Whether you’re a natural-born ginger and looking to cover greys or just trying to make a bold color change to add vim and vigor to your everyday style, ginger hair is eye-catching at any age — including for women over 40!
“Red hair makes a statement of confidence. It can also be a great way to let people know age doesn’t define you; instead, you define it!” says Carin Freidag, senior manager of global retail education for Clairol. Plus, ginger hair is surprisingly flattering on aging skin, perking up your complexion and adding a youthful glow. Best of all, Friedag shares, there’s no need to splurge at a salon when you can easily achieve your new color at home. With so many shades to choose from, from dark auburns to rich wines to strawberry blonde hues, you’re sure to find one to flatter you.
Should I try ginger hair?
In a word: Yes! “Changing your hair color is a bold move no matter what your age is, and going red or any shade of red as we age can be uplifting and exciting,” says celebrity hairstylist, colorist and salon owner Christopher Naselli who has colored the locks of stars like Michelle Yeoh and Heather Graham. “Playing with different tones of reds, coppers and auburns can brighten the skin tone and enhance eye color while creating dimension to thinning hair as we age,” he adds.
Garnier celebrity hairstylist Owen Gould, who’s worked with stars like Kirsten Dunst and Drew Barrymore, adds that ginger hair “has the potential to add warmth, depth and radiance to your overall appearance.”
What to know before you try a shade of ginger:
It’s important to do a strand-test with any hair color — but it’s extra important for ginger hair, as there can be a wide variance in saturation. “This will ensure you’ll like the color and get the right timing for your hair,” says Freidag.
If you have a cool skin tone, a warmer ginger tone will work best, Richy Kandasamy, colorist and R+Co Collective member insists. If you have a warm skin tone, he says to go for a cooler ginger. And if you’re not sure which ginger to choose, Gould suggests finding a photo of someone with ginger hair who has a similar skin tone to your own. Pinterest is a good place to start!
Still need help? Check out these gorgeous over-40 celebrity gingers to draw some easy inspiration:
Light hair + cool skin? Try strawberry ginger hair
Soft strawberry blonde brightens up the face, which Freidag insists, “will help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.” She adds, “This shade is ideal for someone who has lighter hair — it’s easily achieved since it works well with your underlying natural pigment to create the softness of the shade’s end result.” Also nice: You won’t have to touch up your color as frequently as if you went for a deeper shade of ginger.
Who should think twice: anyone with a lot of redness in their skin, as this hue will draw it out even more.
To do: Try Clairol Nice ‘N Easy 8R Medium Reddish Blonde (Buy from CVS, $8.99). From there, Freidag says, “Continue to use this shade once you see your roots in about four to six weeks.” And in between colorings, she says you can keep it bright with Clairol Color Gloss Up in Peach Please (Buy from Amazon, $5.23).
Light hair +warm skin? Try light auburn ombre
“This auburn tone has a very natural lived in look like you were born with it. The depth of the shade around the face gives subtle contrast to skin and eyes with the lengths to the ends providing a little lightness,” says Freidag.
“If you had red undertones to your hair when you were growing up, this can bring you back since red pigment will always still be within your pigmented hair. If you are completely gray, then you will be creating the color from scratch so will need to use a mixture with a neutral shade so you don’t go too bright.” Freidag adds.
This shade is also great for anyone who ranges between dark blonde to dark brown, she explains. “The key to the color shift to the ends is to have hair that is longer than shoulder length so you have enough hair to work with that will keep it more natural looking.”
To do: To achieve the subtle ombre effect of this shade you will need a base color such as Clairol Natural Instincts 6R Spiced Tea Light Auburn (Buy from Amazon, $7.57) if you have under 25% gray. Or Clairol Nice ‘N Easy 6R Light Auburn (Buy from Amazon, $7.19) if you have up to 50% gray hair. Apply the all-over color from roots to ends per box directions.
Next, use Clairol Blonde It Up (Buy from Amazon, $7.96), a gentle, no bleach lightener to softly lighten the ends of your hair, just enough to make the auburn take on a golden tone. “Apply it using your fingers so you create a more natural and gradual shift of color instead of a straight line across your hair,” says Freidag. And for the future, you’ll only be touching up the all over color, not the re-lightening process. Have fun with it and make it your own!
Note: Do a strand test on a small bit of hair after your hair is almost completely dry from the all over color process. “This will allow you to gauge how quickly it will take to lighten your ends just a shade or two,” explains Freidag.
Brunette hair + warm skin? Try rich ginger hair
This shade of light auburn is classic and attention-grabbing with a flattering side effect that makes it irresistible: it enhances brown, hazel and green eyes, according to Gould. Who does it work for? Says Gould, “Generally, warm skin tones with golden or olive undertones tend to complement this shade of red well.”
