critical analysis...creative ideas...flawless execution
First of all, thank you!  I am very flattered.  PLEASE NOTE:  I am not a hairdresser.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Me + any permanent hair product = very very bad things!  The only reason I started coloring my own hair is because no one else would do it.  What you see now is the result of years of trial and error.  And every year there are revolutionary new products on the market to keep trying, so the process is ever-evolving with varying results.

I do have it mostly down now though, so here are the fruits of my labor.

At this writing my hair is not damaged at all and I do not use bleach. 

First, if you are reading this you probably know that red is the very hardest color to maintain.  You can't maintain it, in fact.  All reds fade immediately.  Some wear better than others, however, and there are some tricks that make a world of difference.  That is what I'm going to tell you about.  Currently there is no solution, but I keep hoping, and updating.  Keep checking in.

Recommended Stylists:

Seattle:
Cousins Hair Design, Mountlake Terrace - Stacy!
Hair Zone - University Place - Victoria!

Portland:
Wicked Pixie Salon, Beaverton - Dana!

Cleveland:
Barber Shop, Ashland four one nine two eight seven three nine nine three - Victoria Baldridge, this woman can cut anything into anything and loves a challenge!  She's like Edward Scissorhands I kid you not.  Yeah it's a drive but go to Grandpa's CheeseBarn while you're there and stock up (cheese freezes). Also, pay twice what she charges, you still won't feel it.

Los Angeles:
Tammy Talbot, Crowning Glory Salon - best hairdresser/colorist/stylist ever.  Triple threat!


=THE COLOR=

Step 1:

Coloring. The key to this look is the % of peroxide developer that you choose to use.  The lay definitions go as below - please bear in mind that I have naturally curly, very thick and fine hair.  It is a very dark brown.  Your mileage may vary.

10% - will not change your natural color, will brighten and add tint (will not damage hair)
20% - will lighten you hair a shade, maybe two. Still subtle. (will not damage hair.  I once fell asleep with this in)
30% - will visibly lift your hair.  I do this during the winter to change things up.  Or down, as it were. (will damage hair, keep an eye on the time)
40% - WOW! this is the % you will use to get the color Louna (below) and I have. (TIME THIS!)

For the best, shiniest, longest wearing and richest red on the market, use Affinage bRed in RED.  It can be hard to find but is worth the search.  This is a glorious color that is almost metallic, and more blue than orange so it wears much better than most.  It is supposed to be permanent but wears like a really good semi-perm.

PLEASE NOTE: You do not need to continue applying color to your entire strands after you achieve the color you want!  Doing so will fry your ends!  I just dye my roots and use Special Effects (below) to color the rest of my hair 90% of the time.

I figured out the basics thanks to this marvelous chick, Louna Mauron, on youtube.  Here is her tutorial video.  A picture paints 1,000 words...enjoy!

*** There is one major negative about Affinage.  If you have skin sensitivities, if you have ever had a contact rash or hives, THIS COLOR MAY IRRITATE YOUR SKIN!  I have been using it for two years, and every summer there is a patch that grows across the back of my neck.  This summer it got so bad I had to try other lines.  I am currently using the Joico or Pravana (but I dont like the Pravana red much).*

BUY THIS:
To find the local dealer I went to the Affinage website and searched for locations.  I also Googled.
Portland/Seattle - at Exclusive Salon Products.  If you visit the Pacific Highway location in Portland and ask Cynthia for Vivian's color she will actually know what you are talking about.

THIS JUST IN:  A permanent color that looks similar to Affinage is Joico Vero K-Pak Color 7XR WITH Joico Vero K-Pak Color Extra Red Intesifier INRR.  You can find these for around $9 EACH at Cosmo Prof, where you need a license to shop.  Google if you don't have a license.

This is a more subtle but no less striking color, it bleeds less than Affinage. I highly recommend it!

**There is now a Joico red top coat!  I will be trying this in the imminent future!

Step 2:

Protein filler.  I discovered this on accident and I don't know why NO ONE told me about it!  You know how regularly coloring your hair results in changes near the root, very similar to the rings on a tree that indicate specific points in time as it grows?  Protein filler eradicates that.  Protein filler also makes your hair shinier and helps the color stay longer.  I just squirt a bunch in the color when I mix it up.  I use Affinage's protein filler Quick Pig gel in red of course. It's wonderful.

*This appears to be discontinued, you could get it on Amazon but I don't see it now.  I do see Quick Pig spray at the Affinage site.  I prefer the gel as you can dump it into the color as oppsed to spraying on hair - I would ask at the Affinage store if they have/can get that.  

At Sally's, Colorful Protein Color Filler comes in red and will work, but its supposed to condition and doesn't really. I don't recommend it except in a pinch.

*update:  You cannot use protein filler with the Joico K-Pak (it technically has that already built into it - that's the "K-Pak")! The color will look great for a week then fade back to brown!  Bizarre but true - I have since learned that Joico doesn't play well with others, even other Joico products. I hear Olaplex works, I'll keep you posted.

BUY THIS:
QuickPig - Affinage dealer (above)
Ion - Sally's

Step 3:

Wash with Wen.  Seriously. It will make your life SO MUCH easier!  It really does what it says it does.  I only use the shampoo, I don't think the rest of the line is all that great IMO.  It depends on the condition of your hair I'm sure.

I read online that Regis Tea Tree Conditioner has a very close ingredient list to Wen.  Will try this and post. I tried the Wen alternaticves at Sally's and was not impressed.

