How to Dye Black Hair Brown


Black hair is a very sultry and chic color, but it doesn't suit everyone. Whether you've decided to try black hair and just didn't like it, or your hair is naturally black and you'd like a change, you can dye black hair brown and achieve a beautiful result.

Assessing your hair

When lightening hair, it's important to consider whether your hair is naturally black or you obtained the color with black hair dye. If your hair is naturally black, and you haven't dyed it in the past, this is called virgin hair. Virgin hair lightens really well and the process is generally much easier.

Dye, on the other hand, can be more stubborn to remove, and it is best to use hair dye remover as a first step to try to remove as much of the artificial color as possible for a healthier, even result. Because of this, the process of dyeing your hair brown is different if you've dyed it before.

Dyeing virgin hair

Virgin hair contains no artificial color and it is much more responsive to chemical treatments. This means that it can be lightened without bleach. This is in comparison to hair that has been colored with hair dye and needs to be lightened with bleach if you wish to go a lighter shade than your current color.

If you're working with virgin hair, all you will need is the desired shade of brown hair dye, a bottle of 30 vol developer, and the usual dye application tools like a tinting brush and bowl. The more concentrated 30 vol developer is mixed with the dye in order to give it the lift needed to lighten your hair and dye your black hair brown, whilst the dye itself will tone your hair to the desired shade as it lightens. This will work for a dark brown or medium brown result.

If you'd prefer a light brown color, you will need to pre-lighten your hair with bleach first in order to ensure it will be light enough. After this, you can tone it with a light ash brown dye to neutralize the warmth and achieve a light brown color. The process here is the same as if you had dyed your hair black.

Equipment needed

  • Brown hair dye
  • 30 vol developer
  • Tinting bowl and brush
  • Comb and sectioning clips

Choosing a shade of hair dye

A useful tip when you are dyeing hair a lighter color is to use a hair dye shade that is cooler than your desired shade. Whenever you lighten black hair, lots of red and copper pigment is revealed because the base tone of your hair becomes visible. In order to dye your hair a nice shade of brown, you not only have to lighten it, but neutralize these warm tones so that the color looks natural.

If however, you would like a red shade of brown, stick to the precise shade. In this case you don't need to cancel out any of the warm tones. Any warmth that is revealed will work to your advantage and allow you to reach a more vibrant shade of auburn.

When you choose a dye, use ash brown shades for a natural brown result, and natural brown shades for a warmer result. For auburn shades and other shades of red brown, use the exact desired shade. For this process, you can reach a level 4 medium brown at most. If you want a lighter shade of brown hair, you will need to bleach your hair before dyeing it.


Hair dye brands

When you dye your hair, you will always get the best results by using a high quality professional salon brand. Choose shades from brands like Indola, Matrix, Wella, and Igora for great results every time you dye your hair.

Preparing and applying the dye

The shade of dye you have chosen needs to be mixed with developer before it can be used. The developer not only works to lighten your hair, it drives the entire dye reaction and makes the dye permanent. For tone on tone dyes, you would use 10 vol peroxide to dye your hair with very little lightening. However, to dye black hair brown, you will need to use 30 vol developer in order to maximize the lightening effect.

Developer is usually added to dye in a 1:1 ratio of dye to developer, though this can vary with manufacturer, with some hair dye manufacturers recommending a 1:1.5 ratio. Use the ratio recommended by the brand you have chosen and mix the dye up using your tinting bowl and brush.

To apply the dye quickly and accurately, it is important to section your hair properly. The easiest method to do this is to divide your hair into four individual sections. You can do this by parting the hair down the middle from your forehead to the nape of your neck, then again from each ear, clipping the individual sections aside. This leaves you with four quadrants to work on.

Now that you have your hair sectioned in quadrants, begin applying the dye to your first quadrant from the back of your head, working around to the front. The way you have sectioned your hair will allow you to apply the dye very quickly and this is necessary for even lightening and a natural looking color.

When you apply the dye to a quadrant, pick up thin layers of the section you're working in and brush dye onto both sides of each layer, working down from the top of the quadrant until you've completely covered that section. Move through each section like this and you'll be done in no time.

Development time is the critical factor now. For maximum lightening and to reduce fading of the final color, you need to leave the dye on for the full recommended time of your hair dye brand. This is usually 45 minutes. You can take this time to relax and prepare to wash the dye out. Once the developing time has passed, rinse out the dye and enjoy your new color.


Equipment needed

  • Powder bleach
  • Ash brown hair dye
  • 10 vol and 20 vol developer
  • Tinting bowl and brush
  • Comb and sectioning clips

Dyeing non-virgin hair

If your hair has been dyed black, you can't use another hair dye to strip out this artificial pigment. The popular hairdressing maxim that 'color can't lift color' reigns supreme here and you will need to use bleach first to pre-lighten your hair. This is a two step process, but it isn't that much more complicated compared to a virgin application.

Pre-lightening your hair

Dyed hair won't respond to another hair dye and you will need to bleach it to lighten the color first. For this process you will need powder bleach, 20 vol developer, and hair dye application tools. The powder bleach is mixed in a 1:2 ratio of powder to developer unless your brand specifies a different ratio. You will guarantee the best results by using a quality brand like Wella, Indola, or Matrix.

To apply bleach, divide your hair up into the four quadrants explained earlier and begin applying the product to each section just like you would apply a dye. In this case, you will need to work with a decent speed to ensure the lightening is even, so if you aren't able to apply it quickly, you would be best to practice your skills before you decide to use bleach.

Once you have applied the bleach to your entire head, allow this to process for up to an hour, checking it every 5 minutes as it works. It is not likely that it will take the entire hour to strip out the black color, so checking the bleach regularly is very important. You only need to reach a deep red color for dark brown, red-orange for medium brown, or orange for light brown. You can rinse the bleach out once this has been reached.

At this point your hair will be an orange or red colour. This isn't the final result. Bleach is used to remove color from your hair, but you can't use it to dye your hair brown, just like you can't really use it to dye your hair a nice shade of blonde. To transform this red shade into an actual natural shade of brown and finish the process, you will need to tone your hair with a dye.


Toning your hair

When you dye virgin hair with a hair dye, the dye lightens and tones your hair in a single process. When you bleach your hair, this toning has to be done separately because bleach can't add tone to your hair. For this you will need an ash brown shade of hair dye to neutralize the red base tones and form a natural brown color. The ash dye should be one shade lighter than your desired color.

For this process, you can use a permanent dye for lasting color, or a semi-permanent dye to tone it without causing any chance of damage. The caveat here is that a semi-permanent dye won't hold as well and will need to be repeated every few shampoos to maintain your color. It is best to use a permanent shade to add permanent tone back in and follow this up with a semi-permanent dye should you need to refresh your brown color.

If you're using a permanent dye as the toner, mix this with 10 vol peroxide and apply it the same way you applied the bleach by working through quadrants of your hair. When the dye has been completely applied, allow it to develop until the warmth in your hair has been neutralized and it reaches your desired shade of brown.


Your new color is beautiful, but in order to keep it that way, it's important to care for it properly. In particular, you will need to tone it every so often as warmth creeps up when the dye begins to fade. Fading is unavoidable when you dye your hair, but occasional toning will allow you to keep your desired shade as vibrant as the day you dyed it.

If you have a question about dyeing black hair brown or an experience to share, leave a comment below for tailored advice and share your insight with other readers.

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mattseslar profile image

mattseslar 2 years ago

I once, when I was a teenager went from black to blonde, using the most powerful peroxide and bleach. I left it on for an hour and a half.My scalp was ON FIRE. Anyway my hair went white, and if you touched them it broke of. That is the last time I dyed my hair.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 years ago Author

That doesn't sound too pleasant!

I would suggest never using anything higher than 30 vol peroxide on scalp. 40 vol should only be used for foiled highlights, or with a high lift dye. Anything higher than that is for diluting down first rather than mixing with bleach or dye.

Though it's actually surprising that your hair went from black to white in one process, even with a high volume of peroxide. I'm thinking the water you wash your hair with might have been high in minerals. Iron acts as a catalyst and intensifies hair bleach. It will even heat up on your head if it reacts with the bleach. If anyone uses water from a bore or water that's naturally high in minerals, it's good to wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo first to strip it all out so the bleach doesn't react.

Yulissa Renteria 2 years ago

So my hair has been dyed a few times. so it looks red and black mixture. I have a special event coming up and i want to dye all of my hair a chocolate brown. My mom doesn't want to go to a stylist so i'm stuck using boxes (which have never worked for me). And she doesn't want to bleach my hair AT ALL. What do i do, and what can I use?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 years ago Author


Because you've dyed it black, using another dye won't lighten your black hair to brown. Only bleach can do this at this point.

You could potentially use hair dye remover to try and get as much black dye out as possible, but it probably won't lighten it enough and the color will be uneven. I'm afraid you'll have to use bleach if you want the chocolate brown color.

kirat1990 2 years ago

i have used revlon high dimension hair color (brown color ) in my black hair. but after application and washing i see no change in my hair. what should i do now? should i apply the color again?????

please tell, if possible.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 years ago Author


Is the black hair your natural color or has it been dyed black?

kirat1990 2 years ago


maffew james for replying.

black is my natural color and i applied the brown color. hopefully, i will get appropriate suggestion regarding the matter.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 years ago Author

From what I can find, Revlon high dimension is advertised as a 10 minute color. If you only had the dye in your hair for 10 minutes, that's not enough time to lighten black hair.

I would recommend using a hair dye remover like De Lorenzo Colour Eliminator to remove any of that dye that did penetrate, then using another dye to reach the brown you want.

What shade of brown were you after? Eg, golden, natural, ash, red, etc. Also, how light do you want it to be? Light brown, medium, or dark?

msdielise profile image

msdielise 2 years ago

I love brown hair...remember on my previous comment (on your other hub) that I tried to dye my hair and it went dry? I colored it brown. I just want a dark brown (but not very dark) but it didn't help much. My hair turned "van dyke brown" and it wasn't brown until I was exposed to light.

Eesha Jamil 2 years ago


Thanks for this blog, it's really informative!

My question is i had black hair, which I box-dyed to ash brown and now it's more a dark brown with an orange tinge to it. I basically want a natural brown hair color, with warmth as you say, not with the orange-y red tones.

So do I re-dye it? How would I get that natural brown, ash brown color? Without the orange tints?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 years ago Author

Hi Eesha, you have to tone it with ash brown to neutralize the orange tones. Ash dyes contain cool tones that counteract excess warm tones.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 years ago Author

Hi msdielise,

There's two possible reasons why the color didn't take. The first is that you need to mix brown dye with 30 vol developer to dye black hair brown. If you used a box dye, you can't control the developer content and that's an issue. A lower volume of developer won't lighten your hair.

The second, is that very dark hair that is resistant to lightening, needs to be pre-lightened with bleach first, then dyed. If your hair is like this, you won't be able to lighten it with dye.

As for the dryness, conditioner reverses this immediately. Always condition your hair after dyeing it because hair dye strips natural oils out of your hair. This is the same effect shampoo has when you wash your hair, and the reason why conditioner is used after shampoo.

Mary M. 2 years ago

Can I do this with shampoo dyes/henna shampoo? If so, is the method any different? I've virgin black hair.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 years ago Author

Hi Mary, you can't lighten hair with shampoo or henna. You need permanent dye or bleach to lighten hair.

Kate 2 years ago

I have tried to dyed my tips from black to blonde and it didn't Change at all i kept it on for 40 minutes using a 20 developer because my hair is also relaxed any advice?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 years ago Author

Hi Kate, what did you apply to your hair?

Lovehair 2 years ago

Hi. I'm so glad I stumbled on this blog. I had natural dark, dark brown hair (almost black) many years ago (!) - then I started going grey (about 30%-ish now). I have had a professional hairdresser who used foils to lighten and dye my hair red and dyed the rest of my hair close to my natural brown but a level or two lighter to cover the greys. She did a great job and I would love to go to her, but alas...$320 is to far out of this chica's budget!

I would like to 1) take my base color to a nice medium brown, 2) cover my greys (which are showing about an inch with my "almost black" natural hair color, and 3) keep the red highlights (or add them back in, as the case may be...). If you could guide me through how to do that on my own, I would be SO GRATEFUL! Thank you kindly!

