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How to Get a Light Brown Hair Color

Maffew is a hairdresser, marketer, and dabbler in many things who enjoys sharing knowledge about the science of hair coloring and hair care.


Light brown hair color is the palest shade of brown and this makes it a great choice for anyone who wants to try a lighter color without venturing all the way into blonde territory. It's a fairly easy color to achieve, and also low on maintenance for those who like to avoid the need to tone or refresh a color too often.

Light brown hair is basically a good compromise if you'd like to try a lighter hair color but aren't sure whether you'll like it or can handle the effort involved. It can also match your features well regardless of whether you have light skin or a darker complexion.

Shades of Light Brown Hair Color

Light brown isn't really a specific hair color—it is a depth of hair color. You still have the full range of tones to choose from at this level and light brown hair color can be anything from an ash brown to a golden or copper brown.

It is this flexibility that allows you to dye your hair light brown and still be able to match your hair to your features. When hair is matched to your skin tone and the color of your eyes, it will look much better in comparison to a color that does not match.

The many different shades of light brown hair color include:

  • Light ash brown
  • Light natural brown
  • Light beige brown
  • Light golden brown
  • Light copper brown
  • Light red-brown
  • Light violet brown

These shades can be further divided into mixed shades that incorporate both a primary and secondary tone. In this sense, you can have a golden copper brown which has a predominantly golden tone but features copper reflects to add more interest and a unique flair to the color.

Beige shades are also a good example of this. A light beige brown is actually golden ash. The gold tone is the primary tone present, but the ash secondary tone that is added helps to soften the gold and create a hair color that is in between a natural or gold shade.

Choosing blended shades like this can help to give you the exact light brown hair color you want, and even help match the desired tone to your skin by incorporating tones that match your features into a shade that normally wouldn't.


Cool Light Brown

Cool light brown hair colors are a nice match for anyone with cool-toned features. A lighter complexion with a pinkish skin tone will generally always look best when matched to a cooler shade like ash, pearl, or natural.

Ash is the coolest shade available, followed by pearl, which is like a softer version of ash. Natural shades are on the slightly cool side of neutral. You also may be able to pull off a beige brown if you have a cool skin tone because the ash tone present in beige helps tone down the golden color and makes it less of a warm shade.

Fashion shades incorporating violet or blue tones are also highly compatible with your features and considered cool-toned shades.

Warm Light Brown

A warm light brown hair color is on the opposite side of the spectrum, featuring shades like golden brown, copper brown, and auburn. These shades don't usually look very good on anyone with cool-toned skin.

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For those with golden-toned skin, however, any of these shades will generally match very well and help you look more radiant. The warmth in your skin tone and hair will harmonize beautifully to enhance your overall look.

Red and Violet Brown

Red and violet shades are a bit of a misnomer when used with the level system. A light brown is a level 5, and this relates to how dark the shade is.

In this case, Fudge Headpaint 5.22 for example, is as dark as a light brown, but the color is certainly not what anyone would consider as brown. This color is an intense purple color, and the light brown designation is used to help describe how dark the color is compared to other shades.

Other shades can also have a more subtle red or violet tone, as is the case with a light burgundy brown. This shade is primarily brown in appearance, with red and violet tones.

To avoid making mistakes when you use a light brown hair color incorporating a red or violet tone, use a hair color chart to get an idea of how the particular brand has formulated that shade. This will allow you to visualize how much of these tones translate into the final color and whether they are a subtle tone in brown hair or a vibrant fashion shade that you may not want.


Choosing a Shade

To choose the best shade of light brown hair color for you, you should generally prioritize matching your features to your new color. Hair colors that match your skin tone will look much better compared to a color that clashes.

  • If you have cool-toned skin, you will look best with a cool-toned brown.
  • If you have warm skin, you will look best with a warm brown.

If in doubt, you can use the chart below to help determine whether a particular shade is warm or cool. It will also tell you the dominant tones present in the color that give the shade its actual appearance.

This may prove helpful for situations when you know you want to avoid a particular tone—like gold—but still want a warm color. The chart should arm you with all you need to know to match colors to your features.

Light brown shadeCool or warmDominant tones

Ash brown



Pearl brown


Blue, violet

Natural brown



Beige brown

Slightly warm

Gold, ash

Golden brown



Copper brown



Auburn brown



Red brown



Violet brown



Burgundy brown

Slightly cool

Violet, red


Dyeing Dark Hair Light Brown

If you have dark hair and want a light brown hair color, your hair will need to be lightened first. Depending on how dark your hair actually is, and whether you have dyed it before, you may be able to achieve this by using a light brown dye itself and accomplish the task in one step. This is possible for anyone with virgin hair that is either a medium or dark brown.

If you've dyed your hair in the past, or if your hair is black, however, you will need to pre-lighten it with bleach. In this case, the bleach preparation needed is quite mild and the color is fairly easy to reach. This kind of lightening causes minimal damage, but you should still only use bleach on hair that is in good condition.

Your hair colorDye or bleach



Almost black


Dark brown


Medium brown


Dyed hair


Using Light Brown Hair Dye

If your current hair color is a medium or dark brown and you haven't dyed it in the past, you can use a light brown hair dye to achieve the color that you want. This is achieved by mixing the hair dye with 20 vol or 30 vol peroxide, which will give you lightening as well as deposit the new color.

  • If you have medium brown hair, use 20 vol developer
  • If you have dark brown hair, you will need to use 30 vol developer

Shade Choice

You should also be using a shade that is slightly cooler than your desired result. The reason for this is that when you lighten your hair, the warm base color underneath is revealed. If you simply use the exact color you want, it will end up warmer than your desired shade.

A slightly cooler shade is required to neutralize this underlying warmth. If you wanted a natural shade, for example, you would be better off using an ash or natural ash blend to reach your desired color.

Instead of choosing a slightly cooler color, you can also mix some of the equivalent ash shade into your desired color and use the shade as is. In this case, the added ash tone you've blended into your desired color acts to counteract the excess warmth so that your color turns out the shade it should.

When doing this, use approximately 10–25 percent of the ash tone. This means that if you wanted a light golden brown, your total mixture would be, at most, one part 5A to three parts 5G. If you didn't do this, your light golden brown would turn out somewhat orange instead of golden.


Once you've mixed up your dye, apply the dye to your hair and allow it to develop for the recommended development time for the particular brand you're using. Colors mixed with higher volumes of peroxide need to develop for longer than colors using 10 vol developer because extra time is needed for the lightening process.

The manufacturer outlines the differences in their color manual, and usually includes these instructions inside the dye tube's box. If, however, you have to use box dye for whatever reason, discard the provided developer since you don't know what volume it is, and replace it with your own. Develop this for the maximum processing time.

Keep in mind that results are unlikely to be as good as using a salon dye in this situation.

  • How to Dye Your Hair
    Wondering how to apply hair dye properly? If you need help with the application procedure, or want to know more about hair dye, you can find out here...

Bleach and Tone

The bleach and tone process—commonly known as a double process—is mostly used for dyeing dark hair blonde. This same procedure is highly important if you want to dye black or dark brown hair to light brown too though because the level of lightening required is beyond that of a standard hair dye.

Using a hair dye in this circumstance could lead to a color that is still too dark, or even a result that is extremely orange or rusty red in color. Bleach is more reliable if you want to avoid these problems and you should consider using it if you want to guarantee a reliable coloring process.

You should also use a double process if you've dyed your hair dark in the past. Hair that has been dyed can't be lightened properly with more hair dye. Bleach is entirely necessary for lightening dyed hair in this case and you will see next to no change if you attempt to use a dye.

However, depending on how recent and often you have dyed it you may be able to strip out a lot of the dye with dye remover to avoid bleach, but this is not guaranteed.


To perform a double process, prepare bleach by mixing bleach powder with a 20 vol developer. Apply this to your hair quickly and evenly. The quicker you apply the bleach, the more even the results will be once it lightens. Dividing your hair into sections is the easiest way to do this and will dramatically increase your speed and benefit your results.

Once the bleach has been applied, allow it to lift until your hair is a bright orange color. Bright orange is the base tone for light brown hair, and it is at this stage of lightening that your hair can be toned to any shade of light brown. Rinse out the bleach thoroughly and you'll be ready to tone it.

  • How to Bleach Hair
    Want to know more about how to prepare bleach and use it to lighten hair? Find out how to mix, apply, and use bleach, as well as how to section your hair out for the best results here...


Now that your hair is a fantastic shade of orange, all that stands between you and your desired light brown hair color is to tone that orange to the shade you want. This should be done with a light ash brown hair dye from a quality brand such as Igora Royal or Wella Koleston for the best results, but any decent product can be used.

The dye should be mixed with a 10 vol developer and allowed to develop until your hair tones to the desired shade. You do not have to allow it to develop for the full development time. You can rinse it out as soon as it is the color you want. The idea here is that you're using the ash tone to counteract the excess warmth remaining in your hair.

If you intend on reaching a cool light brown hair color, you will need to leave the ash dye in for longer than you would to reach a light golden brown or copper shade. As the dye develops, your hair will shift from orange, through to golden, eventually reaching a natural shade, then will go cooler towards ash.

