😛😇😩 This article was written by Karen Leight and by wikiHow staff writer, Dan Hickey. Karen Leight is a Professional Hair Stylist and the Owner of Karen Renee Hair, a private salon suite inside the Salon Republic Hollywood in Los Angeles, California. With over 12 years of experience, Karen is a licensed cosmetologist specializing in hair color, balayage technique, and women’s and men’s precision haircuts.
There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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😛😇😩 Red hair is all the rage these days, but is it possible to get a natural looking shade at home if you have dark brown hair? Absolutely! If you have virgin (undyed) hair, you can use store-bought dye to lift (lighten) and color your hair without bleaching. If your hair is very dark or already colored, you can still get a vibrant, beautiful red by bleaching your hair first. We’ve put together a complete guide to turning your brunette locks red, including how to bleach your hair and maintain your new rockin’ red. If you’re ready to start turning heads with your luscious red locks, read on!
This article is based on an interview with our professional hair stylist, Karen Leight, owner of Karen Renee Hair. Check out the full interview here.
Method 1Method 1 of 3:Bleaching Very Dark or Colored Hair
- 1Choose a bleaching kit with a 30- or 40-volume developer to lift dark color. A 40-volume developer will lift your hair up to 8 levels of color (from near black to dark blonde) in one session. This is great if your desired red color is bright, coppery, or blondish. To get the truest-to-shade red when you color, bleach your hair to a pale yellow color.XResearch source
- For darker or brownish red, use a 20-volume developer (most store-bought bleaching kits come with this strength). This lightens your hair 2 to 3 shades.
- If you want a reddish tint to your natural shade of brown, you don’t need to bleach at all.XResearch source If your hair is already colored, though, bleaching is a must.
- Follow the instructions on your bleaching kit carefully. 30- and 40-volume developers can cause scalp irritation or burns if misused or left on too long.
- 2Put on some old clothes and protective gloves. There’s always the chance you’ll drip some bleach onto your clothes, so wear something you don’t mind getting stained, like an old t-shirt. Wrap an old towel around your neck as well. Wear some rubber gloves to protect your hands from the bleaching product.XResearch source
- Bleach your hair in a room with good ventilation.
- Remove any bathroom rugs or mats to protect them from accidental bleach spills and drips.
- 4Mix the bleaching product according to the instructions. Directions vary, but usually you’ll mix 2 parts developer with 1 part bleach. Mix until the bleach is fairly runny, making sure there aren’t any lumps in the final product.XResearch source
- Mix the bleach and developer in a plastic bowl with your applicator brush (some bleaching kits come with a bowl and stirrers to use).
- 5Apply the bleach to your hair in small sections or strands. Use an applicator brush to paint the bleach into your hair, starting at the back of your head and moving forward. Start 1 in (2.5 cm) from your scalp and work down each section, making sure the bleach evenly and thoroughly coats each section of hair (front and back).XResearch source
- Bleach your roots last since they don’t take as long to process as the ends.
- 7Rinse and wash your hair thoroughly. Once your time is up, rinse out the bleach with cool water and wash it with a blue toner or purple shampoo to prevent a brassy or orange color from forming. To restore moisture, do a deep conditioning treatment too.XResearch source
- Washing and conditioning your hair reduces brassiness and ensures your red dye will come out true-to-shade.
- 8Wait 2 to 3 days before dyeing your hair red. Your hair needs time to recover between treatments, so allow it to rest for at least 2 days before you jump in with color. Try not to shampoo again until right before your dyeing session.XResearch source
Method 2Method 2 of 3:Coloring Your Hair Red
- 1Choose a shade of red that flatters your skin tone for a natural look. If you have cool undertones (your skin tone is pink or pale and the veins in your wrist look blue), opt for cool, dark, or ashy reds. For warm undertones (your skin tone is tan or olive and your wrist veins look green), go for a bright or golden red.XResearch source
- If you have neutral undertones (a mix of cool and warm), you can pull off almost any kind of red!
- Follow the "2 shade rule"—pick a color at least 2 shades lighter or darker than your skin tone to avoid looking washed out.XResearch source
- Choose permanent color for long lasting red, or demi-permanent to experiment with color for just a few weeks.
- 3Separate your hair into 4 sections. Once hair is clean and dry (or almost dry), part it into sections with your fingers or a rat-tail comb. Hold each section in place with a clip.XResearch source
- Dyeing in sections helps the process go smoothly and makes it easier to reach all parts of your hair evenly.
- 4Spread petroleum jelly around your hairline. Use your fingers to rub a thin layer of petroleum jelly around all parts of your hairline, especially your forehead. This will keep the dye from staining your skin if it drips down onto your face or neck.XResearch source
- 5Mix your red hair dye with a developer. Follow the exact instructions on your dyeing kit. In most cases, you’ll combine developer and color in a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio. Some dye kits include a developer, but you may have to buy some separately.XResearch source
- Mix the developer and color in a plastic bowl with your applicator brush (some coloring kits come with mixing supplies).
- For permanent color, use a moderate 20- or 30-volume developer. Remember, stronger developer means lighter color.
- 6Apply the dye to your hair in small sections or strands. Use an applicator brush and paint the dye onto sections of your hair, starting 1 in (2.5 cm) from the scalp and working downward. Begin at the back of your head and work forward, making sure each section of your hair is saturated with dye (on top and underneath).XResearch source
- Go back and color your roots halfway through the overall processing time (it doesn’t take as long for the dye to take hold at the roots).
- The exact directions will vary by product, so be sure to double check your specific dye’s instructions.
- 8Rinse your hair thoroughly with cool water. After your time’s up, rinse away all of the dye from your hair. Wash away the petroleum jelly around your hairline at this time as well.XResearch source
- Wait at least 3 days after you color your hair to shampoo it. This gives the color time to set and the cuticles time to seal.XResearch source
Method 3Method 3 of 3:Maintaining Red Hair
- 1Wait as long as possible to shampoo your freshly colored hair. Your hair might need as long as 3 days to let the cuticles fully close and seal in the color. Use dry shampoo in the meantime if your hair starts to look greasy.XResearch source After the first shampoo, aim to only wash your hair 2 or 3 times a week to prevent the color from fading.XResearch source
- When you start washing your hair again, use cold water (hot water will steam away the color, meaning your dye job won’t last as long).
- If your hair gets oily, try a scalp exfoliator or dry shampoo. It will remove some oil from your hair and keep it moisturized without eroding your color.
- 2Invest in sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners. Sulfates make artificial hair color fade away even faster than normal. Look for products that are safe for colored hair that don’t contain sulfates, salts, parabens, or artificial colorants. In general, colored hair is safest with the purest, simplest shampoos.XResearch source
- 3Use a heat protectant before styling your hair with hot tools. This will keep your hair color looking bright, as well as prevent heat damage. Also consider heat protectant sprays with UV protection if you’re going to be spending lots of time in the sun.XResearch source
- Use low heat settings on curlers and straighteners when styling your hair.XResearch source
- 4Touch up your color every 4 to 6 weeks. Red is more prone to fading than other colors, so refreshers are necessary. Use the same dye you applied initially. Instead of the full 30 or so minutes of sitting, simply run the color through your hair and leave it for 15 to 20 minutes.XResearch source
- Buy multiple boxes of color when you first dye your hair so you’re stocked and ready for touch ups anytime.
- For dark brown virgin hair, try dyeing without bleaching to see how the red shows up in your highlights. If it looks too dark for your taste, you’ll have to lift your natural color first.
- Try dying your hair with Kool Aid to experiment with temporary shades of red before you pick a long-lasting color.