Lovehair 2 years ago

Oh! And one more note, the red is Ion permanent color: intense medium red. Thanks again!!!

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 years ago Author

Hi Lovehair,

Thanks for the interesting question, it's definitely doable, but there will be quite a lot involved. I'm overrun with work at the moment and I apologize for the wait for a reply. I'll reply in detail as soon as I can.

Kaye 2 years ago

Hi, i dyed my hair red color last Sunday. it went fine but i wanted it to look lighter red. can i apply again the same color to make it more red? will it work?

sarah 2 years ago

so my friend has black packet died hair and she wants to go a nice chocolate brown, i am an apprentice hairdresser i was just needing some help on the best way to do it? i was thinking maybe a bleach bath just for maybe 5-10 minutes to lighten it a few shades and then popping a rich brown with ash in it over the top? do you think that would be a good way of going about it?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 years ago Author

Hi Lovehair, now, onto that reply to your question,

Highlights are difficult to 're-dye' because they're sections of weaved hair. What happens when you lighten your base color is that either you're applying the lightener all over, in which case it will affect the highlights too, or you have to weave out the highlights individually with a tail comb all over again and cover them with foil to isolate them and protect them from the lightening process.

In order to take your base color from almost black to a medium brown, it will need to be lightened, and because you've had it dyed all over, adding another hair dye will likely give you no lightening. You would need to use bleach in this case and separate the highlights to avoid unnecessary lightening to the highlights.

As for the gray hair, the gray is partly white. The mixture of white hair with your natural hair color makes it look gray. The problem with dyeing white hair is that it doesn't have any color pigment present and if you dye it using a pure tone color, you end up with unexpected results. For example, if you apply an ash color on gray hair, it is highly likely to turn green because there is no red tone in the gray hair to balance out the ash tone of the ash dye. Vice versa, warm browns can turn out very coppery or reddish instead of a nice chocolate color.

The gray hair is also more resistant to coloring because it tends to be more porous and course compared to the rest of your hair. This is one of the reasons 20 vol developer is used on gray hair, because the dye needs to use the stronger developer to really penetrate into the hair and help it hold the color.

In order to reach your desired color, you will need to:

1. Separate the highlights and lighten your base color with bleach

2. Separate the highlights again and dye the base color with your desired shade of medium brown, without applying the color to your gray roots

3. Apply a natural or double natural medium brown shade to your roots, using 20 vol as the developer. You can mix some medium golden brown or another shade with the natural shade if you want a warmer brown, but you primarily need the natural shade in there to cover the gray properly. In hairdressing terms, a 'natural shade' is a neutral shade, containing all the primary colors.

4. Dye your highlights again with either a semi-permanent or permanent red dye if they need a color refresh. You can use your Ion color for this if you like.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 years ago Author

Hi Kaye,

Once you've dyed your hair with a permanent color, adding more dye generally won't lighten it any further. This is because the hair dye is able to lighten your natural color, but it can't lighten artificial color to that extent.

You'd get the best results by using hair dye remover to remove as much of the red dye as possible, then apply a bleach wash to lighten it further, before applying a lighter red color.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 years ago Author

Hi Sarah,

It may help to apply hair dye remover first to try and remove as much of the hair dye as possible. Hair dye remover reverses the oxidation process of permanent color so that it can be washed back out of the hair. It can't usually remove it all, but it doesn't damage the hair and any dye it does remove will make it easier to lighten the hair afterwards.

As for the bleach bath, you may need to let it process for longer than that depending on how many times she has dyed her hair black. As long as you aim for an orange color you will be right. Once you get past that deep red stage of lightening and hit orange, the hair can be toned to brown, and as you had planned, an ash dye will be needed to tone that orange out and give a proper brown color.

It does also depend on the box dye used though. Some box dyes contain metallic dye that is almost impossible to remove. That kind of dye won't respond to hair dye remover and even bleach won't lighten it effectively.

Kaye 2 years ago

Hi Maffew, it was lovely to receive a reply from you and, reading all your comments gives more information. now i know what to do next time. thank you so much. appreciate it a lot. :)

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 years ago Author

No problem Kaye, I'm glad to have been a help.

Mksp 24 months ago from Mississauga, Ontario

Hi! I want to dye my hair light brown(blonde-ish) colour. I've colored my hair with box-dyed (ash brown)months ago and now my hair turned into highlights-ish. What should I do? I don't have the $$$ to spend on the salon.

Hlutei 24 months ago

I used to dyed my hair black,and now i want to try some other colour,and the last time i dyed black was about 4 months back.I love the colour of that first picture (brown hair)posted above n can you please tell me what colour is that exactly as in which brown.And to get that colour on my hair what should i do ?? Can you please suggest anything??

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 24 months ago Author

Hi Mksp,

You need to bleach your hair to the orange stage, then dye it with a light ash to neutralise the resulting warmth. The ash tones the orange to light brown.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 24 months ago Author

Hi Hlutei,

That colour is a medium natural brown. To get that shade, it'd be best to use hair dye remover to strip out as much of the artificial colour as possible, before bleaching your hair to an orange colour. Once there, dye it with a medium natural brown shade, which is usually a 4.0 or 4N, depending on what brand you're using.

Mksp 24 months ago

Can I dye it light ash right after I bleach it?

Mksp 24 months ago

And if i don't want to bleach my hair(I'm scared I don't know how to) what are my other option to lighten my hair? I have again hair btw

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 24 months ago Author


You can use dye remover, which removes permanent hair dye. That could potentially lighten it a bit, depending on how light your hair is underneath the dye, and how well it breaks the dye back down. This isn't really reliable though. If your natural colour is darker than the colour you want, and you've dyed your hair a few times, this won't work at all.

If you hadn't dyed your hair, you could use a dye to lighten it, but because you've already dyed it, this is no longer possible either. Hair dye can only effectively lighten natural colour. It can't lighten the artificial colour of another dye.

This only leaves bleach. As long as your hair is in good condition and you use it properly, it will cause very little damage. However, if you're worried that you'll mess it up, it would be better to go to a hairdresser and have them apply it instead.

You can apply the dye right after bleaching, and you should use the shade that is one level lighter than the colour you want. This is because you're using the dye primarily as a toner and it will be too strong for this purpose if you don't use a lighter shade. You want to gently neutralise the orange rather than end up with hair that is too ashy or dark.

Mksp 24 months ago

I meant I have Asian hair. But thank you so much for the info.

Rebecca Gilbert 24 months ago

Hi i want to get black hair dye out of my hair the underneath part of my hair is completely black and the top is a off black wand my roots are red. I tried getting rid of the black with Loreal Hicolor Red from sallys it didn't do much to the black underneath. But turned my off black just a darker shade of that color and my roots red like i said above. But im just going to bleach my hair and i don't want to fry my hair i have a loreal 30 volume developer creme from sallys and mixing bowl etc. So do you know what bleach i should use with that developer and im trying to go to a chocolate brown.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 24 months ago Author

Hi Rebecca,

The reason your roots have turned red whilst the black didn't budge is because colour can't lift colour. What this means is that using another dye to try and lighten dyed hair won't work because dye can't lighten artificial colour; it only lightens virgin hair. Your roots, however, are natural hair, which is why they lightened.

For bleaching your hair, I would recommend using a quality salon brand like Indola Rapid Blonde, Wella Multi Blonde, or Loreal Platinum Plus. The Loreal bleach will probably be a good option for you because it seems like you prefer that brand. Keep in mind however that this is part of their professional line and it's a powerful product. I wouldn't recommend using 30 vol developer with it. Use 20 vol developer and you'll get the results you want.

When you apply the bleach, do so only to your lengths at first, because your roots have lightened already. If you need to lighten the roots a little more, apply this towards the end of development to ensure the result is even. For a dark brown, you'll need to reach a red colour, whilst for a medium brown you need to reach an orange colour before you remove the bleach.

After your hair has lightened, it is going to be orange or red (The resulting colour depends on how light of a brown you are after). In order to get this to a chocolate brown, you need to tone it. To do this, use a natural shade - IE, if you wanted medium brown, you would be using a medium natural brown dye to tone it. This will take away some of the warmth to produce a chocolate brown.

Sam Martin 23 months ago

Hey Maffew! I have naturally black/dark brown hair and I've been dying it brown for the past year and then black two months ago. I really want to dye my hair a nice chocolate brown but I was told I need to remove the color. I used color oops and got out most of it. Last December I ombrèd my hair so my hair is a black brown gradient with red. Its actually a pretty nice brown with a red tint but I still want my chocolate brown. I doubt my hair is light enough to dye it the color I bought. What volume developer and bleach should I use? Is it even necessary?

Sam Martin 23 months ago

Let me clarify. My hair is dark brown with red tint right now after using the color oops. I bought a chocolate brown box dye to use after I bleach it using 20 volume developer and bleach (went through your articles and answered my last question myself lol). On the box it says to wait at least 2 weeks to dye my hair after bleaching. Should I wait or is it safe to wait two-three days then do it?

Dw 23 months ago

Hi I've recently gone to a salon to have my hair dyed violet/purple but it turned out way darker than I expected how can I get it to a brighter violet? My desired colour is a dark purple but now it's almost like black. On top of that I've natural black hair and no bleaching was done when my hair was dyed

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 23 months ago Author

Hi Sam,

After bleaching, the hair can be dry and porous. Waiting for a while can help alleviate some of that porosity, and it allows time for natural oils to build back up and the hair to become moisturised again. It's not necessary though, and 3 days is well and truly enough time for this to occur. If you were bleaching your hair twice, I'd recommend waiting at least a week or two before the second bleach, but when dyeing the hair, it's fine to dye it even right after bleaching, as long as your hair is in good condition.

As for the brown dye, also keep in mind that the colour you get is a result of the colour your hair is, plus the colour of the dye. Your hair will be an orange to red colour after bleaching, and as chocolate is generally a warm colour, it may end up a little more coppery than you want. If this happens, you can tone it afterwards with a semi-permanent light ash brown to take away some of the warmth.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 23 months ago Author

Hi DW,

This happened because your hair is black and it wasn't bleached first. Although your hair is natural and can be lightened with hair dye because of that fact, even natural black can be difficult to lighten and the hair dye simply wasn't strong enough. The result is that your hair didn't lighten very much, so the violet is very dark.

To get it to a brighter violet, lighten it to orange using bleach. After it reaches orange, dye it with a light violet brown shade. I would recommend Fudge Headpaint 5.22 mixed with a small amount of Fudge Headpaint 088 for this as it's very vibrant and very purple.

Jeannie 23 months ago

So happy to stumble upon this site just have a few doubts I will like to clear! Anyway how I can get a forest green color without bleeching my hair? It's currently brown & I strayed from my natural black already can I just get a brighter green than my desired colour?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 23 months ago Author

Hi Jeannie,

You won't be able to get it to a brighter colour without lightening it first. Permanent dye can lighten as well as deposit colour, but it won't lighten hair that has already been dyed before, and struggles to lift a lot of colour out of darker hair. A permanent green dye is also hard to find. Especially if you want a specific shade like forest green.

I would suggest bleaching your hair to a light orange colour at least, then applying a semi-permanent dye like Manic Panic. If you're having trouble finding the exact green shade you want, you can usually mix any of these colours within the same brand to create your own shade.

You could also look at demi-permanent options like Pravana Vivids, which will last longer. Their green shade is close to a forest green. It's a deep moss colour. I've also seen at least one permanent green dye that was very close to a forest green, but the brand escapes me at the moment.

sabrin 23 months ago

got a quik question to ask! if I buy a lightest ask blonde dye box from superdrug, will it work for my black hair? will it go to brown?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 23 months ago Author

Hi Sabrin,

If you haven't dyed your hair before, the dye will lighten your hair. I can't guarantee how much it will lighten by though, it really depends on what volume of developer is in the dye and how resistant your hair is. In any case, using a blonde dye will lead to a really warm result because there's not enough colour in the dye to tone out the warmth.

