Makeup for redheads

Makeup for redheads
Actress Julianne Moore wears it well. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

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


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.

For redheads with brown eyes: "I always have a tendency with brown eyes to stay on the cooler side," he says. "I use purples or a dove gray or some of those softer gray shades or purples — because what that does is it brings out the yellow in the eye. If you use earth tones [on brown eyes], it just becomes too competitive and the eye just becomes like a chocolate chip — you're not seeing all of the highlights in it."

For redheads with hazel eyes: "Hazel eyes are fun because they really encompass the spectrum of the rainbow and you can pretty much go anywhere with them.... You can do that chocolate-y gold — those kinds of tones … as long as they aren't reddish browns," he says.

Barnes says that pale pink on the lips and peachy pinks on the cheek for redheads are "gorgeous," and he also likes it when freckles show through a bit. He plays up alabaster skin on redheads by mixing porcelain foundation with a little hint of pink. As for green makeup on redheads, he says "it just starts getting too Christmas tree[-like]," although he loves redheads in green clothing.

"Red lipstick works when there's minimal eye makeup on," he says, although a full lash and lots of black mascara with it is OK. "I'm always, like, pack [the mascara] on!" But auburn mascara for redheads? "Unless you're just waking up and you want to look as if you have absolutely no makeup on … why bother?" The first woman in Barnes' "About Face" is a redhead who used to match her makeup to her hair. "But after I did her makeup she literally looked 10 years younger," Barnes says. He accomplished this by first getting rid of "her Holly Hobbie bangs" and replacing the earth-tone makeup with a mix of yellow-gold and burgundy eye shadow to bring out the hazel color of her eyes, which he rimmed in black.

The natural look

Paula Pennypacker founded the makeup company Just for Redheads in 1993. "I ran for mayor of Toledo, and when I saw myself on TV I had on black mascara, and I just thought that it looked too harsh and too garish and you want to look soft and approachable when you're out there shaking hands and greeting the public," she says. She says that redheads have special needs that weren't being met in the traditional market. So after the election she started Just for Redheads as a mail-order company with an auburn mascara. "And the rest is history," she says. Pennypacker says she wasn't sure whether she was the only one who didn't like black mascara. "Was I the only one who thought that it made us look like a hooker or a raccoon? I wanted to look natural in makeup. You know what my husband said when he met me? ‘Why do you have all of that beautiful red hair and those black lashes?'"

The resounding answer was that she wasn't the only redhead who preferred natural-looking makeup. Not only does Just for Redheads have 150 products and ship all over the world, but Pennypacker says her products have been requested for "

Sex and the City

," the movie "Bounce" (for

Gwyneth Paltrow

) and a

Harry Potter


Her No. 1 seller is Ginger Henna colored mascara. Brow products and hair hennas are also top sellers. "You know Lucille Ball used to color her hair with henna," she says, adding that henna is great for covering gray.


Pennypacker grew up a natural redhead and says that it wasn't always easy. "I always thought of myself as this flat-chested, skinny redhead," she says. "I had very low self-esteem, and it wasn't until I graduated from college that I really started to look at the red hair as an asset. So I took a really negative thing when I was young and turned it into a company."


Both camps agree that people with red hair tend to need extra sun protection and should use a higher-numbered sunscreen, avoid tanning and stay inside or cover up during peak sun hours. And be vigilant about checking for skin cancer. Dr. Joshua Wieder, a dermatologist and professor at


's Geffen School of Medicine, adds that fair-complected redheads are "going to be the least tolerant of something like a retinal or retinoid," the Vitamin A-based ingredients often included in anti-aging or acne-fighting products. A redhead's skin might stay red longer after laser skin treatments too, and when it comes to laser hair removal, in general, if you have very light red hair, "it's not going to work because the hair doesn't absorb the light," Wieder says.

Barnes believes that Moore is one of the most stunning women in Hollywood, and he says he thinks she looks young because "she ultimately stayed out of the sun her whole life … that really played a huge role in her youthfulness." Not that redheads have to be a homebodies, but protection (along with makeup that suits your rarified coloring and personality) has its perks.