DIY and Recipes

How to dye dark brown hair red at home without pre-bleaching

Before you read: I am not a professional, and have not been trained in dyeing at ALL. I just have common sense, I know how to research, I’ve self-taught myself many things, and I have self-dyed my hair many, many times before so I have a general idea of how to dye my OWN hair. If you have issues with your hair dye, I cannot help you other than to Google the problem. Please go to a PROFESSIONAL for help. I read up on this particular brand of dye and how well it worked quite a bit before going ahead with it, so while I’m confident in what it can do based on many online reviews and my own experience, I have to emphasize: I cannot guarantee it will work the same way for you! Do some research of your own, evaluate your own hair, and proceed with much caution.

Also, while I did not have to pre-bleach my hair, as in, I didn’t have to lighten it and THEN apply color, this dye DOES have bleach in it. So if your hair is sensitive to bleach or particularly fragile, you might want to reconsider.How to dye dark brown hair red without pre-bleaching | Note: it looks like the red has black mixed in; it doesn’t. That’s just the way it photographed in that particular light. It’s pretty dang red through and through.

So, as you guys know and can see from the pictures, I recently dyed my hair red. At home. Without pre-bleaching it. And I wasn’t sure how many of you would not know how to do this, but since I’ve gotten at least 10 requests (if not more) for a post, here goes!

I have linked the items I used via Amazon, and will get a commission if you click and purchase (so thank you, you’re helping me keep this blog hosted and alive!) All the products I link are the ones that I have used and know to work well!

A few things about my hair: it’s pretty long, as you can see. About half of it has leftover bleach from when I went blonde last year, as well as old dye from when I went back to brown a month later. It’s been at least a year since I last dyed my hair, and other than a few split ends, it is pretty healthy. You can see the natural color at the top, and I have been told by hairdressers that it’s only two or three levels away from being black, so it’s quite dark. When I went blonde at the hairdresser, it took her six hours to completely lighten and dye it blonde. But dyeing it red myself, it took, in total, about two hours plus time to rinse.

So, let’s get started!

How to dye dark brown hair red without pre-bleaching | www.eccentricowl.comProducts Used (all found at Sally Beauty Supply):

Also needed:

  • Shampoo and conditioner for dyed red hair (I grabbed a John Frida one because I forgot to look at the beauty supply store. It works, although it’s recommended you use sulfate-free shampoo as sulfates can dull dyed hair. L’Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Color Care System ($4.89) is a great inexpensive alternative.)
  • Several packets of conditioner for immediately after you’ve dyed your hair

You will be doing this twice, so either allow yourself a good two to three hours to process, rinse, dry, and re-process your hair, or do it over a few days’ time. I did the second process on the second day, but according to my research into what other women did, it worked just as well and didn’t damage the hair at all to do it all in one day.

How to dye dark brown hair red without pre-bleaching |

Step one: mix up one half of your total boxes of dye according to the package directions! When you’re opening up the little tube of color that comes in the box — it will come with a large tube and a small tube — be careful how fast you squeeze it. That stuff quite literally shoots out and splashes everywhere if you do it too hard! I used a whisk to mix my dye, simply based on the recommendation of a few sites I visited, however you don’t NEED a small whisk if you can’t find one. Just be sure your dye is very smooth and well-mixed! Note: since I only got three boxes when I should have gotten four, I used 1-1/2 boxes each time and hoped it would work. It did, but I highly recommend buying either two (for short hair) or four (for long/thick hair) boxes and using half of it each time.

How to dye dark brown hair red without pre-bleaching |

Step two: brush your hair to get any tangles out, and section it off into easily-manageable portions. You’ll look a little bit like a crazy muppet, but y’know. It’s all for a good cause.

How to dye dark brown hair red without pre-bleaching |

Step three: from those sections, make even smaller sections and paint the dye onto your hair, tip-to-root. (side note, you can put Vaseline around your hairline to keep your skin from getting dyed. Mine turned orange, but was only orange for a few days.) The first time around, leave any virgin hair untouched and process the dye for 20 minutes, and then paint your virgin hair and leave for another 10 minutes, to ensure a more even coverage. Virgin hair will dye faster, and you don’t want to come out with bright orange roots and dull red tips! The second time around, you can paint on tip-to-root without worrying about leaving the roots undone for 20 minutes. And don’t forget all of those wispy little hairs around your ears and face; you don’t want dark wisps and red hair! It’s easiest to take some dye on your finger and apply to get those little hairs.

Step four: rinse and wash your hair according to the package directions, using a red-hair friendly shampoo (the box said to rinse then wash the hair, for any of you who might say you shouldn’t wash just-dyed hair. So that’s what I did!) and lukewarm water. Then, you can either blow-dry your hair and repeat the process, or let your hair dry naturally and do it all again.