I would suggest you pre-lighten it first with bleach, then dye with an ash brown for the best results. Alternatively, you could use a professional dye like Wella Koleston or Igora Royal. You would need to use a medium ash brown mixed with 30 vol developer for this. Bleach is the most reliable option though.

james 23 months ago

hi dude I just wanted to know for guys what kind of product should we be using?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 23 months ago Author

Hi James,

I recommend salon dye to everyone because it's significantly better and you just get a better result with it. Using a good quality dye brand in the right shade is the best idea, regardless of gender. Wella Koleston, Igora Royal, or Matrix SoColor are a few examples of brands that are high quality. Salon dyes like these don't have pictures on the box and they're not targeted towards a particular gender per se.

As for products, matte wax is great for guys because it allows you to get that slightly messy look; especially when combined with a hair cut that is cut with a razor or texturised with scissors. It's also good for disconnected undercuts, which is a style that is popular with men at the moment. This is where the hair is shaven on the sides and back and left longer on the top.

Above all though, feel free to use whatever product you want if it's going to help you get the hair colour and style you want. The end is more important than the means, and it's really just marketing anyway. Products for men and women are often exactly the same ingredients and it's just the package that is made to look different.

sukio 23 months ago

Hi, a question about the last step. So after I've bleached my hair to orange, and I buy an ash brown dye, probably loreal because that's what I usually use. So do I add 10% peroxide to a box dye? Can you find that at a drug store? Ty :)

sukio 23 months ago

Or is the 10% peroxide for salon dye? I live in a small town so I can only get box dyes and bleach.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 23 months ago Author

Hi Sukio,

That's only salon dye. Box dye has pre-measured peroxide in the shake bottle.

mitzy 22 months ago

Hi.i need help.

My natural hair is dark brown.I have been dying my hair blue black with box semipermanent dye to avoid amonia

1 week ago I decided I wanted it to dye my hair back to red.

1 rst mistake was to use a box dye.nothing happenned.went to beauty supply and tried a loreal dye from dark hair to red color dye.nothing happened. They told me I had to either bleach my hair or use a hair dye remover.I used the hair dye remover and half my hair turned into an orange brown.did it again but the hair look darked after.then Tried the red dye again.only my roots turned red. Waited 1 day and used the same dye. Only half my head turned red

Now i don't know what to do.

I may give up trying to get it to a bright red.but i want a change.i love blue black, but i been with that color for 15 years

I want either dark blue or purple or medium brown, which one you think i can achive easier?

What do i do? I don't want to damage my hair more.if feels a little dry

Sorry for the long story

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Maffew James 22 months ago Author

Hi Mitzy,

Hair dye remover only removes permanent dye, hence why it didn't work properly on the semi-permanent dye. The fact that it seemed to strip some of the colour out is actually astounding and would lead me to believe the dye you've been using isn't actually a semi-permanent dye. As for what colour is easiest out of the ones you've listed, medium brown is the easiest to achieve.

In order to dye your hair medium brown, I'd recommend using clarifying shampoo first to try and wash out as much dye as possible over the next 2 - 3 weeks. Once you've removed as much as possible, you need to bleach your hair to orange, then dye that with a medium ash brown to correct the orange tone and achieve a natural brown.

Unfortunately, due to the amount of dye that's now in your hair, including the semi and the different box dyes, bleach is your only option. If you're worried about the damage, it may be better to forgo doing this. Dryness isn't damage though, so you'll probably find that using a deep conditioner or leave-in conditioner for a week restores it to its former condition.

anon 22 months ago

Hi there. I have naturally black hair and i tried dyeing it to chocolate brown but i ended up retaining the black color. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks

shirls 22 months ago

Hi Maffew,

My hair was originally a medium warm auburn brown and decided to get a brown which was 2 shades lighter than my original colour. It turnout out as a lighter brown but it had this almost slight orange tint to the brown which I'm not liking. I originally wanted them to go for a light/medium ash brown colour but they said that it would require me to bleach my hair at least 3 times and that's too damaging....I'm asian and understand that my hair is naturally black, but is that necessary to get to that colour? Are there any good box dyes out there that you recommend that could give me that ash brown colour?


Julienne 22 months ago

Hi! so winter break is almost here, and I want to dye my hair a light natural brown color. Right now, I have thick virgin black (asian) hair, with a warm skin undertone. How can I achieve this color with box dye and what brand is recommended? Also, I saw from a YouTube video that using an ash blonde dye (L'oreal HiColor) with a 30 vol. developer, significantly lightens black hair. So I am not sure what to do... I don't really want to bleach my hair.

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Maffew James 22 months ago Author

Hi Shirls,

Light brown from medium brown definitely doesn't require 3 bleaches, even when dealing with dyed hair. Whilst you have to lighten the hair a little more than a light brown when you want to dye it an ash tone (About half a level more so the ash tone takes and looks the right level and shade), having to bleach it more than once is crazy. That's literally a one and a half level of lightening if your hair was indeed a medium brown before hand.

As you've dyed your hair previously, you can't use any salon dye or box dye to lighten it further as the dye can only lift natural pigment, not the artificial pigment of hair dye. I'd recommend you bleach it with 20 vol developer, using a high quality bleach powder like Loreal Platinum, Wella Blondor Multi Blonde, or Igora Vario. You need to reach the point where the orange tone is starting to turn to a golden colour for light brown. It's best to judge it by how dark it looks though, rather than what colour it is. You can match that up to pictures of lightened hair, or hair at the light brown level.

The entire bleach process should only take 20 - 30 minutes with one of the bleach powders I've mentioned, depending on how resistant your hair is. Once it's lightened, all you need to do is apply a light ash brown dye to get the colour. As I mentioned earlier, your hair needs to be slightly lighter than the light brown level first or else the ash dye won't appear as ashy due to the amount of warm tone in your hair.

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Maffew James 22 months ago Author

Hi Julienne,

I know you don't want to bleach your hair, but it really is the best option in your situation. Black hair is very dark, and your desired colour is 5 levels lighter than your current colour. To put this into perspective, a lot of hairdressers are happy with a 5 level lift from bleaching hair. If dye was able to do that, they would be ecstatic and in complete disbelief.

As for the Loreal HiColor, that's a high lift dye. High lift dyes contain more ammonia and are mixed with more concentrated developer to allow for better lightening without using bleach. These dyes were actually invented to be used on hair that is dark blonde in order to achieve a result that is closer to platinum without bleach, but they've since been modified a bit and made in brown and red shades as well.

Whilst you can get 4 - 5 levels of lift with some brands of high lift (I've noticed this with Igora Royal, Indola, and Matrix SoColor), this isn't a definite; especially when used on black or even brown hair. This is using professional dye, lightening booster, and 40 vol developer, and you won't get the same result with the Loreal HiColor and 30 vol.

If you're adamant about doing this without using bleach, you may be able to achieve it using Igora Royal 12-11 mixed with 25% Igora Royal E-0, and using 40 vol as the developer. You need that to lighten to a light orange colour, then you need to tone that with a light ash brown to neutralise the orange and reach a natural tone. I'm not recommending doing this though, as this is a strong formula and could cause scalp irritation just like bleach. All high lifts do to be honest; they're not really gentler than bleach.

Your best option if you're worried about using bleach is to actually go to a skilled hairdresser and have them apply the bleach as well as the colour. This isn't the type of colour change that should be made at home unless you're confident that you can use the products properly or you'll end up hurting yourself.

Good luck with your colour, and be careful with what you do. Bleach and high lifts can both be dangerous when used incorrectly or on a sensitive scalp, and it's better that you pay a little extra to have it done for you than to hurt yourself using these products.

Tiffany 22 months ago

Hi i colored the front part of my hair black but my other part of my hair is dark brown will i be able to dye my hair burgundy even tho its black in just the front part ? Will the hair dye overpower it since its just a little part ?

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Maffew James 22 months ago Author

Hi Tiffany,

Dye isn't very good at lightening hair that is already dyed as it contains artificial colour that is more resistant than your natural pigment. You probably won't see much lightening in the black part if you apply a burgundy dye, and it will be a dull colour even if it does manage to lighten a little.

For an easy fix, apply a hair dye remover like Juuce Eliminate or Color Vanish to the black dyed section, process for 20 minutes, then rinse out and shampoo three times with clarifying shampoo. Condition your hair thoroughly and then you can dye it burgundy after letting your hair rest at least 3 days. Hair dye remover like this actually breaks down permanent dye and allows it to wash out with shampooing. It doesn't damage the hair, other than having a slight drying effect, which conditioner and time will reverse completely.

RabY 22 months ago

Hi i want to dye my virgin black hair to natural dark brown without any orangy or reddish tinge. But i don't want to use bleach. What shud i do?

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Maffew James 22 months ago Author

Hi Raby,

When dealing with black hair, bleach does give a more reliable result. As you have virgin hair though, you can use dye to achieve a dark brown colour.

To do this, choose a good professional dye brand. As an example, you could use Matrix SoColor 4N and mix 25% 4A into this colour. The 4N is a dark natural brown, whilst the 4A is an ash tone and will help cool down the result more. To this mix, add 30 vol as the developer and this will lighten and dye your hair.

Renee88 22 months ago

Hi Maffew,

First of all, thank you so much for all your useful hair articles. I really appreciate all the good info I got here. I have slightly wavy black asian hair, so not the jet black poker straight kind of hair that (I think) is very resistant to coloring. My hair was recently highlighted and then dyed it to an overall dark brown color because I didn't want to deal with the up keeping of the highlights. I wanted to go lighter as I usually find my my dark brown and previously black hair look black and flat in photos even though my hair may look lighter in real life. So since my hair was previously processed, I followed your instructions for a bleach bath with a 20% developer. I allowed the bleach to strip my hair to orange. Then I rinsed out the bleach and dyed my hair using a 5A permanent color. However, the resulting color was still very warm/orange/brassy. So I toned it with a 4A semipermanent color and I even added a packet of brassy color corrector. It toned down the orange somewhat but also made my hair darker. So I think I now have a medium to dark brown hair with a some gold and red tone...

This photo here shows my hair in natural lighting (left), in full sun (right upper), in indoor artificial lighting (right lower). However, I feel my hair looks more orange in real life than in all the photos.

My questions are as follow:

1. So I'm wondering why my hair turned out more dark and brassy than expected? Do you think it's perhaps due to me not letting the bleach strip my hair long enough? And would you have a picture of bleached/stripped orange shade that I've supposed to take my hair to?

2. I think the ideal color or color inspiration that I have in my head is this light /medium ash brown hair that half asian children have. It looks very natural and multi dimensional. So at this point, if my goal is still to go a bit more light and cool toned, should I use a color remover or another bleach bath (would you recommend one vs. another at this point?) and dye my hair with a 5AA, instead of 5A shade? Or even lighter shade of permanent color? And would you recommend to still use a 4A semipermanent for toning hair/keeping color fresh or use a lighter color for toning?

3. And lastly, do you think I could have achieved a light to medium ash brown in a single process with a 30% developer? And as for covering new roots, would you recommend that I continue to with a double process or attempt a single process with a 30% developer?

I hope my questions made sense.

Many thanks and hope to hear from you soon!


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Maffew James 22 months ago Author

Hi Renee,

In answer to your questions:

1: Simply not light enough. When you tone hair, what you're actually doing is adding a colour that in combination with the warm colour, will look neutral because of the way light interacts with colour in hair. This means that toning out warmth will darken hair. For a full ash result, your hair will gain about 1 level from the toning, so even if you bleach it to a level 5, it tones to a level 4 ash. If you want no trace of warmth, bleach to a level lighter than your desired colour.

2. I'd recommend using a colour remover first to strip out the ash dye, then bleach it until it reaches a level 6. It should look golden-orange at that point, but the fact that your hair has been dyed can change the way it looks as it lightens. Aim for slightly lighter than this:

Once it is that light, tone using a blue-based ash dye. Wella Koleston 5/1, Indola 5.1, Matrix SoColor 5A, or Igora Royal 5-1 are a few examples of colours you could use for this. This will take it to a light ash brown by neutralising the orange warmth.

3. Possibly, but it's more likely that you could have reached it using salon bleach and 20 vol, applying a full bleach instead of a bleach bath. A bleach bath is quite diluted and better for lightening 1 - 2 levels or performing colour corrections. A full bleach application is always best when lightening dark hair.

