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Does Ash brown need bleaching?

Going ash brown is a popular hair color trend that produces a chic, cool-toned brunette shade. But to achieve this ashy hue on darker hair, many believe bleaching is required. Below we’ll take an in-depth look at whether ash brown truly needs lightening to show up properly or if alternatives exist.

What is Ash Brown Hair?

Ash brown hair is a cool-toned brunette shade that removes any warm, red or golden undertones from the hair. This gives the color an icy, muted appearance. The result is a trendy hue that flatters complexions with pink or neutral undertones.

Here are some key features of ash brown hair color:

  • Cool-toned – lacks warmth, eliminating red/gold tones
  • Greyish and icy looking
  • Flattering on fair to medium skin tones
  • Works well with hazel, green or blue eyes
  • Requires regular toning to maintain
  • Best done professionally at a salon

When done correctly, ash brown hair makes for a stylish brunette option compared to traditional warm brown hair colors.

Does Ash Brown Hair Need Bleaching?

Many people believe pre-lightening or bleaching is necessary to achieve an ash brown color successfully. But does it always require bleaching first? Let’s take a look.

Bleaching for Light Ash Brown Shades

If aiming to go more than 2-3 shades lighter than your natural level, bleaching is likely required first. Light ash brown shades look best at levels 8-10. So those with darker hair in the level 4-5 range would need lightening to reach that.

Bleaching lifts your underlying pigment and opens up the cuticle layer so the ash toner can then deposit evenly into the hair shaft. Without bleaching first, ash toner washes can struggle to take hold properly.

So for dramatic color changes to lighter ash brown, bleaching provides the blank canvas needed to then tone and color the hair grey-beige.

Bleaching to Remove Unwanted Warmth

Some hair, even at lighter brown levels, still retains quite a bit of red or gold tones. For these stubborn cases, a bleaching session or two may be required to strip out the warmth so an ash shade appears clean.

Gentle highlight-style bleaching can remove embedded golden tones that may otherwise dilute your ashy brunette results. This prevents ash toner washes from appearing too muted or metallic gray.

No Bleaching Needed for Subtle Ash Brown

Not all ash brown requires bleaching though. For those wishing to go just slightly cooler without lightening more than a level or two, a non-bleaching approach can work beautifully:

  • Cool ash brown gloss treatments
  • Ash demi-permanent hair dye
  • Ash brown toning shampoos and conditioners

These darker ash brown options use an ash dye or toner to neutralize brassy tones and add coolness. Without containing bleach, they won’t dramatically lighten. But you can shift your hair subtly cooler in tone.

How to Go Ash Brown Without Bleaching

Ready to go ash brown without bleaching? Here are some simple techniques:

Ash Brown Hair Gloss

A gloss treatment adds semi-permanent color without lightening or commitment. Ash brown glosses come in pre-mixed tubes for quick and easy application at home. Here are the steps:

  1. Shampoo and towel dry hair
  2. Put on gloves and apply gloss evenly from roots to ends
  3. Massage into hair and comb through for even distribution
  4. Leave on for 5-20 minutes per product instructions
  5. Rinse until water runs clear
  6. Style as usual

Reapply monthly for upkeep. Choosing a darker ash brown gloss prevents lightening while neutralizing unwanted warmth.

Ash Demi-Permanent Hair Dye

Demi-permanent ash brown hair dye offers longer lasting cool toning than glosses. It deposits color without peroxide or ammonia. You get subtle lightening and lasts 4-12 shampoos. Here are the steps:

  1. Shampoo and towel dry
  2. Mix dye and apply thoroughly from roots to ends
  3. Let sit 20-30 minutes
  4. Rinse until water runs clear
  5. Style as normal

Choose a demi dye within one or two shades of your natural level. Re-apply as needed.

Ash Brown Toner

Toner provides lasting ash brown color without any lightening. It’s applied after shampooing on clean damp hair. Here are the steps:

  1. Shampoo and towel dry
  2. Mix toner and apply thoroughly
  3. Let sit 20-30 minutes
  4. Rinse until water runs clear
  5. Style as usual

Re-apply toner every 4-6 weeks. Using a darker ash brown shade prevents lightening while canceling unwanted warmth.

Ash Brown Toning Shampoos/Conditioners

Toning shampoos and conditioners are great for long term maintenance between full toning sessions. Here are the steps:

  1. Shampoo hair as usual
  2. Apply toning shampoo/conditioner combing through hair
  3. Let sit 1-5 minutes
  4. Rinse thoroughly
  5. Style as normal

These provide gradual cool toning with each wash, perfect for preserving your ash brown between full toner applications.

How Light Does Hair Need to Be for Ash Brown?

Here’s a look at what starting level you’ll need for different ash brown shades:

Ash Brown Shade Starting Level Needed
Dark Ash Brown Level 3-4
Medium Ash Brown Level 5-6
Light Ash Brown Level 7-8
Extra Light Ash Brown Level 9-10

In general, the lighter you wish to go, the closer to your natural level you’ll want to start. Darker ash brown shades can be achieved on natural level 3-5 hair. Extra light ash brown requires pre-lightening to the lightest ranges.

How to Maintain Ash Brown Hair

Without proper maintenance, ash brown hair can fade or become brassy again. Here are some tips:

  • Use sulfate-free shampoo and cold water washes
  • Incorporate purple shampoo into routine 1-2x a week
  • Use ash brown toning conditioner to refresh color
  • Avoid chlorine and saltwater to prevent fading
  • Get a full toner treatment every 4-6 weeks
  • Use heat protecting spray when heat styling

Being diligent with at-home care and professional toner appointments keeps the icy tone true.

Ash Brown Hair Q&A

Still have questions about achieving the trendy ash brown hair color? Here are some commonly asked questions:

Does ash brown look good on everyone?

Ash brown best suits those with fair to medium skin tones. It can wash out very pale complexions. The icy tone also flatters pink and neutral undertones well. Yellow undertones are complemented by warmer brunette shades instead.

Does ash brown fade easily?

Like any hair color, ash brown is prone to fading and brassiness. But incorporating toning products into your routine and avoiding hot water washes and chlorine can extend the longevity. Get it re-toned professionally every 4-8 weeks.

Is permanent dye needed for ash brown?

No, demi-permanent dyes and gloss treatments can also produce an ash brown effect without the damage of peroxide. Permanent color does last longer but isn’t mandatory.

Can you do ash brown on black hair?

Black hair would need substantial lightening to reach an ash brown shade. You would need to lift natural black hair to a light brown first before applying an ash toner. It may be best done gradually over multiple sessions.

What if the ash brown turns out too dark?

No problem! You can gently lighten it after by using an ash blonde toner or lighter ash gloss. Adding subtle baby blonde highlights can also soften an overly dark ash result.

In Summary

While ash brown can require bleaching for significant lightening, alternatives like glosses, demi-dyes, and toners exist for those seeking subtle cooling without lifting more than a level or two. Proper prep, application, and maintenance keeps this trendy hue looking icy and dimensional. When done correctly, ash brown hair makes for a gorgeous and modern brunette shade.