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Choosing a Shade of Brown Hair Color


Your hair is a defining feature and one of the first things other people notice about you when you introduce yourself. As such, it makes sense to choose a color that not only matches your style but accentuates your natural features.

Choosing the right shade of brown hair color will boost your confidence and help you stand out from the crowd for any occasion.

The Different Shades of Brown Hair Color

Brown hair colors are every bit as diverse as blondes and reds. Just like blonde hair can range from ash through to bright strawberry blondes, there are shades of brown hair color representing all sides of the tonal scale.

The main shades you will encounter include:

  • Ash brown
  • Natural brown
  • Golden brown
  • Caramel
  • Red browns
  • Mahogany
  • Burgundy
Dying your hair brown can truly bring out your eyes.

Dying your hair brown can truly bring out your eyes.

Reading Dye Codes

When you choose a shade of hair dye, the codes used by manufacturers are able to tell you a lot about the shade:

  • The first number is the level (how dark a color is), and it is generally universal across all hair dye brands. A 1.1 in Indola hair dyes is a blue-black shade, whereas an 8.1 is a light ash blonde.
  • The second number is the primary tone. This varies by manufacturer. For most brands, the number 1 signifies ash, whilst some will use a different number entirely, or a letter. A hair dye with the code 9.3 is a very light golden blonde when using Indola dye, but the same shade in Igora Royal is a 9.5. The best tool here is a color chart for the brand you want to use so that you know exactly what shade you're getting.
  • The last number is only present in dyes with a secondary tone. If you're using Indola's 9.13, it's a very light ash blonde with some gold tone to soften the ash, otherwise known as a beige shade. The secondary tone gives the color extra dimension.

All this means that you have control over the depth and the exact appearance of tones present with all the possible variations available, and you can even mix shades within the same brand to further customize them to the exact look you want.

Chestnut light brown hair

Chestnut light brown hair

Ash Brown

Ash brown is the coolest-toned shade of brown hair color. These dyes have a heavy green base pigment to give the hair a color that is almost grayish in appearance and tone out excess warmth. The color tends to look boring and dull on the majority of people and is best used to neutralize harsh copper or red tones in hair that has just been lightened from black to brown.

Even though ash brown doesn't suit most people, there are exceptions. If you have a light complexion, pinkish skin, and blue eyes, you will be able to wear the color without looking drab. Anyone with a warm skin tone and eyes should avoid the shade entirely because the cold and warm contrast between your hair and skin will have you looking like an eyesore.

Natural brown hair

Natural brown hair

Natural Brown

Natural shades are a neutral tone where coolness and warmth is fairly balanced. With that said, they are still frequently on the cool side, so if you have warmer features, you won't look your best with a natural shade of brown hair color. These shades suit those with cool features best.

If you do want to get away with a natural shade yet have warm features, the best idea is to use a golden natural shade. This is a natural shade that is on the warmer side and will suit your features better due to the added gold tone. Think of it as a halfway point between natural and gold. You will be able to dye your hair this color and look good even if you have warmer skin.

It is not just natural shades that can be blended either. If you find you can almost pull off a color, a blended shade might tip the scale and give you a color that matches your features more accurately yet still appears true to your desired shade.

For those with cooler skin wanting to wear golden browns, be on the lookout for natural gold shades. If golden shades bring out your eyes best but you wanted something redder, compromise by choosing a gold-copper shade.

Matching Brown Hair Colors

Hair colorSkin type

Ash brown


Natural brown


Golden brown






Fashion reds






Warm Browns

Warm brown hair colors range from golden brown to red-brown. These shades are built on gold, copper, and red tones to create an abundance of warmth that readily complements people with a warm skin tone and hazel or brown eyes.

When matching warm brown hair colors to your features, it is your eyes that will decide the best shade. A warm skin tone matches any warm shade of brown, but a golden brown will really accentuate hazel eyes and make them appear more vibrant. The idea here is that similar tones enhance each other, and the gold tones in your hair help bring out the gold tones in hazel eyes.

In this same sense, chocolate and caramel browns contain copper tones that will enhance brown eyes by bringing out the copper tones present within. Red browns are an exception because depending on how vibrant the red shade is, you may be able to pull it off even if you have cool skin and green eyes. Nothing makes green eyes stand out more than red hair, just don't go too extreme or the contrast will be overbearing.

Should you wish to dye your hair a bright shade of red-brown, you also need to be aware that the level of maintenance is much higher than other brown hair colors. Cherry red and deep scarlet toned brown hair colors will fade rapidly, turning into lackluster shades of auburn. The best way to counter this fading is with color refresher shampoo or temporary rinses. These can be used between dyes to keep vibrant red hair looking its best.

Burgundy hair

Burgundy hair

Mahogany and Burgundy Hair

Mahogany and burgundy are fashion shades and a little different from the rest of the brown hair colors you'll encounter. These shades are combinations of cool and warm that lead to a very vibrant and striking result. Mahogany is a combination of red and violet that sits closer to the red side of the fence, whilst burgundy tends to be more violet.

The violet tones of these colors mean that even though a mahogany shade of brown is mostly red, it can often suit someone regardless of whether they have warm or cool-toned features. The easiest way to avoid making a mistake is to choose mahogany shades that are less red if you have cool skin, or less violet if you have warm skin. Burgundy shades lie further into the cool tone category and will look best on those with a cool skin tone and green or blue eyes.

