Written by Ava Welsing-Kitcher
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In need of a seasonal shake-up? Try autumn’s hottest hue, copper, to restore vibrancy, as seen on Sha’Carri Richardson and Jorja Smith. Join Stylist contributor Ava Welsing-Kitcher as she dips her toes into the copper craze.
I’ve pretty much had the same honey blonde hair colour for about six years. It started with a Bleach London Total Bleach kit in university and hours of DIY curly balayage videos on YouTube. I loved the warm slightly coppery, blonde hue, but soon enough I sought after something a bit more ashy. Knowing nothing about toners or dye, I randomly whacked on a L’Oreal semi-permanent gloss (Casting Creme in Iced Latte) and accidentally created the colour that would become my signature.
I’ve had countless people stop me in the street and slide into my DMs, asking who my hair colourist is, then booking in for an appointment at my flat when they found out it was me. I eventually started trusting professional colourists to replicate the colour (despite not having any qualifications myself – I know), and found two that turned my DIY job into a pure art form: Zoe Irwin, Wella’s UK ColourTrend expert and creative director at John Frieda Salons, and Bleach London’s celebrity hairstylist, Alisha Dobson.
But despite feeling so content that I’d found the perfect hair colour to suit me, I’ve still felt a tiny itch to switch things up throughout. I’ve kept a photo of Rihanna on my phone for years; she doesn’t have her bright fire engine-red lengths, but a softer, buttery ginger on some curls that resemble my own texture so much. Before I ever touched bleach, I used henna on my naturally dark brown hair as a teenager and loved how vibrant it made me feel. It’s something I always wanted to play with again, but couldn’t find the right time – my honey colour always felt perfect, and I didn’t want to mess with perfect. But after trying a new salon left me with a colour much warmer than I was used to, I gave up on trying to tone it back to my usual shade and decided now was as good a time as any to fully dive into the copper wave that’s taking over everywhere.
I don’t know about you, but my TikTok FYP is full of beautiful brown and Black girls dyeing their hair, wigs, and braids different shades of red. From soft ginger to deep auburn, there’s something about the rich warmth that complements melanated skin so brilliantly; it illuminates, creates harmony across the skin, eyes, and hair, and is yet another colour (just like blonde… or any other colour, to be honest) that Black girls execute with so much flair, despite being told that it looks unnatural on us or is “cultural appropriation”.
So when I saw on Instagram that Bleach London was launching a copper toner and matching Super Cool colour mask, I booked in with Alisha Dobson at their Brixton salon. The stylist behind Ella Eyre’s golden curls and Jessie J’s sky high ponytails (plus the tresses of Motsi Mabuse, Mabel and Hailee Steinfeld), Alisha had refreshed my curly balayage so beautifully a year ago, so I knew I was in the best hands for going copper. Armed with TikTok screenshots and the
“It’s almost like a skin-tone copper,” Alisha said after looking at my reference pictures. Rather than a bright orange base, I’d been seeing warmer variations of people’s skin colour and that’s what I wanted – albeit a bit darker so as not to go into strawberry blonde territory. After balayaging my roots and colour-correcting using Bleach London’s No Bleach Bleach, a high lift tint, and a very low volume bleach to add dimension, Alisha mixed two bowls of Super Cool Colour. One was a deeper russet, using mostly Proper Copper and a touch of Just Like Honey, and the other was a lighter golden ginger using the reverse proportions. The deeper shade went mostly at the top to blend with my natural dark brown roots, as well as through some of the lengths, while the lighter shade acted like a lowlight on selected sections and curls.
After leaving for 30 minutes and rinsing with cool water, then having a curly diffuser blow dry, my copper journey was complete. I loved how much dimension I had, and how Alisha’s micro-highlights at my roots carried the colour all the way through to the top without having to completely bleach all of my hair. My strands felt plumper and less brittle than they do when blonde, and three weeks (and about six washes) later the colour has faded to a really soft ginger. I’m planning on letting it fade completely out as part of me misses my honey blonde, but I know I’ll try to recreate Alisha’s magic in November after a season of autumn leaves and pumpkin spice.
How to dye your hair copper
I quizzed Bleach London co-founder Alex Brownsell on everything there is to know about recreating this look at home. “If you have brunette hair, bleach your hair first to get a medium to light blonde base,” she advises. “You don’t need to lift the hair to a super-light blonde for copper tones to show, so try our No Bleach Bleach – a hi-lift tint that creates a warmer blonde.
Once you’ve got the lighter base, it’s time to go in with the copper. “For a natural bronzy hue, use the Copper Toner Kit on bleached hair, then follow with Proper Copper to add more depth,” says Alex. “All the Super Cool Colours are intermixable so you could add a few drops of Tangerine Dream for a brighter, vibrant fifth element orange. Naturally light blondes can still achieve a copper tone by using some of the stronger colours in the range: Proper Copper will give a natural copper hue, while Tangerine dream will give a brighter result.”
Bleach London Super Cool Colour in Proper Copper
Lasting 3–30 washes, this temporary colour mask deposits serious pigment onto hair.
Shop Bleach London Super Cool Colour in Proper Copper for £6.50 at Bleach London
Bleach London Copper Toner
Use one box for short hair or just roots, and 2-3 for shoulder length or longer.
Shop Bleach London Copper Toner for £9 at Bleach London
Josh Wood Copper Gold Gloss
A bright, sparkling shade, this one’s got a strong golden undertone to bridge the gap between strawberry blonde and copper.
Shop Josh Wood Colour Copper Gold Gloss for £19 at Josh Wood Colour
Wella Professionals Color Fresh Semi-Permanent Colour Mask in Copper Glow
This fiery hue has a lot of red for a really impactful finish. Mix with your hair mask for something more subdued.
Shop Wella Professionals Color Fresh Semi-Permanent Colour Mask in Copper Glow for £15.70 at Lookfantastic
How can I maintain copper hair at home?
Although red hair colour is the quickest to fade thanks to bigger molecules, I’ve loved seeing my hair reach a different level of copper after every wash. “Use the Proper CopperToner Kit for a soft gingery blonde, and use it every 3-4 weeks to refresh the colour,” says Alex. “If you want a deeper copper, layer Proper Copper Super Cool Colour on top. You can also blend your own custom toner by mixing one part Proper Copper to your conditioner or hair mask, using it every other wash for a 2-in-1 nourishing toner – or let the tone fade back to a golden blonde when you’re ready to try something new.”
Images: Ava Welsing-Kitcher
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