As your roots are more than 3 levels darker than the colour you'll be maintaining, you probably won't be able to lighten them enough using dye. A high lift dye may do it, but even that isn't certain. A single bleach with 20 vol will lighten your roots sufficiently, but it can't be a bleach bath. A bleach bath is too weak and imprecise to be used for root touchup. Bleach with salon bleach and 20 vol to the same colour as described above, then tone the roots with blue-based 5 ash, pulling the colour through to the lengths at the end of process for an even colour.

If you need any more help or haven't understood any of this, feel free to ask and I'll explain it more thoroughly. Good luck with your colour.

Janet 21 months ago

I have dark brown hair. I have been using a darker brown home dye to cover grey. I would like to go a little lighter and can see that since my hair is dyed the lighter dye will not take. So should I use a color remover or other idea?

Victoria 21 months ago

Hey Maffew,

I have dyed black hair, and I really want a dark brown hair color. When I bleach my hair will the Reds stand out through the dark brown when I color over the blonde ?

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Maffew James 21 months ago Author

Hi Janet,

Color remover will work best if the darker dye hasn't been applied many times, so the more times you've applied the dark brown to your hair, the less likely it will effectively remove it because there's so much colour build up. It's also not always a good idea to use it on hair that is naturally grey underneath, as it could lead to a streaky uneven effect where the grey hair becomes revealed again.

As for dye not lightening dyed hair, I'd like to take the time to explain that a little more because a lot of people don't understand why that is. When you dye your hair with a darker dye, what happens is that you're depositing artificial colour. Regardless of whether your hair is naturally a lighter or darker brown, it still ends up as dark as the colour contained in the dye. What happens then is that you have that dark artificial colour as well as whatever natural pigment is present.

When you apply a dye to lighten your hair, the dye only lightens the natural pigment, so while it technically is still lightening, you don't see a change because it is only the natural pigment that lifts. The artificial colour from previous dye remains the same and it doesn't look like anything has happened.

For this reason, you'll get the best and most reliable results by using bleach to pre-lighten your hair as light as you want it. This will reveal warmth as it lifts and the warm tones need to be neutralised with an ash dye to finish the colour and take it to a natural looking result. The ash dye you use is dependent on how light you want to go. If you lighten to light brown, you would dye with light ash brown.

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Maffew James 21 months ago Author

Hi Victoria,

Black hair (Natural or dyed), has a deep red-brown base tone, so you do tend to see significant red tones being revealed as it lightens. Lightening to dark brown isn't much of a change so you can expect to see less warmth revealed, but it will still likely be noticeable. I'd recommend you actually lighten at least half a level lighter than the dark brown level, and then cover that with dark ash brown to neutralise the warmth. The ash darkens your hair slightly as cool tone is added to correct the warmth, and this is why you need to lighten a little further than desired so it colours to dark brown in the end.

If you can't find dark ash brown, tone with dark natural brown instead. Also, if you need any clarification on any of this process or help with using bleach, let me know and I'll explain further.

Michelle 21 months ago

Hello. I have black hair (colored previously) and I now want to go to a light brown with caramel/blonde highlights. What steps do I need to take? Thank you in advance!

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Maffew James 21 months ago Author

Hi Michelle,

How many times have you dyed your hair black? If you've only applied the black dye once and there's a lighter colour underneath, it may be worth using dye remover first. The more times you've coloured it though, the less likely this is to remove a significant enough amount of colour and isn't worth the cost.

Then you need to lighten further until your hair reaches a light orange colour. This needs to be done using bleach. You could potentially apply the highlights at the same time using bleach mixed with a higher volume of developer in foils, but this isn't completely reliable in this situation. It'd be more reliable to lighten the highlights separately after you reach the desired base level.

Once you reach your desired lightness, tone the base colour with a dark ash blonde dye, and tone the highlights with a medium natural blonde dye for a warmer caramel result. The overall look will be a neutral to slightly golden light brown with dark caramel blonde highlights.

Let me know if you need more explanation about any part of this process and good luck with your colour.

EmmaA 20 months ago

Basically I died my hair a dark brown colour about 5 years ago from mousey brown. I kept dying it every few months to keep my roots the same for the next year and then I got bored so stupidly (I was about 14) decided to bleach it on my own and it went bright orange. I started having highlighs to get it blonde for a few months but then I decided I wanted it back brown because it was taking too long.. So I dyed it back brown and for the past 3ish years it's been an id say in between chocolate and dark brown. Now I would like it to be a lighter brown abit lighter than chocolate preferably, but I don't think using a colour remover will work because ive been dying it regularly for 5 years, I'm just checking if there would be anything you would recommend to do other than go to the hairdressers that I could start doing now that they will probably tell me to do first because I don't have enough money at the minute to get it done professionally, thanks in advance!

EmmaA 20 months ago

To be clear though, I am going to go to the hairdressers I was just wondering if you could give me a heads up to what you think they will suggest if I could start doing that now to save time?

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Maffew James 20 months ago Author

Hi Emma,

You're correct about the dye remover. It's far too unpredictable and unreliable when your hair has been dyed that many times. Your hairdresser will have to pre-lighten your hair 1 - 2 levels and then tone to produce the lighter shade. This will be done with bleach and then a demi-permanent or permanent dye.

There's not too much you can do to prepare, but it's very beneficial to use a good protein treatment prior to bleaching in order to get your hair into the best condition possible. This will keep it healthier and prevent any breakages. Apart from that, don't apply anymore dye until you have it coloured and treat any dryness with deep conditioning to keep it hydrated.

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aNice127 20 months ago from CT - NY

Hi Maffew!

Question.. I recently dyed my hair to a 3RV, combination of Wella and Ion permanent gel. It is definitely an RV, almost TOO subtle if you ask me and looks MORE black than burgundy. And quite possibly, appears too subtle to me (who wanted a nice bright yet deep burgundy/violet) because it also appears WAY darker than I assumed a 3 to be on me..?

I think, I screwed up and ideally what I'm envisioning in my head is more of a 5RV. But on the 3RV swatches, it just appeared so much brighter and lighter!

Is it even possible to LIGHTEN this, considering the undertones, and KEEP those undertones? I notice your article says NOT to use a cooler dye as usually suggested and let the red come through. That's awesome, but how do I know WHAT undertones will reveal when I lighten/remove dye? Will it always change to pre-oxidation like a normal color chart.... or does what I have lying underneath actually matter too?

I am open to doing the clarifying shampoo first of course, bc it's NOT terrible. And actually looks nice. Just WAY darker than I had hoped.... from afar I definitely appear to have BLACK level 1 hair!

Help! If not clarifying shampoo to do the trick enough.. what is a decent trick or timeline to follow without having to damage and bleach it, preferably?

Also, does using a higher volume developer during the next round help lift at all, or is it simply dependent on the dye/bleach properties?


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Maffew James 20 months ago Author

Hi aNice,

It's not really your fault, it's just how a level 3 dye will often turn out when applied to lighter hair that has been previously coloured, so don't stress too much about what you may have done wrong.

The swatches show the colour present in the dye, but they don't take into account what the hair is like that the dye is being applied to. Lighter hair, porosity, or even the use of a demi-permanent dye will all often give a darker result.

You can definitely let it fade over time with clarifying shampoo, and it is likely to gradually get lighter. You may come to like the colour after a few weeks.

If you don't want to wait or the fading is just not happening after 3 weeks, you'll need to strip the dye out. Was it permanent or demi-permanent?

If it was permanent, you can use hair dye remover to break down the artificial colour of the dye. If it was a demi, this isn't usually possible. Some demis are partially oxidative and will be partially removed by dye remover, but it won't always work.

After that, your hair should hopefully have stripped out to a bright orange colour if enough of the dye is removed. If it hasn't, you'll need to bleach it until it reaches that colour. The colour change during lightening is fairly similar to natural hair, with the difference being that the base tone is artificial and was incorporated into your hair by the dye. It will work the same way though. Once it is bright orange, finish it up with 5RV.

Usually when lightening hair, you use a cooler tone because the warmth that is revealed needs to be neutralised as there is too much present. When you want a red colour result though, you are actually adding more red into your hair, so it's not necessary to neutralise any that is revealed by the lightening. That warmth will work with the dye.

As for using a higher volume of developer with the dye, it doesn't work very well. If you still have some natural pigment in your hair underneath the dyed colour, the dye can lift this out so it gets a little lighter. The artificial colour isn't affected though. It's more a matter of bleach being much stronger. This extra strength works on artificial colour because the added ammonia and more powerful oxidation destroys the dye molecules. Regular hair dye isn't formulated to be able to do this.

aNice127 profile image

aNice127 20 months ago from CT - NY

Thank you so much! Yes, it was a permanent dye. I think I'll try and stick it out a little while and see if it'll fade... one question about that though, what will it actually fade TO? Will it stay an RV undertone but higher level? Or just pretty much fade all over to less dark, but also less red/violet undertones?

When using a dye remover, if it comes to that, what brand/type would you recommend? And as for bleaching, god forbid it comes to THAT.... any particular bleach work better for this type of lightening, or bleach is just bleach?

I appreciate the help! :)

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Maffew James 20 months ago Author

Hi aNice,

The violet is likely to fade out much more quickly. The overall colour will lose vibrancy and take on more of a red-brown appearance.

For dye remover: Juuce Eliminate, Vanish Color Corrector, or Goldwell System Color Remover are all good.

As for bleach, any quality brand is fine.

aNice127 profile image

aNice127 20 months ago from CT - NY

You rock. Thank you!

FINAL question I promise- I have a pack of Ion "red intensifier," I'm assuming this is meant to be added to mix/developer when you are about to dye. Is there anything I can put this to use for, whether now or once it fades? How does one even utilize this?

gabrielle 20 months ago

I just learned everything I needed to know. I appreciate you greatly. I'm going from a black to dark brown. Color strip , bleach, I'm going to do the blue toner (have a lot of red ) then dye a med brown to end up with a dark chocolate brown. Thanks again!!

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Maffew James 20 months ago Author

Hi aNice,

Intensifiers are pure tones. You add them to other shades to increase the concentration of a particular tone. Eg, you could add that Ion red into any other Ion shade to increase the amount of red tone.

You could also mix it with a small amount of 10 vol developer and shampoo, then apply that before conditioning if you want to use it as toner. It's not the intended use of the product, but it works well for making your own red toner if you have nothing else or want to use it up.

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Maffew James 20 months ago Author

Hi Gabrielle,

I'm glad you found it helpful. Feel free to let me know if you have any problems with the colour.

Libby 19 months ago

Thank you very much for your post, very helpful!

I have naturally golden brown hair. I coloured it dark brown 6 months ago with semi-permanent colour which has more or less washed away leaving a fairly close approximation to my natural colour. That was first time I coloured my hair. I would like to lighten it slightly and bought L'Oreal Virginie Medium Golden Brown. Can I use the L'Oreal product, maybe with a 30 toner to help it lift some of the colour to achieve a bit lighter hair?

Thank you in advance, I really appreciate your input!

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Maffew James 19 months ago Author

Hi Libby,

It should work fine as long as the semi-permanent is the only other dye you've used. I'm not overly familiar with box dyes like the L'Oreal dye you'll be using, but the lightening is a result of the developer volume. This is what is already pre-measured in the shake bottle you find in these kinds of products. If in doubt over the potential results, get rid of that developer and add your own instead. That way you can actually control the lightening effect.

Use 20 vol for up to 2 levels of lift - 30 vol for up to 3 levels of lift. Of course, any dye you use, regardless of developer, won't lift past the level of the shade. What I mean by this is that when you use a medium brown, lightening generally stops at medium brown because the colour that is being deposited will prevent any more lightening from being visible.

Jennyjen 19 months ago

I have virgin black hair. I want to change my look and get ombre by a professional. How will that affect my hair and how will she change my hair color?

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Maffew James 19 months ago Author

Hi Jennyjen,

It depends a lot on how light you want the ombre to be. Virgin black hair can be effectively dyed anywhere up to light brown with hair dye and without using bleach much of the time. For blonde results, you're looking at a double process where bleach is used to lighten your hair to gold or yellow and then it is toned with a blonde dye to create the blonde shade you want.

Both dye and bleach lighten through hydrogen peroxide. In the case of dye, the peroxide is the developer and this has the dual function of lightening your natural pigment as well as developing the artificial colour of the dye.