To do: Try a light auburn hair color like Garnier Olia Light Intense Auburn (Buy from Amazon, $14.94), L’Oréal Paris Excellence Triple Protection Permanent Hair Color in Light Auburn (Buy at Target, $11.49) or Revlon ColorSilk Beautiful Color in Auburn (Buy from Walmart, $3.97) apply evenly all over and follow box instructions. Bonus if you have grays: they’ll naturally take on a highlighted look!
Brunette hair + cool skin? Try warm auburn
“The depth of this shade is in the sweet spot for women over 50 if you are a brunette. It brings out the peachiness in warm skin tones and makes eyes sparkle no matter what they color are!” Freidag says.
She adds, “Women with naturally dark brown to light brown hair are the perfect range for this shade. The dyes in the color will cover the gray, but they’ll pick up the color a little lighter and brighter, providing a tone-on-tone result.”
To do: Friedag recommends a medium red hue to capture this rich color at home.
Then, Friedag says to maintain your roots in between colors with Clairol Root Touch Up 5R (Buy from CVS, $8.99) if more than 50% of your hair is gray or Clairol Root Touch Up 5RC Medium Copper Red (Buy from Walmart, $10.60) if you have minimal gray.
True ginger + warm skin? Try honey ribbons
Dramatic strawberry streaks are a great option for anyone looking to take years off their look. It’s a great way to help fine, thin hair look thicker by “bringing dimension into your hair color which helps create a feeling of movement,” says Freidag. It’s also a fun way to mix things up and refresh your look, even if you’re already a ginger! And it complements the golden tones in warm skin.
Copper in general is a great option for women over 50. “It’s a hair color that can have a youthful and rejuvenating effect. It can add warmth and vibrancy to the hair, helping to soften and minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” Gould explains.
To do: Try this in two steps. First, start with a light auburn base color such as Garnier Nutrisse Light Natural Copper (Buy from Amazon, $19.99) and use according to the box directions.
Then, to add highlights, Frediag says to grab a highlighting kit like Clairol’s Balayage (Buy from Amazon, $9.97) and use the included brush to hand-paint the mixture in face-framing streaks in downward strokes, starting a half inch away from the scalp. “Continue this motion, applying approximately ¾ to 1 inch apart from each other around the top layer of the hair on either side of the part,” Freidag says. Once you’ve finished your design, set your timer for 10 minutes. Then, “with a damp paper towel, wipe off the product to see if you’ve reached the honey color you’re looking for. If not, reapply more product and continue to check until you like it,” she says. Then rinse and go!
True ginger + cool skin? Try graduated cherry
A rich true ginger with slightly darker roots like this “immediately warms up the skin and brings a dramatic look to your personal style,” says Naselli. He adds, “This is a great choice for someone who is looking to make a statement — it’s intense in its depth and it’s super youthful.” Kandasamy points out it’s especially great on cool skin tones, creating a perfect frame to add radiance around your face.
To do: To add richness to your hue, Naselli says to mix 1 oz AGEbeautiful Permanent Liqui-Creme in 5RR Intense Red (Buy from Amazon, $12) with 1 oz of 6RB Light Raspberry Brown (Buy from Amazon, $12) and 2 oz of AGEbeautiful Gentle Creme Hair Developer 20 Vol (Buy from Amazon $9.99), apply to roots and let sit for 40 minutes (so the roots get the most saturated color), then pull the color throughout the rest of the hair and let sit for an additional 20 minutes before rinsing.
Not up for mixing? Try Revlon ColorSilk Beautiful Color in 55 Light Reddish Brown (Buy from Walmart, $5.99).
To keep it vibrant, you’ll need a good color-safe shampoo and conditioner that won’t strip your rich color on the hair like R+Co GEMSTONE Color Shampoo (Buy from Dermstore, $34).
Dark hair and dark skin? Opt for a deep merlot
To do: Reach for a rich shade like Garnier Olia Dark Intense Auburn (Buy from Walmart, $9.47) and remember: no one likes a spotty merlot! Gould says to divide your hair into manageable sections using clips or hair ties. “This will make it easier to apply the color evenly,” he says.
The rich hue is a great option for those with dark hair. As a bonus, “Deep merlot red hair color can beautifully accentuate dark or brown eyes, creating a captivating and intense look,” says Gould. And, he insists, while merlot red is generally associated with warmth, people with cool undertones in their skin can also rock this hair color!
To learn more about ginger hair, click through these stories:
Beth Shapouri is a beauty, wellness, and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in Allure.com, MarieClaire.com, GoodHouseKeeping.com, and more. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and a very cute dog. Visit bethshapouri.com to see more of her work.
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