When you rinse it out is entirely up to you. If you want it to be very ashy, leave it in for the entire development time. If not, rinse early. If you've chosen to mix some ash dye into the exact shade you want instead, let this process for the maximum time before rinsing to ensure a lasting color deposit.

Dyeing Blonde Hair Light Brown

If your hair is already lighter, to begin with, instead of a darker shade than light brown, light brown hair color must be pursued slightly differently. Blonde hair—whether natural or dyed—lacks significant amounts of copper tone, which is the base tone for light brown hair color. Without this copper tone, your hair lacks the depth required to be dyed with a darker color.

The most startling problem that this presents is that your blonde hair can turn weird colors when you dye it with a light brown dye. Although you may use a light ash brown, you wouldn't actually end up with light ash brown hair. In this case, you would end up with green-gray hair, which is certainly not the intended result.

The same thing happens when using an auburn color. Your hair will turn out more of a bright violet shade instead of a natural-looking auburn brown. You can avoid this by compensating for the missing base tones in light blonde hair.

Filling Your Hair

If your blonde hair is anywhere between a level 6–8, you will need to add copper back in. Do this by either using a dark copper blonde dye or copper protein filler before you use a light brown shade or by adding a little of a copper light brown shade to your chosen light brown color. This will prevent ash brown from turning green and will keep your other colors looking the way they should.

If your blonde hair is anything between a level 8–10 however, it is also missing a lot of gold tone too. This should be added back into the hair before dyeing your hair light brown, especially if you're using a red shade. Without the missing gold tone, a lot of red shades end up a bright magenta color, and golden shades look dull. Return the missing gold and copper tone to your hair and your light brown hair color will dye properly.

There is also another way to go about this process, and you can use a natural shade (also known as a neutral shade) to add balanced color back into your hair prior to dyeing it darker. In this case, use a natural dark blonde dye to return the missing red and yellow to your hair and produce a neutral base that is easy to dye over.

Alternatively, the easiest method you can use is to apply a natural light brown dye, either alone or mixed with 25–50% of your exact desired shade. While simple, this gives less control over how the final shade will turn out. It's a good choice if you'd like to make things easier on yourself and don't care as much about the higher variance in the result as long as it gets you to light brown.

  • How to Dye Blonde Hair Brown
    If you have very light hair or just need more help and information to dye it brown, you can use my related article here.
Treatments and proper care can help to keep your light brown hair looking great after dyeing.

Treatments and proper care can help to keep your light brown hair looking great after dyeing.

Maintaining Light Brown Hair

Once you achieve your light brown hair color, you'll need to maintain it just like any other hair color. Many light brown shades like auburn, golds, and beige are low-maintenance colors. Others like ash, natural, reds, and violets require more work to keep them from fading and becoming dull.

The easiest way to keep your brown hair looking great and prevent brown hair from fading is to use a color refresher shampoo when you wash your hair, instead of your normal shampoo. De Lorenzo Cool Natural is one such shampoo that helps tone brown hair and keep cool browns from becoming warm over time.

De Lorenzo Violet or Fire Red can also be used in the same way to maintain violet or red-brown shades, and you can use their golden and copper shampoos to tone other shades of light brown. There are other brands of shampoo that can be used to tone brown hair, but De Lorenzo usually can't be beaten in this regard for the range of shades and actual effectiveness.

Other than this, a semi-permanent color is the best way to counteract significant fading or to make your color look new when you need a boost. Igora Expert Mousse is one such product that can be used after shampooing your hair to maintain color, or on dry hair for a dramatic toning effect.

The best part is that the color itself is not damaging and is easy and quick to apply. You can potentially use a mousse like this to test brown hair before you dye it, but keep in mind it will likely cause some lasting staining to blonde hair.

Both of these methods will keep your color looking like new for as long as you care to keep it, allowing you to have a color that looks great every day.

Do you have a question about dyeing your hair light brown or about brown hair in general? Leave a comment 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


Maffew James (author) on August 15, 2020:

Hi Emma,

Should be better to use the 8.34 followed by the 6.13 because you want it to be ash brown. Either should work though based on what I can see about those dye products, just that the use of the 7 is going to show more warmth through to the final colour unless you cancelled it out with a heavier ash shade, whereas going on level lighter for the filler shade should avoid this.

For your other question, it depends on how that dye is 'calibrated' and how porous your hair is. As your hair is bleached it is likely at least somewhat porous so it will absorb more dye and turn out darker than expected so it's likely a 6 will be closer to a 5 on your hair. It's also likely it'll fade a lot over time after using it though, so it's a double-edged sword really and the choice is yours whether you want to use a 5 and put up with it being closer to a medium brown until it fades, or use a 6 and have it come out close to the depth you want, but then fade to lighter than you want over time.

Emma on August 15, 2020:

I want to dye my bleached hair a light ash brown. Its currently a mixture between white blonde and medium brassy blonde after a bad experience at the hairdressers! Will L'Oréal casting creme 7.34 followed by 6.13 turn out ok? I was looking at 7.34 followed by 5.13 but the darker brown looks too dark in the packet. Or will it turn out lighter because im filling it with 7.34 first?

Gloria on July 06, 2020:

If my hair is medium brown with grey and I want to lighten it, should I go to ash brown?

Angie on May 17, 2020:

I have dark brown hair and want to go light brown. Would olia 8.0 do the trick?

Peggy on April 10, 2020:

I coloured my hair a week ago light brown. It went dark brown. How can I lighten it. I want eventually to go a dark blonde but thought it best to go light brown first Pls advise

Ara on July 02, 2019:

I bleach my hair then dyed it medium brown and it turns dark brown.. How can it lighten to like ashy brown.. Thanks

Brinadoris on March 10, 2018:

Hello. I am a 66 year old light skinned woman with hair to the bottom of my neck. I have dyed medium blonde number 8. By Loreal. I wanted to get a light brown with gold. I used Loreal natural light brown and mixed 6g light golden blonde. My hair is on the dark side finding it dull. Shall I stick with the natural brown but mix it with what color. Do I mix them together and apply.

Wendy tickle on March 08, 2018:

I need a light brown haircolour for gray hair

Sue on March 05, 2018:

I colored my hair with mystic divine 7na used 20 vol. developer still pulling red brassy tones. I have used 8a mixed with 8nn in age beautiful with 10 vol.developer. was tooo brassy.

Can I use 7a mixed with 6nn and 20 vol.developer?

sura taweel on February 14, 2018:

thank you for all this information its very very helpfull

Pratyakash wadhwa on November 10, 2017:

I want to remove my white hairs from my head as far as possible..

millie on September 22, 2017:

light brown hair colour come out too dark on my hubby who was a dark brown .what is best colour too buy in drugstore box dye to give him a light brown not the dark colour I get in all light bwown shades

Grace on July 31, 2017:

Can you suggest a good in store hair dye brand for light brown color that don't tend to fade so fast


ssavi on May 31, 2017:

nice article. I have used medium beige gold brown 4-45 of schwarzkopf essencity, on my black heena hair, (after stop using of heena almost for an year), to get change of colour and to cover grey hair (not much), but it didn't gave me the mild golden ashy tone I wanted. Now I want some change and so tested schwarzkop 6-45, which is beige gold brown, but after testing this there is on a layer of my hair, no change at all, the colour is almost same as earlier. am using 18 onz developer with this, by keeping it half and half, and applying it for 45 to 60 minutes. can I mix gold/blond colour to it, 3 parts 6-45 and one part of gold/blond color, to get mild golden tint, will it give me desired color? if so, then how long should I keep it on?, can we mix two brands since Schwarzkopf is not easy to get (may be lorial with Schwarzkopf ) to get desired color ? or suggest what to do since I have Schwarzkopf 4-45 and 6-45. also after applying color should we use shampoo to rinse or can use it next day to retain the color for long? please advice. thanks

Jacqueline on May 25, 2017:

Hi I have reddy chestnut hair I want to do ombre so I am okay with colour for the bottoms. The roots have that red tone to them from the chestnut if I was to but a 7n on my roots would it get rid of some of the chestnut red colour and leavee with a nice brown for the ombre thank you I want my roots to stay dark but not chestnut thanks I used toner 513 in revlon before that is chestnut so my question is can I put a 7 on now to cancel that out

Marjorie on May 14, 2017:

I dyed my hair an light ash brown to go lighter but it still looks dark. I had dyed it a medium ash brown about 6 months ago. I really want this color but can't seem to to get my hair to the color I want. Is there any way I can do it without bleaching. I would like to get the ash tone out of my hair.