Bleach is a combination of peroxide and other lightening compounds like persulfates; as well as more ammonia. This is significantly stronger and lightens more effectively.

Overall though, damage is related to total lift rather than the product used to create the lift. Regardless of whether dye or bleach is used, it is oxidation from the product that is lightening your natural colour. This oxidation has the side effect of also damaging the protein in your hair. More oxidation means more damage. Ie, the lighter you decide to go with the ombre, the more damage your hair will sustain.

Luckily, virgin hair is usually fairly strong though and even a single bleach process with stronger brands of bleach is unlikely to actually cause noticeable damage. It's when the hair has been dyed or bleached repeatedly that hair starts to frizz up, become prone to dryness, and even break. Of course, if your hair is naturally fragile, very fine, or thin; you may want to be more careful as your hair will be naturally weaker and won't stand up to the same amount of processing that thicker and coarser hair will.

sidra 19 months ago

hello i want to know your opinion that bleach can be used into hair dye mean if i want golden brown shades from black to golden then during dye process can i put bleach directly into the dye shade is it allowed and working

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Maffew James 19 months ago Author

Hi Sidra,

Bleach and dye shouldn't be mixed together; it's not designed to work that way and you never know whether the compounds in both products are going to react together in possibly dangerous ways. You need to pre-lighten your hair first before dyeing if you have black hair and want it significantly lighter.

saleema 18 months ago

Hey i want to dye my black virgin hair to a medium/light golden brown so i guess ill have to use bleach? in that case after the bleaching process my hair will turn orange so could you please tell me how i could get my desired brown shade after bleaching

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Maffew James 18 months ago Author

Hi Saleema,

Your hair has never been dyed before? If that's the case, you have a good chance of being able to achieve this with dye, and without the need for bleaching if you really want to avoid it.

Going that route, I'd recommend using a quality brand of dye in light ash brown, mixed with 40 vol as the developer. For example, Igora Royal 5-1 mixed with 40 vol will lift your hair to about medium brown and the ash in the shade will counteract the orange warmth that is revealed, leaving more of a subtle golden reflect.

Bleach is a better option overall though. By applying bleach and lightening to bright orange before toning, you have a much better chance of reaching a light brown, rather than a darker brown colour. Box dyes aren't much of an option in terms of lightening and if you can't get a professional brand like Igora Royal or Wella Koleston, it'd be better to definitely use bleach rather than waste your time and money on a dye that won't work.

If you do bleach, you need to lift to bright orange, then tone with light ash brown to counteract this orange tone.

Babydoll 18 months ago

Hello as with many others am so glad I stumpled across this page as I want to dye me hair but the salons are asking too much££ so hopping you can help me.

Am mixed race (black /white ) )I have long straight hair that has never been relaxed.

All my roots are( gray/ White )I have dyed my hair all coulour and up until a few weeks ago I dyed it black, my natural hair colour is dark brown almos black, I would like to dye my hair a chocolate brown but not sure how to do it can you please give me some advice

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Maffew James 18 months ago Author

Hi Babydoll,

Dye remover can be used first if the black dye you used was permanent. This will remove a certain amount of the dye without damage. There's no guarantee that it will remove enough though, and if it doesn't, you need to follow that up with bleach to lighten it the rest of the way.

Bleach to light orange, tone with medium ash brown to take out most of the warmth. You want a little warmth left over in the final colour for a chocolate result though so rinse when the right shade is reached.

Kim 18 months ago

So grateful i found this site as well, I've learned so much I am actually afraid to attempt what i was just so casually going to try (thank god). My hair has always been pretty much black, started having it colored every 3 mo when i noticed grey starting, that was 7 years ago and i feel I'm getting to old for black. What i wanted was a rich mahogany brown copper color, i haven't colored it in 2mo and the amount of grey around my face and crown has increased and im afraid of hot roots. Also i

was using professional color by Italy,

black and violet black ( mixed them) but haven't pulled it through the rest of my

hair in quite long time, cause i noticed

lifting it up and looking through the back it was a bit lighter and the greys that i

didn't ever see are a lovely shade of red.

I previously bought lanza 4r, 20 vol dev with powder decolorizer. Clearly what i imagined and the outcome would have been horribly different. I know i should have bought a color to replace lack of pigment for all the grey, i just don't understand how much to use etc...Basically I'm back to the drawing board with to much knowledge to do previous idea and not enough to move forward. Thank you so much for all your time, so very appreciated! ~Kim

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Maffew James 18 months ago Author

Hi Kim, I'm glad you found the article helpful.

The amount of black dye buildup plus the grey hair does make things a little more complicated. It wouldn't be too surprising to see it lighten unevenly with all that dye and this is one of the problems you face too.

The best way to go about this would be to lighten further than medium brown. Take it to more of a bright orange with the bleach and this way the dye you use can better darken over any patchy areas where the it hasn't lifted evenly. The natural tone helps to fill the grey as well as create more of a mahogany brown in combination with the mahogany shade you use. Otherwise the mahogany plus the orange underlying pigment that is revealed after lightening are going to give you more of an intense red shade. This is fine if you want a vibrant red, but not so much if you want a 'red-brown' colour.

Jaivi 18 months ago

Hi Maffew! my originAl hair color is black. I bought box dye with a shade of light brown from the drug store, my first time, didn't get what i like, it went a shade lighter but with reddish tone... Then after a month or two, re-color it again with dark blonde for touch -ups for the roots and for the whole hair. The end result was ok since I only like subtle changes but I dont't like the reddish tone/shade I see. Its been 3months now, and roots have grown, Am I going To use a dye remover or a bleach? I would like to achieve the natural brown/chocolate brown/ medium to light brown, As much as possible I'm stayin away from the blond shades. What would you recommend?

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Maffew James 18 months ago Author

Hi Jaivi,

Box dyes don't tend to lighten very well. You have no control over the strength of developer that is included with the dye and this is part of the reason why it is less effective. In this case if you will be using this dye and you have black hair, the best route is to bleach it to pre-lighten and then just use the dye to tone and achieve the final colour afterward.

As for the dye remover, you can use this to remove some of the dye that you've applied and make the lightening easier but you would still need to use bleach to lighten it further afterward. Dye remover will only remove any colour in your hair that is the result of permanent dye. It can't lighten your natural pigment.

It is also not always completely effective when dark colours are used or dyes have been applied several times. For this reason, as well as the fact that you will still need to bleach afterwards anyway, you can give the dye remover a miss. If you do want to use it though, it will help the bleach lift better by removing some of the dye and the remover itself is non-damaging.

After this, bleach it to a golden-orange colour for a cool to neutral light brown result, or a bright orange colour for a cool to neutral medium brown result. For warmer shades like chocolate, you can remove it sooner because you don't need to tone it so heavily. A chocolate shade of brown is dependent on the underlying warmth to allow it to look rich.

To tone your hair after bleaching, use ash brown for a cooler result, or a mixture of half ash brown and half natural brown for more of a neutral tone. The level should be light brown if you're aiming for that, or medium brown for a medium result depending on how far you decided to lighten it with the bleach.

Ashley 18 months ago

So I tried to dye my black virgin hair to a medium brown color. But I didn't use developer so the color didn't really change. Any advice on what I can do to make it the prefer color I was opting for?

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Maffew James 18 months ago Author

Hi Ashley,

Were you using salon dye or box dye for this? Box dye has pre-selected and measured developer in a shake bottle and the colour is the tube that is mixed with this. Salon dye is just the dye tube and you select the developer yourself. Without developer, no permanent dye will deposit or lighten.

What you do next will depend on whether you used the dye properly but it didn't lift, or whether you actually didn't use any developer.

maddie 17 months ago

does kroger hair dye work?

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Maffew James 17 months ago Author

Hi Maddie,

I'm not familiar with Kroger. Is that a dye brand or a store?

If using dye to lighten and tone your hair, I'd recommend only using salon dye. You can't control what developer is supplied with a supermarket dye, so you have no idea what concentration it is. You need at least 30 vol developer to lighten black hair reliably to a brown colour with dye. 40 vol is preferable for a lighter result. Technically, you could add your own developer to a supermarket dye and just throw away the one they supply, but the dye itself tends to lift less effectively with the same developer compared to salon dye. There's often less ammonia and other catalysts in the dye.

If you're using a bleach and tone method though, where you bleach your hair to how light you want it and then tone with dye, supermarket dye is going to work for this. Just make sure you use an ash shade and match it up to how dark your hair is. Ie, light ash brown will tone light orange hair to brown, but it's not going to tone darker red hair because it's too light. Ideally, bleach to light orange and then tone with light ash brown for a light brown result; bleach to orange and dye with medium ash brown for a medium brown result; or bleach to red-orange and dye with dark ash brown for a dark brown result.

Bata 17 months ago

Hi! My mom dyes her gray hair once a month but she's allergic to whatever is in the box dye. She has tried henna as well but she's allergic to it,too. She gets burns on her scalp that eventually turns into dandruff-like flakes. Can you recommend a dye for sensitive scalps? Thanks!

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Maffew James 17 months ago Author

Hi Bata,

It'll be hard to find a product that works for her without causing symptoms unless you can pin-point the exact ingredient that is responsible for the allergy. It may just be the box dyes though, as these can often contain a certain amount of metallic dyes which may also be found in the henna.

Of course, there are some ingredients like peroxide and ammonia that tend to cause some level of irritation in the majority of people, and avoiding them leaves you with products that are more gentle on the scalp. This rules out permanent dyes, as well as demi-permanent dyes that are oxidative if this is the cause.

She may be able to use an acid-based demi-permanent (No ammonia or peroxide), but the acidity, whilst good for hair, may also irritate her scalp. Other than that, the gentlest type of dye is semi-permanent, but this is more like a stain than an actual dye and it washes out over time.

If you have any more insight into what particular ingredient is the cause of the allergy I can offer a better idea of what products may be better; otherwise it's just a shot in the dark. Antihistamines are an option that can be used prior to dyeing to prevent an allergic reaction that isn't too serious, but she would be best consulting a doctor beforehand if this is to be considered an option.

Sage 17 months ago

My hair is 100% gray. I tried "I'm cool with gray" for a while, but just felt too old, so I've been box-dying it black for a while. Now I think the black is too harsh and brown would work better. So right now I have 1/2-inch gray roots on black hair.

To make things worse, my hair is naturally verrrrrrrrrry dry. I do all kinds of conditioning just to break even.

It's occurred to me that leaving crown-to-ears top of my head gray with black underneath might cure having to deal with roots. But I know how long it takes to grow out dyed hair.

Can my hair be helped?

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Maffew James 17 months ago Author

Hi Sage,

You can always lighten it a little in the meantime to blend it better while it grows out. This will lead to more dryness though, so given your troubles with dry hair this is something to take into account and think about first.

If you were to do it, you would need to either use bleach, or to use dye remover first and then bleach. The dye remover is a possible first step because it removes permanent dye without damage (Although increases dryness temporarily). It can't always remove much colour when there is a build up of dye though.

As for the bleach, this will lighten the black hair to progressively lighter shades of red and then to orange. This warmth is neutralised with ash dye to give a new brown result after lightening. Bleach tends to damage the cuticles on the surface of your hair fairly easily though, as does dyeing your hair often, and this prevents it from maintaining moisture because it is no longer sealed properly.

It really just depends what you want to do. If you want to go with the black underneath after growing your hair out, this can be done over time and sped along by lightening it as above. If you just wanted to get to a medium to dark brown colour, this is very achievable and you can do this by lightening to orange and then toning. After that, the brown colour just needs to be maintained with root touch ups and occasional toning to keep it looking good.

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abbywabby 16 months ago

Hello :)

This page is just what i was looking for, so glad i found it!!

I have naturally dark brown hair ( almost looks black), i would like to get my hair to a light brown base with dark caramel highlights. ( so basically a mixture of #8 as a base and #12 highlights).

how to i go about doing this?

how long do you think i should keep the bleach on ? and which volume developer would you recommend ( does 30 volume get the same results as 40 volume but just slower and safer?)

and what brand of dye and colour do you recommend after i have bleached my hair?