If you apply a mahogany or burgundy dye that turns out too red or too violet for your skin tone, it's easy to correct that by applying a more complimentary tone. You can do this with a semi-permanent color, temporary rinse, or color refresher shampoo. If the color looks too warm for your features, add soft violet tones to cool it down. Vice versa, if it's too cool, you can add red tones to heat it up a little.

As with other fashion shades, mahogany and burgundy hair require a higher level of maintenance to continue looking good and prevent color fading. You will need to use color refresher shampoo or semi-permanent dye to keep your hair vibrant. If you prefer brown hair colors that don't carry an intensive toning regime, it may be better to give that tube of burgundy hair dye a miss and swap it for a more natural shade instead.

  • How to Dye Blonde Hair Brown
    If you want to dye blonde hair brown, you can't just apply a brown hair dye. Doing so could result in green hair or other mistakes. Find out how to dye your hair brown properly.
  • How to Dye Black Hair Bbrown
    Have you gone black and want to go back? Find out how to dye black hair brown and return to a lighter shade.
  • How to Dye Your Hair
    Hair dye can allow you to change your entire style with ease. Discover how to dye your hair for salon quality results.
  • Caring for Dyed Hair
    Dyed hair needs specialized care to keep it looking and feeling its best. Find out how to care for dyed hair and maintain your new color.

Brown Hair Dye Brands

The brand you choose when you dye your hair is paramount to your success, and the best brown hair colors are achieved through the use of quality dyes. To ensure that your color turns out great, every time you dye it, use salon dyes. These dyes are leagues ahead of the inferior box dyes you find in supermarkets and pharmacies.

There is no real secret to applying a salon dye. The only difference is that the color has to be mixed with developer in a tinting bowl instead of in a bottle, although technically you could use an applicator bottle if you really wanted. The quality of these dyes is much higher, the colors are more vibrant, and they won't fade rapidly as box dyes do.

If you want salon results, you need to use salon dyes. Brands like Igora, De Lorenzo, and Matrix will give you shades of brown hair color that really turn heads your way as well as a range of bright, modern styles.

Do you have a question about brown hair colors? Struggling to choose a color that will suit your features? 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 Elizabeth,

You can use semi-permanent ash blonde dye, eg a mousse, to tone it as needed and keep it from starting to look warm.

This kind of dye doesn't damage hair at all and the right shade will only affect your lighter highlights without changing the tone of your brown hair at all, making it probably the easiest method. Alternatively, use blonde shampoo to keep it toned, but given that your highlights turn orange rather than yellow, it sounds like they're a dark blonde and you'd need a shampoo with a lot of pigment to tone that effectively, eg De Lorenzo silver would work. If you can look at shampoos, check for a really dark, intense purple to blue-ish colour before you buy any shampoo to make sure it's going to be strong enough to tone it. If you find a shampoo like this you can just replace whatever other shampoo you're using and it will be enough to keep the highlights from turning overly warm.

Elizabeth Willett on August 15, 2020:

I Want brown hair with blonde high lights but not bleach. Every time my hair dresser dyes my hair it always has a red orangie tone to it I hate it. Have expressed this. At first it looks great then as time goes by it fades to this horriable orangie brassish color. Normally in the first week. What can I do about this?

Alisa on July 01, 2020:

My hair is Darker than medium brown but not black I have gray mostly underneath and roots are showing gray again. Can I mix medium ash brown & light brown to make sure it’s not to dark

Bri on June 23, 2020:

Hey ! So i had faded red hair then i stripped it twice and been using blue shampoo for 2 weeks now my hair is almost brown but still a little brassy in the sun...if i put a light golden brown over this what will happen

Anita on June 23, 2020:

I have honey brown hair I want to go a light brown a bit darker! What do I do

Lilly on May 24, 2020:

I have very pale pink skin with blue eyes and my natural ash brown shade looks awful on me! I always wondered why I only looked good as a blonde. Then I realized that it was the golden tones that looked good on me. Now I'm rocking light golden brown hair and it looks just as good as blonde did. The color rules don't always work.

Dee on May 03, 2020:

Should I use protein colors number 5.4 and 5.0 together

Jennifer Sons on April 07, 2020:

If I put brown hair color over Auburn will it turn it ashy

Laci on March 04, 2020:

What are the best three shades of hair color would best extenuate a person with hazel green eyes and freckles?

Laci on March 04, 2020:

What are the best three shades of hair color would best extenuate a person with hazel green eyes and freckles?

Jodie on February 23, 2020:

Is light/medium Ash brown the same as cool brown "anti-brass" hair color?

Anne on February 05, 2020:

My hair looks has a green hue to it, what color would you recommend to get rid of it?

Debi k on February 01, 2020:

Does light brown have a blue base to the color n will applying it over my orangish hair take away the brassiness?

Sharon on January 27, 2020:

I have brown eyes, a warm skin color and dark brown hair now. Want to know what is the best brand of over the counter dye to use? Thinking I would like a warm brown color that will look natural and turn heads with maybe a little lighter highlights.

Maffew James (author) on December 16, 2019:

Hi Annie,

It doesn't have to be a protein filler, though that's an option. You can use a permanent or demi-permanent red dye if you want. The protein filler is best for porous hair to make it dye more evenly, and yes you apply it, process, and then leave it in while applying the dark brown dye.

