I’m calling it now: 2023 is the year of the redhead. From to Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid, pop culture is riding the scarlet train. A scroll through your TikTok feed is likely to tell the same story, with endless videos documenting the results of salon trips in a palette of warm copper, autumn orange, fiery red and soft peach. But one shade of red has really captured the internet’s attention (and mine). Say hello to the cherry coke hair trend.
What is cherry coke hair and why is it so popular for spring 2023?
Why cherry coke? Unlike many red shades, which tend to have yellow-orange bases, cherry coke is rooted in purple. "When someone comes into the salon asking for 'cherry coke hair', I think of a colour that is a deep, rich and intense burgundy," explains Natalie Cain, senior stylist and L’Oréal colour specialist at Live True London in Soho. "It’s more muted compared to other reds but shines differently under different lighting." Natalie isn't surprised it's trending right now. "Viva Magenta is Pantone’s colour of 2023 and we often see exciting new trends kick off just after Fashion Week," she says.
If you were a teen in the mid-2000s like me and Natalie, then cherry coke hair is a familiar friend and nostalgic foe, reminiscent of the purple-red hair popularised by Rihanna and Cheryl Cole. We laugh over memories of bad box dyes past, but neither of us is surprised the trend has made a comeback given the internet’s general obsession with all things 2010s (indie sleaze and Tumblr girl, we’re looking at you). Megan Thee Stallion recently endorsed the hue, too.
2023’s iteration is a little different. "I would say it’s more muted and natural-looking this time around," Natalie tells me. "Less 'brassy' and in-your-face, especially if you come to a salon where the stylist can find the right undertones for you. It's a more sophisticated take for 2023."
As a colour newbie I was a little daunted, but Natalie put me at ease so I booked myself an appointment at Live True. Here’s everything I learned about getting the cherry coke colour on virgin brunette hair.
Who best suits cherry coke hair?
With its purple base, cherry coke is on the darker end of the red spectrum so, for brunettes like me, it feels softer and less daunting than other red shades. Natalie is keen to point out, though, that this trend isn’t just for those with dark hair.
"Cherry coke is also really versatile, which is probably another reason why it’s so popular," she says. "It suits all skin tones because you can play around with the tones, balancing the red and purple to see what best works for you, whether that’s something warmer or cooler." It’s perfect for those who are keen on a sultry, moody hair trend (think midnight blue or Wednesday Addams-esque inky black) but worry that it might wash them out.
It's also key to note that the cherry coke shade you end up with will differ depending on your natural base colour (and whether you already have coloured hair). The lighter your hair, the more vibrant the cherry colour is going to be. Natalie says a good stylist will discuss it with you and know how to tailor the colour to suit you.
@j.enng self care: touching up my hair and giving myself a haircut 💆🏻♀️💞 | this hair color is literally so hard to maintain though 😭 #cherrycokehair #blackcherryhair #cherrycolahair #redhair #blackcherryhaircolor ♬ cupid twin version - ⟡ TRACYTRACKS ⟡
How do you get cherry coke hair?
Natalie stresses the importance of good reference photos so you and your stylist can establish whether your desired shade should be redder or more purple, depending on your skin tone. It's difficult to give a step-by-step breakdown of the process because it will be different for everyone, depending on the texture of your hair and whether it's been coloured before.
In my case, Natalie sectioned up my hair and coated it with our agreed-upon shade: a permanent colourant, L’Oréal Majirel in 650, Poppy, which is for salon use only. This lightens hair by up to three shades and colours at the same time. Natalie worked in small sections so as not to miss anything and to saturate every strand. She explained that it’s best to start with the ends of the hair to avoid 'root glow', where the new, fine hairs at the roots grab onto the colour and develop too quickly thanks to the heat of our scalps.
We also agreed that an overall colour from root to tip rather than a balayage would work best for me since I have naturally dark hair and it won’t look so noticeable once the colour starts fading out (especially on my fringe, which grows quicker than the rest of my hair). This was the best and lowest-maintenance option, requiring fewer touch-ups. Another benefit of dyeing virgin hair is that the colour is more vibrant than if I had previously bleached or coloured it. That's because virgin hair is more porous and grabs onto colour easier. Likewise, as I’m already brunette, I have reddish undertones anyway. This whole process would be very different for a blonde who needs those red undertones added in (and the hair darkened).
After letting the colour develop for 30 to 35 minutes, Natalie washed it out with Redken Colour Extend Magnetic Shampoo & Conditioner Duo, £37.50, which she highly recommends for preserving your colour. After a quick trim of my fringe and layers, a blow-dry and a light, beachy curl with a straightener, I was done. In all, it took about two and a half hours to transform my hair.
How do you maintain cherry coke hair?
Unfortunately, cherry coke hair is one of the highest maintenance hair trends out there — upkeep requires money, time and effort. At Live True, prices start at £84 for a colour appointment and Natalie told me that to keep my cherry coke vibrant, I'll need to return to the salon every six to eight weeks for a touch-up (this will vary depending on how much I wash my hair and which products I use). In the meantime, her colleague Natasha, who also has cherry coke-colour hair, recommended washing every three to four days (i.e. once or twice a week) with Redken Colour Extend Shampoo and then applying Redken Colour Extend Conditioner, leaving this on for 10 minutes before rinsing. She also put me on to Schwarzkopf Professional Chroma ID Bonding Colour Mask 6-88 Ruby, £28.80, which helps freshen the rouge tones in your hair and adds pigment and moisture. Natasha suggested applying this every three to four weeks. A hair mask for coloured hair should also become part of your weekly routine. Color Wow Money Masque, £39.50, comes highly rated by our beauty director.
Is cherry coke hair worth it?
I thought I would love it but not as much as I do! I was ready for a change and this, though subtle, is impactful. I love how it shifts in colour from red to purple to deep maroon to a purple-rich, chocolatey brown depending on the lighting. Because it’s still dark, I don’t think I need to dye my eyebrows but I’m planning to whip out my tube of Charlotte Tilbury burgundy mascara more often (the perfect match).
The biggest difference is in how my hair feels. As you can see in my 'before' picture, it was very unloved — I actually hadn’t been to a salon since before lockdown. (My fringe grows so fast, I would rather trim it myself.) This meant that it was frizzy, dry and had plenty of split ends. Usually, I’m a pretty low-maintenance person when it comes to my hair (wash, condition, air-dry and go) but I think my new cherry coke maintenance routine might be just what’s needed to keep my hair nourished and vibrant. Here’s to the year of the redhead!
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