Thank you so much in advance, i look forward to your insightful response :)

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Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Abby,

To get your hair to light brown, you will need to bleach it to a light orange colour first. Following this, apply medium caramel blonde mixed with about one quarter medium ash blonde, to areas you want to highlight, applying in foils. Use 30 vol as the developer for this dye. The ash is necessary here because there will be warmth after bleaching, as well as during the further lightening produced by the dye when highlighting. It will deal with this to give a better looking caramel that doesn't look too orange.

Once the foils are in, apply light natural brown to the rest of your hair (Any hair that isn't covered by foils), develop, and rinse everything out once it's done and toned to a nice colour. Use 10 or 20 vol as the developer for this dye. You can mix it as half natural and half ash shades if you want a cooler base colour.

The above method will allow you to get all the colour done at once after dyeing, but if you'd prefer to do the highlights separately for more control, this is also fine. As for the bleach, 20 vol mixed with a professional product is fine. For generic products, you can often go as high as 30 vol. Note that in this situation, professional bleach mixed with 20 vol developer lifts more effectively than generic bleach mixed with 30 vol in most cases. The particular brand you're using will list the maximum on-scalp developer volume and processing time that should be used with that product. It's not common for the higher quality brands to recommend anything higher than 20 vol on scalp, or 30 vol off-scalp in highlights anymore as these bleach powders contain lightening boosters that make the product more effective and stronger with a weaker developer. If you do use something stronger with these products, it's possible for severe scalp irritation or even blistering to occur.

As for the brand of dye, there are several good brands and it will depend on what you can get. Eg, Wella Koleston and Igora Royal are excellent and dependable products.

Linda 16 months ago

Hi Maffew,

I love how your replies are so informative!

I'm hoping you can help me, I'm a level 2, with (half head) 7 month old highlights that are slightly orange. I want to do balayage to a cool level 4. Is this achieved by bleaching and then toning?

Thanks in advance! (:

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Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Linda,

Bleaching is more reliable because it's easy to see how far it has lightened and get it where you want it to be before toning. It is possible to do it with dye though, as long as you haven't already applied any dyes in the past; especially dark dyes, which will usually prevent another dye from lightening your hair further.

Ideally, to get the colour you want, you would need to lift slightly more than 2 levels to take it a little past level 4, then tone with 5A in semi-permanent, which can be applied to the new highlights only, or all over, in which case it will tone the previous highlights and take away a lot of that orange there too. How well it tones those old highlights will depend on how dark they are because the use of the 5A will be best suited to toning hair that is anywhere from level 4 - 5.

On the new highlights, it will give a neutral to slightly cool result depending on how long you process it for, and the toning will finish the colour up by getting it to the tone you want as well as darkening it up to level 4. This is why it's best to lift slightly further if you have a definite level in mind for the result, because toning will add colour and thus darken slightly.

Linda 16 months ago

Thanks for the advice Maffew!

I'm going to go with the bleach and tone method.

Are there any particular brands you would recommend? Here in the UK, I find that theres not much variety in semi permanent colours. So would i just look for colours containing 'ash brown' in the name?

Also, with the toner, is a 10 vol developer used whether it is permanent or semi permanent?

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Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Linda,

With semi-permanent colours you can use Igora or Goldwell mousse, which are easy to use. Igora 5-1 is perfect, but Goldwell doesn't have an ash at level 5 in their mousse. The 5N can be used for toning instead. Wella Color Fresh 5/91 is another option.

You can use demi-permanent and this will be more lasting, but I would recommend applying this in foils or trying to isolate it to the highlighted areas because whilst it's deposit only colour, it does use developer and can cause lightening on any darker hair it touches. This will be very minimal anyway but it is a possibility. Products like Wella Color Touch, Igora Vibrance, and ISO I.luminate. You're still using a level 5 in ash with this route, which is 5/1 in Wella, 5-1 in Igora, or 5A in ISO.

Permanent can technically be used if you want, but apply in foils. Whatever type of dye you used, you want a level 5 in an ash tone, and you can tell if this is the case by looking at the colour code. The first number will be 5, which is the level (How dark the dye is), and the second will be a number or a letter. Ash is /1, -1, .1, or A in most brands, but tone codes do vary. Level numbers are fairly strict. There is also a naming convention used by most brands where a level 5 dye is called a 'light brown', and the primary and any secondary tones are used to modify this, meaning you're looking for a light ash brown / ash light brown. This naming convention can vary sometimes too though (Matrix is one that varies slightly).

As for the developer, you will only need developer with permanent or demi-permanent dye. Semi-permanent doesn't use it. If using permanent, mix it with 10 vol developer. If using demi-permanent, mix with the specific developer recommended for your brand, which will usually be between 5 - 10 vol developer, or can be an acid developer. For semi-permanent, use the product as is.

Overall, you have a lot of options regarding brand and type of dye to use as the toner. If you use the codes and naming as key, you should be able to find one that is available to you. If you have any trouble though, let me know and I'll help you figure out the right shade once you have a brand in mind.

kate 16 months ago

Hello, i would like to ask.. i had naturally brown hair but then i dyed my hair to Black a few times.. i want to have Brown hair now and i have tried to use bleach as well and then use the brown color.. but the hair comes like reddish type.. which i really dont like.. so i colored it to black again. Now, I have tried to dye brown many times on my black hair but it still looks black. Please help..

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Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Kate,

The more dark dyes you apply, the less chance that another dye is going to cause any lightening because dye can't effectively lighten the artificial colour of another dye; it only lifts your natural pigment. For this reason, you will have to bleach if you want to lighten it again.

As for the reddish tinge, this occurs because there is a lot of dark red pigment in the black dye which forms the foundation for such a dark colour. Best way to get around this is to lighten to the level of brown you want and then use an ash shade of brown dye to neutralise the appearance of the red tone. For a light brown, lift to bright orange. For a medium brown, lift to orange. For a dark brown, lift to red-orange. Whichever you choose, tone at the same level. If you bleached to bright orange for a light brown result for example, you would then tone with light ash brown, and so on so forth for the rest using medium ash or dark ash.

Toni 16 months ago

Hi. I hope you can help. My hair is died black. I really want to go to light auburn with blonde highlights. I have a couple questions. 1) Do you think honey blonde highlights would match light auburn? 2) How can I achieve these colors on black hair? Thx

Toni 16 months ago

I forgot to mention...I bleached the hair to yellow blonde and used Wella Color Charm, light auburn (5RG) permanent dye. The hair turned a deep auburn. It's dark again. It's a level 2. Not light auburn like I was expecting. Thanks.

mandy 16 months ago

I have about 70% grey, and have coloured my hair dark brown with a bit of red for years, I want to go lighter, as I look like a badger when my roots come through, what would you suggest?

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Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Toni,

If that happens with the use of a much lighter dye, porosity is to blame. Most of that excess colour will wash out very quickly. In future if your hair tends to be porous after lightening or just in general, apply protein in the form of a porosity equaliser or clear protein filler and this will help reduce it. Using a lighter dye than the colour you actually want can also help in this situation.

Toni 16 months ago

Hi Maffew. Thanks for your response. You are so helpful! If the hair still looks a tiny bit brassy after I rinse out the light auburn color, is there a way to correct it so that it looks more golden auburn? Thanks for all your help.

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Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Toni,

You won't be able to apply a lighter colour on top of the darker colour you have now; or at least, it won't likely result in any lightening. It's just for future reference if you keep having problems with dyes turning out darker than they should. In your current situation, most of the excess colour should wash out after a number of shampoos and you can then consider toning to adjust the way the colour looks if you want to emphasise or soften a tone.

If it doesn't, or you want to get the colour to where you want it quickly, another option is to use dye remover to strip the dye back out. This will only work on permanent dye though as it works by reversing the chemical reaction that makes the dye permanent. Other types of dye don't work the same way and won't be affected. You'll still need to dye it again after removal to get it to a nice colour though as if it works fully, it will strip the colour right back to the yellow colour you'd previously lightened to. If it doesn't work fully, it can remove much of the colour but results will be darker and warmer. Either way it's still a good step before considering anything more drastic like bleaching because dye remover doesn't directly damage hair.

Onto the toning. With toning, you are always adding colour to your hair, but the colour you add can have one of two different effects: if you want to emphasise a tone and make it more noticeable, add that tone to your hair. If you want to neutralise a tone, add the complementary colour.

Complementary colours are: red and green, orange and blue, and, yellow and violet. Eg, if you were trying to soften hair that looks really golden, you need to add violet tone and a small amount of blue to do this. Vice versa, if you were trying to neutralise blue tone for whatever reason, this could be done with copper. Complementary colours act like a pair in that when both tones are balanced, the result is neutral, whereas more of either colour in that pair leads to that colour becoming visible.

As an example, if you want to make your auburn more golden, you can do this by adding gold. For this, you can use anything from a permanent dye to a semi-permanent dye or even a toning shampoo, as long as the product is concentrated enough. If the colour was a bit too red for your liking, you might also want to mix a dash of ash into your golden dye to soften this and further push it towards more of a dominant golden tone.

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Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Mandy,

With how long you've been dyeing it and the amount of buildup that will be present, your best option to lighten the dye is to use a weak mix of bleach. Normally, dye remover is effective for removing permanent dye, but this will act quite erratically in your situation due to how many dyes have been applied and the fact that there is a lot of grey underneath all that dye.

To do this, mix bleach powder with 10 or 20 vol developer, lighten to bright orange, and rinse. Toning with dark ash blonde at this point will take it to a warm to neutral light brown colour; or you can use light ash brown for a cool-neutral to ash result. Following that, when your roots start to show next time, you'd need to dye them with your desired shade of light brown instead of your previous darker colour now, and pull through to the lengths for the last few minutes for an even result.

You can gradually lighten it this way over a few months for minimal damage, or leave it light brown. It really depends on how light you want it to be and whether it looks better with regrowth at this level or could still stand to blend in better with a lighter colour.

Toni 16 months ago

Thanks so much. You are amazing.

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Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Toni,

Glad you've found it helpful; let me know if you have any problems or any more questions and good luck with the colouring!

Ashley 16 months ago


So I have virgin black hair and I wanted to color it like a dark natural brown color. But i don't know which shade of color I should use. I don't want it look like it has been totally colored, I want it to have that natural look. So which hair dye company and which exact shade should I use to get that?

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Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Ashley,

3A (Dark ash brown), if possible. If not, use 3N. The availability of the ash shade will vary with brand. You also want to mix this dye with 30 vol developer for the necessary lift. Basically, that volume of developer lightens your hair, whilst the ash tone in the dye counteracts the warmth that is revealed during lightening and produces a natural looking brown result.

As for specific brands, I'd recommend Wella Koleston 3/0, or Igora Royal 3-0 (Or Igora Royal 4-13; note it's a lighter shade, but the intensity of the ash tone compensates for this. Developer volume determines lift; not how light the level of the dye itself is, which only determines colour deposit intensity).

If using a different brand, and the dye is a box dye, pour out the developer they provide and add your own 30 vol developer so that you can ensure it will lighten as desired. If it's salon dye, you'll be adding your own developer anyway.

Ashley 15 months ago

Thanks so much for the help. And also if i was considering to do highlights, would the same conditions apply? Would I be able to see the color difference

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Maffew James 15 months ago Author

Hi Ashley,

Same colour for the highlights; but you could also consider using a different shade if desired. A warmer shade, for example, whilst leading to reddish hair if used all over, will have less of an effect when applied as highlights because it's only a small amount of hair. Taking this into account, if you add something cool toned as highlights, this cools down the appearance of your overall colour. If you add something warm, this warms up the overall look.

As for the difference, you definitely will be able to see it, but the difference between a dark brown and black is very subtle. Dark brown is already so dark as to be very near to black. You might want to go for closer to a medium brown if you decide to do it as highlights (Increase the developer to 40 vol if you do this because you need more lift for the lighter colour).

Linda 15 months ago

Hi Maffew,

So I bleached my hair to a very light orange, shampooed it out and then used Igora Vibrance 5-1 on dry hair which i left in for 20 minutes.

After shampooing, conditioning and then drying, i noticed my hair just looked completely black. A little darker than my natural hair colour.

Can you please tell me what i did wrong? I googled light ash brown and most brands put that at a level 5. My goal was to lighten my dark brown hair to a light brown with no warmth.

As always, thanks for your advice.