Using a lighter shade is up to you. For porous hair, use medium brown instead of dark brown to avoid it looking more black. Otherwise you're fine to just use dark brown. If it does turn out too dark, which is pretty common going from lightened hair back to dark, it'll fade with washing so that's not something to worry too much about.

For blending into your natural colour, use 20 vol as the developer for the dark brown dye and that will lift some of your natural pigment out during development and replace it with the dye colour.

Annie on December 09, 2019:


I bleached my hair blonde but now it is more of a yellowish/orangish color. I would like to dye it back to my natural color of dark brown, and the top of my head is still that color. I was reading your comments on other peoples posts as well as your articles and saw that in order to do that, I would probably need to use a protein filler thats red. Is that right? As far as the protein filler, do I just apply it alone and wait 20 minutes and then dye it without washing it out? After that, should I dye it to the shade of brown I want or 2 or 3 shades lighter than I want? I also do not know how to make it look natural and blend it in to my natural hair color since I know it will probably not be the exact shade. I would greatly appreciate your advice! Thanks so much!

Maffew James (author) on November 07, 2019:

Hi Jean, you can drop the shade down to a 6N if the 5 darkened too much for you.

As it's a box dye you probably won't be able to use anything lighter than that though as you have no control over how much it lifts and the lighter you go, the more developer they tend to contain because the assumption is that the dye will be used to also lighten hair. Given that your hair turned too dark with the last shade, this probably won't be a problem with a 6N, but if you want to be on the safe side, do a strand test.

You can prevent lift from taking place by tipping out the developer provided in the box and adding your own 10 vol instead to ensure the dye primarily only adds colour (the higher the developer volume, the more lightening during the dyeing process).

Jean on November 03, 2019:

Good morning I just used a great box hair color 5n chestnut Brown but it has pulled my hair Too Dark I am looking for suggestions for next time do I get something a bit lighter? I am 30” gray and my natural color is brown for me browns are best tks

Cecilia on October 10, 2019:


Ive been trying to dye my hair Dark brown, and every time I do, the roots come out with redish tones, my hair color looks like a chocolate hershy brown, but i want it to look like a rich dark brown.

Diana on April 09, 2019:

I have been dying my hair with a 44 wella red for sometime but want to send it back to my natural brown.. so do I need something with green in to counteract the red x

Kimbowilliams on March 31, 2019:

I am trying to find the right shade of dark blonde for my roots. I have used golden brown and natural dark blonde. No matter what I end up with Cooper reddish hair. I just want natural dark blonde. I have olive complecation and blue green eyes. Green vains, so I guess warm. I hate the red orange untones trying to just go with neutral dark blonde. What color would you recommend. I have balayage blonde hair about level 9 toned with pearl blonde. I like the shade of my. Light blonde, it just my roots look horrible. Please help. Thank you so much.

Paula Nichols on March 04, 2019:


I'm needing sum hlp figuring out what shade of Brown to color/highlight my hair.

I'm in limbo on what to do❗

My hair is a medium brown w/ sum grey mainly on top but scattered here & there. The grey only shows @ top/ front. Its been highlighted B4 w/ blonde & golden tones. Only salon, i've never attempted to do it on my own.

Any ideas/tips wld be so appreciated.



Anna on May 20, 2018:

Hey I have a dark chocolate what is the lights hair dye I can get over the counter

Ellen on September 22, 2017:

My natural hair color is salt & pepper, mostly salt.

I bought the light ash brown, but now seeing that I need to mix a warmer brown too.??? Will I look washed out with cool ash brown, light.

My name is gayatri on July 24, 2017:

I want to do my hair colour brown dark which colour u suggest

Melissa on July 17, 2017:


I have dyed my hair black. My hair is black and and turning grey. I love the idea of dying my grey hair so that I have two colors. So my roots are grey about 3/4 inch. How do I dye my hair brown or mahagany?

Meredith on June 15, 2017:

Hi, I have natural platinum blonde hair and recently wanting to color my hair medium warm brown. I don't want green or any other murky color in my hair. Should I buy a shade darker and put that on or should I color my hair red(even orange) and get a shade lighter than the color I want to achieve? I'm also planning on using semi-permanent dye.

Jodie england on June 14, 2017:

Im dying my hair on saturday i currently have warm brown hair but dont know what colour brown will go over the warm brown what colour should i use

Bibi on June 05, 2017:

I have the golden ginger color I want to go a little darker what color should I use

Ashley on May 30, 2017:

Yes,I have naturally medium brown hair color and I'm looking to dye my hair a few shades darker but also would like the change to be stunningly obvious..Can you possibly help me figure out what shade and or shades would be best,please and thank you..

Mariza on April 19, 2017:

Hi,I'm having issues with my hair...I have red pigment and tired of seeing my hair orangie-copper-red when i lighten my hair...I used Hi-lift blonde cuz my natural hair color is dark i'm trying to get it like a med.or light brown with blonde highlights..I don't know if its my hormones or just getting older,but i cant get the color that I want...I'm thinking maybe mixing two different colors to avoid the red/orangie color with 30 vol. but not sure...Please help,my hair is looking scary

Christine on March 26, 2017:

I use 6.00 permanent hair colour & find it too dark. What can I add to colour to make it a little lighter

Michelle F. on February 24, 2017:

I recently lost my job and I'm going to try to dye my hair myself. I understand using a professional/salon dye is better and that's fine. My question is I want a warm brown color but my hair tends to pull red how do I know what color to get

Hannah on January 25, 2017:

Hi my natural hair color is auburn chestnut hair and my eyes are the same color as my hair. What highlights would look good in my hair

moo72 on January 06, 2017:

My natural color is light brown. I had blonde highlights and when there was 10 weeks of growth I it colored to match my roots with light balayage highlights. So I have dark brown roots with a very cooper tone and ash brown ends. I love the ash brown but hate the cooper. What do you think would be the best way to get rid of the cooper? I've tried purple shampoo as well as the Frieda cool burnette color glaze.

