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How to dye black hair red

Do you have black hair but dream of fiery red locks? Red hair is vibrant and interesting and can look as bright and unique or as subtle and understated as you want it to. Discover how to dye black hair red and achieve a beautiful red hair colour at home.

The dye process

The process required to dye black hair red depends on whether your black hair is natural or dyed, and also how light you want the new red colour to be.

Black hair that has been dyed that colour is unable to be dyed red without lightening first. If you do apply a red hair dye at this point, your hair will remain just as dark and any red tone that penetrates the hair will be practically invisible.

If your hair is naturally black however, and has not been previously dyed, it is possible to lighten and dye it red using a red hair dye. This can only really lighten your hair to a certain degree however and if you want a lighter and vibrant red colour, you will still need to pre-lighten. This is necessary for anything lighter than a medium red brown.

Lightening your hair

To lighten your hair you will need to use bleach. This should only be done if your hair is in good condition and not already overly damaged. You should also be using a decent bleach powder from a reputable brand for the best results.

Section your hair out into four quadrants by parting it down the middle from forehead to nape and then again from ear to ear. To each section, your bleach needs to be applied to layers of hair about half an inch thick. Apply bleach by brush to each side of the layer, moving from the top of the quadrant to the bottom-most layer and then onto the next quadrant until your hair is completely covered.

After your bleach is applied, allow it to process until you reach the desired level. It needs to be as light as the red colour you want to reach before you can actually apply the dye. Using the chart below, you can see that in order to reach a medium red brown colour, your hair needs to be lightened to level 4, at which point it will look approximately red-orange.

For a dark red blonde however, which is a brighter and more vibrant red, you would have to lighten to a level 6. Your hair at that level will generally look a golden orange colour. Lighten as far as necessary for your desired colour before dyeing or it won't dye properly.

Desired level Rinse at:
4. Medium red brown Red-orange
5. Light red brown Orange
6. Dark red blonde Gold-orange
7. Medium red blonde Gold
8. Light red blonde Yellow

Dyeing black hair red

Once you have lightened your hair, you only have to dye it in order to finish the colour and achieve the red shade you want. Unlike when dyeing hair blonde or most other colours, the warm base tone revealed when you lighten your hair will actually work for you to form a rich base for the new red colour, so no toning or other more complicated colouring is required.

However, keep in mind that if you apply a dye that is lighter than what you have bleached your hair to, the dye won't add enough colour into your hair for a true red shade and it can look duller than desired. The dye used needs to be matched to the level you have lightened to for optimum and vibrant results.

To apply your dye, section your hair out in the same method that was used during bleaching and apply in layers to each section until your hair is completely covered. Allow this to develop and then rinse.

After dye care

Whenever you bleach and dye hair, there is a high chance that your hair will be significantly dried by the chemical treatment. Dry hair is more prone to damage, frizz, and breakage, so it is important to correct this as soon as possible rather than just leaving it to correct itself.

The easiest way to do this is to simply apply a protein treatment after shampooing out bleach, and then apply a deep conditioner to add moisture back into your hair rather than your usual conditioner. A conditioning treatment is also perfect for this.

If necessary, follow up with a leave-in conditioner if your hair still feels rough and dry after the deep conditioner or treatment. Within a few days, this will ease off and correct itself as the pH balance returns and natural oils build up, but this process is greatly expedited if you keep it adequately hydrated and care for it gently.

Have a question about how to dye black hair red or need help with your own hair? Leave a comment for individual advice...

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