Copper hair is the flaming hot sister of ginger hair that belongs to the red hair family. It’s bright, sexy, and unique, perfect for every skin tone and eye color.
In this article, we will help you choose the perfect shade of copper hair color for your skin tone, and then give you all the details on how to dye your hair copper at home (even though we really do recommend doing it at the salon). We’ve listed all the key maintenance tips, so you can keep your copper hair color fresh and gleaming for as long as possible. To make sure you look your best in your copper hair, I’ve also got some tips on how you can adjust your makeup and fashion to your new ‘do.
In this article:
- How to Choose the Best Copper Hair Color Shade for Your Skin Tone
- How to Dye Hair Copper
- Tips for Maintaining Your Copper Hair Dye
- Makeup for Copper Hair
- Fashion Tips for Copper Hair
How to Choose the Best Copper Hair Color Shade for Your Skin Tone
Copper hair, for the most part, has an exclusively warm undertone, but some shades of copper hair are warmer than others. Copper hair is primarily comprised of a near equal blend of the primarily colors red and yellow, with just a bit of blue.
Some coppers will have very little red in them, so they really border on blonde or brown hair, while other coppers will have a lot of red in them so they look very orange-y. If copper hair has extra blue in it, it might even look nearly cherry or burgundy in color.
Different shades of copper hair can work well with every skin tone, no matter how dark or light or whether it’s warm or cool. Sometimes the key to having copper hair colors work with your skin is to mix a few different shades together.
Before you start, it’s important you know what your skin’s undertone is. The two most common undertones in people’s skin are yellow (warm) or pink (cool), although some people might have neutral skin or olive undertones.
Usually the best place to look to figure out one’s undertone is the forearm – you can simply try and figure out which colors seem more dominant, or you can look at your veins. Blueish veins mean neutral or cool skin, purplish veins mean that you have pink undertones, and greenish veins mean that you have yellow or olive undertones.
- If your skin’s undertone leans towards warm, meaning that there is very little pink in and quite a bit of yellow, then most copper hair colors should work well with your skin tone, including both yellow-leaning and red-leaning coppers.
- If your skin’s undertone is on the cool side of things, meaning that it has a lot of pink to it, then you want to be a bit more thoughtful when choosing your perfect copper hair color. You might want to try a more neutral copper hair shade that is muted with a lot of brown or gold.
- Those with olive undertones to their skin need to be the most careful, as the more reddish your copper hair is, the more it will bring out sallow greenishness in your skin. Instead, opt for shades of copper hair that are low on red, and high on gold or yellow undertones.
How to Dye Hair Copper
Now that you’ve chosen the perfect shade of copper hair color for you, it’s time to dye it! Hair dyeing is serious business that we usually recommend leaving to the professionals. A professional hair colorist can do more than just change the color of your hair.
Instead, they can really play around with different shades of copper hair dye, to give you a copper hair color that looks lush, voluminous, healthy, and shiny. They can also treat your hair with something like the olaplex hair treatment, to make sure that your hair is less damaged by the dyeing process.
If this doesn’t convince you, and you’d still prefer to go the do-it-yourself route, then more power to you! But it is important that you do it correctly, which is why we will give you the perfect instructions for dyeing your hair copper at home safely and with beautiful results.
Before You Start
- Make sure your hair is in the healthiest condition possible before you start dyeing it. You can prepare your hair with a nourishing masking session.
- Avoid washing and shampooing your hair for a few days before dyeing it, as the natural oils in your hair will help protect your hair from the copper hair dye.
- Examine the lightness level of your hair. Most copper hair dyes will not lighten your hair – they will only tint it. If you are starting off with dark brown hair but you want to achieve a golden-copper hair color, then you will probably have to bleach your hair first before dyeing it.
- If you do bleach your hair in preparation, wait a few days and do a few masking treatments in between bleaching and dyeing. Processing the hair too much in one day can do a lot of damage to it.