Mary N Moreby on March 14, 2017:

My hair is medium brown/copper at mo natural color medium brown now 75 percent grey I want to be light auburn please can you tell me how I do this? Thanks

Jennie on March 05, 2017:

Hi I dyed my hair with henna thinking it would turn out burgundy but it ended up being a coppery red and I don't like it....I hate it actually lol I want to go light Brown and I have no clue where to please

Anjelica on February 28, 2017:

My hair is dark black when I was a teenager my hair was a golden brown how can I get my golden hair back

Barb on February 20, 2017:

So I dyed my hair ultra light ash blonde and it turned brassy orange then used dark ash blonde and still have orange tones can I use a light ash brown to tone b it down? I used no bleach and & really don't want to use it.. help

Paula on February 16, 2017:

Hi Maffew, I hope you are still answering these posts! My natural hair color is a dark blonde/light brown and I am trying to get that back without waiting for it to grow out. Currently I have light blonde hair except for my roots. My hair dresser wanted to do the 'rooted out' look to my hair. She said that she was going to add my natural color back to my roots. What I got instead is an orangey brown color that is a couple of shades darker than my natural color. Four other stylist have added the same orangey brown color to "fix" it. So now I have the root color and light blonde on the rest. Can anything be done to get my natural light brown all over besides growing it out?? Thank you!!

Nicole on February 15, 2017:

I dyed my hair bitter sweet chocolate but it has come out way to dark can I put a lighter brown/dark ash blonde over top to make it lighter

Jessie on February 12, 2017:

Hi Maffew, I am hoping you still respond to these questions.

I had ash blonde hair and I didn't like it after a year of working towards that colour, I really like light brown hair on me. My skin tone is natural and a little bit of warmth looks good too. I died my hair medium golden chestnut brown over the blonde to put back warmth, when it fadded out I was left with a light golden red tone. I then used a light brown dye over the top and it looked great however fadded. It fadded to a warm gold colour so I thought I would remove the gold by dying my hair light ash brown. I hate it! Could you please tell me where I go from here to get it back to light brown? I'm scared if I just put light brown it won't have enough warmth and still be ashy and if I put a light copper brown it might go too red. My goal from here is natural light Brown and I can't find anywhere how to fix ash only how to fix red by using ash. I don't want a muddy ugly colour. Thanks Maffew, I really hope you reply.

kim on February 07, 2017:

I have light/medium blonde hair it has gold tones and would like to dye it to a extra light golden brown. What color or colors of dyes do I need to use also which developer do I use like 40 volume or what?

Thank you!

zoink on January 24, 2017:

Hey Maffew! :D

Thank you for all the information on this blog post!!!

Just wanting some of your advice:

-Currenty: Natural dark brown/black asain hair

-Roots are natural colour but rest of hair med/light brown

-Want to dye roots light brown and end with an overall light ash brown

What Wella Koleston Perfect colour should I use?

-A lighter colour to bleach? then go in with an ash light brown somehow? Separately? Can you mix bleach and a colour together?

(Quite confused with which way to go)


-Tone with Fudge Violet shampoo after?

Any help will be appreciative!


MissieMM on December 29, 2016:

Oh, I also forgot to say, I used 20/30 developer with the toner (I ran out of 20, so I filled in with the 30) was this just way too much lifting for it to tone?? I'm planning on using just 10 developer to deposit only with the 7AA, to hopefully at least get the golds and oranginess out (fingers crossed) thanks!!

MissieMM on December 29, 2016:

Hi there! So, I set out on a little hair adventure to diy my hair to the very coveted light ash brown hair, (my natural is a darkish brown).. I proceeded to do two bleach baths (a month apart) my main goal was to minimize as much damage as possible, whereas I also did a coconut mask prior to each bath.. following the last bath, it lifted to orange and golds, I toned with wella T-14.. I thought since it was blue based, it would tone it, but it didn't do a thing.. is this toner just for toning blondes and since my hair is not lifted enough, because I'm not trying to go that light..Should I use the 7AA/632, or use an actual permananet color? I felt like I had a pretty good handle on what I wanted to achieve (I did HOURS of research prior to beginning) but now I'm having a difficult time finding any videos or blogs posts that seem to align to my personal goal, and it's all just confusing me :( very hopeful for a response and any help you can send my way! Thank you :)

CGLynn on December 08, 2016:

Sorry, one last thing - I did do strand tests along the way, but ran out of time where I could hide indoors or wear a hat or rock the crazy orange, so I had to go with the brassy 3 for a week...

CGLynn on December 08, 2016:

Hi Maffew:

I just want to say, your article (and subsequent advice in the comments section) has been an absolute godsend for me! After several bits of bad advice from my local Sally, I stumbled upon this page and have finally achieved the perfect color! Now, I am stumped as to how to maintain it, and thought I'd ask your opinion.

First let me apologize for the long-winded bit of background. I just wanted to be as detailed as possible...anyway, here goes:

First, I have baby fine, coily (3b, caucasian curls), low porosity hair that tends to appear 1-2 levels darker than the color swatches when dyed, and is approximately 50% grey. About 10 years ago I began dyeing my natural 4NW (based on the Wella Color Charm swatch) hair black, and recently decided to abandon the goth look and try for a 5NW. After 2 COMPLETELY unsuccessful applications of Ion Color Corrector and 4 bleach baths, I finally reached a level 5 orange. Knowing my past history with dyes, and culling the relevant bits from the comments, I thought I would try a 75-25 mix of Wella Color Charm 7N/7A with 20v developer (easier to fix if turned out too light). The Sally staff insisted that this would not work, and to just use the 5N (mind you, after 2 Sally-recommended disasters, I had finally used a 75-25 8N/8A demi-permanent, which gave me the results I wanted - just no grey coverage). Long story short, I foolishly followed their advice, and my hair ended up an outrageously brassy level 3. OK, so I went back to the bleach bath and my level 5 orange, which I then followed with my original 75-25 7N/7A with 20v developer (processed for 15 min) idea. OK, the level was perfect, but it was still a bit brassy. I then used the remaining 7A with 10v developer (processed for 10 min). Et voila! Perfect! One minor issue - I didn't think to avoid the 1/4 cm of new growth during my last bleach bath, so I now have a narrow stripe of 6NW. Honestly, I'm not bothered, but I thought it might help in answering my question regarding maintenance.

Whew! And that was the Reader's Digest version! Suffice it to say, it has been a miserable 6 weeks!

Now, as far as maintenance:

Obviously, I don't want to dye my hair twice. Should I go with a 50-50 Wella Color Charm 7N/7A mixture with a 20v developer when it comes time to touch up my roots? Or should I adjust the 7A percentage, since I wouldn't be starting from orange? I'm guessing that level 7 would still give me the correct result, since the unintended pre-lightening of my tiny stripe of virgin hair resulted in a level 6.

Thank you so much in advance for your time, and any advice you can send my way!

julia on December 03, 2016:

Hi Maffew,

I just discovered your site which is exactly the level of information I have been seeking online to help reduce my post colour panic moments as I love colouring my own hair and although I have some prior knowledge it was acquired many many years ago from doing a hairdressing apprenticeship so I do have trouble recalling a lot of it these days.

Something I have been having trouble with lately that I hope you could advise me on is how to achieve an even pastel tone between processed ends and virgin regrowth...

I have long blonde hair that has been bleached and tinted using high lift blonde permanent colour previously. I am naturally blonde anyway and my regrowth is only 1 shade darker than the hair I have coloured. When I use purple/blue toner/demi or semi permanent colour to achieve a pastel effect I find that it takes well to most of my hair but not to the regrowth that is obviously less porous than the processed ends. Should I be trying to make the virgin roots more porous before I apply tone to my hair to achieve a more even colour all over or is there something I can do to stop the ends from grabbing as much so they behave more like the roots?

I hope this all makes sense to you and hugely appreciate any advise you can give me about this. Thank you in advance!!

Katja on November 27, 2016:

Hi. I have a typical east-european dark brown hair (around 5) with the natural grey undertone ("mice color"), and I'be been trying to change the undertone as I think it's terrible (the base color is nice though) . I tried to dye it many times with both semi-permanent and permanent colors during the last years, but every time I do it I get some red/orange tones. The last time i tried a semi-permanent mix of 5 ash and 5 neutral with the 3% peroxide, and still got some red tones which I assume are caused by the peroxide. In the end, my scalp became very irritated and itchy (probably from all those experiments with the permanent and semi-permanent colors), so I think I only can use some tone mousses like Igora. Do you think if would be enough to only use a mousse to change the tone? If yes, which color would you recommend?

Maffew James (author) on November 21, 2016:

Hi Taty,

I'm glad you love my articles and have found them helpful!

Something that a lot of people don't realise, at least until they experience it, is that whilst hair dye is technically used to both lighten and dye hair, it only lightens natural pigment properly. This means that when someone has applied a darker hair dye to their hair and there is a lot of artificial pigment present, the lightening barely occurs because all this artificial pigment barely budges. Any lightening that does occur tends to be more a result of any remaining natural pigment in the hair being lifted. It's for this reason that you can't use dye to lighten over hair that has been dyed with dark dyes, dyed many times with lighter shades to where there is pigment build-up, or in cases where products like henna have been used (the dye will lift natural pigment, but all that henna pigment is mostly unaffected and the hair continues to look dark).

In the case of your roots turning orange, this is related to the 'deposit' function of the dye. As I've said above, the dye will lift natural pigment and deposit new artificial pigment. These two processes are mostly separate. The developer volume / concentration dictates lightening, whilst any concentration from 10 vol and up will oxidise the artificial pigment in the dye to make it permanent. Concentrations below 10 vol lead to less permanent colour, somewhere between demi-permanent and permanent dye.