Thanks so much for any suggestions!!


Susan on December 22, 2016:


Using Matrix Socolor can I mix 1/4 4A and 3/4 5N? Is this a safe combination?


Shirley on December 21, 2016:

My hair is light golden brown,

I have a cool skin tone,

can i use medium ash brown.

Maffew James (author) on November 16, 2016:

Hi Maria,

I'd recommend using light natural brown (5N) if you're unsure how dark you want it. This is the lightest shade of brown, so it's less likely to turn those highlights too dark if they are porous and start to grab onto the pigment. As the highlights are close to grey, and thus very light though, you'll get a better result if you apply a copper or red protein filler to those areas prior to dyeing. Just like how hair that is lightened starts to look red, then orange, yellow, and then close to white, you need to add that base pigment back in when going darker for the new dye to take properly.

Nayab rehman on August 11, 2016:


I have dark brown hairs with warm skin type. I want highlights. Can i get what is actually caramel color? Or will it be ok with my dark brown hairs??

anna on May 12, 2016:

I like my hair chocolate Brown. Would 5n 6n mixed with a20 volume achieved that?

Jane on May 07, 2016:

Hi i ad been dying my hair for fewyears brown but turned out more black so i went to a salon who bleach bathed it to go lighter To natursl brown they applied mixing a 6.1 & 7.1 ash but i am noticing lots red undertones especislly in light & in sun which i dont like what can i do by myself now to get rid of the red and for it to look a natural brown. As i dont want to go back to salon . Thankyou

Zoke Mellor on April 28, 2016:

I love the natural hair dye from The Henna Guys. It gave me a dramatic fabulous changed look with my hair so sleek and shiny. Though the color was dark than expected but I liked that too. After a couple of weeks, the color lightened but doesn’t appear as it is faded away and it felt like I have a new look with the lighter shade of the same color. I have recommended this hair dye from to so many people as it is very safe to use. I had left it for six hours even and my scalp was safe and easy. Waiting for your more colors!

Lil on April 16, 2016:

I was a natural brunette with a few red lights, now I'm 43 I have to get my roots re done every 3 weeks at a salon. After my holiday my brown hair has lighter ends from the sun, the grey is getting two obvious so I am thinking its time to go blonde. How am I best achieving this?

Paula on March 25, 2016:

I am wanting to lift my medium brown hair about 2 shades to a light golden brown can you tell me what should use? I have not colored my hair in the last 3 years.

Steph G on January 18, 2016:

Dear Maffew

I have bleached yellow orange highlights in my hair and 1 cm of grey roots.

I would like to have a nice light brown or a nice shade of medium blonde.

I don't want a dark hair colour as I look too gaunt.

How can I achieve this and what do I do .

I would appreciate your help.

Thank you so much.


Precious on December 28, 2015:

I have pale skin in the winter and in the summer, I get a slight tan. I have hazel eyes and they tend to change colors at times. My natural hair color is dark brown with bits of red. I was born a red head, as I got older, my hair color changed. I have colored my hair with bronze and blonde box color and the results are orange hair with blonde in it. I want to go with a brown color. I bought a medium copper brown by one n only argan oil hair color line. I want to make sure this will work on my hair color that I currently have.

Lorena on December 14, 2015:

Thanks for an awsome hair helping article.

I have dark hair that has had brazilian done. I normally use 6n with 5n matrix demi with 10 activator. I would like a lighter maybe more cinnamon to brownish color. Any recommendations? And what color activator would i need? TIA

Brenda on October 09, 2015:

I have had my hair black for the last 10 years and decided that I wanted to go lighter. My natural complexion is more on the cool side but I use a an all over bronzer daily as I dont like looking like a vampire. I have very dark brown eyes almost look black. I am having alot of difficulty picking out which shade of brown would suit me best? So far every one I have tried makes me look washed out and just doesnt suit please!!

Christal on October 01, 2015:

My hair is a dark red mahagany brown I love the color . I have olive skin and hazel eyes . I just want to go to a caramel brown would that be to hard? I just want something with less maintenance. I am a natural brunette.

Maffew James (author) on September 05, 2015:

Hi Beewee,

Apologies for the late reply. A natural or golden tone should be fine. You don't want to go for anything to cool or too red in this circumstance. Very ashy shades are a problem because your hair is such a cool tone that any warmth in your skin tone becomes more prominent, whereas red shades can be a problem because red in your hair will bring out red in your skin.

Maffew James (author) on September 05, 2015:

Hi Malissa,

Apologies for the late reply. The best route here is to fill using a demi-permanent dye 1 - 2 levels lighter than your desired brown colour to pre-pigment your hair so that the brown dye will take properly. Otherwise the colour can end up weird and the dye fades rapidly.

