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 redheads, they're copperheads. 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.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Julia

    WOW I like it!! she looks like Julianne Moore!

    • ITGLacey

      Thank you so much! :)

      Other hot redheads I would also eagerly have accepted include: Gillian Anderson, Jessica Chastain, Karen Elson, & Jessica Hanby from True Blood

      • babelincoln

        getting serious taylor tomasi hill vibes <3

        • Emma Hager

          I was gonna say the same!!

          • Samantha Dekker

            I definitely think Jessica Chastain! It looks amazing. I'm a natural blonde with quite a few strands that are proper red in there, and I've always wanted to give it a try. Sadly, a lack of money means I'll have to put it off for a little bit. But yours looks amazing. Exactly what I want mine to look like one day.

      • Dylan Propst

        Jessica Hanby is so gorgeous!

  • Michelle

    Love this post! I'm recently gone from highlighting my (strawberry) blonde hair to red red and I love it!

    • ITGLacey

      Pics or it didn't happen!

  • Paulette

    As a hairstylist, your advice is spot-on. We always tell our redheaded clients to shampoo sparingly(sulfate-free is best), rinse with cool water, and never use white towels on their first shower! Until the hair color chemists figure out how to make that pigment molecule smaller, we have to handle our fiery tresses with kid gloves. Great article. I'm sharing it on our salon page.

    • ITGLacey

      Thank you so much—I seriously always feel an overwhelming sense of relief when a pro gets on & is like "Oh hai, this girl is not 100% cray!"

  • Clever Girl Reviews

    I've been striving to get Julianne Moore's color for years, it never really works out!

  • Heather P.

    Your hair looks amazing! I would love to go red someday, but alas, my husband is a redhead, and he doesn't find other redheads attractive at all. It doesn't mean I may not try it someday...but I have to get used to the idea of him hating it. ;-)

    • ITGLacey

      Maybe he just needs to see you with red hair!

      • Heather P.

        I did once, when we first started dating. It was more auburn than red (which is what color my hair trends to when I try to lighten it...weird, but true), but he was not impressed.

        Now, if I could find a good colorist in my area who could ease me into it without him noticing...haha...that could work. ;-)

        • Dominique

          As a natural redhead, I'm with your husband. Redheaded guys are like looking at my brother. Can't do it.

  • Lilly

    Que linda, Lacey! You certainly rock red hair!

  • rosiedoodle

    If your hair is blonde to light brown (I too have a sort of a strawberry blonde situation), you can dye your hair with henna* and it works like magic. It lasts forever (I touch up once ever couple of months), you can do it yourself, it's dirt cheap, it looks really natural, and it's actually good for your hair. I've been doing it for 14 years. But you have to be serious about going red for the long haul, because it binds to the hair shaft instead of the cuticle.

    *Henna is just dried, ground up leaves. That whole thing about henna having metal salts in it is a lie; it can be adulterated with crap, but it's really easy to find pure henna. You can get it at Indian/Pakistani grocery stores in either a jar or a cardboard box, or order it on the internet; $10 will buy you enough for a lifetime.

    • ITGLacey

      SO, I've used henna as well, & my caveat would be that a lot of brands REALLY are cut with oxidizing trace minerals (often metals), & the additives, as you say, are what give henna a bad rep.

      The FDA just doesn't regulate "supplements" strictly enough, & that's usually how henna is sold. So if you get a contaminated batch (& I did once), you can be stuck with some truly funky, uneven color that chemical dye removers just can't get out, & then dyeing over it can result in weird chemical reactions, too.

      Lush Caca Rouge is fabulous, though, if you're ever in the market for a brand that's unadulterated!

    • babelincoln

      Can we get a brand name and hair photo? Loving this idea!

  • Amanda Raponi

    Ugh I used to be dark red for years and I loved it, but it washed out so quickly, I couldn't justify how much I was spending on my hair anymore. I felt so badass though.

    Your red is beautiful, Lacey!

  • April Payan

    coming from a natural redhead-i'm impressed!! it really compliments her.

    • ITGLacey

      Thank you, April! I think that is the highest compliment I could have received! *curtsies* *congratulates hair on good job*

  • lolcats

    I feel like such a creep for saying this, I mean this in the most normal way possible I swear, but you should be the (literal) poster child for "hot women can be funny"

    • ITGLacey

      A) That is an incredibly nice thing to say, B) Emily Weiss is an amazing photographer—IRL I am just an unusually hirsute tree frog

  • Dejhana Waite

    You were born to have this hair colour. it looks spectacular.

