What is the secret to natural looking red hair? In a word: green.
Now to the real question, why does green insure that a person's created red hair looks natural? Because natural red hair is green. Does that sound counterintuitive? It does to me. However, many years of observation of red hair in its own environment has shown to me that what looks red on the surface is very ashy(green) in its core. That is why many redheads, as they age, become ash blonde.
Concerning how to create this paradoxical color is one of my favorite things to contemplate. I am going to show a little demonstration as to why it is so difficult to create natural red looks from a tube of color.
Color theory: a complimentary color(one across the color wheel) will neutralize or cancel its compliment. E.g. Green + Red = Brown, Orange + Blue = Brown, Violet + Yellow = Brown*
When a stylist goes to create a natural looking (ashy) red from their color line, the ash and red tones would negate one another and you would be left with neutral brown. Neutral brown isn't natural looking red, so how do we fix this? By using red and ash, but not mixing them together. My personal choice for this type of situation is to alternate panels of the red that the client is looking for with panels of ash at the same level. So, if you were to use a 6R for the base tone, then you would choose a 6A/6NA(even better if it is a green ash) as the alternate. When you are finished the shades will blend together and create depth and tone that mimics natural red hair. It is one of the most interesting parts of adjusting colors. Now if you aren't looking for natural red, then you can just alternate different varieties of red to create depth and tone. A favorite formula would be using a combination of panels of 6R, 6RV, 6RC, and 6C depending on the look desired.
I do hope this made a bit of sense even if the idea can be a bit difficult to wrap one's head around. Next time you want to achieve natural looking red hair, you are prepared with a bit of information that not everyone is aware of.
*My apologies, I didn't have a purple or yellow font choice on my blog editor.