How to Get a Light Brown Hair Color
A light brown hair color is the lightest shade of brown and directly precedes shades of blonde. This makes it a great hair color for people who don't look their best with blonde hair, but would still like a fairly light shade of hair.
Light brown hair is a good compromise and will suit most people regardless of whether they 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. At the light brown level, you have the full range of tones to choose from and a light brown hair color can be anything from an ash brown to a golden or copper brown.
This flexibility 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 the best example of this. A light beige brown is actually a golden ash. The gold tone is the primary tone here, but the added ash helps to tone down that 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 a 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 a softer ash. Natural shades are on the slightly cool side of neutral. You also may be able to pull of 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.
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 play off each other 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 to be 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 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.
Choosing a Shade
To choose the best shade of light brown hair color for you, choose a shade that matches your skin tone. 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 it's actual appearance. This may prove helpful where you know you want to avoid a particular tone, like gold, but still want a warm color, for example. The chart should arm you with all you need to know to match colors to your features.
Light brown shade
Cool or warm
- Choosing a Shade of Brown Hair Color
For more tips on matching brown hair to your features, as well as choosing your favorite shade, check my related article here.
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 color
Dye or bleach
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 color deposit.
- If you have medium brown hair, use 20 vol developer
- If you have dark brown hair, you will need to use 30 vol developer
You should also be using a shade that is slightly cooler than your desired result. The reason for this is that when you lighten hair, the warm base color underneath is revealed, and if you 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 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 would mean 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 the 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 is commonly known as a double process, and is most often 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, 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 is extremely orange or a rusty red color. Bleach is more reliable if you want to avoid these problems.
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, although 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 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 will be done with a light ash brown hair dye such as Igora Royal or another quality brand.
This dye should be mixed with 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 warm tone.
If you are intending 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 lighten 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.
Dyeing Blonde Hair Light Brown
If your hair is lighter instead of darker than light brown, a light brown hair color must be pursued slightly differently. Blonde hair—whether natural or dyed—lacks 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.
If your blonde hair is anything between a level 6–8, you will need to add copper back in. Do this by either using a dark copper blonde dye before you use a light brown shade, or by adding a little of the 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. 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 purple 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.
- 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.
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 are low maintenance, like auburns, golds, and beige. 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. is one such shampoo that helps tone brown hair and keep cool browns from becoming warm over time. De Lorenzo Cool Natural
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 beat 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 like 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 dramatic toning.
The best part is, 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.