the most common being permanent, demi-permanent, and semi-permanent hair dye. Permanent hair dye is the longest-lasting since it penetrates the entire hair shaft. Demi and semi-permanent dye only deposit color. If this is your first time dyeing your hair red, I suggest a demi or semi-permanent dye since these colors will wash out but still last a decent length of time — as little as six to as many as 24 shampoos.

Mix Colors

If you have an idea of what hair color you want but aren’t seeing it in stores, try mixing your own dyes. Keep in mind that you can’t mix dyes from every brand, so make sure the brand you’re using allows you to mix dyes. A couple of good brands that do include Manic Panic and Arctic Fox. I will recommend their dyes later in the article.

Consider Your Skin Tone

Red Hair Woman

There are shades of red that look amazing on all skin colors and undertones, but the key is finding the one that looks best on you. Let’s look at skin color first. If you have fair skin, these are the shades of red that look best on you:

These are the shades of red that look best on medium skin tones:

  • Cool-toned red
  • Orange-red
  • Cherry coke
  • Auburn
  • Russet
  • Merlot
  • Plum-red
  • Fiery red

Honestly, I think any shade of red looks great on dark skin tones. But here are some of the best matches:

As far as undertones are concerned, red is traditionally a warm color and looks best on those with yellow undertones. But as with all colors, certain shades of red fall on the warmer and cooler scale, and some shades of red are completely neutral. To find the best shade for you, take a look at your undertones. To find this out, take a look at the color of your veins — blue for cool-toned and green for warm-toned. If your veins are blue-green, you have neutral undertones.

Here are some popular warm-toned shades of red:

Here are some popular cool-toned shades of red:

Keep in mind that you can find cool-toned varieties of warm-toned shades of red. For example, rose gold is a cool-toned copper. If you want cinnamon hair, choose a deeper shade of cinnamon that has more of a dark red tint to it.

If you’re looking for neutral-toned shades of red, no color is honestly better than auburn. Auburn has the perfect mix of brown and red, so it has both cool and warm tones. Because of this fact, this hair color looks good on nearly anyone.

Look up Trends

Red Hair

If you have a few hair colors you want to try but can’t pick one, I like to get inspiration from trends. There are so many trending red hair colors right now, such as ruby red, copper, pastel red, and vivid red. I do suggest you ask yourself questions before choosing a red hair dye. For example, do you want statement red hair or a natural look?

Consider the Brand

When you find the red hair color you want, your search isn’t over. You’ll next want to choose the best hair dye brand carefully. If you’re stuck on choosing a brand, I will recommend some of my favorite dyes in another section. But the most important factors to look for include reputation, shades of red, and ensuring the brand uses conditioning ingredients and no harsh chemicals.

How Many Boxes Do You Need?

Another factor you should know is how much dye you should buy. If you have short hair, you usually only need one box. If you have longer hair, you’ll need at least two boxes. You should also consider the thickness of your hair, even if your hair is short. I have thick hair and keep my hair long, so I always know I will need at least two boxes. Still, I buy three to be on the safe side, especially if the dye is affordable enough.

What if you have all of these extra boxes? Most stores let you return unused boxes. I would also save mine in case I need a root touch-up.

My Favorite Red Hair Dyes

Now that you know the basics of buying red hair dye, are you ready for some product recommendations? Here, I will list some of my favorite hair dye brands and the best shade of red that they offer. Keep in mind that you don’t have to use that particular shade of red, I suggest looking at the entire color catalog before making a selection.

Clairol Nice n’ Easy Creme Permanent Hair Dye in 5R Medium Auburn

Clairol Nice n' Easy Creme Permanent Hair Dye in 5R Medium Auburn

There are many reasons why I recommend these classic Clairol dyes for your new red hair look. First, the name explains it all — these dyes are easy to use, even if you’re a beginner.

Medium auburn also looks great on everyone; it’s the perfect combination of brown and red. This is a great color if you’re a brunette and want to ease into the red without going too drastic, and it’s also a great option if you’re a redhead who wants to go darker. If you’re blonde, I suggest choosing another red hair color that Clairol offers.

No matter which color you choose, all Clairol Nice n’ Easy dyes offer 100% gray coverage, and the colors are multi-tonal, so it looks like you just walked into the salon.

I absolutely love this color. I have friends who have natural auburn hair, and this color looks completely natural. But you’ll have to bleach your hair first if you have dark hair like me. I suggest choosing burgundy black or dark burgundy if you have naturally dark hair. While Clairol dyes are easy to use, they do take a long time — you should leave the dye in for 45 minutes if you really want intense color. I’m also reading that Clairol has recently changed this formula, and the old one is better.


  • Natural-looking auburn hair color
  • Best for redheads wanting to go darker or brunettes who want a different color
  • Leaves hair soft and shiny
  • Simple to use


  • Not the best packaging
  • Clairol has the tendency to discontinue hair colors
  • Not the best option for those with light hair

L’Oreal Paris Excellence Creme Permanent Hair Color in 6RB Light Reddish Brown

L'Oreal Paris Excellence Creme Permanent Hair Color in 6RB Light Reddish Brown

Like Clairol, L’Oreal is one of the most trusted hair dye brands in the world, and their Excellence Creme Permanent Hair Color is one of their staple products. L’Oreal dyes are very easy to use, even for beginners. The results are high-quality and mimic the look of professional dye.

