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Can I Dye My Hair Red Without Bleaching It? DIY How to Guide

Beautiful woman with a dark brown skin tone with red dye on naturally dark hair.

Bleaching your hair can be damaging, expensive, and time-consuming. And it’s for these reasons that a lot of people are avoiding the chemical completely.

If you want to achieve a bold red color without bleach, keep reading. In this article, we’ll dive into whether it’s possible to dye your hair red without bleaching it.

Can I Dye My Hair Red Without Bleaching It?

You can dye your hair red without bleach. Bleaching and hair dyeing are closely associated because bleach lifts your hair’s natural pigment and gives the dye a brighter base to cling to.

But the reality is that you don’t actually have to bleach your stands before dyeing your hair, though bleaching beforehand will produce a more vibrant color result. In fact, there are dyes that are specifically formulated to work on dark, unbleached hair!

African American with dark brown hair that's been dyed with Color Oops natural hair color.

How to Dye Hair Red Without Bleach

There are a few different ways you can dye your hair red without using bleach. Although you might not get the same vivid color you’d be able to achieve with bleach, you can still end up with a beautiful result.

How I Dye My Hair Red/Burgundy WITHOUT Bleach! *Highly Requested* | VLOGMAS DAY 6

Permanent Dye

Permanent dye is your best bet for achieving a noticeable red result without bleach. It requires you to use hair dye and developer to lift out your natural hair pigments and deposit your new color. Here’s how to use a permanent dye to get red hair.    

Gather the following materials before you get started:

  • Non-metal mixing bowl
  • Applicator brush
  • Single-step red hair dye (you may need 1 or 2 boxes depending on the length of your hair)
  • Wide-tooth comb
  • Hair clips
  • 20 or 30 volume developer (20 volume is gentler than 30 volume, but 30 volume developer will give you a brighter overall result). 
  • Plastic or latex gloves
  • Petroleum jelly
Woman with dyed black hair wearing a blue jean jacket and red fingernail polish.

Get to Dyeing

  1. Before you start, put on gloves and an old shirt. Only use towels you don’t mind getting permanently stained. If you’re concerned about dripping, you may want to lay down some old towels or newspapers on your floors and surfaces. Make sure the room you’re in has adequate ventilation.
  2. Split your hair into four even sections and secure each section with a hair clip. This will help make the application process go more smoothly.
  3. Add a thin layer of Vaseline to your hairline, the back of your neck, and on the tops of your ears to prevent your skin from getting stained.
  4. Mix your dye according to the directions on your box. Typically, you’ll combine the red hair dye with developer in a non-metal bowl and mix well. 
  5. Use your applicator brush to begin applying the color. Work in small sections and apply the dye generously. Start applying the dye on the mid-lengths and ends, and then go back and apply it to your roots.
  6. Let the dye sit for up to 30 minutes.
  7. Rinse thoroughly with warm water until the water runs clear. It can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes to fully rinse the excess dye from your hair, so be patient and take your time.
  8. Follow up with hair conditioner. You want to avoid shampoo for the first few days after dyeing your hair red to preserve your color. You should, however, follow up your dye with a conditioning treatment to help restore your hair’s moisture. Allow the conditioner to sit for at least a few minutes before rinsing well.
  9. Dry and style your hair.
A cute lady after dying black hair red wearing a Chicago Bulls jersey.

Top Red Dyes for Bleachless Red Hair

If you want to dye your hair without bleaching it first, there are many products you can use. Some of the most effective dyes for bleachless red hair are:

  • Splat Midnight Hair Dye. This dye is specifically formulated to be used without bleaching your hair first. It contains micro-pigments that adhere to the surface of your hair and ingredients like baobab oil and quinoa extracts to strengthen and moisturize.
  • Clairol Professional Flare Me. A hair dye designed to work with dark, unbleached hair. The color is permanent and lasts for up to 5 weeks with little fading between washes. Just note that the developer is not included, so you’ll have to buy it separately.
  • Ion True Tones for Dark Hair. This versatile dye lifts, colors, and tones in just one easy step. It contains moisturizing pequi and argan oils and provides a rich color that lasts through multiple washes. Developer not included.

Hair Chalk

Black woman wearing dark red curls in an urban setting looking back over her right shoulder.

Hair chalk is a fun, temporary way to try out a new red hair hue. The chalk does not contain harsh chemicals and will be completely gone after one wash. Here’s how to get red hair using hair chalk.

To go red with hair chalk, you’ll need:

  • Holding spray
  • Hair chalk
  • Spray bottle (optional)
  • Gloves (optional)

How to Use Hair Chalk

Black lady with darker red curls after dying natural black hair using hair chalk.
  1. Start with clean, detangled, and product-free hair to give the hair chalk the best possible chance of clinging to your hair.
  2. While hair chalk can stain clothes and skin, it’s only a temporary effect. Still, wear clothes and towels you’re okay with staining just in case.
  3. Dampen your hair with a spray bottle, or start on freshly washed, damp hair. Hair chalk can be used on either wet or dry hair, but starting with wet hair will give you a bolder, more intense color result. If you have very light, blond hair, you might want to skip this step and apply the chalk to dry hair. Otherwise, the color might be difficult to remove.
  4. Working in one-inch sections, slide or rub the hair chalk over any hair you want colored. Build up color by going over each section more than once and gently massaging the pigments into your hair.
  5. Spritz your hair with hairspray to lock in the color. 
  6. Shake your hair to help get rid of any excess dust. 

Hair Wax

Hair wax is similar to hair chalk in that it gives you a temporary hair color makeover. The main difference between the two, though, is that hair wax has a stickier consistency which lends itself well to twist-out and wash n’ go hairstyles. 

Here’s what you’ll need to go red with hair wax:

  • Hair wax
  • Spray bottle (optional)
  • Gloves

*Curls Unleashed Color Blast is a hair wax specifically formulated for natural hair. It deposits vibrant color that lasts until you wash it out. The beeswax in the formula helps lock in moisture while elongating and defining your curls.

How to Use Hair Wax 

Lady with black dyed hair wearing an engagement ring on her ring finger.
  1. Protect your area. Hair wax can stain fabric, so make sure you’re wearing old clothes or a towel you don’t mind getting dirty. Also, you can put on gloves to avoid staining your hands.
  2. Start with clean, slightly damp hair. You can start with freshly washed hair or use a spray bottle to wet your hair before applying the wax.
  3. Working in small sections, begin applying the wax. Use your fingers to spread the wax over any hair you want colored. Start with a thin layer, and gradually layer the wax for a bolder color. If you only want red highlights, you can wrap the finished sections in tinfoil to keep the color from transferring to the rest of your hair. If you want a twist out, twist up your hair after applying the wax to each section.
  4. Let the wax dry. You can let your hair air dry or use a blow dryer on its cool setting to speed up the process. The wax may drip while it’s wet, so be mindful of that. 
  5. Once your hair dries, you’re ready to style.

Note: If you want to wear your hair straight, start with dry and straightened hair instead of damp hair. Using heat tools with colored hair wax isn’t recommended, as it can damage both your hair and heat tools.  

Black woman with naturally black hair that's been dyed red following a deep conditioning treatment.

Related Articles

So, there you have it– dyeing your hair red without bleaching it first is possible. Try one of the methods above to achieve the color you want while avoiding the damaging effects of bleach.

Anytime you dye your hair, be sure to use a color-safe shampoo and conditioner to preserve your color for as long as possible. We hope this article was helpful and wish you the best with your hair color change!