The point of stressing this is that by understanding lightening and deposit as being separate, you can better understand how the dye works. The dye you use has a potential maximum lift possible determined by your individual hair type, and the developer strength used. With 30 vol, this is generally from 2 - 3 levels. Very slightly more in responsive hair, and less in resistant hair. Potentially negligible in heavily dyed hair.

Using 7A, as an example, you can see that mixed with 30 vol it should theoretically be able to take hair from level 3, to level 6 at most. However, whilst the exact amount of lift that occurs is based on all these factors, the pigment it deposits will always be level 7. Of course, more resistant hair absorbs less of this pigment, and porous hair absorbs more, but what I intend for you to understand from this is that if the lightening was greatly reduced for whatever reason, the dye will still deposit the same 'darkness' of pigment, and this may not be strong enough to have much of an effect. The end result is that your brown hair lifts and the orange base tone is revealed, but it hasn't lightened enough for the ash pigment in the dye to tone it properly. Not enough pigment means that it remains orange and this is likely why you saw this happen. A darker shade of ash dye would have toned correctly and prevented the orange, but it still wouldn't have been the lighter ash colour because there hasn't been enough lift.

As for bleaching over henna, it's best to avoid this. As you've heard, you can end up with strange colour results, with harsh rusty red or gingery results being typical. More importantly though, is that it just doesn't bleach very effectively. Bleach is most effective on natural pigment, and hair dyed with a lot of henna and other natural pigments won't lift much. This means that more bleaching is required to lift it further, and more damage occurs. After bleaching, it's possible for there to be a lot of patchiness and areas of different colours. You can tone any strange colour to neutralise to something nice, and you can also deal with patchiness, but it really complicates the dye process to have to do so.

With the Color Oops, this product is a dye remover and this works by reversing the process that makes permanent dye 'permanent'. Basically, the pigment in the dye is in the form of several small molecules. Oxidisation from the developer bonds these together inside the hair shaft. The new molecules are now coloured and too large to wash back out of the hair shaft. Hair dye remover creates a reduction reaction that breaks these bonds and thus the molecules back down allowing them to be able to be washed back out again. As it works this way, it can only remove permanent dye. It will have no effect on henna or other direct pigments that don't require developer to be activated.

Hopefully this has cleared up a few things you've heard, as well as given you a bit more information about how your hair has, or would, be affected when dyed in certain ways. Finally, onto your main question, base it off how your hair has reacted so far. As you've said that the colour is almost what you want, raising the developer volume to 30 or 40 vol will reduce the warmth whilst using the same 6AA shade. This is because more of the underlying pigment will be removed and the ash in the dye will thus have more of an effect. Alternatively, add a small amount of blue and violet intensifiers / concentrates without changing the developer. Eg, in Wella Koleston you'd add 0/88 and 0/66 to add pure blue and violet pigment respectively. Most professional dye brands have concentrates like this, but it's dependent on brand and your preferred brand may not have a suitable substitute.

Good luck with the colour, and feel free to ask if you need any clarification or have any further questions.

Taty on November 16, 2016:

Hi Maffew,

I love your articles! You really helped me to realize what I was doing wrong. I have naturally medium ash brown hair, cool light skin and hazel eyes. For the last two years as I was growing my hair out, I used henna mixed with indigo powder to get really dark brown hair. Little I realized, that I won't be able to get rid of my almost black hair (which during cold months made me look very pale and almost grey). My natural roots were about 2 inches long, so I decided to use level 7A dye to lift the color and get a lighter ash-y color on my hair. I watched a few YouTube videos where they explained that to lift more than 2 shades you need to use 30 vol.developer, so I did. It did absolutely NOTHING to my henna-indigo dyed hair, but instead of dark ash blond at my roots I turned orange. So I decided to tone it - with Wella toner and purple additive to counteract the orange color in my hair. That did not work. In fact, I think my hair got even more orange at the roots, whilst the ends remained dark. Then someone told me I could use color Oops and remove the dark dye. Guess what? It did not work. I did not risk bleaching my dark ends since I heard bleach over henna makes green. I used semi-permanent medium cool brown color for a while and then decided to risk again and color my hair with 6AA (darkest ash blond) and 20 vol.developer with some purple additive and color boost. And alas - finally I got almost exact shade of light ash brown I wanted (maybe a tone darker desired). But at certain lighting conditions I see yellow tones picking through. I chopped off my hair to shoulder length before I dyed them and now waiting for henna dyed ends to grow long enough for me to cut them off, while featuring this reversed ombre of sorts on my head. My question is - how can I achieve light ash brown color without yellow/orange undertone next time I dye my hair? Thanks you for reading all of this!

kglane on November 08, 2016:

I dyed my hair a lighter brown than my natural very dark brown. Would I be able to make it a lighter more golden brown with dye?

Anjsstuff on November 05, 2016:

Hi, so I have been dying my hair 3nn by zotos ageless permanent color for years..I believe my natural color is a 5nish.. I feel the darker color ages me.. I am trying to go back down to lightest brown at this time in a demi permanent color. Can you walk me through steps? I heard 5a deposits to dark, would I do a dark blonde ash? AND do u Like COMPLEMENTS GEL #6A DK ASH BLONDE? Zotos? Ion? ANOTHER brand?? Thank u!!!

Danielle on October 25, 2016:

HI, I appreciate your website so much. I have strawberry blonde tones to my hair and pink freckle face undertones, med. brown eyes, , but being in my forties, i now have mousy grey hair. PROBLEM:I have died it with box highlighter and it is now orange and ugly. I want to go Caramel or A Warm light brown QUESTION: Do i go to a light auburn to "fill" in my blonde/orange hair, then afterwards apply the Caramel or Warm Brown I want to achieve?

Or skip the "filler" thanks a bunch...writing from the jungle

Andreea on October 15, 2016:

Hey, my natural hair is an ashy blonde color and I want to go a fee shades darker for the winter season. This is my first time. After I dye it will it be necessary for me to retouch my roots? Or is there a way I could leave them natural?

Donna recinos on September 21, 2016:

I did some highlights on a friend but they are to light so I need to tone them down can I use a brown beige color

Lorigirl on September 10, 2016:

I have been reading A lot of your posts and you seem to be very knowledgable about hair color so I decided to write to get your opinion. I have dark brown hair that naturally has red tones that I can't stand. I have dyed my hair dark brown for many years, sometimes boxed dye. I went to a salon with a goal in mind of light ash brown with a grey violent tint thinking that would totally cut the red out. 2 bleachings within a 2 week period, using olaplex and really trying to take care of it, it was lifted to a very light yellow almost white at roots. The toner was put in and my hair was completely grey. Not a nice grey. It was charcoal gray with blue and green. I waited one week because the hairdresser didn't have time to see me. The next visit she did a bleach wash with shampoo to get the grey out and put in a natural light brown. I hate my hair and now it's reddish blondish grayish brown. And very dry. I definitely want it a darker brown but I don't want to go back to salon and want to do it myself. What do you suggest to get it a light brown with no red? I plan on using a protein reconstructor, organic white vinegar, and organic coconut oil. I really hate it I'm sorry I ever started this process and I'm sick of wearing hats. I might have to get a wig! Help please ...........

caro on September 09, 2016:

Hi Maffew!

I have black, virgin hair and I want to achieve this color:

9 years ago I dyed almost this exact shade with 40 developer but now reading through numerous websites it seems that is a horrible idea!!! Is bleach the only way i can achieve this color? I have extremely thick hair if that makes a difference!

leah on August 20, 2016:

Hi My hair is black and I used Color Oops from Loreal. The first time I did it, it did lighten up my hair. However right after I dyed it to a medium brown but it brought my hair back to black!!!

I hear that you can use color filler to fix this from happening. Does any one know about this?

Sandra on August 09, 2016:

I use a dark brown hair dye & every time I use it my eyes get red , itchy & watery for weeks after. Any suggestions what to do would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Jen on July 19, 2016:

Hi, i dyed my hair black with box dye for the past 6 months. I then bleached my hair to get rid of the black because I want to highlight my hair blonde again as it was for years. My hair is a dark orange color now. Would a medium brown hair dye cover the orange color?

Thank you.

Michelle on July 06, 2016:

Hi Maffew

I have a friend who's hair is natural level 5 but she put box colour on it and it's purple /aubergine she wants to go back to natural light brown.

I was gonna use 3/4 tube of 5N + 1/4 of 5.3 (light golden brown ) to bring her back to a natural brown. She doesn't want a Matt flat finish or red or orange tone. I need your advice as she doesn't want to bleach out her purple.

What you think the results will be f I use this formula on her purple hair ?

What level of developer shall I use as in not gonna be lifting it ?

If this is not gonna work what shall I do to get her back to a nice light brown.? Her hair will be porous I'm sure especially on the ends. The reason she isn't wanting to bleach out her purple is coz she is scared to use bleach and she is pregnant only 4 weeks till birth

Please help so I can help her. I'll be using matrix, I've not used before

Thank you in advance.