Here’s a comparison for those of you wondering what the first process did:

How to dye dark brown hair red without pre-bleaching |

As you can see, it did turn my hair reddish, but the color was much more of a light auburn than a true red. The second time around, though:

How to dye dark brown hair red without pre-bleaching |

BAM it is red. I promise, I didn’t bump the color in these pictures at all; that is how red it will be using this particular shade of dye.

A few tips to keep in mind:

1. Do NOT skimp on dye! Because you have to process it twice, you’ll need more dye than usual, and it’s much safer to grab an extra box than to get to the last chunk of hair and realize you’re nearly out. I just barely squeaked by with three boxes; the last bit, I wasn’t sure if I could get it all covered. Thankfully, I did. But get extra dye, just in case! If you don’t end up using it, you can always put it to use touching up your roots when you need to.

2. Unless your bathroom is incredibly well-ventilated, you might want to grab a floor fan to circulate air, or your nose will burn and you won’t be able to breathe. Because there is a small amount of bleach in this dye, it stinks to high heaven. But a little fan blowing air in totally solves that problem!

3. I highly recommend you use the brush-on system, as using a bottle to squirt the dye on will make it much harder to get even coverage. And with a color this drastic, you’re not going to want splotches of darker hair in the mix!

4. Wear a button-up shirt that you don’t care about, and don’t wear a sports bra, or you’ll likely get dye on it when you go to rinse your hair.

How to dye dark brown hair red without pre-bleaching |

Now, I did a lot of research and I have a pretty good general knowledge of how to care for dyed hair, but if you’re new to the red-hair game, there are a few things to consider:

First of all, say goodbye to hot, hot showers. We all know that red is the hardest color to keep, and this is because the molecules of the red dye are much larger than other colors, making it harder for them to hold on to your hair. So if you want to preserve your red hair for as long as possible between touchups, it’s best to wash it in cool or cold water, so unless you grab yourself a shower cap to protect that hair, you’re gonna be giving up your heated showers to keep a pretty, vibrant red going.

Second, be ready to retouch your hair quite often, as the red will fade much quicker than other colors. I’ve washed my hair twice now, and it’s been red for a week, and I’m not seeing any super noticeable fading yet, but I’ve read around and most of hte ladies have retouched their roots and re-dyed their hair (with non-bleach dye, unless you want it lighter) anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 months after they dyed their hair.

Third, every time you wash your hair you will see color come out of it. This is pretty normal; I’ve had it happen with brown dye as well. But it may also stain your towels, so beware!

Fourth, the first time you dye it will be the most expensive. The dye alone cost me $25, plus supplies; I think I spent about $35 on everything. Compared to a salon dye, that’s pretty cheap, but if you’re like me… it’s above my normal price range. So be prepared to spend a little more to get it red. Upkeep should only cost about $10 a month (if you do touchups that often), though.

Fifth, if you decide to keep up your red hair, unless you want it to get lighter, do not use a dye that needs a developer. This dye/developer has some bleach in it, so while I didn’t have to pre-lighten my hair, it DID bleach my hair and if you keep using this, it will probably damage your hair over time as well as get your hair lighter and lighter every time. So, use it on your roots only, and grab a non-bleach dye to brighten the rest of your hair.

Sixth, know your coloring! Don’t be afraid to ask the person at the store for their opinion. A great way to figure out whether to go with blue-based red or a more orange-based red is lipstick: when you swipe red on your lips, is it more blue/purple, a true red, or more orange? I tend to look better in orange lipstick and orange-based reds, so I went with a more copper shade.

And last of all, be ready to switch up your makeup a little bit. I still use my normal foundation, but I no longer go for pink cheeks as the red in my hair tends to really emphasize the pink in my skin. Temporarily, I’m wearing a more coral blush, but I intend to run to Target one of these days to pick up something a little bit more subtle. How to dye dark brown hair red without pre-bleaching |

P.S. No, I did not dye my eyebrows too. In case you didn’t see my comment about that in a previous blog post: find a matte eyeshadow that is one or two shades lighter than the red hair, and brush it through your brows with some brow wax or brow gel to make it appear as though your brows match your hair.

I think that’s it!

Have you dyed your hair red before? Any tips that I missed? Got questions? Ask me and I’ll try to answer them asap!

Happy Tuesday!

Bloglovin|Chictopia|Facebook|Twitter|Pinterest|Instagram|Fiction Press|Tumblr


  • dani

    For touch-ups, I’ve used Garnier in a box (from drugstores) and it works really well to cover roots, then I just use the remainder to re-redden any faded bits. I’ve always had short hair, so a box was more than enough, but for longer hair you might need 2 or 3 (but when they’re on sale, they’re like $5-6!)