If you've noticed how your hair goes from brown, to orange, and then to yellow when it was bleached to dye blonde, you're basically doing this in reverse to get it back to brown. All that warm pigment you see lifting out during bleaching is the foundation of your brown colour, without which it wouldn't have the depth and richness it needs to look brown.

To make things easier, match up the brown you want, with the demi-permanent dye to use as follows:

Light brown (level 5) - Use demi-permanent medium blonde in a copper tone (7C)

Medium brown (level 4) - Use demi-permanent dark blonde in a copper-red or red tone (6CR, 6RC, or 6R)

Dark brown (level 3) - Use red protein filler OR demi-permanent light brown in a red tone (5R)

To apply the dyes, put the correct demi-permanent through your hair first, process, and then rinse that. You can apply the permanent brown dye after this or wait a few days if you prefer.

If you're using red protein filler, which works well for a dark brown result, this is applied, left for 20 minutes and then the brown dye is applied right on top of the protein filler and processed as normal. You can use a protein filler like this for lighter brown shades too, but you need to be more careful because some of them can be fairly intense and this red tone can then show through to the brown colour and make it look warmer than desired.

As for the choice of brown dye for the final colour, this should be permanent, at the level you want (Light brown, medium brown, or dark brown). If you want a fairly neutral brown result, use a natural brown tone. If you want it to be on the ashy side, mix natural and ash brown together (Don't use the ash brown by itself though because it won't cover as effectively). Vice versa, mix a little chocolate or golden brown into the natural for a warmer result.

Beewee on August 28, 2015:

Hi there!

I am cool skinned, green eyes with pink or red undertones. My hair is naturally dirty blonde or light mousy brown. The pics of me as a kid however are a dark golden blonde or light golden brown. However i hear that golden tones may enhance redness in face? I want to minimise redness in the face as much as possible while still having a hair colour that is brunette and not dull! Any red shade brown will probably bring our more red in my face! Is medium golden brown or medium natural brown good for me?

Maffew James (author) on August 19, 2015:

Hi Michele,

Apologies for the late reply. For a light brown result, you're better using a copper filler as opposed to red. Both will work, but the copper gives a better result for light brown because this is the base tone that's normally present underneath a light brown shade.

As for the shade used on top of the filler, I'd recommend using light natural brown because that on top of the filler should get you close to what you want. If you use a warmer shade, this won't cover as well and can end up too warm on top of the filler, so the natural by itself is better for the chocolate result. You can mix the natural with an ash or chocolate shade to modify how it turns out if necessary to get the exact colour you want, but for this you're best applying a strand test with the natural shade first and then mixing it once you know how it will react.

Malissa on August 18, 2015:

My hair is bleach blonde and I want to go back to brown due to the fact it's high maintenance and money has became a problem. I want to do it myself at home it still

Has some pink tint to it. Please help.

Michele on August 12, 2015:

Hi i need to fill with red blond on my colored blond hair i want a light milk chocolate brown what should i use thank you

Stellacakes on July 21, 2015:

Hi! I also have a similar same case as Sharon up there because I have black hair and want to dye it brown. However, do you think you could link me to 2 different images of how hair will turn out using 40 volume developer + socolor6m v.s. 40 volume developer + socolor5m? Thanks.

Maffew James (author) on July 15, 2015:

Hi Sharon,

If you want it closer to a medium brown, SoColor 5M should be used. If you mix it as 75% 5M and 25% 5A, that will give the best results because that small amount of ash will help cut down excessive warmth without leading to a cool result. This is important when lightening hair because the warm underlying pigment is going to be revealed as it lifts.

As for the developer, this is responsible for the chemical reaction that makes permanent dye permanent, as well as the lightening of your natural pigment that occurs when you use permanent dye. If you're familiar with box dyes, you'll know the developer as the liquid that's supplied in the shake bottle. This is pre-selected and measured. With the Matrix SoColor, you'll need to measure and add this yourself. Without it the dye won't work properly.

As for the strength, the 40 vol will maximise lift so that you can more reliably get at least 3 levels of lift. Lightening from black hair is never completely simple though, so unfortunately you can never be fully sure it will lift that far. If your scalp is sensitive, use 30 vol developer instead. Anything weaker won't lift enough. For future reference if you ever need it, the different volumes of developer commonly used are 10, 20, 30, and 40 vol: 10 is for tone-on-tone or darker colour where lift isn't necessary, 20 is for 1 - 2 levels of lift, 30 is for 2 - 3 levels of lift, and 40 vol gives 3, sometimes 4 levels of lift.

Lastly, in regards to the amount you use, 3 ounces will give you 6 ounces of dye when the developer is mixed in. This is quite a lot of dye and you should be fine, but if you do want to get a second just in case, you can then use that to touch up regrowth once it starts to become noticeable if you don't end up using it.

sharonhanny on July 13, 2015:

Sorry last question! The matrix socolor 6m dye onlh comes in 3oz and i have quite long hair so do you think ill need 2? Thank you

sharonhanny on July 11, 2015:

Hazelnut/medium brown shade* i don't want it to be super light brown

sharonhanny on July 11, 2015:

Ah, what a relief I asked you before I dyed it haha. Thank you so much for your help!! However, what is the difference if I use 40 vol developer or not use developer at all and just the dye? Is it necessary to use developer when dyeing hair? Or are you suggesting it because it will help me get the hazelnut shade that i want?

Lastly, if that is true, can i get any type of 40 vol developer or should i get it from a specific company?

