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. The process of dyeing your hair brown will be 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 effectively 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 or 40 vol developer, and the usual dye application tools like a tinting brush and bowl. 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 can use 40 vol developer, but you should consider pre-lightening your hair with bleach first in order to ensure it will be light enough as this is more reliable. 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 and both methods will be explained.
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- 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. Another alternative to achieve this is to mix a small proportion of ash shade into the shade you actually want and this will decrease warmth in the final result.
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 may be able to achieve this by using 40 vol, but you will likely need to bleach your hair before dyeing it for a more reliable result.
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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.
This is not only because the dye is better, but also because it is easier to mix shades if required. If you need to use a box dye for whatever reason, discard the supplied developer and add your own so that you can at least know how much lightening to expect.
The provided developer may only be 10 or 20 vol in a brown color because the assumption is that lift is not needed, which isn't the case in black hair. Avoid using it.
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 at least 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 and Rinsing
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 development time has passed, rinse out the dye and enjoy your new color.
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.
- Powder bleach
- Ash brown hair dye
- 10 vol and 20 vol developer
- Tinting bowl and brush
- Comb and sectioning clips
Pre-Lightening Your Hair
Dyed hair won't respond properly 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 at a decent speed to ensure the lightening is even. If you aren't able to apply it quickly, you would be best to practice your skills before you decide to use bleach to avoid unevenness.
Once you have applied the bleach to your entire head, allow this to process for up to an hour depending on brand used, checking it every 5–10 minutes as it works. It is not likely that it will take the entire time 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.
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Toning Brown 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.
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, then rinse.
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A new hair 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.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Maffew James