Wendy on July 02, 2016:


Please help I have dark brown hair with streaks but I want my hair light broen :( but no salon knows what do to ! Please help

Crystal on June 29, 2016:


Help please!? After going to the salon twice & not achieving what I wanted if decided on take matters into my own hands. I wanted a light brown or dark blonde color but ended up with orange. So I decided to just bleach my whole head, ending up with yellow & orange tones with some white. Not liking that I decided to dye it, I was told by a lady at sallys to use a light ash brown (mistake). Though my hair is the light shade I want, it has a green hue of it. Do you know what I can do to help fix this while not making my hair darker?

Jordan on June 26, 2016:

Hi Maffew!

I have dyed medium brown hair that has faded a bit since I've been using a clarifying shampoo to get the dye out. I want it to be a neutral light brown, which isn't too far from where I am now. Since the color kit I'm using has hydrogen peroxide in it, wouldn't that lighten the color without having to go through the bleaching step? What about using a color remover like Color Oops instead of bleaching? Also, do blue/violet shampoos work instead of toner? Any clarification would be great!

Maffew James (author) on June 17, 2016:

Hi Emma,

Whilst this is possible using light ash brown with 40 vol as the developer, bleach is the much more reliable option due to how dark your hair is. The dye will lighten your hair significantly and has the potential to lift to level 5, which is light brown, but this isn't a guarantee, especially if your hair turns out to be rather resistant.

Ideally, you need to bleach your hair to light orange, then dye with light ash brown to tone it. As you've never dyed it before, you might not be overly comfortable doing this because you will need to ensure you can apply the bleach quickly and evenly to avoid patchiness and other issues.

Emma on June 16, 2016:

I want to colour my hair light light brown

I have never dyed my hair before so my hair is virgin. My hair colour is a dark black.

what should I fo?

Kat on May 25, 2016:

Hi Maffew,

I am in desperate need of your guidance. I have thick, almost waist length dyed dark brown hair that is somewhere between levels 2 and 3, with the former more prevalent than the latter. It has both red and gold tones through it due to the abuse of box dyes -- I always say never again, but then do it anyway. And my natural color, just for the record, is between levels 1 and 2 with reddish tones to it. Anyway, I'm planning use Loreal Effasol Color Remover before bleaching it, just to see where it will take me beforehand because I don't want to take it too far with bleach if I don't have to. And after I bleach it, I plan on toning it with Wella Color Charm to mute the brass, which leads me to my real question: after I tone it, will I still need to use a demi-permanent ash before applying my permanent color to tone down the reds & oranges even more if I'm going for a warm- red brown? The color I'd like to achieve is somewhere in the realm of these three: , , I was thinking of using Wella Color Charm Liquid Permanent Hair Color 356/4R Cinnamon Brown, but I'm slightly color confused. Do you have any suggestions for achieving this look? I would greatly appreciate any help you can offer me. I'm planning on this being my birthday present to myself since I unfortunately can't afford to visit a salon any time soon.

MichelleS on May 19, 2016:

Hi, I'm hoping you can help me on my search for the illusive perfect warm brown. I am a natural level 4 and have been using Wella Illumina colors for at home coloring for about 2 years now and like the results. The last time I colored I found a formula online that made sense --- equal parts 7/81 and 6/16 --- and was pretty, but has faded (4 months) to a pretty Wella 7 level that still has bit too much red/orange. I like the level, but want to lose the red/orange cast. Is it best to use just 7/81 which is mostly blue with a secondary ash to tone out the orange and red, or Wella Koleston perfect 7/1 , which is a blue/green ash? Or even mix some 7/2 in with either of those?? So many blue and green options, which is best? I think I need more green that the 7/81 contains, but I don't know the ratio in it. Is the 7/1 a balanced amount of blue and green? THANKS!

MsWonderland on May 16, 2016:

Hi i bought all this colour as my hairdresser friend was going to help me....but it hasnt happened and i need aome advice pleaseeee bad hair makes me sad :(

I have natural brown hair but look sick with it as i am porcelin white. Its about a four. I had blonde hair about a 10 but my hair was stuffed so wanted to go darker. The reds i used wouldnt stick as the ends were too damaged so i used colour remover which took it to a light copper red about a 7.something.

And bleached the roots to match. Im so over the red it reminds me of wheb my blonde has gone wrong. My hair throws off lots of red and orange when bleached. To get it blonde with 30vol takes about an hour at least.

So i wanted to go dark blonde with highlights as i wear tape hair extensions and can then bleach less of my hair and give it a chance to recover..

So adviced by lady in hairdressers i bought colour royale 7.0 and 7.1 intense blonde and ash blonde.

I trialled it on some extensions. The 1:1 was too dark so i mixed 7.0 3 parts with 7.1 one part and an equal amount of mostly 20 vol 30 on roots.

The colour is not too bad but its much darker than i had wanted and still bit too warm.

I have yellow 9.21 very light violet ash blonde to tone it after highlights.

Should i use that 1:1.5 with 20 vol to lighten it and tone it down a bit or will it not tone as hair isnt blonde yet?

Or use decolourant or would it have to be bleached to go lighter?

I guess im after a natural blonde which in my mind is about an 8.0 but its tricky to colour as its also referred to as dark blonde or light brown in different colour ranges. I want the natural blonde adults grow uo to have that is often a dark blonde/light brown with natural ash sun made highlights

Please advise what would be the least damaging option. Btw my hair is too stained red to just hope enough will wash out to lighten it it needs some ash in their too. Ta

Mary on May 12, 2016:


So I had my hair dyed 7 gold beige (from being highlighted blonde level 9 ) at the salon and it worked really well. It's faded a bit and my highlights at the ends are showing through. I want to refresh it back to the color I dyed it. How would I do that and also be able to cover my highlights that have faded through? I'm guessing a semi permanent dye; however since my hair is a faded from level 7 could I just find a level 7 gold beige box dye and use it? Or would I have to use a cooler shade? Or a warmer shade?

Janeh1 on May 09, 2016:

What colour/ shade medium or light? would ash colours 7.1 & 8.1 make mixed together ? & also what shade of brown is ash colours 6-1. & 7.1 mixed. Or if unknown what colours are they on their own

Swit-swu on May 08, 2016:

How can you get a lighter shade of brown and with ash no copper, no warmth. There's plenty of brown but even the lightest they didn't compare to what I need. Just want light brown, again no red. No warmth. 20 brings to much copper and that's red, no matter who says no. It really is and I don't want red or copper. Come on. Just light brown.

Janeh1 on May 08, 2016:

Hi ive had my hair lightened from black to brown bleach bathed. Then 5.1 & 6.1 ash colours mixed and applied at a salon. Im not happy with my hair as its showing lots brassiness esp in the light & sun. Any suggestions What could i use now to get rid of brassiness at home. Thankyou

Pam on May 05, 2016:

Hello Maffew. My hair is probably closest to a medium brown. If I had to guess probably a 3 or a 4. (previously dyed) I've been reading how to dye my hair to a lighter shade of brown. Your articles have been very informative for me. I have a silly question.....I can bleach my hair to an orange color, then immediately dye it the brown that I would like to achieve? I would also like to put in some highlights after. I assume I would need to wait some time before I can highlight. If you are still monitoring this post, I hope you will respond. Thank you so much for great information.

Bean on April 30, 2016:

Hi, Maffew. My hair is naturally level 3. I put a high lift on my hair and it lifted my hair color to my desired level. The problem is my hair then looks orangey, transparent, and fake under sunlight. What should I do if I want to stay in the same level but with solid color and less warmth?

Thank you

Johnathan Skot on April 16, 2016:

Hi Maffew: First, let me tell you that I love your pages, you really provide a valuable service to the hair coloring community. I asked this question before but I put it in the High Lift section, which may have been the wrong place. I'm hoping I've asked this question in the right place and that you'll find the time to answer it. I trying to get a level 4 hair with no grey to a very light, brown almost a dark blonde. I've used Schwarzkopf Igora High Power Browns in B2 mixed 1 to 1 with Igora 40 volume developer and processed for 45 minutes, light ash brown. And I definitely did get a light cool brown, but I'd like it just a bit lighter, one shade at most. I think I'd be able to achieve this by mixing in some of the BB brown booster, but I can't find any directions on how much to mix in. Is it 1/2 the formula or 1/3 or 1/4 the formula for one additional level of lift? Also, can BB be used alone, and if so for highlights and full head, or just highlights. Thank you for your time and the work that you do.

Tracey on January 29, 2016:

If I have light to medium gold brown hair and I want to tone down the gold, can I use Delorenzo Cool naturals for this?

Sammy on September 16, 2015:

Hi Matthew! Thank you for this blog it's so helpful! Can you please further assist me with dying my hair at home? I've previously went to the salon 3 times and they were all bad experiences. So now I'm attempting to dye my hair at home.