Maffew James (author) on July 11, 2015:

Hi Sharon,

Matrix SoColor mocha shades turn out a hazelnut sort of colour. Matrix SoColor 6M should look nice.

Of course, it's going to be difficult to get black hair this light without bleaching first though. You may be able to push it as far as a level 5 using 40 vol as the developer, but the most reliable method is to pre-lighten first with bleach and then dye. Because your hair is so dark, you'll also need to mix ash into the shade you use or else it will end up very warm due to the underlying pigment that is revealed during lightening.

As for the ash blonde dye, what will happen with that is that your hair will lighten about 2 levels, and then the ash pigment at level 7 isn't strong enough to neutralise the revealed warmth, leaving you with reddish orange hair.

Let me know if you need any clarification or have any more questions.

sharonhanny on July 07, 2015:

Hello! I have virgin hair that is naturally black and it'd be great if i could get some advice on which color (dye number and product reference) to achieve a hazelnut shade. Not too light but a nice hazelnut brown shade. I don't want to bleach it so should i try the loreal paris 7.5 ash blonde color or will that not give me hazelnut? Please refer me to a product! Thank you so much for your time!

Maffew James (author) on July 03, 2015:

Hi Natalie,

Copper for medium brown, or red for dark brown. As it's only two levels darker to go from light brown to dark brown though, you should still see good results without filling if you use a natural tone. You can mix the desired tone into this to change the results. Eg, for an ashier result, mix a small amount of ash brown into the natural brown.

You can also still use a clear protein filler prior to dyeing if you're not filling it with a base colour. It won't pre-pigment your hair, but it will help deal with porosity and give a more even result.

Natalie smirizti on June 28, 2015:

Hi there,

I plan on going a darker brown to match my roots. At the moment, I've got about an inch of regrowth and my ends are a light brown.

Do you recommend a red protein filler or a neutral protein filler before I put the hair dye? I was thinking of the protein fillers from the brand Colorful Professional.

Thanks in advance!!

Maffew James (author) on June 11, 2015:

Hi Liz,

With a light brown, the best idea is to use a copper protein filler when going this route. Demi is better overall though because it is based on level, meaning you can use a demi-permanent dye in a copper gold shade 1 - 2 levels lighter than light brown (Medium to dark blonde), and there is less chance the colour of the demi is going to show through too strongly in the final colour.

To finish the dye after filling with the demi, apply a half/half mixture of light natural brown and the light brown tone you want; eg, half light natural brown and half light golden brown. This will give a richer result and prevent the gold or caramel tone from grabbing too much on your lighter hair. It just gives a more balanced colour overall.

Liz on June 10, 2015:

Hi my hair is a medium blonde with some brassiness towards the top. I want to go brown thinking light golden brown or caramel I have light skin with brown eyes. I was wondering which protein filler I should use red or warm brown or if I am better off using a Demi instead to fill? Thanks!

Maffew James (author) on June 05, 2015:

Hi Jo,

Best idea is to stay closer to the lightness of your skin. Depending on how pale your complexion is, a much darker colour increases the contrast between your hair and skin and will cause the redness to be more noticeable. Conversely, you'll get the same sort of effect from a colour that is too light. Anywhere from medium blonde to light brown should work best.

As for the tone, a golden tone will work well because it still works with your warm skin tone but doesn't emphasise redness like red or auburn colours do. Caramel, honey, and beige shades should also work well.

Jo on June 04, 2015:

Hi there, I have a pale warm skin tone but I am prone to redness in my face and chest. I am struggling to work out which brown is best for me because a lot of the warm colours enhance the redness in my face. I have narrowed it down to a golden brown with caramel highlights. What do you think? When I was younger my hair was medium brown with natural auburn, reddish undertones. For years I have been choosing red and reddish highlights because I thought it was the best matche for my complexion but now I am learning that I may have been enhancing the redness. I would love your advice.

Maffew James (author) on May 17, 2015:

Hi Shina,

You can use a demi-permanent dye instead of protein filler. I'd recommend no darker than dark copper blonde (6C) for this.

shina on May 16, 2015:

Hi there thanks for answering my question. But protein fillers are not available in my country, any other suggestions? ??

Maffew James (author) on May 15, 2015:

Hi Shina,

Best route is to fill with a copper protein filler and then apply a mix of natural medium brown and golden medium brown on top of the filler. That will prevent any strange colour results.

shina on May 14, 2015:

Hi, I have bleached hair n I want to dye it medium golden brown so do I have to dye it red first in order to dye golden brown? Or I dye directly golden brown

Maffew James (author) on May 01, 2015:

Hi Marissa,

Do you have any particular shade you want to reach? Also, by medium do you mean medium red brown, or medium red blonde (Similar in name, but a big difference in level - medium red brown is a level 4 and looks quite dark, whereas medium red blonde is a level 7 and is a bright intense red).

Green-based ash will neutralise red tones, but you're going to end up at least one level darker in doing this before all the red tone is covered. If the colour you want is lighter, you'll need to lighten it first and then tone in order to get this result. Let me know what sort of colour you want to achieve and I'll give you more specific information.

Also, in the mean time you may like to read my article on this sort of correction here:

Specifically, the comments section contains many similar scenarios to give you an idea of what is involved in reaching different colours and getting rid of the red.

Marissa on April 30, 2015:

I recently dyed my hair a medium red, but I dislike it. How can i remove the red dye? Do ash tones neutralize it? Which brands and what ash color would I buy that has green ?