    Dejhana | Waite a Little

  • Valentina Novo

    It looks great! I wish I could pull off red like that!

  • Flynn

    OMG Furby of haircolors? I love you

    • ITGLacey

      Dear Flynn,
      I made you this emoji combo to convey my sentiments:

  • Laura Brasinha

    Looks great! It's funny, I kept my hair blue for some months (that stuff gives a LOT of work) but was never able to keep it redhead/natural... I went very cooper, but never full redhead.

  • Sharon Macklin

    Love the color! I went red a while back - after I got separated - but didn't keep the color. My hair is much darker brown - I've always had natual red highlights - but couldn't keep up with it - it just faded too fast, even with all precautions taken. Now my hairdresser just mixes up a chestnut brown with a bit of red, but it works - I'm so gray, that the hair takes the color differently, and it once again looks like I have red highlights, but I don't have to pay extra for them!

  • Bells

    W-O-W. Never change this haircolor, it's perfect for you!

    At first sight I thought it was Cat McNeil :)

    • ITGLacey

      Oh, to be Cat McNeil!

      • Bells

        You look like a mix between Cat McNeil and Bonnie Somerville!

  • Sylvie

    So beautiful! I've been cautiously edging my way closer and closer to red, with a henna/indigo mix! I love the henna, because it lets some of your natural color through, and makes (my really fine) hair thicker and shinier! I get it from my local apothecary, and am now inspired to get the much more henna, and much less indigo version!

  • Alice

    Finding the right colourist is essential for anyone who wants to have great red hair! I've had terrible accidents before and that just makes me appreciate her more. Still haven't find the right shampoo and conditioner(and not living in the US, don't have your suggestions available) but I think that's just one more unicorn, like THE concealer and THE foundation.

  • Brittany

    I was so so excited to read this and see that Kimberley Pierce was the colorist you went to! I went to her for the first time last month after a long hair color hiatus and she was phenomenal. She completely read my mind during our consultation -- I wanted a warm caramel-y color like Elisa Sedanoui -- and she was totally on board. which is huge considering every other colorist just wants to make me blonde. The results were amazing, my hair color was perfect and it really just made my skin glow. I cannot wait to go back!

    • calikhar

      you made me google this Elisa and wow, I need that caramel goodness on my head now.

  • thepetite

    Girls, you rock on the hair color apartment! I wish we could see the before photo!

    • ITGLacey

      Good point! Here's me with my (similarly haired) sister about a week before I went red:

    • ITGLacey

      Good point! Here's me with my (similarly haired) sister a few weeks back:

      • thepetite

        Lovely picture! The red really suits you! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Sophie Isabella D.

    Copperhead- Love it! Looks fantastic! What do you do in the way of eyebrows now? Do you need to change any products you use on them (pencils/powders)?

    • ITGLacey

      Hey! I don't have a lot going in in the brow department; Kimberley actually put a little bit of dye on my brows, so I can be just as lazy about them as I was before...

    • LoSpaz

      I've put dye in my brows before, but I also find Anastasia's brow stuff in the color Caramel (used to be Strawburn) is excellent at putting just a touch of warmth into brows without being clownish or too dark.

  • The Horticult

    Lacey, you look glorious! This color looks absolutely made for you. I went red a couple of years ago and have enjoyed going from cartoon cherry to "coppered ruby" to the gingery shade I am now. Product-wise, Aveda's Madder Root color-depositing conditioner has been a life-saver. (My hairstylist is amazed by how the color perseveres between visits, and I puuush it.) A quick mush of it in the shower gets the color looking spritely again. I can't do without a clarifying shampoo -- Carol's Daughter's rosemary/mint one is excellent and won't strip the color.

  • Chloe and her notes

    I love hair with a red / ginger / orange hue. Looks very natural on you too.

  • Evelyn B.