    I remember how hard maintenance was on my red hair… and I had it for nearly 5 years! I love it, and you’re making me really want to go back to it!

    <3 dani

  • Denisse Moncada


    First off, that color looks amazing on you! I’ve used this product in the same color (Red Fire) and I absolutely love it. I plan to continue using this color for the next few months, but only on my roots to prevent damage to the ends of my hair. I’ve been using Manic Panic in Wildfire for maintaining the vibrancy of my hair, and while I do like it, I don’t think it’s quite the same shade of red. My question is, do you know what product I could use on the rest/ends of my hair that matches the Red Fire color? Any advice would be appreciated!! Thank you so much!


    I’ve attached a picture of the Red Fire hair color and a picture of the Manic Panic Wildfire color (if it helps)!

    • Eccentric Owl

      I am so sorry; I thought I had responded to this! I think your best bet would be going into the store and seeing whether they have swatches of hair dyed to show the color — my Sally Beauty Supply did have haircolor swatches, so I was able to see what it might look like on me. Good luck!

    • Eccentric Owl

      My hair had roots, and had been previously dyed brown (within the last six months) and also was bleached before that, and this is how it turned out! If the previous dye was dark and is newer, it MIGHT not work as well, but I’m not 100% sure. I just know that my hair, with old dye, roots, and old bleach, dyed as you see it in the pictures; I didn’t have any weird coloring or darker spots at all.

    • Eccentric Owl

      I don’t know; I’m not a hairstylist, and I’ve only ever tried this specific color, which will get you first a subtle light brunette, and then bright red when done twice. I suggest you visit a local beauty store and ask the associates; they will have a better idea! Good luck!

  • Jess

    I tried dying my hair red it was already dyed one shade lighter and by the same brand but once I used this shade my hair basically came out black I was looking to see what to do to fix my hair I just dyed it last night what do you recommend I do should I do what you did here? I have important events I’m going to so I’m trying to fix it within 7 days please help

    • Eccentric Owl

      Did you use a developer? I used a 30 volume developer with the dye, which is basically a lightener that will help your hair brighten up; like I said, I’m not a professional, but it kind of sounds like perhaps your hair reacted to the dye weirdly. It shouldn’t have come out black at all, unless you didn’t use a developer which MIGHT have made it darker overall since there was no lightening involved (I am not 100% sure about that, but it could be the case.)

      I would suggest either going to a professional for help, or back to the beauty store to see if they have any idea why the dye reacted like that to your hair. I really am not qualified to fix hair issues, and I haven’t ever experienced those problems myself so I can’t give you solid advice other than a few guesses at why that happened.

      I’m so sorry that happened to you, and good luck getting it fixed! My one other suggestion would be to find a dark color that you like that doesn’t have bleach in it, and using that to fix the issue, but you wouldn’t be able to lighten your hair for a while after that.

  • Erica

    Just recently dyed my hair red! First time being a redhead and actually the color of your hair is extremely similar to mine. I didnt use bleach since majority of my hair is light brown. However unfortunately, im noticing a few spots I missed. If I go back to add in more dye to specific parts, will it darken sections that have already been dyed or only make it more brighter?

    • Eccentric Owl

      Ah, I hate when that happens — I have missed spots, too, but usually with a darker dye. When I re-dyed my hair red a few months later, it just brightened all of the hair, and none of it got darker. I did use developer the second time too, though, so I don’t know if you would have different results without.

  • Marie

    Thank you so much. My daughter has been looking for a a to do her hair Red without bleaching it. I’m so glad I came across your post. You look Beautiful in this color.

    • Eccentric Owl

      You’re welcome, Marie! The developer DOES still have bleach in it, but you don’t have to PRE bleach your hair to a ridiculous color in order to achieve this red. It will just lighten as you’re dyeing.

    • Eccentric Owl

      I think so! About half of my hair had leftover dye in it from being dyed back to brown (it had been growing out for around 4 months, though) and this worked just fine on the brown-dyed parts, though they were slightly darker. Processing twice helped lighten everything up.

  • Lauren

    The color looks great! I had been thinking about going red myself for the first time and then stumbled upon this post–perfect! Just wondering if you ever did a touch-up yourself? If so, what did you use? I was wondering if you could use the same color with a lower number developer.

    And congrats on baby #2 πŸ™‚ I just had twins and loved your advice to new moms.

    • Eccentric Owl

      Thank you Lauren! When I touched up my hair I actually used the same developer and a brighter color of red (more firetruck-ish) because I felt like going even bolder with the color, so I’m not sure.But I think for touch ups, you can use a lower developer and the same product and it would work well! That’s what I read, anyway.