Maffew James (author) on April 29, 2015:

Hi Sam, I'm glad you like the articles.

You'll need to use two different colours to tone the ombre.

As you know, ash shades add cool tone in to counteract warmth. The trace of orange tone remaining in the brown colour occurs because there wasn't enough cool tone present in the brown dye. You can correct this by using a semi-permanent or demi-permanent ash shade of dye. I'd recommend using a dye that is 2 levels lighter than your brown hair because you're aiming for a warmer shade of brown and only need slight toning. Alternatively, if you take the honey brown dye you used previously and mix about 1/4 of the equivalent ash shade, this could also be used for toning. Whatever you do use, keep it on the ombre only as it can darken the blonde or even turn it grey or blue if the ash is a lot darker than your blonde hair.

To tone the blonde, there's a few different things you could do. You could tone using a semi-permanent mousse like Igora's Expert Mousse in 9,5-1 or 8-1, or Goldwell Soft Colour 10V; you could use a light ash or pearl shade of blonde dye in semi, demi, or permanent; or you may even get sufficient toning using a violet shampoo like Fudge Violet. A lot of the stronger toning shampoos are all that is needed to eliminate yellow tones these days.

It all depends on what you prefer. If you use a mousse or shampoo, whilst the colour washes out after a few washes, the product is quick and easy to use. A dye on the other hand will last longer, but you need to take the time to apply it and allow it to process. It will also gradually fade even if permanent.

Sam on April 28, 2015:


I love this site! Dilemma here though....

I had chesnutty brown hair with orange undertones. I used an ash colour restore to try to remove the orange and I then did an ombre. Left the ends on longer so they went a yellowy blonde and higher up went an orangey blonde. Used the ash restorer again and a week later dyed my roots a honey brown and mixed it down the to the orange.

I now have like a caramel ombre slight hint of orange but the blonde is straw like in colour.

I want to get my top half a more natural brown and the blonde a softer colour and not yellow. Is there anything you could suggest?

Maffew James (author) on March 03, 2015:

Hi Tasha,

A natural tone is a slightly cool neutral and this is usually a safe bet if you have a cool toned and far complexion. It will also work with your eyes. As your skin is lighter, you'll tend to suit a lighter shade of brown better than a darker shade, so perhaps a light natural brown. You can always tone it afterwards to change the look if necessary by using ash to cool it down or gold to warm it up until you find the exact shade that suits you best.

This is my article on dyeing blonde hair to brown:

Feel free to read that and let me know if you have any further questions about how to achieve your brown colour.

Tasha on March 01, 2015:

Hi, great article lots of information I was not aware of. Currently I am a bleached blonde have been for about 3 years and wanting a dramatic change to brunette.. I'm unsure what colour would suit me as I have fair complexion blue eyes, would like to go dark? Thankyou for your help

Maffew James (author) on March 01, 2015:

Hi Maria,

It'd be better to try a light ash brown then. Otherwise those lighter sections could turn out too ashy.

Otherwise, mix together medium natural brown and medium ash brown in equal amounts. This will darken the lighter hair without turning it too ashy but will still effectively tone out red.

As for the developer, use 10 vol as you don't need lightening. Cool toned dyes that are medium or dark brown will normally always contain green tone to cancel red at that level, so you don't need to go to extra effort to find a specific brand.

maria on February 28, 2015:

Thanks for the reply. Majority of my hair looks dark brown, but there are sections that look light/medium brown. Should I color it medium ash brown all around? I should use a green base, correct? What level of developer should I use? Thanks!

Maffew James (author) on February 27, 2015:

Hi Maria,

If you use an ash tone, one level lighter than your hair currently is, that will cancel out the red.

Ie, if your hair is medium brown, use a light ash brown. If your hair is dark brown, use a medium ash brown. Let me know if you can't figure out what level your hair is and I'll help you with that.

maria on February 26, 2015:

I have a lot of red and I want it gone. I don't have enough money to go to the salon and have thid fixed. What can I do to cancel the red? My ideal color would be dark without any red undertones. thanks!

maria on February 26, 2015:

Hi, I really enjoyed your article. I have a problem with my hair. I had a light brown and wanted to color it darker, which is closer to an ash brown with some gold undertones. I colored it chocolate brown thinking it would be close to my ideal color. Wrong!

Maffew James (author) on February 17, 2015:

So you'd say most of the colour has grown out and any remaining colour has significantly faded? It should lighten fine then. It's when you try to lighten over a previous dark dye that you run into problems. The dye lightens natural pigment but has almost no effect on artificial colour so any lightening isn't visible because of this.

Worst case scenario is that it won't lighten enough, but that just means you'll be left slightly darker than what you want. You can always feel free to come back and ask for help if you do run into problems but I think you'll be fine. Good luck with your colour!

samantha again on February 16, 2015:

Its been a few years since i last colored it. I honestly can't tell i want to say that the color is towards the end of my hair because it's a little lighter

Maffew James (author) on February 16, 2015:

Hi Samantha,

Is your hair currently dyed or is it natural? Dyed hair won't usually lighten with another dye if darker colours have been applied, so it may not even lighten if this is the case.

