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Do redheads look good with highlights?

As a redhead myself, I can understand the desire to shake up your natural hair color with some fun highlights. Red hair is beautiful, but it’s easy to feel like you want a change after seeing the same coppery locks staring back at you in the mirror day after day. However, red hair is notoriously tricky to color and highlight, so proceeding with caution is advised.

The Science Behind Red Hair

Before deciding on highlights, it’s important to understand what makes red hair red in the first place. Red hair gets its distinctive color from the pigment pheomelanin, which produces hues ranging from strawberry blonde to auburn. This pigment is less dense than eumelanin, the dark pigment responsible for brown and black hair shades. As a result, red hair tends to be more translucent and holds color differently than darker shades.

Additionally, red hair tends to be associated with fair skin and light eyes. This lack of pigment means the hair cuticle has fewer layers to hold onto artificial color. Highlights tend to fade and look brassy more quickly on redheads as the hair’s underlying warm pigment shows through.

Choosing the Right Highlight Shades

When choosing highlights for red hair, staying in the same color family is key. Redheads look best with coppery highlights in shades slightly lighter or darker than the natural color. This adds dimension while still looking natural. Here are some highlight ideas that work with different red hair shades:

  • Strawberry blondes: Buttery babylights or face-framing copper highlights
  • Light auburn: Warm peach and gold balayage
  • Dark auburn: Deep copper or burgundy babylights
  • Deep red: Raspberry or violet-red peekaboo highlights

To avoid a brassy effect, steer clear of golden blonde and ash tones. They won’t mesh well with the natural warmth of red hair. Instead, focus on multi-dimensional red tones.

Placing the Highlights

Placement is also key. The best looks focus highlights around the face and crown to warm up skin tone and accentuate cut and color. Avoid large chunky highlights throughout the hair, which can look dated and damage hair integrity. Here are some ideal placement techniques:

  • Babylights: Fine, subtle highlights placed throughout the hair and concentrated around the hairline and part for a soft lit-from-within effect.
  • Face-framing: Highlights focused around the front hairline and face to illuminate skin and accentuate cut and color.
  • Balayage: Hand-painted highlights in diagonal panels for a modern, multi-tonal look.

Maintenance Tips

Preserving highlights on red hair can take a bit more work. Here are some tips for keeping highlights vibrant for as long as possible:

  • Wash hair in cool water to prevent fading.
  • Use sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner.
  • Apply a weekly conditioning hair mask.
  • Use a purple shampoo to cancel out brassy tones.
  • Limit heat styling, which can fade color quickly.
  • Get a refresh after 6-8 weeks to maintain brightness.

Going to a Pro

Getting your red hair professionally highlighted is always advisable. An experienced colorist will know how to gently lighten and tone your locks while minimizing damage. Be sure to consult with a colorist beforehand to develop the right highlight plan for your hair goals and maintenance level.

Some things to discuss with your colorist beforehand include:

  • Your natural hair color and history
  • How much time you want to dedicate to maintenance
  • If you have any hair damage
  • What your highlight end goal is

With the right consultation, technique and aftercare, highlights can look gorgeous on red hair. Just remember to choose the right tones and placement for a naturally dimensional, lit-from-within glow that enhances your vibrant red locks.


In summary, redheads can look beautiful with highlights when done correctly. Focus on warm copper and red tones close to your natural shade and use subtle placement around the face and crown for the most flattering look. Avoid over-highlighting or ash tones that may turn brassy. Work with an experienced colorist, use professional products, and commit to maintenance to keep highlights vibrant and damage-free. Embrace your red hair’s uniqueness and enhance it with highlights tailored just for you.