Right now my hair consists of a few different colors. The bottom of my hair is a darkish/medium blonde from a outgrown ombre, the middle of my hair is a light brown but with a lot of redd-ness which I absolutely dislike, and the top of my hair are my natural growing roots which are a dark brown. As you can see my hair is an absolute mess at the moment.

I want to dye it all one color, a shade of light brown, my skin tone is cooler so an ash light brown. So should I just bleach all of my hair and apply the light brown, or just bleach the dyed part of my hair?

Maffew James (author) on August 01, 2015:

Hi Wilderrose,

Apologies for the late reply. Goldwell is a quality brand and you should have good results toning with the 6A. This is a dark blonde shade; you can use the darker 5A in Goldwell's permanent line if desired, but this will have a much more intense effect, especially on porous hair.

As for the coconut oil, it can reduce dryness and this helps decrease damage a little, but it's not a very dramatic benefit. Most of the damage is to the protein your hair is made out of, with dryness compounding this by making the hair weaker and more brittle. If you keep it more conditioned during bleaching, it's kept slightly stronger.

Wilderrose on July 24, 2015:

Thank you so much! This has all been very informative and helpful.

We went to Sleekhair to see about ordering Matrix Color Sync, but they do not have a 7N....

Another line we are looking at is Goldwell Colorance, they seem to have a nice variety of shades.

So Mr. James please share your thoughts on what colors we could get from what is available from Matrix and Goldwell (if you don't think it a shoddy brand that is :)

If the color my sis settles on is light brown then we should stay within the colors that say light brown correct? Or should we go up a level to dark blonde because of the porosity after lightening? Following the same theory as using a 7 to achieve a level 6.

On a side note what are your thoughts on using coconut oil on hair prior to lightening it? I've read a number of blog posts recommending it, saying that it doesn't interfere with the process and helps protect the integrity of the hair as well as the scalp.

Look forward as always to hearing from you!

Maffew James (author) on July 18, 2015:

Hi Wilderrose,

On the subject of dark blonde vs light brown, they can look very similar because all brands aren't going to be the same. Some light brown shades are lighter than those in different brands, and vice versa for dark blonde shades. If it makes it easier, think of it based on the colour that is underneath. If you're bleaching your hair, it's bright orange at level 5 for a light brown, but it's a golden orange colour at level 6 for a dark blonde.

Also, Google finds pictures based on factors like the article that the picture is found in, and what people say about a picture when they share it. As you've noticed yourself, with the amount of confusion people have between the two shades, if someone is calling a picture of light brown hair 'dark blonde' and Google picks this up as dark blonde, that's what you'll see when you search for it, even if it may not be the case. Your best bet to see the actual difference between the two levels is to look at the difference between the two levels in the same brand if possible.

Matrix Color Sync is one line of demi-permanent you may want to use. The brand you use should be based on what you get and what you find comfortable to use though. If you have a particular brand in mind, I can look at the shades available for you.

As for the grey hair, this can be dealt with one of two ways:

1. After bleaching to the depth of the colour you want (Golden orange for level 6, or orange for level 5), fill the grey hair with the same colour so that it's all that golden to orange colour before toning.

2. Alternatively, use half a natural shade mixed with ash. The natural will add depth in to darken the grey hair properly, whilst the ash still tones the warmth out.

Option 1 above is really only available to you because you will have revealed the base tone. When regrowth grows in, you'd be using a natural tone to dye the grey hair instead.

Lastly, for the picture you've mentioned, yes it's closer to a dark blonde, so you want her hair to be at that golden orange stage, rather than orange. As for a formula, if you're using Color Sync, you could use half 7N and half 7A after lightening to both tone and also deal with the grey hair. (The shades are a bit lighter to account for the porosity after bleaching, as well as because you're using a demi; more colour will be absorbed right after bleaching, and a demi tends to deposit more pigment anyway). If you fill the grey first, tone using 8A. The reason you're using an even lighter ash shade in this circumstance is because the ash is used by itself rather than in a mix. That 7A mixed into the 7N isn't as strong because it's diluted down by the natural shade.

When you apply, process until the grey has darkened up and the tone has cooled down. You can actually watch this happen so that you can rinse it just as it gets to the exact shade you want because it will change from golden orange, to a coppery golden brown, to golden brown, then to softer gold before it reaches a natural tone. After that it will cool down further towards an ash shade. For results like the picture, you want to rinse it when you see an ash tone with just the slightest hint of golden tone peeking through.

Sona on July 17, 2015:

Very, very helpful, thanks a million for this post!

Wilderrose on July 15, 2015:

Ha! My burst, I did the same thing adding another picture of a different color, so it goes....

Wilderrose on July 15, 2015:

Thank you! You are so helpful and nice to provide advice for free :) to newbies. I never realized how technical this all is...hairdresser make it look so easy and of course some have no business being behind a chair but I digress...

Pease bear with me because I have a few more questions.

My sis is about 30 % grey, so grey coverage is important or at least blending it. Instead of confusing things let's say she wants to achieve this color :

Can you recommend a demi line and perhaps a formula using said line?

Also the whole light brown vs. dark blond thing is confusing! Please see link for reference.

The 2nd dark blonde picture looks darker than the 1st light brown picture, which to me looks like it would fall into the light golden brown family not dark blonde.

Is it just a matter of how someone chooses to describe a color? Because these depictions are all over the place.

Now if my sis decided she would rather try to achieve the color in the 2nd blond pic in that link, which is what she talked about tonight would we bleach it past the orange phase and would you be so kind as to recommend a formula for that too (along with the color line & taking into account the grey?

Please Maffew J, we would be MOST grateful! Have a great night or day depending on where you are :)

Maffew James (author) on July 15, 2015:

Hi Wilderrose,

You need the ash to neutralise the warmth that is revealed during lightening. The way toning works is by neutralising the tones you don't want, and emphasising those you do. To achieve this, a complementary colour is used to neutralise, and you can add colours you do want to enhance them. In this case, ash is added to counteract the orange tone; or more specifically, blue is used to counteract the orange.

Using ash itself should be perfectly fine because the colour you want is closest to a light natural brown, with a slight gold tinge. If you apply a lighter ash, such as a 6A and allow this to process until the colour is near neutral, this will work fine. Alternatively, you can use 5A mixed with 5G to not only neutralise the copper tone, but also add extra gold tone at the same time. As your desired shade is closer to neutral though, this option is less optimal.

In regards to using a lighter shade of ash, it's perfectly fine to do this. Right after bleaching, hair can be porous and will soak up more dye than usual. Overall, you want to base it on the results you want though. When porosity isn't an issue, ash at the same level will tone to an ash or neutral to ash result; whilst ash at a level lighter will tone to more of a neutral to slightly warm. Lighter than that and there's often very little change. When hair is porous, this all still applies, but the levels used are lighter (Eg, 1 level lighter for an ash result, 2 levels lighter for a neutral result).

Also, with the grey hair, how much of this is present? Is there only a little, to the point where it's barely noticeable? If there is a lot of grey hair, you need to either fill it or use a natural tone with whatever shade you're actually using for it to darken up to match and to prevent it from grabbing onto the colour excessively. This would require modifying the colour used to adjust for the natural shade. Eg, if you were originally using 6A for toning and had to mix it with 6N, you may want to do it as half 6N, one quarter 5A, and one quarter 6A; or half 6N, half 6A, and a dash of ash concentrate...etc. It just depends what you're using. The natural tone is most effective for covering grey, but it will dilute down the ash if mixed with it, forcing you to compensate for that.

Lastly, whilst the Igora demi can definitely be used, it isn't optimal. For the colour you want, 6A is going to get you to it more reliably. You can use a 5A in this situation, but do realise that the colour will change much quicker because of the more concentrated pigment, and you will need to rinse it sooner. If you're working with porous hair you may even want to go with something lighter than the 6A, which again, is hard with Igora's demi permanent dyes because there's a gap between 5-1 and 9,5-1.

Wilderrose on July 13, 2015:

Damn! Sorry for not consolidating my questions in one post. I am doing the Oh, *^% I meant to ask this and this. We plan on using the Igora Viviance line of demis to tone once we reach the orange stage.

The color chart if about halfway down. If you have the time of course to take a look can you give us a recommendation?

There are so many variations of golden brown of all colors. Something like the shade in the pic. previously attached, though not as reddish... OR something like this would be nice as well.

We can't wait to hear from you!

Wilderrose on July 13, 2015:

I thought a picture with the desired color would help. How would we reach this?

Thanks again!

Wilderrose on July 13, 2015:

Hi there! Thanks for the information, but I could use a little clarification please and thank you in advance :)

In the beginning you say "Once the bleach has been applied, allow it to lift until your hair is a bright orange color. Bright orange is the base tone for light brown hair, and it is at this stage of lightening that your hair can be toned to any shade of light brown. Rinse out the bleach thoroughly and you'll be ready to tone it."

Near the end of you say "Now that your hair is a fantastic shade of orange, all that stands between you and your desired light brown hair color is to tone that orange to the shade you want. This will be done with a light ash brown hair dye."

My sister has dark brown almost black hair that will be lightened to reach the orange level, some grey sprinkled throughout, she would like to achieve something between a light to medium golden brown shade.