On the matter of whether the colour will suit you though, a warm colour like golden brown generally suits anyone with warmer skin like yourself. As for the lightness, if the light brown you had a few years ago worked well with your complexion, there's a good chance it still will. Even a light brown can often suit those with darker skin; it's when you get into the blonde shades where it can start to look a bit odd. Same sort of scenario in reverse with black hair and paler skin. It's the sharper contrast that makes it look unmatched.

samantha on February 16, 2015:

I need help. My hair is currently dark brown with some hints of natural reddness. I dyed my hair light brown a few years ago and loved it. I have a warm skintone. My skin is olivey but my face is lighter, always has been. I just purchased some box dye revlon golden brown. Do you think it will be too light??

Maffew James (author) on November 03, 2014:

Hi Kris,

A natural brown or ash brown is the best if you have a cooler skin tone. If you want a red though, I would suggest shades that have a cool element to them, like mahogany, which also has violet tones to offset some of the warmth of the red.

Paler skin also generally suits lighter colours better, and you'd probably be best staying closer to a light brown rather than a darker shade, but this also depends on your other features and a dark colour can still look good.

KrisK on November 01, 2014:

Hi! Thanks for your article. I have cooler toned paler skin with some freckles and light green eyes. My natural hair color is a medium brown. What is the best brown for me? Brown red? I'm looking for low maintenance after having highlights all summer. I would like to go back to my natural and have just now colored my hair a raspberry med. brown. What's best for me? Thank you!

Maffew James (author) on September 23, 2014:

No problem. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask. Good luck with the colour!

Jewels on September 23, 2014:

Thank you so much for the fast response! The guidance is greatly appreciated! :)

Maffew James (author) on September 23, 2014:

Hi Jewels,

Your roots lightened up because they're virgin hair and there's more warmth closer to the scalp. The natural shade didn't correct this because you need ash to correct red. A natural is slightly cool, but it doesn't have enough cool tone to correct excess warmth. Use natural shades to darken hair, mainly. If your hair is too warm an ash should be used. If it's too cool, that's when you use a gold, copper, or red. Natural shades are also the absolute best for grey coverage.

To correct it, dye the roots with light ash brown. You don't have to leave it in for the full development time. Remove it when it's ashy enough for your liking.

Jewels on September 23, 2014:

My hair color is naturally a dark ashy blonde to light brown. I have coll undertones. I normally dye it a Demi permanent natural brown. Well I switched it up attempting to Goode of my natural ash light brown this time and it stripped my roots out to this very light color with a red hue. I had some light natural brown at home, so I redyed it with a developer 10. It looks much better, but to dark and still with a red hue especially at the roots. How can I counteract this? Should I cover with a light ash brown or a dark ash blonde? I truly would like a light ash brown, closest to my natural color. I will only be using a developer 10.

Maffew James (author) on September 22, 2014:

Hi Liz, I'm glad you enjoy my articles, and thanks for the interesting question,

It sounds like your hairdresser applied a green based ash. The problem with this is that the colour used wasn't a strong enough ash to neutralise the warmth of your non-highlighted hair, but it was far too strong to be used on your blonde highlights. Hence your non-highlighted hair is too warm, and your blonde hair is too cool now. This is a common occurrence when ash brown dyes are applied to blonde hair in fact, and is the reason behind the fear that blonde hair will turn green when dyed brown; because if dyed with an ash, they will. Any other shade, and you're usually fine.

The best way to approach this is to just remove the excess ash by applying a bleach bath for around 10 minutes or so, primarily to the ash lengths. This will strip out the excess ash and leave you with a warmer colour all over. What you do next is based on how your hair looks once the bleach bath is removed, and there are two possible outcomes:

1. If your hair is the same darkness all over, finish up by applying a blue based ash to neutralise the excess warmth. I would highly recommend Iso I.Color's soft ash shades. These use a mild blue-violet base, so they won't turn your hair green like stronger green based ash shades. Use 5SA for that nice silvery light brown colour, or 6SA for more of a neutral tone.

2. If your highlights look lighter, even though they were dyed, you don't want to use the above method. Doing so will lead to the highlights turning grey because the ash is too dark. In this case, apply a 5N, light natural brown shade, only to the highlights, and allow this to develop. Once the highlights have begun to darken, apply 5SA to the non-highlighted hair. When the non-highlighted hair begins to tone and shifts from orange towards a natural tone that is similar to the dye in your highlighted hair, blend the ash through all over and allow it to reach your desired shade.

I hope this doesn't sound too complicated. It's easier than it sounds, I assure you. If you need any clarification with the process, or have further questions, ask away and I'll answer as soon as possible.

Liz on September 21, 2014:

Hi, love this site! Would appreciate any advice you can share. My hair is naturally light brown but I have had blonde highlighs for ages. My highlights grew out about half a head. I asked my hairdresser to dye my hair close to my natural light brown colour. I ended up with very warm orangey tones in the top and ashy green tones where my highlights were. How can I fix this? I am scared to use a golden brown as this will add warmth to the top which doesn't suit me and if use an ash colour it won't help my greenish ash ends which is about 3/4 of my hair? Any advice? Don't want to go back to my hairdresser after this. Thank You!

Maffew James (author) on September 19, 2014:

Hi Sima,

Light brown is one shade darker than dark blonde. Light brown is a 5. Dark blonde is a 6. This scale is called the level, and hair colour levels range from 1, which is black, to 10, which is lightest blonde. A cool toned 10 is a silvery white shade.

sima on September 18, 2014:

Is there any difference between light brown shades and dark blonds?