Once you feel ready to dye your hair copper, make sure you get the following tools:
- Copper hair dye (our favorite box dye is by L’Oreal, which you can find at Ulta)
- A plastic bowl or applicator bottle
- Plastic gloves
- Applicator brush
- Hair conditioner
- Claw hair clips
- A sacrificial button-up blouse
- Disposable shower cap
- Petroleum jelly is optional
Step 1: Prepping Your Hair for the Dye Job
- Start off by gathering everything you need, and putting on an old, preferably button-up top that you don’t mind getting covered in copper hair dye.
- Following the instructions, mix your developer and copper hair dye either in a plastic bowl, or, if you bought a box kit of copper hair dye, then in the applicator bottle.
- If you are going to dye your hair with multiple shades of copper hair, then mix different colors in a few different bowls.
- The mixture of copper hair dye and developer might require a few minutes to develop – follow the instructions on the box of the hair dye kit or dye and developer set that you’ve purchased.
- You will want to perform a patch test to ensure that you are not allergic to the hair dye, especially if you haven’t dyed your hair before.
- If you are worried about staining your forehead or ears with copper hair dye, then apply petroleum jelly to the skin around the perimeter of your hair, and to the tops of your ears. This will prevent staining.
Step 2: Applying the Copper Hair Dye
- While the copper hair dye develops, start sectioning off your hair based on how you intend on dyeing it. If you are going to attempt copper highlights or a balayage, for example, you don’t need to worry as much about dyeing the front part of the hair, since you will only paint a couple of strands, but you might want to focus more on the back of your head and the ends.
- Part your hair in the center, and again from ear to ear at the crown. Use claw clips to get a hold of all the sections you are not going to be dyeing at first. If you intend on dyeing all of your hair evenly, then it is best to start with the hair at the front, just above the forehead, and from there to move on to the back part of your hair. Only move on to the lower half of your hair afterwards, as this part of your hair will not be as visible and therefore does not require as much processing time.
- Put on gloves to protect your hands from getting stained with copper hair dye.
- Pick out the strand of hair that you would like to start with. It should be about 2.5 centimeters thick.
- Apply the copper hair dye to your hair with the applicator brush or by dispensing it directly from the bottle, starting as close to your root as possible (assuming you are also dyeing your roots).
- Using your fingers or with the brush, pull the color down all the way to the ends. Apply more copper hair dye if the amount you dispensed at first is not enough to cover the whole strand from top to bottom.
- Using your fingers, massage the dye into the strand of the hair to ensure every single hair is covered.
- Repeat this process with another 2.5-cm strand of hair, until you have finished covering the whole sectioned-off part of your head.
- Clip up the fully dyed section of hair, and unclip the next section.
- Repeat dyeing your hair as you did previously, until you have covered your whole head in copper hair dye.
Step 3: The Processing Time
- Once your whole head is covered, allow the copper hair dye to process. Look to the instructions on the box to see how long the processing time is. 30 minutes is standard.
- Do not dispose of the remaining hair color yet – you might need it later on to make corrections!
- In order to trap in heat to aid the processing, as well as prevent the copper hair dye making a mess and rubbing off on things, put on a shower cap.
- Once the processing time has elapsed, hop in the shower to rinse out the copper hair dye.
- Once you’ve rinsed away as much hair dye as possible, apply hair conditioner to your hair.
- Let the conditioner sit in your hair for a few minutes, and then rinse it out. Do not shampoo your hair!
- Get out of the shower, and gently towel dry your hair. Some copper hair dye might rub off on it, so it is better to use a black or dark red towel.
- Your hair will likely still be damp, so allow it to air-dry instead of blow-drying it.
- Once your hair is dry, admire your new copper hair color in the mirror, and go in with more hair dye if any corrections are necessary!
- Avoid shampooing your hair for the next two to three days. You can still condition it or mask it if you like.
Tips for Maintaining Your Copper Hair Dye
- Wash your copper hair as little as possible! Every time you wash your hair, even if you are using a very gentle shampoo, you are stripping your hair both of dye and of nourishing oils. Try to limit your hair washing frequency to once or twice a week.
