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Can you dye brown into red?

Dyeing brown hair to red is possible, but it requires some planning and preparation to achieve the best results. Going from a darker shade like brown to a lighter shade like red can be tricky. The brown tones may not lift out completely, leaving an unwanted undertone. However, with the right hair dye and technique, you can successfully dye brown hair red.

What is required to dye brown hair red?

Here are the main requirements for dyeing brown hair red:

  • Use a high-lifting color or bleach – Brown hair needs to be lightened significantly to reach a red shade. An ammonia-free lightening kit or bleach will help lift and remove the brown pigment.
  • Tone hair before dyeing – Once hair is lightened, use a toner to neutralize unwanted warm tones. This prepares the hair for the red shade.
  • Use a vivid, boosting red dye – Opt for an intense, long-lasting red hair dye made for significantly lightened or bleached hair. Reds dye best on very light canvases.
  • Maintain color – Reds fade quickly, so use color-protecting shampoo and conditioner. Refresh color with a gloss or semi-permanent dye as needed.

Can you dye brown hair red in one step?

It is extremely difficult to achieve a true, vivid red hair color by dyeing brown hair in one step. This is because brown hair is naturally darker due to higher levels of eumelanin pigment. To deposit red chromatic pigments, the brown base color needs to be lifted to a very light level first.

Permanent hair dyes designed for dark brown hair to red results are usually a vibrant red-brown or copper. The brown undertones remain unless the hair is lightened first. Using a color-remover or bleach boosts the chance for a successful full red hue.

What color do you get when you dye brown hair red?

The red shade achieved when dyeing brown hair depends on the original shade of brown:

  • Light brown hair can lift to a medium copper red or strawberry blonde.
  • Medium brown hair may lift to a light auburn or dark copper.
  • Dark brown hair will usually tone to a deeper auburn or burgundy red.

Without lightening first, brown hair dyed red turns out as a subtle hue with visible brown lowlights and highlights of red. The darker the natural hair color, the more brown undertones will show through red dye. Pre-lightening removes more underlying pigment for brighter results.

What is the best way to dye brown hair red?

Here are some step-by-step tips for dyeing brown hair red:

  1. Lighten hair with bleach or high-lift color – How light you go depends on how vibrant a red you want. Lift 2-3 levels for coppery reds or up to pale yellow for intense reds.
  2. Tone hair to remove brassiness – A violet-based toner neutralizes yellow/gold tones left after lightening for the best color canvas.
  3. Do a strand test – See how brightly the red dye takes to the pre-lightened hair strands.
  4. Apply red dye and process fully – Use a vivid, permanent or semi-permanent red shade. Apply thoroughly from roots to ends.
  5. Rinse, condition and air dry – Rinse until water runs clear. Use a hydrating conditioner. Air or blow dry hair.
  6. Maintain red with gloss or semi-permanent dye as needed.

Can you put red dye directly on brown hair?

You can apply red dye directly to brown hair for a subtle color change. However, it will not successfully turn brown hair a vivid true red. The brown undertones create a barrier, limiting how light the hair can get when color is deposited on unlightened hair. A bright copper or auburn tint is the best case result.

For a dramatic, bold red hue, the cuticle must be opened and brown melanin pigment removed by lightening first. Otherwise, the hair simply can’t pick up and hold onto the true vibrancy of red tones. Pre-lightening is required for brown hair to reach levels 8, 9 or 10 before dyeing red.

What color do you have to dye your hair to go red?

The existing hair color needs to be lifted to a pale yellow or light blonde shade before dyeing red. This provides the optimum blank canvas for the true red pigment to adhere and show through. Here are some target levels to lighten hair first before coloring red:

  • Strawberry blonde – Lift hair to a level 8 pale yellow.
  • Copper red – Lighten hair to a level 7-8 light blonde.
  • Red – Lighten to a level 9-10 pale yellow blonde.

Lightening to these lighter levels removes the most underlying pigment so that the bright red tones can come through. Strand tests can help determine the level of lightening needed for the particular red hue desired.

What color red can you dye brown hair?

Here are some of the red shades that brown hair can successfully be dyed:

  • Light auburn – A mix of red and brown tones on light to medium brown hair.
  • Dark auburn – A deeper red-brown on medium to dark brown hair.
  • Burgundy – A red-violet hue ideal for dyeing over naturally darker brown shades.
  • Red-copper – A muted copper red that works on lightened medium brown hair.
  • Vibrant red – Only achievable if the very darkest underlying brown pigment is removed.