      Congratulations on your twins! That sounds like a handful, but a fun one! I hope they are good babies for you!

  • Calleja Araceli

    What brand/kind of the volume developer did you use? Can you put pictures of the boxes of the supplies you used? When/where did you add the developer?

    Also, do you think it’ll working trying to use another color?


    • Eccentric Owl

      I used L’Oreal Excellence HiColor Reds for Dark Hair Only in H8 – Red Fire — sorry I don’t have pictures, but here’s a link to the specific one I used:,default,pd.htm and I don’t remember the exact developer I used, but there isn’t much difference between brands I don’t think, as long as you get the 30 volume (there is 10, 20, and 30 volume).

      The instructions on the box tell you everything you need to know about how much developer to use and when to add it (but, you just add developer into the dye and mix it all up before applying it. The developer and color work together in one application..)

      As for it working with another color, I would assume so? Your best bet is to Google search like I did to get info on the specific color you’re wanting to try, because I’ve only ever done red.

    • The Owl

      You can use most brands without developer, too, depending on how light your hair is — mine’s pretty dark, so I have to use a developer. I’d suggest asking someone at your local beauty shop (Sally’s Beauty Supply is where I go) because they usually know better than I would!

    • Eccentric Owl

      I don’t really know; I have pretty dark hair so developer is required when I do touchups of anything lighter than my natural color. I’d just go into your local beauty supply store and see what they recommend!

    • The Owl

      As much as it told me to use on the back of the dye box. I think it was around 3oz, but I don’t quite remember.

    • Eccentric Owl

      I used as much as it told me to on the dye box — I think it was around 3oz? But if you grab a dye and it needs developer, it will say in the instructions how much you need to use.

  • tessa

    Wow. Beautiful color…..stunning on you! Did any one ever tell you, you look like Rumor Willis!!

  • Tifaney

    Hello, I was wondering if you had any tips on how to get half red and half black hair to one even color of red??

    • Eccentric Owl

      Hi Tifaney! I have heard that using developer only on the darker part of your hair could work, but I really don’t know — I’ve never had that issue, and have only ever dyed my hair when it was all mostly one color. I’d suggest running to your local beauty supply store to ask them (usually they know solutions), or doing a bit of research online before you try anything!

  • Kaitlin

    This just answered all thw questions I had! Currently using this tutorial to dye my hair! β™‘

  • Dawn

    Thank you for this most informative post! I have naturally dark hair as well and have ‘attempted’ going red in the past using drugstore boxed hair color which only tinted my hair. I had to go stand under a lamp to see any vibrancy. I was told by everyone that I had to bleach my hair if I wanted my dark brown locks to be a true red which I wasn’t about to do so I gave up. I’m now learning about Loreal Hicolor for dark hair and seeing the amazing results on fellow brunettes has made me want to attempt going red again. I have a fair complexion with green eyes and freckles so I’m pretty sure red will work for me but I’m kind of particular about the type of red I want. The last thing I want is hair that has a pink, purple or plum hue to it and since I don’t have access to any color swatches I’m leery of what colors to order. I want a vibrant, natural looking red that continues to look natural even as it fades. I know you used Red Fire which I also plan on using but I was wondering if you knew which reds are ‘cool’ and which reds are ‘warm’. I have long hair so I know I’ll need 4 boxes and was hoping to blend the red fire with another red. Do you have any suggestions? By the way, you did an excellent job! I hope my hair looks as gorg as yours when I’m done πŸ™‚

  • Susan D. Weiss

    your hair is stinkin’cute and I have a question . . . what Non Bleach Dye did you use for ‘all over color’ for touch ups?
    (as in you mention to use Non Bleach on hair to keep hair healthy and only use Bleack color on roots for touch-ups)
    THANK YOU thank you for any scoop you can share

    • Eccentric Owl

      I thought I had responded to this! I actually didn’t end up using a regular dye, because I went to a different color after the red. You can use the dye mentioned here without the developer (which is the bleach), though, and it’ll touch up your color!

  • Andrea Pepe

    Hi there Kristina! I have virgin dark brown hair and I want to change it to “the first” stage of your dye, to the light auburn. I mean, my hair look dars as yours and I was wondering if by usign the 30v developer and that dye with bleach in it I could at least make my hair lighter. I looove how your hair looks and both stages and I want it so bad now hahaha. Have a great day! Andy

    • Eccentric Owl

      Hi Andrea! Yes, using the 30v developer and that dye will get your hair to the same as my 1st stage — it’s what I did. πŸ™‚ I just did the same process twice. The first process got my hair to the color you want, the second process got it more vivid!