- A dry shampoo will help keep your hair from getting oily, and it will make it easy for you to wait longer between hair washes.
- Speaking of, make sure you are using a shampoo that does not contain any sulfates! Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are the two most common shampoo ingredients, but they are too harsh so they remove a lot of copper hair dye every time you wash your hair. Switch to a safe, sulfate-free shampoo.
- The best shampoo would actually be a sulfate-free red-tinted color depositing shampoo, since every time you wash the shampoo will deposit a bit more of that copper hair color into your hair and help refresh your color.
- If the hair dyeing process has left your hair feeling brittle, use a hair mask or conditioner that contains proteins. Look for ingredients like keratin or soy protein, as they will fill in the gaps between the cells of your hair and make your hair stronger and more supple.
- If your copper hair is feeling dry, use coconut oil for hair to mask it. Leave it in overnight, or simply put it into your hair an hour or two before taking a shower.
- Heat styling your hair, even with a blow dryer although especially with straightening and curling irons, will further damage your hair, so try to avoid it as much as possible. If you must use a blow dryer, blow dry your hair occasionally on low-heat and with a diffuser, using a heat protectant.
- The sun can fade copper hair dye quickly, so wearing a hat or using UV-protective hair products will go a long way to keeping your color intact.
- Chlorine in the pool can also alter or fade copper hair color, so make sure to wear a swim cap when going for a swim.
- Make sure to visit your hair dresser for maintenance every 4 to 6 weeks, as it is much easier to update copper hair colors than it is to totally redo them if they have faded severely. It will also save you from having to deal with a lot of grown-out roots.
- Opting for ombre, sombre, or balayage hairstyles that leave your roots their natural color will make maintaining your copper hair a much easier process. You can take longer in between salon appointments, and you don’t have to worry as much about your roots growing out. As an added bonus, darker roots can often actually help make copper hair appear more multi-dimensional!
Makeup for Copper Hair
So what’s the best makeup look for copper-haired women? Here is everything you should know to keep your look bright and balanced!
Complexion Makeup for Copper Hair
Copper hair is much more forgiving than other shades of red hair, when it comes to the state of your skin. This means that if you usually favor a more natural base and sheer foundation, you really don’t have to change anything. As long as your foundation matches your skin tone (a swipe along the jawline will usually help ascertain that it does) and makes your skin look good, that’s good enough for us.
With all that being said, copper hair is less forgiving of skin that looks flat or colorless, so you definitely don’t want to skip your blush. It takes a very brave soul to wear cool pink blushes with copper hair colors, so it is better to play it safe and stick to neutral, peach, orange, or brick-colored blushes that will give your skin life and will complement instead of clashing with your copper hair.
Copper hair doesn’t demand that you contour and highlight your skin, so don’t feel obligated. If you’re a fan of that dewy look then by all means go in with that highlighter, while if you want to look as chiseled as possible then feel free to go into those nooks and crannies with the contour shade.
As with blush, very cool highlighters might end up clashing with that warm gleam in your hair, so stick to champagne, gold, or even coppery highlighters (depending on your skin tone, of course).
Eye Makeup for Copper Hair
The most important thing you might have to change about the way you do your eye makeup once making the switch to copper hair is your eyebrows. Chances are you will not want to use the same eyebrow product as before, especially if your hair was blonde or brown.
Switching to an eyebrow product with a warm undertone is important, as your eyebrows will better match your new copper hair color. You don’t need a copper or red colored eyebrow product – a brown or blonde shade that has a bit of reddishness to it will certainly suffice.
Good examples of an appropriate eyebrow product include the Blonde, Caramel, and Auburn shades of Anastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow, which you can find at Sephora, or the NYX Micro Brow Pencil in Blonde or Auburn from Ulta.