Can we use a neutral light brown and a light brown beige to achieve this or should we use a straight ash brown instead? Or maybe a light golden brown with a neutral?

Also should we use a level 6 or a level 7...I heard that after bleaching one should tone with a shade or 2 lighter than the desired outcome. Is this right?

Any advice would be great and appreciated!

Maffew James (author) on May 21, 2015:

Hi Stella,

If you'd find it puts your mind more at ease, you could use Wella Color Touch to test the colour for yourself first. Because this is a demi-permanent dye, most of it will eventually wash out so you can get a better idea of the colour you want before using permanent dye. Otherwise, mixing an ash shade at the same level into your natural tone is going to increase the amount of cool tone and push it towards a cooler colour result.

For the best neutralisation and to ensure both the red and gold tones are softened though, use a mix of Wella Koleston 7/2 and 7/1. Approximately one quarter of this at most should be the 7/2 because it is green-based ash. You only want a little to neutralise the red. Mix it with 10 vol developer, apply, and rinse once the colour is corrected to your liking.

Stella on May 19, 2015:

Hey Maffew,

I've been weary to attempt a colour correction. I hesitate when it comes to ash tones, hopefully you can help!

2 months ago I decided to change from my level 2 dyed hair. Ion brilliance intense medium brown. I used color fix twice and it came out a light/medium brown with heavy golden tones. This was expected...

I then toned with blonde brilliance toner and left it for 2 days. I ended up bleaching with ion. Just once and for about a half hour. Then I went ahead the next day and used (I believe), wella 7nn, also adding a hint of ash intensifier. Well....I've been sitting at a level 6/7 for 2 weeks now, with bold golden tones with hints of underlying faint red. I have cool toned skin, so needless to say I want this gone!!

I know that base can't really cover a base, eventually the gold will come through again. Is this true? I was thinking to get wella 7nn and 7a to mix. But I just don't know now. The last thing I want to do is drop more money to end up with rich golden hair.

What are your immediate colour choices for a neutral light brown with a very slight ash?

Thank you so much!!

Maffew James (author) on May 15, 2015:

Hi Keeley,

Apply the golden shade that is desired with a small amount of the same level ash tone mixed in, or a dash of ash concentrate/booster/intensifier depending on brand. Eg, light golden brown 5G plus about 25% light ash brown 5A. The golden shade will serve to emphasise the golden tone you want, whilst the ash mixed in counteracts the red.

As for the root area, is there regrowth at all? Lighter, darker, same level? Adjust as necessary; eg, if the regrowth was lighter, it'd be better to apply a mix of natural and gold so that it darkens properly while still taking a golden tone. If it was darker, increase the amount of ash to deal with the underlying warmth as it lightens. On same level, adjust as necessary depending on how much red tone is present or what other tones are present.

Lastly, the ends sound like they may be somewhat porous. You may want to consider pulling the colour through to there last so that they don't take more of the dye and end up even darker or drab looking. Of course, it depends on whether there is just a buildup of dye because the ends have been dyed more being older hair, or whether porosity is causing dye to grab.

keeley neville on May 14, 2015:

Hi im wondering if any one can help me !i have a client whi has coloured her hair in permanet 2 weeks ago she has used a base of a 5 and has chosen a warm brown tone wich throws of a hint of red , her ends are slighlty darker as they have a build up on them. she wants to me colour her hair for her in about 2 weeks time and she prefers a golden brown tone on the base of a 5 rather then the red tone she has now .am i right in doing natural root with just a 5 and then with ends mix a 5 and a 5a together for the enda to counter act the red so as the end result is a base of a 5 but a golden brown ? Or can you advise aome thing else .

Maffew James (author) on May 11, 2015:

Hi Melina,

Apologies for the late reply. That does sound a little tricky. As you're aware, applying the 7/81 is going to turn out ashier than you're hoping for. The fact that her hair is lighter is going to intensify the effect of the ash tone from a darker dye. Mixing it with the natural gold shade may be the way to go because this is going to darken more effectively and it will soften the effect of the ash. If you find it easier, you could tone it afterwards to modify the colour closer to what you want; especially if she wants a very close match to the colour in the picture. Ie, focus on darkening the colour to the level you want it to be and then tone further if necessary for more control rather than trying to darken and achieve the exact colour she wants all in one step.

Maffew James (author) on May 11, 2015:

Hi aNice,

I'm glad you've ended up with a nice colour, and apologies for my late reply; I've been quite busy these past few days.

melina on May 11, 2015:

here is a picture so u can see the brown color i am looking for

melina on May 10, 2015:

i am looking for a beige brown level 7... slightly warm/ash to achieve on already light copperish level 8 hair with blonde ends

melina on May 10, 2015:

hi maffew.. I have a client which I dyed her 8/73 Koleston.. about 2 months ago.. Her hair has faded into a light coppery color with blonde bleached ends . She now wants to go BRONDE! A light warm brown ... What color will i have to use to achieve BRONDE! I was thinking of using WELLA ILLUMINA Color 7/81 pearl ash... But, i am worried it will turn too ashy and muddy. :( Also thought of using 7/03 and 7/81 mixed. I don't know what to do... She has shown me pictures of jennifer lopez s hair... where she has a light warm brown and blonde highlights.. The highlights are not a problem but that BRONDE color on wshed out coppery hair worries me.. what colors would u use ???

AJ from CT - NY on May 09, 2015:

Hi again, sorry for mass posts. LOL just so you know.. I ended up doing a blend of 1.5oz 6N(Neutral), .75oz 6NW(Neutral-Warm), .75oz 6A(Ash), and .75oz 7N(Neutral) with 10volume developer.

Sparing you again the long details as to why I chose that formula, it came out a PERFECT warm level 5/6 light brown, with some golden tone to it. The small portion that was very light (level 7 golden blonde) turned a perfect 6neutral, which is why I added some warmth in.. worrying it would be grey/green.

I am happy, and it's really thanks to taking advice from MANY of your articles combined, lol! So thanks again, no need to respond to my last post!

AJ from CT - NY on May 07, 2015:

Maffew- thanks again for always helping this regretfully non-professional hair artist ;)

So while sparing you my reasoning.. In between my last post I attempted to put a Wella blue violet toner on to reduce the warmth a little... But remember I ran out of 10vol dev. And COULD NOT HELP MYSELF TO WAIT.. (Stay at home mom of 2 under 2 so I couldn't just run out to the store and as you can tell my hair coloring is an addiction that I can't always resist lol).. So I used 20vol. And immediately saw it lifting so I rinsed. But now I'm def back into a warmer predicament. LOL.. I am about a level 6-7 very warm copperish light brown. No more ash whatsoever :/

So your advice was PERFECT. But now.. Once I get my 10dev. tonight lol.. What shade/neutralizing do I need to bring me to a light 5-6 brown.. Warm OR ash? I am open to either. I am not blonde but not "orange" so not sure which advice on your hubs to follow!

Or of course I can lighten again to orange.. And then follow your advice. :) which route do you suggest? Sorry to can be as brief as necessary! :)

Maffew James (author) on May 06, 2015:

Hi aNice,

Thank you for the kind words; I'm glad to be of help. That's thanks enough and you definitely don't need to feel obliged to do anything in return. Also, it's good to hear that you're still trying new colours and having success.

Onto your questions:

1. If you're most familiar with Wella, you'll get the best results using it. It's an excellent brand and it can give you the colour you want without needing to try another brand. If you do want to try another brand though, there are other high quality brands I can recommend

2. You definitely can dye at same level. Even if just changing tones though, you get a very slight darkening because it works by adding colour. It won't be enough to take you to a darker level in most cases, but expect some darkening whenever you deposit colour. It's like if you bleach your hair and then apply ash to neutralise the warmth. Your hair becomes slightly darker once fully neutralised because cool tone is deposited and there's more colour in your hair overall. When applying tone-on-tone like this, use 10 vol with permanent dye, or a weaker developer with demi-permanent dye.

3. You only need to bleach it if you want it to be lighter. If you're happy with how dark it currently is, and don't mind gaining up to half a level during dyeing (It won't necessarily gain this much, but expect this much as a possibility), there is no need to lighten. If you want to keep it closer to the same level, dye using 20 vol as the developer to lift out some of the colour in your hair. This will give warmer results though as you're removing some of that ash tone that is keeping it cooler. The loss of that ash tone plus the warm tone you add will be warmer overall than just adding warm tone without any lightening. You can always mix a warm shade with the equivalent natural shade to compensate though.

As for the warm golden brown you want, you may want to try Wella's 6/37. This is a mostly golden shade, with a brunette secondary base. Brunette shades in Wella are a mix of all warm tones and a small amount of violet tone to give warm shades that have a lot of depth. Having a small amount of this base in the golden dye you use helps give a richer brown result, whereas just applying gold tone on top of ash hair tends to look flatter. As ash in brown hair is blue to green based, gold doesn't neutralise it, it just sits on top so your hair can end up looking ashy with a gold tinge. The small amount of copper and red in the brunette shades will help warm up ash by neutralising it properly.

