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How To Dye Brown Hair Red With and Without Bleach at Home

Cute African American female with 3B dark brown hair wearing a light green sweater.

Dyeing your hair from brown to red may seem like a momentous change, and that’s because it is! As such, there are many things that can go wrong if you’re inexperienced.

If you want to transform your brown hair into a gorgeous fiery red mane without a ton of damage, you’re in luck! In this article, we will walk you through several ways you can dye your brown hair red at home.

How To Dye Brown Hair Red

If your hair is medium to dark brown, bleaching it before you dye it will give you the most vibrant results. You’ll also be able to achieve lighter shades than you would with a bleachless method.

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Although it’s incredibly effective, bleaching can cause severe damage to your hair. As a result, at-home bleaching isn’t recommended for fragile or compromised hair.

If you choose to bleach your hair, you should always follow the directions precisely as they appear on the box. The process will generally go as follows.

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Gather Your Materials

Gather the following materials before you get started: 

Bleaching and Toning Instructions

Cute black woman with a light brown skin tone wearing casual weekend clothes.

Here are the steps you need to follow to get the most even, vibrant red results on your hair: 

  1. Wear clothes you don’t mind getting stained and drape an old towel around your neck. Put on gloves, and make sure you have adequate ventilation. 
  2. Part your hair into four equal sections and secure each section with a hair clip.  
  3. Mix the bleach and developer. You will typically add two parts developer and 1 part bleach. Mix the two well, and make sure there aren’t any lumps.
  4. In small sections, apply the bleach to your hair using the applicator brush. Start at the back of your head and work your way forward. Your ends take longer to process than your roots, so start applying the bleach about an inch from your scalp and work downwards. 
  5. Apply the mixture to your roots. 
  6. Cover your hair with a processing cap and wait for a maximum of 30 minutes. Keep track of how well your color is lifting while you wait. 
  7. Rinse your hair thoroughly.
  8. Use a toner or purple shampoo to tone down any brassiness in your hair. This will help make sure your red dye comes out true-to-shade.  
  9. Follow up with a deep conditioning treatment to help restore moisture. 

Now that you’ve lightened your hair, you’re ready to dye it red. You’ll want to wait for a few days between bleaching and coloring to give your hair time to recover. We’ll go over a couple of dyeing methods below.

Light skinned African American female with a dark brown natural hair color with a 3B natural texture.

Dyeing Method 1: Use Permanent Dye

Permanent box dye provides you with brightly colored, long-lasting results. You can expect your color to last for up to 8 weeks before needing a touchup.

Permanent dyes lift your natural color, which creates a lighter base for the dye to work with. That makes this method ideal for anyone who wants to lighten their hair while skipping the bleach.

You should always follow the directions for your specific hair dye. The following steps are here to serve as a general guide.

Materials You Need

Pick up the following materials before you get started: 

Permanent Dyeing Steps

These are the steps you need to follow to get the best results from your permanent dye session: 

  1. Spread a thin layer of petroleum jelly around your hairline to prevent the dye from staining your skin. 
  2. Separate clean, dry hair into four sections to help the application process proceed more smoothly. Secure each section with a hair clip.
  3. Mix your hair dye with Vol 20 or Vol 30 developer. Many dye kits come with a developer, but you might have to purchase them separately. Typically, you’ll mix developer and color in a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio.
  4. Starting about an inch down from the roots, apply the dye to your hair. Work in small sections, and make sure your hair is fully saturated.
  5. About halfway through the processing time, go back and apply the dye to your roots. 
  6. Cover your hair with a shower or processing cap and wait for the recommended time. This will usually be for 30 to 45 minutes. 
  7. Rinse your hair thoroughly with cool water.
  8. Follow up with conditioner and air dry or blow-dry your hair to see your final results. 
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Dyeing Method 2: Use Semi-Permanent Dye

Semi-permanent dyes don’t contain any lightening ingredients and are much gentler on your hair than permanent dyes. They come in a wide variety of colors and can be used on bleached or unbleached hair.

However, you won’t get the same vivid results on unbleached hair. Your color will last for 4-6 weeks, depending on how often you wash it. Here’s how to use semi-permanent hair dye.

Pick Up Your Supplies

These are the supplies you’ll need for semi-permanent dye sessions: 

Semi-Permanent Dyeing Steps

  1. Put on gloves, and wear clothing and towels you don’t mind getting stained. 
  2. Separate slightly damp hair into four sections and secure each section with a hair clip.
  3. Spread a thin layer of petroleum jelly around the perimeter of your hairline.
  4. Working in small sections, apply the dye to any hair you want to color. Spread it as evenly as possible and massage the dye in so your hair color comes out uniform.
  5. Once your hair is thoroughly saturated, cover it with a shower cap and wait for 15-30 minutes. 
  6. Rinse your hair thoroughly with cool water.
  7. Blow dry or air-dry your hair and style as usual. 
Gorgeous black lady with a brunette hair color with warm undertones wearing a wash and go hairdo.

Dyeing Method 3: Try Kool-Aid

Kool-Aid is inexpensive, won’t damage your hair, and comes in a wide variety of shades. While this method works best on lighter hair, it can add a red tint to dark hair.

To remove the color, simply wash your hair with your regular shampoo. Follow these easy steps for a fun, fruit-scented color.

Pick Up Your Supplies

Here are the supplies you’ll need: 

Kool-Aid Dyeing Steps

  1. Start with clean, dry hair. 
  2. Mix your packet of Kool-Aid with a few spoonfuls of your preferred conditioner. Use two packets if your hair is long or thick. 
  3. Microwave the conditioner for 20 to 30 seconds. 
  4. Remove the mixture from the microwave and stir it until the Kool-Aid dissolves. Keep stirring until the color is uniform. Add more Kool-Aid to darken the color or more conditioner to lighten it. 
  5. Saturate any hair you want to color with the Kool-Aid mixture. Work from root to tips and massage the mixture into your hair. Secure each finished section with a hair clip to keep it out of the way.
  6. Cover your hair with your shower cap and wait for 20-30 minutes. The longer you wait, the darker your color will be.
  7. Rinse your hair thoroughly with cool water. Skip the shampoo and conditioner unless you want to tone down your color. 
  8. Air or blow-dry your hair to see your final color. 
Black lady leaving a hair stylist after using color-safe shampoo to style her bouncy twist-out hairstyle.

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There are many different ways to dye brown hair red. When deciding on a method, take into consideration the health of your hair and whether you want long or short-term results. Good luck!