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Maffew James 15 months ago Author

Hi Linda,

Your hair can be porous either naturally, or as a result of bleaching and this is what causes the colour to grab so intensely like this. Most likely it was because your hair had just been bleached. Letting it rest for a few days is a good way to prevent it in the future if you find your hair tends to react this way; otherwise using a clear protein filler, porosity equaliser, or just a lighter shade of dye than what you want will work with the porosity.

As for the colour being too dark right now, porous hair tends to soak up colour but then much of that excess washes out very quickly. That with the fact that the Vibrance isn't permanent means you won't need to worry too much. A few shampoos and it should be just where you want it to be.

NessaDean1984 14 months ago

Hello. I love reading your advice and I, like everyone, else has a question lol. I had recently got my hair highlighted. I didn't like it as much as I thought I was going too. I then waited for 3 days and went to my local beauty supply store. I explained that I wanted to back to my brown color. She told me to do a filler with a 4N dark brown hair color. I did exactly what she recommended and to my horror my hair is black. I do not like the color at all. I don't know if I was given the right information or if this is natural. I cannot stand the color to the point of it giving me anxiety. I don't have the money to go to a salon. I am comfortable doing it myself. I'm just not sure of the steps I need to take to feel better about this. I don't really understand the whole bleaching thing. Do I just use a bottle that says bleach? Help would be greatly appreciated.

Ann 14 months ago

Hi Maffew,

This thread has been so informative!!

I have naturally dark brown hair that has been colored for about 10 years dark brown to cover grey. I'm getting older and would really like to transition to a level 4-5 as I think the dark brown almost black color is really harsh for my age.

I've done 3 bleach baths using 20 and 30 volume developer over the course of appox one month and the color is still dark but has orange tinge to it. Could you tell me exactly what color orange I need to reach to be able to tone to a cool level 4 or 5? Also for toning, do I use demi or permenant color? Level 10 developer for depost only with the toner right? I've lifted color in the past and trying to tone out the orange has always been difficult and I (nor 5 professional colorists) have ever been able to take me to a cool light brown/dark blonde. I usually use wella products so what do you recommend for toner? I don't know if this link will work but I;d love this color.

Anne 14 months ago

Just wanted to say thank you!! Before trying another *sigh* professional colorist for $200 bucks a wack I thought I'd give it another DIY attempt.


Anne 14 months ago

Hi again,

Just opened a photobucket account to show you my hair after bleach bath x 3. Is it light enough for an ash light brown wella toner? Demi or permenant? 10% developer or 20%?

current orange color and the ash light brown dark blonde desired color

Much love!

Molly 14 months ago

Hi there Maffew! I absolutely love you BLOG as it's very helpful. Here is a thing,I have a natural very dark hair color and I'm wanting to dye it to ombre color. I'm just not sure how to start and really need your help. I'm trying to keep everything under the budges. Also I never dye my hair before and this is my first attempt. PLEASE HELP ME.

Andrea 14 months ago

I've recently did 2 bleach baths on my dyed black hair and I'm not sure which ash brown to buy. My natural hair is about a level 3. I know to choose a shade lighter than what I want the end result to be and I don't want to be a super dark brunette. Can I mix a light ash brown with a medium ash brown? I plan on using the Ion brand from Sally's. Thanks a lot!

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Maffew James 13 months ago Author

Hi Nessa,

Apologies for the late reply, hopefully you haven't been panicking too much.

It's common for a dark brown to look black because it is a very dark colour, The advice you were given about filling your hair was correct, but in your circumstance you would have been better giving it a quick strand test first to see how it reacts. Some people have porous hair and this will absorb more dye than usual. This tends to be a lot more likely when you have hair that has been lightened, such as with highlights in your case. No issues though, as you wouldn't have known what was going to happen until it was applied.

In future, now that you know you may have a bit of porosity, you may want to consider using a dye that is 1 - 2 levels lighter than the colour you want to avoid it turning out too dark. As for fixing the darkness right now, clarifying shampoo should be fine because much of it will fade out over a few weeks leaving you with closer to a medium brown colour.

If it doesn't seem to be budging, this is where you will need to correct it. You can use dye remover for this, but I think you'll find bleach easier. If you take bleach powder, mix this with 10 vol developer in the ratio for the brand you're using (this will be listed on the product), and then mix this with an equal amount of shampoo, this creates a bleach wash which is very gentle and easy to use. Simply apply to damp hair as quickly and evenly as you can, leave for about 10 minutes until it lightens a little, then rinse.

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Maffew James 13 months ago Author

Hi Anne,

Apologies for the lateness of my reply.

Is the current colour that of the photo in the car? If so, you'll still need to get it a little lighter. It's close to a light brown at the moment, but ideally you actually want it lighter than the light brown level. Toning will entail adding blue tone to neutralise the orange, so it actually darkens your hair slightly because more pigment is going into your hair. Getting it lighter than the desired level means that once it has toned, it darkens up to what you do actually want. If you were to go in and tone now, that's perfectly fine and will still lead to a nice shade of brown, but it will by darker than the colour you want.

As for the toner, with Wella products, I'd recommend Wella Koleston 5/1 or Wella Color Touch 5/1. The Koleston is permanent, whilst the Color Touch is a demi. Your choice of permanent or demi is really up to you, with a demi being slightly less damaging (permanent with 10 vol is still only mildly damaging though), and quicker to fade. If you want to alter the tone at some point, or change colours after a few weeks, a demi will be a good option because it's going to fade out much more easily.

For the developer, 10 vol is fine with Koleston and will work, but 20 vol is better with this particular line of dye. The 20 vol will give longer lasting results if you choose to use it and can help take out a little more remaining pigment if your hair is still a little darker than you want.

Whichever dye you do use, I'd recommend applying a strand test first though, just to see how it reacts since you've mentioned your troubles with neutralising the orange in the past. If it doesn't eliminate it fully, don't worry too much. All you need to do is add a small amount of Koleston 0/88 until it does. This is a pure blue concentrate which you can add to other Koleston dyes to enhance the blue tone within the dye. Blue neutralises orange, and this will neutralise the orange tones in your hair if you need that extra toning power.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 13 months ago Author

Hi Molly,

Apologies for the late reply, and I'm glad you've liked my articles!

Ombre can be a little difficult if you've never applied any dye or bleach before because you'll be applying the products through the lengths to ends rather than simply all over your hair for this effect. It may be better if you either go to your hairdresser or have someone more experienced help you with it.

Of course, I'm perfectly happy to explain how to do it in any case. You'll need to decide how light you want the ombre to be, as well as how long you want it to be. IE, how many shades lighter do you want it to be compared to your natural colour, and in terms of length, do you want it to start from the middle of your hair, or just a few inches from the ends?

If the shade you want it to be is no lighter than 2 levels, you can do this with dye by using an ash shade that is 2 levels lighter than your current colour. You can technically go up to 4 levels lighter with a dye, but you will only get this kind of lightening from professional products; I wouldn't recommend going this route for your first dye. If you do want to take it lighter than 2 levels, bleach is easy as long as you can use it safely and are sure you're not going to get yourself into trouble with it.

Once you've decided where you want to place the ombre, apply dye or bleach from your desired starting point through to the ends of your hair. With dye, process this until it lightens and tones nicely, or until maximum development time is met. With bleach, allow this to lighten until you like how light it is, or the maximum processing time is reached (this varies by product, so check your chosen bleach powder if needed, but is usually 45 - 50 minutes). Dye will lighten and tone. Bleach will lighten only, and you can tone with a dye if you want to after it is done.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 13 months ago Author

Hi Andrea,

Apologies for the late reply. It's perfectly fine to mix the light and medium shades, as long as it's the same brand and dye line. Eg, it's fine to mix any Wella Koleston dye with any other Wella Koleston dye, but not with a different line like Wella Color Touch or a different brand like Matrix SoColor.

The result of mixing two shades of the same tone but different levels is that you'll end up with a new dye somewhere between both levels (between a light and medium brown in your situation). If you mix two different tones, the rules of colour theory apply here. Eg, mixing an ash shade into a golden shade of the same level reduces the golden tone that results by adding cool tone to it. This is what beige shades of blonde basically are, for example; golden blonde with a small amount of ash to give a more subtle gold tone.

Sidra Tahir 13 months ago

Hi, your blog was really helpful,thank u so much.I did the non virgin hair method.It worked but my hair over the crown area are very very light and the ash blonde dye didnt work on the red bleached hair, they are as they were after the bleach i.e. red :( .. I dont know why, I dont know what to do. Help!! please :(

Steffi 13 months ago

Hi, so I am a level 2, virgin, dark dark brown, near black. I am wanting a level 4, and don't mind some reddish tones...would it make sense to use a Wella permanent level 5 natural light brown with a warm level 6W praline?...your thoughts before I take the plunge?

Stephanie 13 months ago

Just wanted to add, I am not looking to be a light brown, rather I have heard that Wella's colors tend to run a level or two darker, so to go the next level up, hence the light natural brown, 5N.

Meagan 13 months ago

I dyed my hair black about a month ago and I hate he color. Absolutely hate it so I went to Sally's and asked the ladies there to help me with what I would need to get it to almost a ash blonde/brown. So I needed up buying a color stripper and my 4 boxes of hair dye. I used the stripper and it came out light brown with orange tones. Then I dyed it the ash color and my roots are blonde, and my hair is black again. What do I do now???? Help!

melissachi 12 months ago

I have been dying my hair brown for years due to grey starting at 25. I am now 39 and have at least 50% grey hair. That said, it is costly to go to a salon every month to have touch ups. I started touching up at home with Sally Beauty Age Beautiful medium brown which went very dark, almost black. I then tried Wella medium brown again almost black. So today I tried a bleach cap and ION dye in dark blonde and light brown 50/50 split with 20 volume developer. My hair is a lighter shade of brown with a lot of gold. The problem is my grey roots are glowing. Can you suggest anything I can do? I am assuming this is because I went lighter in color but every time I want brown it goes too dark now. Sally worker said do bleach cap over color remover because easier to get color you want after. thank you.

Aureill 12 months ago

Hi there, i'm Asian with black hair. I read all that you've written here and wanna get a lighter hair more of brown, ash shades. However nothing seems to work without bleach because the hair always looks black and not brown. A friend suggested me to try ash blonde instead to lightening the hair with bleach. I also checked youtube and found videos on the same. There is this color 'Loreal Paris Recital Helinsiki very ash light brown' available only around uk and us. Can I use other ash blonde colors by loreal/revlon/wella? Would it give me the same lightened hair?

Jonah 12 months ago

But won't using a 10vol developer with a permanent dye still render it as a semi-permanent?

I've lightened my virgin black hair up to the bright orange stage, I want to tone it down to a light brown, but using a 10vol developer scares me at the fact that it won't actually penetrate my hair shaft - thus, my hair would fade fastly.

Please help me, Mr. James!

Jonah 12 months ago

Sorry I forgot to say - the hair color that I am wanting to go for is light beige brown.


Ozzie 10 months ago

What highlight color is the best for Asian hair without maintenance

brooke 9 months ago

hello I have really dark brown hair nearly black and I want my hair to be really light brown how can I do this

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 9 months ago Author

Hi Brooke,

As your hair is almost black and you would like to ensure a really light brown result, it would be better to use bleach for pre-lightening. A dye won't be reliable in this situation, though it can work.

To do this, bleach using a quality bleach powder and 20 vol developer until your hair is bright golden-orange, and then tone it using a mix of half light ash brown, and half dark ash blonde. The reason for the mixture here is to get it somewhere between the dark blonde and light brown stages for a result that is the lightest brown it can be before it begins to look more of a blonde colour.

If you did prefer to use a dye alone, rather than bleach, use a quality salon dye in light ash brown with 40 vol as the developer and process for up to an hour, but do be aware that this might not lighten it as far as you'd like. If your hair has been dyed in the past, this also needs to be taken into account as it can still be bleached light in this situation, but the use of another dye will have little effect in comparison. Any previous dye will reduce the lightening from a subsequent dye.

Steph G 9 months ago

How would I put nice highlights into dark hair color 6

Do t know what bleach is best could you talk me through it step by step,to achieve a nice color blonde not orange or yellow.

Thank you

Steph G 9 months ago

I have a base color in between a 6 and a 7 shade.

Would like to put highlights in like a nice creamy beige colour but don't know what product to use for the best results or the toner .