Let me know if you need any clarification on any of this or have any further questions about it and I'll be happy to answer.

AJ from CT - NY on May 05, 2015:

Maybe I should add... I cannot stand how some images online show a level looking TOTALLY lighter/darker than others. Here is a good idea of what my top half looks like now that I consider level 6...:

More or less. Mine has a little more warmth/less ash tone but is this level.

AJ from CT - NY on May 05, 2015:

Hi Maffew! Quick question... if you could recommend a brand of warm, light brown that appears closest to what the swatch displays, and also just is the better brand of product, what would you recommend?

I've typically always stayed with Wella because I started with it and learned to know it's colors and how they show up on me (non-virgin hair).. but I'm starting to wonder if there is a better option.. I recently went darker (about a 3rv), and then after a while used Loreal HiLift Soft Brown to lift a few levels. It worked, to maybe a level 5 warm brown.... a little too warm/red toned for me but real issue is I totally didn't realize my virgin roots would lift. They became a 7ish Strawberry blonde! So instead of just risking the roots.. I bleached my entire head to the beautiful orange you refer to... to go back to a light brown. Success.

Then I added 1/2 Wella 6A and 1/2 Wella 6NN (worrying for too much ash.. it always scares me!).. on just the top half of my hair to start. It looks okay, def a level 6ish very light brown, wish some ash aspects. Basically my natural, mousy gross color. The bottom half is still orange (really because I ran out of 10vol. devl, GRR!).... so I'm planning on doing the same 6a/6nn combo just to even out. BUT THEN, I'd like to eventually get to a nice rich 6neutral, but I really do look best in warmer tones. So... I am looking for a perfect level 6 warm golden brown to put on top of it ALL.

So basically I guess I'm asking..

1.) best brand/type of dye to then achieve a warm light golden brown on top of my 6ish-ash base... (and anything else necessary to know ie: vol. developer, adding warmth/ash tones to achieve, etc).

2.) .. and also if that's even possible? Can you dye a level 6 on top of a level 6 and just change the tone without darkening/lightening?

3.) My hair is still very healthy and moist... did I screw up by doing this in sections ... and I'm open to bleaching it all again (say, in a week to maintain health)... and just being sure I have like 3 bottles of dye worth to do my entire head AT ONCE. I really just want it all one color base so then I can play with highlights/ombre this summer.. etc.

Please advise when you have a moment. Any help you can offer is much appreciated!!

(By the way, if there is ANY way I can help/you are allowed to advertise your Hubs or another page you own, I WILL BE GLAD TO HELP. Literally, since I found your hubs 6 months ago... you are my GO TO on hair advice. Whether I am just reading your fantastic articles or asking questions which you actually respond to quickly. SERIOUSLY... you rock. If you aren't making a ton of money somewhere as a top stylist YOU SHOULD BE!) :)


Maffew James (author) on February 17, 2015:

Hi Suzanne,

Good luck with your colour, and feel free to let me know if you run into any problems with it or have any other questions.

Suzanne on February 16, 2015:

Yes, I've just done a test strip, the white went darker than the orange.. So it seems to leave it over 30min to get everything at least near an equal shade for darkening both the orange and white...! Wish me luck doing the whole head!!

Thank you :)

Maffew James (author) on February 16, 2015:

Hi Suzanne,

It's definitely fine to put the light brown over it. Just be careful if you have porosity after the bleaching. The colour could turn out darker than you actually want.

You can always test on a small amount of hair first. If it's too dark, use a dark blonde dye instead.

Suzanne on February 15, 2015:

you are a life saver!

Hi! btw, I had bleached my hair, turned white, yellow and light orange (lovely!) And I want to go light brown, so I put in a copper colour, turned gold and pale orange.

Now, is it ok to put in a light brown over it?? Thanks .

Maffew James (author) on December 02, 2014:

Good luck Kathryn, be sure to let me know how your colour turns out!

Kathryn on December 02, 2014:

Thank you so much Maffew! My appointment is for tomorrow afternoon. I will try first to see if she will dye my hair copper blonde and then light ash brown. If that doesn't work, then I will go for the light natural brown. Thanks so much! You are like an internet hair color angel. :D



p.s. Yes, my job is very fun. :)

Maffew James (author) on December 02, 2014:

Hi again Kathryn,

If you can only perform one process, use a light natural brown. That's the next best option after filling.

Kathryn on December 02, 2014:

Dear Maffew,

Thank you so much for you response. My dilemma is this: I don't trust the hairstylist to mix the dye correctly, so putting 25% light ash mixed in with a neutral shade makes me nervous. And because the production has pre-paid for the dyeing process, I do not know if the amount will cover for her to dye my hair copper blonde and then again light ash brown. So if I only get one shot to make my hair a normal color again, would you say my best bet is to dye it golden brown or copper brown?

Thank you so much. I can't tell you what a relief it is to be able to ask you for your advice.



Maffew James (author) on November 29, 2014:

Hi Kathryn,

Sounds like you have a fun job! The problem with using a light ash brown is that the ash tone is strong and can become too dominant when applied to a lighter colour. Filling isn't absolutely necessary, but it will always give you the most reliable results. I'd recommend you fill with a copper blonde before applying the light ash brown.

Alternatively, you could use a natural light brown with 25 percent light ash brown mixed in. Although the natural is a neutral shade, the lack of warmth in your hair will lead to a more ashy neutral. The small amount of ash mixed in helps give a cool result without it turning blue or green.

Also, keep in mind that your hair can often be porous after bleaching and will really grab onto any colour applied. This means it could end up a little darker than light brown. If this happens, don't worry too much as it will fade out after a few shampoos.

Good luck with your colour and feel free to ask if you have any further questions.

Kathryn on November 29, 2014:

Hello Maffew,

Thank you for creating such a great site! Please, I need you help. I recently bleached my hair blonde for a film. I think the hair stylist did not know very much what she was doing, though, because my hair turned a very bright yellow with a little bit of patchy orange. Now I would like to return to my natural light brown hair color. If my hair is already very warm with yellow, do you think I can use a light brown ash dye right away? Or do I still need to fill in with a copper red? My skin tone is cool, so I would like a nice ash brown. Please help me understand what I need to tell the hair stylist. I am worried if I don't know more specifically what to tell her she will mess up the brown color the same way she has messed up turning my hair blonde.



Maffew James (author) on October 29, 2014:

Everyone makes hair colour mistakes Maria, so no sense getting too down over it. Just think of it like a small delay on the way to the colour you really want.

John Frieda is certainly not the worst brand you could have used, and it's actually strange that it turned out so dark considering it is quite a light dye. This might indicate a porosity problem, which means your hair really soaks up any colour you put on it. If this is the case, you'll see the dye you put on wash out very quickly because whilst porous hair soaks up colour, it doesn't hold onto it very well afterwards. Bleaching can often cause hair that is porous to become even more porous for a while after it has been bleached. Because you bleached your hair twice, that could have increased the condition and really primed your hair to absorb the dye.

The protein treatments will actually help with porosity as well as repair any damage, because protein acts to equalise porosity and prevent the hair from reacting to colour like yours did; it fills in gaps in the hair structure. If you get the Redken Cat treatment, I'd suggest also applying it 5 minutes before you apply a dye and this should help keep your hair from ending up dark again.

Once the dark colour washes out and you're ready to dye it again, I'd be happy to recommend a precise shade and explain how to apply one of the dyes I mentioned. The process is a little different with salon dye because you have to mix and apply it by brush, though you can buy a shake bottle if you find that easier.

Maria on October 29, 2014:

I use john frieda 8a medium ash blonde. It was foam. I no have lots of options where I live so my friend tell me john frieda is the best one. I will use the shampoo and find the protein. You make me feel better already thank you. My husband laughed at me. Im gonna fix it with one the dyes you said after it gets a nicer : ) thank you

Maffew James (author) on October 29, 2014:

Hi Maria,

What brand of dye did you use, and which exact shade (The shade code)? Some brands aren't true to shade, especially if you used a box dye. An overly dark result is common with box dyes.

You'll find that it will mostly all wash out after a few shampoos, especially if you use clarifying shampoo. Apply a protein treatment like Redken Cat or Joico Reconstructor twice a week for up to a month and this will deal with the damage and restore your hair back to good condition. After it fades with a few washes, apply a dye from a brand like Igora Royal, Matrix SoColor, or Wella Koleston to colour it properly.

Also, this is light brown:

This is dark blonde:

This is medium blonde:

This is how dark a dye of one of those shades is meant to turn out. You may actually be after more of a dark blonde without realising it, depending on how light you believe a light brown is.

Maria on October 29, 2014:

This didn't work for me. I bleached my long dark hair twice to get to a light orange. When I toned it with a medium ash blonde it turned dark brown with a hint of red/orange. Now I am right back where i started except my hair is damaged : (

Maffew James (author) on October 12, 2014:

Hi Melissa,

You've got the process correct. As for the toner, toner and dye are prettymuch the same thing. The only exception is when you use a demi-permanent pastel toner. Use a permanent light ash brown to tone your hair. You need it to be permanent so that the tone doesn't all simply wash out.

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