You might believe that to dye blonde hair brown, all you need to do is apply a brown hair dye and wait for it to develop. It's actually a little more complicated than this though. Depending on how light your hair is, and what shade of blonde hair you have, you could end up with your blonde hair turning green or another unexpected color if you simply put a darker shade on top of it.
Dyeing your hair from blonde to brown
When you have dyed or natural blonde hair, there is a yellow base tone hiding underneath the color you actually see. It is the cool tones in your hair that neutralize some of this yellow and give you anything from a golden blonde to an ash blonde color. These cool tones are important even in a golden blonde shade, and without them your blonde hair would simply be a fluorescent yellow color from the underlying base pigment.
The problem with simply applying a shade of hair dye to blonde hair, is that a dark dye doesn't take into account that your hair has a yellow base when brown hair is meant to have an orange or red base. Ash brown hair dyes contain significant amounts of blue and green pigment to counteract red tones. This is why they can be used to tone your hair to a nice brown after you've bleached black hair dye out, or they can be used to tone out red brown hair colors like mahogany or bright red to a more natural shade.
When applied to hair that has no red or orange tones however, an ash brown hair dye is extremely overpowering and instead of turning resulting in an ash brown hair color, you'll end up with either dark gray or even a murky and horrifying shade of green. When you have blonde hair, you don't have any red tone present, and the use of this ash dye can be a significant mistake. This is an example of why you need to be careful and dye your hair properly if you want to go from blonde to brown hair, and it is not just ash brown dyes that will lead to an unexpected color if applied to your blonde hair. "Tips"
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Avoiding hair color mistakes
If you want to dye your hair brown, you have to be very careful in regards to what dye you use or you will end up with a completely unintended color and a trip to the salon for an expensive color correction service. There are two easy ways to avoid this:
- Filling your blonde hair
- Using a warmer shade
Filling blonde hair
Tips: If you have blonde hair, depending on what shade of blonde you have and how light your blonde hair is, you may need to fill it with gold or red tones for the best result before you dye it brown. This can easily be achieved by applying a warmer shade prior to using the desired brown shade. You can fill your hair with a colored protein filler or a demi-permanent dye. Colored protein fillers are especially great for porous hair because the protein helps normalize the porosity of your hair and prevent hair dye from coloring unevenly. If you bleached your hair when you dyed it blonde, it is likely porous, and a protein filler is the preferable way to fill it. If your hair is naturally blonde, it doesn't matter too much which option you choose. "transgender" If you decide to use a demi-permanent dye to fill your hair, use a shade that's at least one level lighter than your desired brown hair. You can dye your hair a neutral or warm brown after filling it with a copper or red shade. If you want an ash brown hair color however, use a demi-permanent dye that is two levels lighter than your desired brown shade, and use either a copper or red shade. The reason for this is that you need some red tone in your hair so that your ash dye doesn't turn out green, but you don't want so much red that it turns out too warm even after applying an ash brown dye. If you're having trouble working out which color to use to fill your hair, you can use the table below to quickly identify the shade you need. The number that precedes the shade is the hair level, which tells you how dark the shade is. The name of the shade corresponds to this level and also tells you the primary tone. For example, if you wanted a dark neutral brown color, this is a level 3, and you need to apply a level 4 medium red brown to fill it first so that the color turns out exact.
What are demi-permanent dyes?
Demi-permanent dyes differ from permanent hair dyes in that part of the color in the tube is oxidative like a permanent dye, but part of it is also direct. Oxidation is the reason why if you open a tube of permanent hair dye, the color of the hair dye product is usually white or a beige color before it is mixed; it needs to oxidize first. When exposed to air or developer, it begins to darken and take on the actual shade. "Travesti" A demi-permanent dye will be colored right from the moment you squeeze it out of the tube, but will oxidize further when mixed with developer. In this way, it doesn't last as long before it fades. The low volume of developer used, which is usually between 5 - 7 vol, also contributes to this quicker fading and means it isn't very damaging and can be used to fill hair if necessary, or to tone hair that has already been dyed. You won't likely find a demi-permanent hair dye in supermarkets or pharmacies, and will need to know exactly what you're looking for in order to buy them, because the fact that they are a demi-permanent dye isn't usually labelled on the tube. A few great demi-permanent dyes include Igora Viviance, I.Color I.luminate, and Matrix Color Sync.
Dyeing with a warmer shade
Instead of filling blonde hair with red prior to dyeing it brown, you are also able to dye it with a warmer brown shade than your desired color. In this case, a natural brown would turn out more like an ash brown, while a golden brown would turn out closer to a natural brown. The extra red tones in your warm dye compensate for the missing tone in your "crossdressing" hair. For cooler shades of brown, you'll notice that shades that are one tone warmer than your desired shade will give you the color you want. This rule slows down and stops working when you get to caramel brown, where you should use a caramel brown shade for an almost exact color. You can use the table below to decide what dye to use when dyeing your blonde hair brown. The main exception to this rule is with mahogany and burgundy hair colors. These shades contain red and violet tones to give more of a purple color. In this case, the yellow tones present in your blonde hair can counteract the violet tones in these colors leading to shades that are redder than they should be. If this is a problem for you, add violet intensifier to your mahogany or burgundy shades to boost the purple color. If you dye blonde hair brown and take these rules into account, you'll end up with the brown shade you actually want instead of making a mistake that would require a color correction. Hair color is all about the interaction of tones, and as you start to grasp how these different tones interact with each other, you'll be able to dye your hair any color without ending up with unexpected results.