Would be grateful if you could give me your advice on how to do this.

So grateful to you.

Thank you.

nadkal 9 months ago

I have virgin black hair and I want to lighten the ends to a dark brown color. I want the color to be noticeable but not too light at the same time. I also want it to look really natural. Should I go with an ash dark brown?

Audrey 8 months ago

My hair is naturally a medium brown. I first got a perm to have loose curls because my natural curls were going limp. The length was almost to the bra strap. A few months later, I dyed it black for an occasion. It's been 4 or 5 months since then and the perm has grown out about halfway(length is still at bra strap). I have touched up the roots with black but I desperately want my hair to be a dark brown or darkest brown with not a lot of red. My original hair color is too light for me now and I would look washed out. I have a huge problem with frizzy ends and I'm worried about damaging it any more. I haven't been to a salon yet because I'm scared of what they would do to it and the cost. My mom(an experienced hairdresser) has been doing my hair but she is worried to try something different because she has been out of practice lifting black hair and she is scared of causing more damage. Please, please, please help me with my hair and give me advice on what I should do! I would appreciate any help you could give me. Thank you for reading this.

Laura 7 months ago


I had dyed my hair black before and now I want to dye my hair a mid brown colour as black is too harsh for my skin. My hairdresser has tried to lift it and tried highlights and nothing is lightening my hair it just looks a million different colours. Is it best to just strip it? And then dye my hair Brown?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 7 months ago Author

Hi Laura,

This will depend on what your hairdresser has attempted to use thus far to lighten it. If they've tried dye remover and bleach bathing and it won't budge, this is a problem and you'd need to use bleach with at least 20 vol to lighten it to any extent.

If your hairdresser has only tried to lift it with dye, or very mild bleaching, this won't do much because of the sheer amount of pigment in your hair after being dyed black. Another dye won't lift through it because dye itself is better suited to lightening natural pigment than it is artificial pigment like that of the black dye. In this situation it should lift fine with bleach, and the medium brown you want is reachable in one process because it won't need to be lightened too far for this new colour.

Ideally, you want to lift it to level 5 if possible, and then dye it with the medium brown. This will give the best result because the hair has been lifted light enough that the new shade will cover properly without showing warm red tones that persist from the black dye. In any case, you need to at least get it to level 4 for a medium brown result, and if you can't get it any lighter than this, you may see red tones persisting into your new brown shade. This can be corrected by using an ash shade, but the amount of toning required to cancel out the red can push it darker towards a dark brown colour rather than medium brown.

Arlene 7 months ago

Hello, my natural hair color is soft black. I had my hair professional dyed black about 3 months ago; soon after It started fading into a dark brown/reddish color. I dye my hair approx every 6-9 months usually using Sally's products (dark Browns and 20%developer). NOW I finally want to go lighter (medium to light caramel brown). Associate at Sally's recommended One N Only Color Fix and then toning it with light ash blond. My question: will this work? I'm concerned about my roots not being the same color as my hair. How do I ensure an even color? Do I use different developers? Do I leave the color remover or dye longer in my bottom hair as opposed to my roots.. Or vise versa?... Please clarify. Thank you

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 7 months ago Author

Hi Arlene,

The product you've mentioned is a dye remover and this will act to remove the permanent black dye by reversing the chemical process that makes it permanent. As you've only had your hair dyed black once following its previous colour, there is a good chance that the dye remover will remove most of the dye, but black dye itself is very concentrated and this can't be guaranteed. It's possible that the product will only remove part of the dye.

With the use of dye remover, the results you get are completely dependent on how light your hair is underneath the black dye. As the dye remover can only remove permanent dye, it won't lighten any natural pigment underneath. This means that in order to get to blonde, your hair needs to already be light brown underneath the black dye. The remover can only take you to the lightest level you've previously been.

If it's not light enough underneath, which is likely if you've only ever used dark brown and black dyes, you'll need to lighten it further before toning. To do this, it would be best to apply bleach to take it to the required level, but you could also use light brown dye with 30 or 40 vol as the developer. Dye will be significantly less reliable in terms of lightening in your situation because you're working with hair that has been colored with dark dyes. Any subsequent dye you use at this point has a reduced effect because you begin to get a buildup of artificial pigment that is more stubborn than natural pigment and won't be lightened by the new dye. Ideally, if the dye remover strips most of it out, this problem can be minimised.

When you do get to toning, the process will be slightly different if you bleach than if you lighten with dye. Bleach only lifts colour, so you'll end up getting a very orange to red result before you tone it, and it is easiest to apply an ash shade in demi-permanent for the toner. This is then watched and allowed to process until you're happy with the amount of warmth that is present. For a caramel shade, you don't need to neutralise too much because the caramel is a warm colour, but you still need to add ash to take it from an intense orange to a natural looking colour. You can use light ash brown for toning medium caramel, or dark ash blonde for a light caramel. The darker the ash dye used for toning, the quicker it will process and change colour, so feel free to drop the level down further if your hair is porous and likes to soak up a lot of colour when dyed, but don't go too light with the shade choice because the lighter shades of ash blonde tend to be more violet dominated in most brands at this point to deal with the yellow tone. Orange isn't often present at lighter levels and these dyes won't tone your hair properly as a result because they don't contain enough blue pigment.

If you used dye to lighten, you can also aim to tone with this in one process too, or you can double process it like with bleaching and simply focus on using the dye to lighten. The developer mixed into dye 'develops' the dye molecules by producing a chemical reaction that makes it permanent, and this same reaction is responsible for lightening so shade choice has little bearing on this. The shade used mainly determines how the colour will look following processing. Ideally, for a warm shade like caramel, use light natural brown, or dark natural blonde depending on whether you want a medium or light brown result respectively. The natural shade contains less cool tone than an ash and will leave it closer to caramel after coloring. You may still need to adjust by toning afterwards depending on how your hair reacts though.

As for the roots, if this is your natural colour only, and no dye has been applied here yet, the dye remover will have no effect on the colour here and it will remain darker as a result. If there is a large difference between the lengths and roots, do apply bleach or dye here first, and then to the lengths about 5 - 10 minutes in, or when the roots start to get close to the depth of the lengths. Keep in mind that the roots will lighten quicker than the lengths because they're not previously dyed and are closer to the warmth of the scalp, so it's preferable for the roots to still be slighter darker at the point when you apply to the lengths to get an even result. You can correct it further when toning if required by using permanent dye as the toner, with 20 vol developer applied to roots, and a 10 vol preparation applied to lengths.

Sarah 7 months ago

Hi, first of all thank you for the post! It really helped me learn what needs to be considered and prepared before DIY coloring my hair! I want to try self hair dying for the first time. My natural hair is very thin black hair. I have dyed it to medium brown a year ago and the roots grew out a lot and now my natural black hair covers my whole scalp (cannot even call them root anymore, 1/3 of my hair is my natural hair color). Since the summer is approaching, I want a bit lighter hair. I found this picture on internet:

I was wondering if I could dye my hair like that? Although the length of my hair only reaches my shoulder, I really like the model's hair color. I believe it is highlighted all over, but the root of the hair is like light ash brown? I was wondering what products I could use to dye my hair like that! also is it possible not to use bleach to get that ash brown color? My hair stylist once got my hair platinum blonde with just hair dye though I had to go back to salon the next day for second dying process. I really want to keep my hair undamaged and shiny like the model's hair! if there is any product I should be using with the hair dye to lessen the damage from hair dye, please recommend too!! I would be more than appreciative if you could advise me on the hair color (i am not sure about the numbers of hair dye...and what color the model's hair exactly is), what products (was planning to buy wella's koleston perfect from amazon, i think that's what my stylist used on my hair) I should be using (i did not know what developer was until i read your post) and any other products I should use to achieve the shiny and beautiful colored hair!!!Thank you very much!

Zitkala 7 months ago

Heya, Just did this via a professional hairdresser, but wish to reverse it as I found that I prefer my almost-black natural hair. First time getting it dyed as well. Any way to remove the colour so that I can have my natural hair colour back?

Pamela 5 months ago

I have natural black hair but I have now a ombre on it. I want to dye it with a natural brown color. I was thinking to use first a remover hair dyes, after that I want to applied the ash brown color with 20v. And one week after I want to do my highlights I will do it with a cap, bleach, and the ash brown color bc I don't like red tone at all and I will mix that color with 10v??? Bc the hair it's bleached already? ?? Can you tell me it's this all its possible?? I will use SALERM PRODUCTS.

Jane 5 months ago


I got a virgin black hair and I would like to dye it chocolate brown colour, plz suggest what I should do? However I'm a warm skin toned girl, thanks

Crystle 5 months ago


so glad I found this blog. I have dyed my hair black and it has been this way for about 2 yrs now. I have gray roots coming in. I am tired of dying it every other month. I went to a stylist to see if I could just take it from black to gray. One stylist said yes but the other told me no, that it would ruin the texture and integrity of my hair. Do you have any advice?

5 months ago


I died my hair a dark brown permanent colour yesterday with it being previously died ombre with the roots a light/medium brown. The colour I applied yesterday came out pretty close to black even though I removed it 5 minutes earlier than recomended. I hate the new colour I have been left with and would like to find a way to make it a nice medium brown all over. Please help me with recomending something. I would like a quick way to make this desired colour be possible. Thank you

Theresa 4 months ago


I have black virgin hair and I dont know much about hair dyes but my mom asked me to do a black gloss sometime ago. I just found out from my stylist that i cant bleach my hair to any brighter colour evenly if i dyed my black hair black. Is there really no other option? i really wanted a grey beige balayage :( please give me some advice or solution. Thankyou!

Mal 4 months ago

Thanks again, it's hard to find well written content online, let alone original and useful content. I'm very glad I found this site, nailed it!

shogunlooper 4 months ago

Here's a new one. I'm a a male with thick black beard hair that I want to lighten a few shades to brown with no orangy look.

Obviously to upkeep I'll have to do this often as it would be impractical and hard on the skin to have to bleach and recolor every couple weeks. Can this be achieved with one color without bleach, and if so which should I select? Thanks.

Jbee 3 months ago

I have virgin black hair and want to lighten just very slightly . When I used to get perms , my hair was slightly lightened that I liked. This is the amount I would like lightened. Could I achieve this lightening / almost ash brown look with a semi permanent color without lightening ( bleaching) first ? Or is it best to use a permanent hair color ?

Weam saad 3 months ago

I have a dark brown hair but i hennad it 6monthes ago beside dying it black .now im removing the henna since a month by using the steps which i read in ur site ... it worked a little but i still have reddish dark ends can u tell me what shades shall i use in order to get medium to light brown

Miss hope 3 months ago

My natural hair color is black .i dyed my hair in 2013 with a dark brown shade of garnier naturals but it didn't work well on my hair.i feel no change .now i want to dye my hair with a golden brown shade .and i want some change .my hairs are no in good condition these days.i am facing hair fall probs but i want to dye .please guide me..

Misshope 3 months ago

And yeah i forget to tokd you one thing i don't want to use bleach because i already have a hairfall prob.can you tell me any method to dye my black hair gokden brown without bleach and can i use loreal paris and if so then which shade of it is suitable to make my black hair golden brown? Please reply soon

bellatory 2 months ago

can you apply ash brown hair dye to bleached hair

pls answer 5 weeks ago

i bought a light brown hair dye i plan on bleaching my hair first but want to know since i want a medium ash brown color should i add green food coloring to the light brown hair dye since its not a ash dye and also whats the best way to dye hair with peroxide only or with lemon or somthing like tht please answer

AsianMama 3 weeks ago


I am Asian and have black hair. I've died it perhaps 6 times so far. I died it myself for the first time in June, with Ganier soft black. Then, yesterday I used Koleston 33/0 intense dark brown (with 6% developer), thinking I was going to have brown hair. But it turned out black, without a trace of brown. After reading this blog, I think I understand why the resulting color is not what I wanted. But I don't really want to go through the process of bleaching my hair then redye it brown. Is there a way to dye my hair a darkest brown color without going through the bleaching?

Luke Yancey 3 weeks ago

My girlfriend wants to dye her hair brown. Thank you for the advice. It was nice to know that if you haven't dyed your hair before, the process is generally much easier. I will let her know that she should give it a shot. Thank you for the advice.

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