**keep in mind I am no cosmetologist! I know box dye damages your hair!**
I'm just going to go through the steps I've gone through to get my hair (and to keep it) red!
I have never bleached or pre-lightened my hair before putting red on it!
In order to get my hair a true base red, I start out by dying it with 2 boxes (long hair) of Loreal Feria in the color Ruby Rush. You can find it basically anywhere that sells box color, I got mine at Wal Greens.
I LOVE this stuff. There are some nasty reviews out there but bottom line is, no matter what dye you use, RED FADES FAST. When you go red, in order to keep it the shade of red you want it, it takes work.
I started out with a medium golden, reddish brown. Put this dye on it and came out with a true, deep red that I was very happy with.
In order to keep my hair redder longer, I don't wash it everyday! I really only wash my hair every 3 days. And you just have to know that if you're going to wash it every single day, it might not even be worth the money to try and keep it vibrant.
Along with every wash you are going to be washing color out.
So with that said, 3 days after I first dyed it, I planned on putting a semi-permanent concentrated dye on it (like Manic Panic, shown on right) before I showered.
Sally's was all out of the 3 shades I usually pick from, which are Pillarbox Red, Rock n' Roll Red (my favorite), and Vampire Red.
Since I had no options from Manic Panic, I went with the Beyond The Zone Color Jamz in the color Crimson Storm (shown left, which is also about $3 cheaper, so hey, why not.)
Don't forget to get gloves, PUT VASELINE or coco butter or whatever is available around your hairline and ears, & cover as much wall and counter space as possible. Red gets messy and it's not fun to clean.
Basically, I would have rather had the Manic Panic. The Beyond the Zone bled A LOT. It even rubbed off on some my clothes and around my neck the next couple days. The color was a little more magenta than I wanted. I was aiming for a true bright red. 3 days later when I washed my hair again it took the edge off a bit and I like what I'm left with.
To slow down the fading, I recommend investing in the shade of Manic Panic, Beyond the Zone, or any other semi permanent dye you use, and mixing it with your conditioner at about a 1:4 ratio. This helps deposit at least a little bit of color back into your hair while conditioning.
I think from now on I'll be sticking with Manic Panic (sidenote: even though the Beyond the Zone Color Jamz in Crimson storm IS nice & vibrant) and refreshing my color every couple weeks. Invest in heat protecting spray! Using flat irons, curling irons, hair dryers, anything heated, will make your color fade faster that normal. When my roots start to show I cover them with the Ruby Rush box color.
From freshly dyed to fading away, here's a little example of the reds that have come and gone!
Hope this helps someone out there!