    Since Titian made me fall in love with that red sheen on one's hair (and of course the coolest kid in school was a flamy locked red head) I had tried countless times to make myself part of that illustrious club, without success UP TILL NOW (hopes rising through the ceiling).
    Thank you for the inspiration Lacey, you look simply stunning!
    Bestest greetings from Budapest, xx

    • ITGLacey

      !!! I kept trying to talk about wanting titian hair in this post, and then I was like "Nah, no one will relate to that." Evelyn, you are just all the good things!

      • Evelyn B.

        Cue to swamp the comment section with measly reproductions of the coppery glory of Titian. Oh, ITG how I love thee. All of you. Every second of those times of the day that I happily spend on the Internet, skies opening up and soaring high between beauty and heavily perfumed clouds.
        Because that is just what you do. Every. Single. Time.

        • ITGLacey

          I just saw this... *starts slow clap that rises until entire Gloffice is standing applauding*

  • ITGLacey


  • katie

    I don't know how it reacts with color-treated hair (red-dyed or otherwise), but I have un-dyed,naturally dark auburn hair and I am a serious fan of Aveda's madder root conditioner. It picks up all my natural highlights and sort of gives my overall shade "a microphone", as Nick brilliantly said. I know it's a winner because when I use it I get comments like, "Your hair has the prettiest red color in the sunlight!" rather than, "Did you henna your hair last night or something?"

    • ITGLacey

      I've been looking for a good color-depositing shampoo! Thank you so much for the suggestion! If I might ask: Do you feel like the highlights it gives are more brown-red or more orange-red?

  • mega_ginger

    I am an au natural Ginger and I welcome you to the club. You look great and enjoy it because really redheads have more fun.

  • Isabel

    I would never have guessed that wasn't your natural colour

  • charlotte

    I am definitely in a red hair mood and for my last color session with my hairdresser, we glazed my existing highlights with a coppery red. I already had carmel/golden undertones and it turned out perfect! I think red hair allows one to wear almost any color and it really flatters the skin tone. Lacey - gorgeous and funny - great combination!

  • murt

    Love that colour............. would be great to see a pic of your natural hair colour too though.

    • ITGLacey

      Here you go! This is me with my sister a few weeks ago. The color Kimberley put on didn't have any lift, so the result shade you're seeing up top is just added color without bleaching!

      • murt

        Oh wow - thanks! Ya I can totally see what you're saying about having red tones....... I'd pretty much say you're a natural redhead - you just went redder - it looks great!

  • megan10

    eyebrows! how do us non-naturally ginger girls get the eyebrows to not look bizarre??

    • ITGLacey

      Kimberley dyed them for me! Only took a sec & looks completely natural

  • Peter

    So basically since I was like ten and the Graduation Song/Smile came out, I thought that Mel C from the Spice Girls went solo as Vitamin C (I was a kid... Never bothered to check their faces) And clicking on that music video link made me realize that they are not the same person. Mind blown.

  • ainay

    I love having red hair but the maintenance of having red hair sucks for a jet black Asian head :(

  • EGR

    Pretty please do a piece on hair color for people with very dark hair! We have so few viable options!

  • Rebecca

    I've always loved red hair. I was born with copper curls, but by the time I was 6, it was a chestnut brown with red highlights. Now I color my own hair and use e-Salon. My mix is medium brown, with copper and gold in it. I learned long ago that the cool toned reds didn't work for me, and they weren't the sort of red I wanted.

    I'm not officially a redhead, but auburn is good enough for me these days. It's about as far as I'm willing to go without a professional colorist. When I can afford to spend a fortune on my hair again, I'll make great friends with a fabulous colorist who speaks "copperhead".

  • Stefanie

    Haha- I can totally relate. I plan to go red again as soon as I can afford the upkeep. I feel like I have a responsibility to do so as a member of the very small percentage of the population who can actually pull it off, you know?

  • Faye

    Love the color, you look stunning. Been thinking of going ginger too for a while now. i'm a mousy blonde and so bored with it. I was wondering (this might be the such a weird question) do you dye your eyebrows too?

    • ITGLacey

      Indeed I did—makes a huge difference (Bonus: it also warms up the area around my eyes, which makes dark circles look more minor)

  • Hannah

    When I was younger I had hair this colour, now it's a mousy brown/blonde and every attempt at tinting it back to it's former glory has ended in dark auburn :( Also my previous hair adventure was bleach, so every three months I have to put on a new tint as the ends of my hair start turning a gross yellow colour! One day I too will have glorious firey locks like yourself!

