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Makeup for redheads

Brown tones aren’t the only — or maybe even the best — choice for eyes, lips and cheeks. Beauty pros share their tips for those with auburn and strawberry tresses.

March 21, 2010|By Alene Dawson, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Actress Julianne Moore wears it well.
Actress Julianne Moore wears it well. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles…)

Redheads hold an iconic place in American pop culture. There's the voluptuous come-hither trappings of Rita Hayworth and cartoon sex bomb Jessica Rabbit; the comedic zaniness of Lucille Ball, Debra Messing, Carrot Top and Conan O'Brien; and the girl-next-door sweetness of '80s film princess Molly Ringwald. There's even a template for the icy redhead a la Marcia Cross and Julianne Moore. For all of these famous folks, it could be said that red hair is part of their brand.

Naturally red hair is a rare commodity. Some scientists believe natural redheads account for less than 2% of the world's population, and geneticist Barry Starr, director of Stanford University's Stanford at the Tech Museum of Innovation, says that although Ireland and Scotland probably have the highest percentage of natural redheads, "The United States most likely has the highest number of redheads, but that's still just 2% to 5% of the population."

Red from a bottle might boost the numbers a bit. A Clairol spokeswoman said that red shades accounted for 10% of the company's hair colorant sales last year. Still, if you've got red hair — whether auburn or strawberry — you'll stand out.

Rarity poses challenges for the redhead trying to look her best. We checked in with some experts for some tips on how to showcase gorgeous red locks with beauty choices that flatter.

There are two camps in the debate about makeup for redheads: Camp Color Wheel and Camp Natural.

Going with color

Sara Strand, the British founder of Pop Beauty who has standout bright red hair, is unabashedly in the first. "I think that the No. 1 mistake that redheads make with makeup is trying to match their hair with maybe their lips and other makeup," using earthy tones such as orangey, muddy browns, she says. "Red hair is so vibrant and fun," she says, but "earth tones — that's what our grandmothers did."

Strand says she's been on an anti-brown-makeup mission for more than a decade. "It seems like someone out there has told everyone to wear browns — everybody. I've been doing this for a long time and people keep telling me ‘No, no, no, I look better in earth tones and the browns,' and I'm like ‘No. You don't!'" Her most important advice for redheads is: "Don't be afraid to wear proper color."

Strand says specific makeup choices can depend on what kind of redhead you are — natural or dyed, strawberry or auburn. But the most important makeup item for redheads is mascara. "If you're a natural redhead or a blonder redhead, your eyelashes can kind of disappear," she says. Strand recommends black mascara for its dramatic and face-framing effect or even a deep mossy green mascara for green-eyed redheads. "And redheads also look amazing in a strong lip," Strand says. "A tomato red at the moment is a very fresh color on redheads and it's coming back, trend-wise."

Strand wants redheads to play and experiment with makeup — individualize it. "Makeup can update your look and is about expression of your style and, you know, I kind of look at makeup as an accessory.... What is my mood today, and how do I want to express myself through my clothes, my hair and my makeup?"

Strand visits her hairdresser regularly and favors hair products such as tinted conditioners that boost her hair's luster. John Frieda, Pantene, Bumble & Bumble, Wella, Ted Gibson and Just for Redheads all have hair products specifically for red hair. Another option is sulfate-free, anti-fade hair products for color-treated red hair such as those made by Pureology and Matrix Biolage.

Celebrity makeup artist Scott Barnes did Moore's makeup for years, and his book, "About Face," recently hit the shelves. Like Strand, Barnes usually recommends that redheads steer clear of earth tones. "Redheads should be sexy!" he says. "A lot of redheads always wear orange lipstick or orangey blush or all of those rust shades that are like ‘Noooooo!'…You just start looking rusty."

For Moore, "I always tried to use purples on Julianne's eyes and a lot of grays… Redheads usually have really beautiful eye color, whether it's hazel, green, gold — a lot of times they have a lot of yellow in the eye color too, so the last thing you want to do is drown it out by using similar colors, because then it just becomes drab." His choices for eye makeup for redheads include opposing and dramatic colors.

For redheads with blue eyes: "I would definitely go into the grays and blacks, like those charcoal shades — those two are fantastic with any blue-eyed person, but on a redhead it's just stunning and takes your breath away," Barnes says, adding that women with this combination can also wear brown.

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