L’Oreal offers various red hair dyes, but the reddish browns are my favorite. Since I recommended a Clairol color for brunettes and for redheads who want to go darker, I figured I would offer an alternative color to redheads and blondes who want to go darker.

So you know, I wouldn’t call this color “light.” As a reddish brown, it looks more on the brown side, in my opinion, and the results are darker than what the box shows. The red looks more like a tint under the light. It’s still a beautiful hair color and is very natural-looking on redheads. If your hair is dark, I still wouldn’t use this one since you’ll have to bleach your hair first. On Amazon, I see the box is $10, which is pretty affordable.


  • Great color — not too dark for blondes
  • Alternative color for natural redheads
  • Permanent color, lasts a long time
  • The red tint looks pretty under the light
  • Affordable


  • Browner than red

Revlon Colorsilk Hair Color in 35 Vibrant Red

Revlon Colorsilk Hair Color in 35 Vibrant Red

If you want a true red, I suggest using this dye by Revlon’s Colorsilk brand. Don’t let the name “vibrant” red fool you, I don’t think this is vibrant at all. I think the Manic Panic and Arctic Fox dyes I will mention next are far more vibrant than this one. But if you want a pretty color with noticeable red, then choose this one.

In my opinion, Revlon dyes are a good choice if you want the quality of a salon visit. The color lasts a long time — as long as eight weeks, which is longer than most box dyes. The downside is these dyes do contain harsh chemicals that can cause a reaction. Revlon also changed its formula recently, and this one isn’t as conditioning.


  • Pretty color that’s noticeably red
  • Permanent hair dye, lasts a long time
  • Affordable


  • Not as easy to use as the other brands on this list
  • Made with harsh chemicals

Manic Panic Amplified Semi-Permanent Hair Color in Vampire Red

Manic Panic Amplified Semi-Permanent Hair Color in Vampire Red

Manic Panic is the best dye brand if you want vivid color. My stylist even recommends I use Manic Panic dyes as a deep conditioner to freshen up my hair color.

Manic Panic offers various bright red colors, but I recommend Vampire Red. This is a blood-red hair color that can be used on both bleached and unbleached hair. If you dye this on level 8 hair, the color will look vibrant. If your hair is darker, Vampire Red will come out as a beautiful burgundy color. If you want a different color, Manic Panic offers a huge selection of red hair dyes. You can also mix Manic Panic dyes to get the color that you want!

As a semi-permanent dye, this color will wash out faster than the permanent dyes I mentioned previously. However, if you refrain from washing your hair, the dye will last longer. If you can, only wash your hair once a week. This way, the dye will last for several weeks.

Manic Panic dye is easy to use, but it is high maintenance. Because the dye is so bright and saturated, it runs the risk of staining. Be very careful when rinsing out the dye. Use black towels and always wear black clothing the first few days after dyeing your hair since the dye can also stain your skin and clothes. Also, I attached the company website. Please don’t order Manic Panic dye from Amazon. I’ve read countless complaints that customers received expired dye.


  • Can be used on both bleached and unbleached hair
  • Easy to use
  • Can mix colors
  • Extremely pigmented


  • Semi-permanent dye doesn’t last as long
  • Can stain if you’re not careful
  • Pretty expensive

Arctic Fox Semi-Permanent Hair Color in Wrath

Arctic Fox Semi-Permanent Hair Color in Wrath

Wrath is the color I recommend if you want a cooler-toned red. The dye has berry undertones, so it turns pink as it fades. This shade of red is on the darker side; when you dye it on level 7 hair or lighter, the color is a brilliant cherry red. But if you apply this color to darker hair, your hair will have a lovely tint.

In addition, you can also mix this color with Arctic Fox’s Transylvania (black) for a deeper red. With that being said, you can mix any Arctic Fox dyes to get the color that you want. There are some downsides to Arctic Fox dye. Like Manic Panic, Arctic Fox dye has a tendency to stain everywhere.


  • Cool-toned red
  • Turns to pink when it fades
  • Lasts a long time, even for a semi-permanent dye


  • Stains
  • Arctic Fox has gone under fire for having a toxic workplace, homophobia, and racism


Question: Do I have to bleach my hair before dyeing it red?

Answer: It depends. If you’re dyeing your hair a dark red, then no. Even if you’re dyeing your hair red over dark brown or black, certain colors, such as Cherry Coke, will blend into your deep base color. But if you’re dyeing your hair a shade of red that’s lighter than your base color, then yes, you will have to bleach your hair.

Question: Red isn’t my natural hair color. Can I still dye my hair red?

Answer: Absolutely. But if you do your hair at home, I don’t recommend bleaching your hair. This means you’ll either have to choose a darker color or add a red tint to already dark hair. If you’re dyeing your hair a lighter shade of red and will need to bleach your hair, I suggest you go to a salon.

Question: Does red hair dye cover gray hair?

Answer: It depends on the dye you use. But usually, yes, red hair dye can cover gray hair. If you dye your hair DIY, just make sure you use a brand that promises 100% gray coverage. You can always do a stray test on your grays to make sure.

Bottom Line

If you want to dye your hair red, there are many qualities you’ll want to look for in a hair dye. In addition to using the box or packaging as a guide, research different shades of red, know the dye type you want, do a strand test, consider your skin tone, mix colors for the perfect red, use a reputable brand, and follow red hair trends if you’re still unsure of the right dye for you.

Out of all of these dyes, I recommend Clairol Nice n’ Easy the most. This brand offers so many shades of red, and its multi-tonal properties make the dye quality more akin to salon dye.

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