The red shade that brown hair can reach depends on the original depth of brown color as well as the degree of lightening done before dyeing. As a general rule, the lighter the brown goes first, the more vibrant the final red color.

Should you bleach or dye first when going from brown to red?

It is best practice to lighten the hair with bleach or high-lift color first before applying red dye on brown hair. Bleaching or using a high-lift brown-to-blonde shade removes underlying pigment and creates an even, pale base for vivid red dye.

If red dye is applied directly to dark brown hair, it can create an uneven, muddy color. The areas that grab onto the red end up darker than areas that retain brown tones. Pre-lightening avoids this for a smooth, all-over color.

Can you put a red dye on top of brown dye?

Applying a red permanent, semi-permanent, or direct dye on top of freshly dyed brown hair can work, but it may mix to create an unexpected hybrid shade. The brown base adds warmth, diluting the vibrancy of the red tones.

Using a color remover treatment first is best to strip out the temporary brown dye. Then lighten hair further with bleach or high-lift color as needed to prepare for true red. Removing any coating from the brown dye allows for the optimum uptake of pure red pigment.

What happens if you dye red over brown hair?

If red dye is applied directly to brown hair without lightening first, a few things can happen:

  • The red tones only deposit on the lighter areas, creating a patchy effect.
  • The hair darkens overall as the two colors mix into one.
  • The end result is a subtler red-brown or auburn shade.
  • An ashy, muted red tone results from color build-up.

The red has a sheerer, semi-transparent look against the brown base. For clean, even results with no brown coming through, follow up with a second round of lightening and red dyeing.

Can you just use a red glaze on brown hair?

Using a sheer red glaze or gloss can shift brown hair subtly towards a red tone. Since glazes only coat the outside of hair, they don’t lighten or lift color. The red tones essentially mix with and overlay the brown pigment rather than cover it.

The effect is temporary and washes out within 4-6 weeks. While glazes don’t dramatically alter hair color, they can add hints of red and vibrancy between full dye jobs. Using a glaze is also less damaging than bleach and dye for slight red tinting.

How long does it take to dye brown hair red?

Here is an approximate timeline for dyeing brown hair red:

  1. Lightening with bleach or high-lift dye – 30-60 mins
  2. Toning to remove brassiness – 10-15 mins
  3. Applying the red dye – 25-35 mins

Total time can range from 1-2 hours based on how much pre-lightening is needed. The darker the starting shade of brown, the longer the lightening step takes. Have patience when dyeing brown hair red to achieve bright, vivid color payoff.

How often can you dye brown hair red?

Repeatedly lightening, toning, and dyeing brown hair red can be very drying and damaging over time. Limit full dyeing sessions to every 4-6 weeks at most. Choosing semi-permanent or demi-permanent red shades in between minimizes stress on the hair.

Using lower volume developers, conditioning treatments, as well as taking breaks from lightening also helps maintain strong, healthy hair when regularly dyeing brown hair red. Avoid overprocessing by stretching out color services as long as possible.

What are alternatives to dyeing brown hair red?

Here are some alternatives to consider if dyeing natural brown hair red seems too damaging or high-maintenance:

  • Red tinted shampoos or conditioners to refresh color
  • Red hair makeup powders or chalk to temporarily tint
  • Adding red highlights instead of all-over color
  • Wearing a red wig for special occasions
  • Using a red-boosting filter for photos

These are lower commitment options that provide a light wash of red color rather than dramatic bright red dye jobs. Things like shampoos, highlights, and makeup allow you to test drive red tones.


Dyeing brown hair red is possible but requires pre-lightening for significant color change. The exact red shade that brown hair can reach depends on the existing shade as well as how light the hair is lifted first. Deep brown hair may only tone down to a dark auburn unless thoroughly lightened to a pale blonde first. Patience and gradual lightening sessions allow brown hair to achieve vibrant copper and true red hues.

While dyeing brown hair red can be damaging if done too frequently, proper techniques and quality hair products can maintain strong, healthy hair. Alternatives like semi-permanent glazes, tinted conditioners, and temporary coloring also give low-commitment options for trying out red hair.