As far as eyeshadow and eyeliner are concerned, you do want to consider color theory before diving deep into those colorful palettes. There are colors that will always be safe and flattering, no matter your hair color. Those include beige, taupe, black, gray, champaign, bronze, chocolate brown, and gold.
You can also feel safe with a monochrome scheme in which your eyeshadow matches your copper hair color. This means you can use various shades of copper, peach, and orange around your eyes. Warm purples and mauves also tend to look great with all types of copper hair.
Where it gets complicated is when you want to wear complementary colors, i.e. colors that are opposite your shade of orange or red hair on the color wheel. For redder copper hair shades, the opposite color is more green, while for more golden copper shades the opposite color is blue.
When you wear those opposite colors on your eyes, your copper hair and eyeshadow will both stand out and compete against each other for attention. Because of this, a full green or blue eye makeup look is likely not going to work. However, a small touch of blue or green, in the form of a thin line below the lower lash line, or as a pop of color in an otherwise warm-toned eyeshadow look can work beautifully to bring out both your hair and eyes.
Lip Makeup for Copper Hair
Choosing the right lipstick to go with your copper hair can be a struggle. Traditional lipstick colors are already so similar to the various red hair shades that you need to have a very subtle eye to see what works and what doesn’t. Once again, the specific tone of your copper hair color absolutely matters.
If you want to play it safe, wear an MLBB (My Lips But Better) shade – for most people that would be a neutral raspberry tone. In general, neutral shades that don’t lean towards either purple-pink or peach-orange, but just sit comfortably in the middle, are not going to clash, since they will mostly appear natural.
If you’re hoping for drama, on the other hand, warmer purples, plums, and magentas will seriously contrast against your hair and truly stand out. It’s matching red lipsticks to copper hair that is the most difficult.
In our opinion, deeper, warmer reds like MAC’s Chili (available at Nordstrom) are guaranteed to stand out and give that seductive and glamorous effect without clashing against the copper hair.
On the other hand, you might welcome that sexy clash of warm copper hair and blue-red lips, à la Cheryl Blossom in Riverdale, in which case Lime Crime’s Matte Velvetine in Red Velvet is the lipstick you seek. You can find that lipstick at Ulta.
Fashion Tips for Copper Hair
- When in doubt, opt for neutral colors that are sure to not clash with your copper hair. Black is always a great choice, as are other neutral solids like white, brown, and even denim, which at this point is essentially a neutral. These neutrals will allow your copper hair color to stand out and gain the most attention.
- When it comes to wearing colors, the color wheel is your friend! Identify the exact shade of copper that your hair has, in order to find the corresponding shade of red or orange on the color wheel.
- Use the color wheel to figure out different color blocking techniques, like analogous (orange-red copper hair, yellow blouse, and red bottoms), complementary (red-orange copper hair with a blue-green dress, or yellow-orange copper hair with a blue-violet dress), split-complementary (red-orange copper hair with both blue and green clothing items, or green and red-violet clothing with red-orange copper hair).
- Wearing the complementary color to your copper hair color (i.e. the color that is exactly opposite your hair color on the color wheel) will make both your hair and outfit stand out, as they will strengthen each other. This can be fierce and fashion-forward, although sometimes it can also clash – a solid, expensive-looking garment that is a little darker than your copper hair is the best bet, while a loud and bright color made with a cheaper material might look tacky.
- Wearing red with copper hair can actually be super sexy! It’s absolutely an analogous color pattern, and since most red clothing has a warm undertone, it is unlikely to clash!
- Jewel tones, especially like emerald and amethyst, can look very sophisticated paired with copper hair colors.
- Look for style inspirations! There are a lot of fashion-forward celebrities with copper hair, so see what they wear to get ideas. Some of my favorite babes with copper hair color include Madelaine Petsch with warm copper hair that has a lot of red undertones to it, Emma Stone with a golden copper hair color that has a lot of yellow in it, and Christina Hendricks with orange copper hair (i.e. equal amount of yellow and red undertones).
Photos via @leysahairandmakeup, Instagram