BUY THIS:
Online - Wen. Do NOT let them sign you up for automatic shipping!  They will add this in if you do not speak up when ordering.

Step 4:

Use a clear coat.  This simply seals in the red and makes it a touch shinier.  This will also extend the life of the red. Right now I'm using Ion Color Brilliance Clear Shine as I got a ton of it at a deep discount, but it does almost nothing.  I advise trying a higher end product, I will be doing so when I complete my insane supply and I will update here.

Step 5:

Because sometimes accidents happen.....Special Effects colors.  These are extremely highly pigmented semi-perm colors that give the most vibrant shades that last the longest.  Forget Manic Panic, Fudge etc.  Go straight to Special Effects and don't waste your time and money the other brands.  Less will have a much more rewarding payoff and go much farther from this line.  I use this when the color finally fades or the new color I'm trying sucks, and on the ends of my hair when I am just maintaining a color I like on the roots.  I like Nuclear Red, Hot Lava (a little orange), Candy Apple Red (rosey red), Blood Red (darker red)....have fun and play!

BUY THIS:
Online - Special Effects colors

Step 6:

Wash/rinse with COLD WATER and a sealing conditioner.  I am currently using a jug of Herbal Essence Color Me Happy conditioner for about $4.50 at WalMart.  It smells great, leaves hair feeling silkier and seems to seal about as well as the pricier brands.

BUY THIS: Wal Mart

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"Wow, Viv," you say, "that's an awful lot of work!." 
Well, welcome to the wonderful world of reds..  And guess what - all that is one nights work.  Wax on, wax off, wax on, wax off, you're done.  It goes quickly once you get the hang of it.  And you would not BELIEVE the effort I have saved you with this.  Feel free to thank me effusively!

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=MAINTAINANCE=

Step 1:

After your final rinse out, apply a healthy amount of Terax Crema. Start at the ends and the dryest, most frizzy areas and work your way up to the roots.  Comb through.  Don't goop it on, get your hair thinly but evenly coated. You're hair will tell you how much. This is what Gwen Stafani uses and by all rights of nature she shouldn't have any hair left by now. If it's good enough for Gwen, its good enough for me!  This stuff is amazing, it restored to my hair texture to "hair" when in skin care school, one of the hair students reduced it to "fake fur" by bleaching it blonde.  I'm a believer.  Wax on.

I recently discovered another product that is just marvelous and even makes my hands feel wonderful after I put it on my scalp.  If your hair is not very damaged, try Hair Fertilizer.  It's available at any drug store and WalMart, about $8. 

BUY THIS:
Online - Terax Crema
Hair Fertilizer - everywhere

Step 2: (optional)

I like to flat iron my hair.  To achieve glossy hair, take Garnier Fructis sleek and shine anti-humidity smoothing milk, my fave hair care line. Put a small quarter in the palm of your hand.  Use HALF a squirt of some of the serum mix I describe below.  Mix it together in your palms - it's very slippery so be warned it can get away from you - and apply it SPARINGLY to the frizziest, dryest ends first.  Then apply to the second least manageable places and work your way up - AVOID THE ROOT as that will make your hair flat.  When you are done wipe your hands off on your bangs/sides/frame of your face.  These areas need the least, you can look oily very easily by over-applying here.

I made my own anti-frizz serum, mixing (roughly) 4/5 Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Anti-Frizz Serum with 1/5 Almond Oil.  I came up with this after borrowing my friend's The Fixx serum, which I really liked.  I read the back and it was basically serum cut with Argan oil.  Almond oil is very close to you own natural oil so its a great moisturizer.  Beware!  It will slide like crazy and if you use too much you will look greasy.  If you use too much and flat iron you will smell like Denny's all day.  LESS IS MORE!

I recently tried Pureology Reviving Red Illuminating Caring Oil and it's nifty.  Not sure it makes a large enough impact to justify the price, but if you can afford it it's worth playing with.

BUY THESE:
everywhere - I got a good deal on the almond oil from Amazon and it's from a company called "Iceman's Thunder."  Based on that alone I am going to stick with this one.

Step 3:

Don't wash your hair.  Yes, I'm serious.  Thankfully, color treated hair tends to be damaged and will soak up all your natural oil so you need to wash it less anyway, but really DO NOT wash your hair.  If you are desperate to wash it, try a dry shampoo.  There are several at the drug store, I have two by Tressame - a mousse and a spray. You put it on, let it dry, comb or brush it through and that is it.  They are very easy to use and work extremely well.  Plus: They give LOTS of body!

BUY THIS:
everywhere

Step 4:

When you do shampoo your hair, use Wen (above).

Step 5:

MASK YOUR HEAD!!!!!! 
Alternate protein and moisture. At least once a month use a protein pak - I like Schwarzkopf BC Bonacure Amino Cell Rebuild Repair Rescue Treatment  (in the 6.8oz jar, Note -  it is VERY hard to tell items in this line apart!  Read the tiny print in front).

I alternate with a moisture pak (I like the one I make with eggs, olive oil and honey - lots of options for this on youtube for your hair type -which, if you are reading this, will be "damaged"). I toss it on, put on a shower cap, put a heating pad under my head and sleep on it because I'm lazy and why work harder than you have to?

BUY THIS:
Online - Protein: Schwarzkopf BC Bonacure Amino Cell Rebuild Repair Rescue Treatment
Miosture - grocery store :)


Due to the recent increase in the popularity of reds, many lines are now adding red "color boosters" (like the Joico listed above).  I have not tried these yet, but am looking into it.  I will keep you posted!