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How do you lighten dark brown to lighter brown?

How do you lighten dark brown to lighter brown?

There are a few options for lightening dark brown hair to a lighter brown shade. The approach you take will depend on how many shades lighter you want to go and how damaged your hair is.

Lightening Options

Here are some of the most common ways to lighten dark brown hair:

  • Highlighting – This involves applying lightener just to sections of the hair to create a highlighted effect. How dramatic the results are depends on how big the sections are and how light the highlights are colored.
  • All-over color – Using an all-over permanent hair color that is a few shades lighter than your natural shade will give subtle lightening all over.
  • Bleaching – Bleach is the most aggressive way to lighten hair. It removes underlying pigment and lets you go lighter faster. However, it is damaging to hair.
  • Toning – Toning with a lighter color after lightening or highlighting can cancel out brassy tones and make the hair appear lighter overall.

Choosing Your Lightener

The products you choose to lighten your hair will impact both the results you get and how damaged your hair becomes in the process. Here are some options:

  • Hydrogen peroxide – This is the active ingredient in most at-home hair lighteners. Higher volumes like 30 and 40 volume will lift more color but cause more damage.
  • Bleach powder – This typically contains persulfates and must be mixed with hydrogen peroxide developer. It can lighten hair quickly.
  • Highlighting kits – Many boxed home highlighting kits are formulated to be less damaging by incorporating conditioners and lower volumes of peroxide.
  • Ammonia-free lighteners – Some salon brands make lighteners without ammonia, which can be less irritating and damaging on hair.

Steps for Lightening

If you decide to lighten your whole head of hair at home, follow these steps:

  1. Pick your desired lightening product and mix or prepare it as instructed.
  2. Apply petroleum jelly to hairline and ears to protect skin.
  3. Section hair cleanly and neatly into four sections.
  4. Apply lightener quickly starting 1⁄2 inch from the roots. Work systematically from the back of your head forward.
  5. Process for the recommended development time.
  6. Rinse thoroughly until water runs clear.
  7. Apply toner if desired to neutralize brassiness.
  8. Deep condition hair with a moisturizing mask.


Once you’ve achieved your desired level of lightening, maintenance will be required. Here’s what to do:

  • Use a color-safe shampoo and conditioner made for color-treated hair.
  • Rinse hair in cool water instead of hot to preserve color.
  • Use aleave-in conditioner or hair mask 1-2 times a week.
  • Get a gloss or glaze treatment done every 4-6 weeks to refresh color.
  • Avoid chlorine, sun exposure, heat styling to prevent fading.

Color Results Table

Here is a table showing some example starting shades of brown hair and the achievable results using different lightening techniques:

Starting Shade Highlighting All-Over Color Bleaching
Dark brown Light brown highlights Medium brown Dirty blonde
Medium brown Butterscotch highlights Golden brown Strawberry blonde
Light brown Honey highlights Golden brown Platinum blonde


Lightening dark brown hair successfully to a lighter brown shade requires patience and care. Consider your starting color, your desired result, and your hair’s condition when choosing lighteners and techniques. Always opt for the gentlest method that will get your hair to the right level. Maintain your new lighter locks by using color-safe products, protecting from fading, and getting gloss treatments.