  • Zuzu

    Aveda Madder Root shampoo and conditioner are AMAZING for maintaining a red dye job or for giving brown hair a natural auburn hue. The conditioners color depositing--I sometimes leave it in for a couple of hours instead of the few minutes recommended on the bottle.

  • cataleptica

    Gorgeous! Any ideas on how to get from a cool red to a warmer one?
    What words should I look for on a box of dye?

  • sophie brewster

    I too dye my hair (from a dark brown no less,) to an auburn colour. I have quite pale Irish skin and green eyes so it suits me a lot better than my natural colour anyway... I always get 'picked on' (seriously...) by other adults for dying my hair ginger... I mean really...

    It's a pain in the ass to upkeep but it is totally worth it. Also, moisturising colour conditioners are the bomb.

  • ITGLacey

    Thank you so much! I always do ;)

  • Reale

    Story of my hair's life! I've coloured my strawberry blond hair from Jessica Rabbit to Pippi Longstocking. I feel like I'm on a mystical video game-like quest to find my one true red. But recently I threw in the (stained) towel and took a red break.

  • Advah

    Um so I'm a few months behind but LACEY IS HERE!! I stopped reading BellaSugar after you left, absolutely delighted I've found you online again :)

    • ITGLacey

      ADVAH!!!! Oh my gosh, it has been years! It's so good to "see" you again! How have you been? What have you been up to? The internet is a strange & wonderful place :)

      • Adeline

        Woooop flattered you remember the (fake) name after all that time! Life's been good, although it feels weird to talk about new jobs and holiday online hah, but all is well. Yourself? And yes, so nice to e-see you again! And super belated congrats on working for ITG ;)

        • ITGLacey

          well, you always had the smartest, most helpful comments, and when you're moderating a site, that means a lot—believe me! I'm pretty darn excited to be here; it's wonderful not to have to write in any "voice"besides my own :)

  • Katie Brown // Art Farm

    Wow! I'm another strawberry blonde and this is convincing me to go red! You look fantastic!

    • ITGLacey

      It really made a difference—I'd forgotten how much healthier I look when my red tones are more pronounced, too.

  • Nomadic D.

    Gorgeous! I did red for years, even started as a pre-teen with henna (gasp!) and just loved it. One of the great things I found was an Aveda salon that would custom mix a color-depositing conditioner for me. They have pre-mixed ones but the red is an icky cool cherry red, so I would go and get my copper fire toner made for me. It did wonders to extend my dye jobs!

    Now though, I've recently gone blonde (a first for me!):

    And I'm dealing with a whole new slew of maintenance issues! I'm loving it, but I'm totally convinced that one day I'll go back to being a (bottle-)redhead. Some of us are just borne that way, even if we're not born that way ;)

    • ITGLacey

      Such a good idea; I need to go ask Kimberley about this... I may or may not have used way too much product in my hair this weekend (Super Bowl parties, man) & now I'm dealing with major fade from post mousse-overload clarifying rinse

      • Nomadic D.

        I'd love to hear if you do this. Aveda was the only place I could find that would do it, but even then it was iffy. Once I tried and they told me that they couldn't custom mix, which was obviously not true since I'd already bought a few bottles of the perfect copper. But I think you maybe just have to find a friendly and willing person to help you out. Good luck!

  • mamavalveeta03

    Other than thinking, "I hate her for having such gorgeous red hair," I can't think of a damned thing to say.

  • Ruby

    You look great! I'm a natural redhead but it's fading (NOOOOOOOO) and now I have bright white hairs making an appearence too! Such is life I guess. ;)

  • Aninstantcrush

    It would be great if you could do a follow-up about the products you have been using to keep the red vibrant and to maintain its condition.

  • Alyssa Gapske

    Lacey, I want to go back to red!! You've inspired me!

  • iuruk

    You know what I love - Touchback Plus Conditioner in Light Auburn. I am also more of a "strawberry blonde," and I crave that warm copper ginger color. Not the fake, cool reds. My trick is to mix a little of this expensive, HIGHLY pigmented conditioner with equal parts regular cheap conditioner, once or twice a week. Results = natural looking, enhanced red!


John Frieda
Radiant Red Colour Magnifying Daily Shampoo
Oribe Shampoo for Beautiful Color