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By Mary Honkus, Real Simple

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a redhead. Everyone on my mom’s side of the family has gorgeous auburn locks and I always admired their unique hair color, plus I like the idea of having strands that stand out. The reality: My mom never let me dye my light brown hair.

Brunette to RedheadAs soon as I moved to New York City for college, I made my salon appointment to go ginger (sorry, Mom!) and I couldn’t have been more excited. I walked in with a picture of Emma Stone and hoped for the best. My hair turned out better than I expected, and I felt more like myself than I ever had before. I strutted out as a new woman… but was back again only two weeks later because my virgin hair wouldn’t hold the dye. It completely faded in just 14 days! I wish I had known then to use an at-home color-depositing product like dpHUE Color Boosting Gloss + Deep Conditioning Treatment ($30; urbanoutfitters.com), but that was just one of the lessons I’ve learned since making the switch to red.

Nowadays, I keep my hair fiery red without bi-monthly visits to the salon by dyeing my hair at home. After the fading incident, my stylist gave me the exact formula he used on my hair (#forevergrateful) so I would be able to do it—my bank account was silently thanking me. My own color combo is as follows: Half a tube of ColorInsider by Matrix, half a tube of 7rc-Dark Blonde Red Copper ($12; amazon.com), a quarter tube of 5r- Medium Brown Red ($11; amazon.com), a quarter tube of 5n-Medium Brown Neutral ($13; amazon.com), and a quarter tube of Color Concentrate in Red ($9; amazon.com). For good measure, I also add in two ounces of the Matrix Oil Cream Developer ($20; amazon.com), which turns the mixture into a dense consistency for more precise application when I paint it on. I love these formulas because they’re ammonia-free, so they’re not drying or damaging to my hair, which is super important since I dye it so often.

Mary Redhead Selfie Because red is the fastest hair color to fade, I find myself playing colorist every five weeks, starting at the roots and painting until fully saturated. Then, I take one-inch sections and coat those as well, followed by a massage to work the color into each piece. I put my dye-covered strands in a shower cap—the disposable kind like Donna Disposable Shower Cap ($2; cvs.com) are the best—and sit for 35 minutes, then hop in the shower and shampoo my hair until the water runs clear again. Upon first rinse, the bathtub turns a vibrant shade of crimson but luckily never leaves a stain–another bonus with this formula. While the fresh color can be a bit jarring because it’s so rich, I’ve come to expect it and then it subtly starts to fade.

 

RELATED: Expert Tips on Hair Coloring

While it may sound like a lot to dye my hair about once a month, it’s worth it for me because I feel so much more confident with red hair. Its been three years since that initial salon visit and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my natural color, especially because I’ve managed to find a simple, at-home way to maintain it without breaking the bank.

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