How to Dye Black Hair Red Without Bleaching?

Most people think that a vibrant hair color requires bleach all the time, but with a huge range of color treatments, you can now change your looks without damaging your strands.

Whether you’re too afraid of the damage that bleaching would cause, or aren’t ready for the commitment of daring color, read our guide on dying your black hair red sans bleach.

Black hair has red undertones, so if you’ve got a virgin hair, use a higher volume developer, like 30 or 40, mixed with a permanent dye—and skip the bleach. You may also think of temporary hair-color sprays that provide instant results, or clip-in hair extensions that can easily be styled as needed.

Things You Should Know Before Dyeing Your Black Hair Red

Know which shade of red will look great on you

Do you know shades of red range from cool to warm, and the wrong shade can make you look sallow and ill? If you have a cool complexion, go for cool shades of red, such as ruby red, mahogany, magenta, red velvet, burgundy, and cherry brown.

On the other hand, warm complexions will look more flattering in copper, ginger, auburn, and other reds with golden tones. Regardless of your skin tone, you can pick a hair color that suits you. Just do some research and check some color swatches.

Bleach isn’t always necessary for black hair going red

Each type of hair has its own base color that can be revealed when you lighten it.

Do you know dark hair colors have red undertones, which means going for red is possible without using bleach? If you have virgin hair, you can simply use a permanent dye and higher volume developer.

The developer itself can strip the tone out of black hair, revealing its natural red undertones. Most of the time, it can turn into copper, golden, or yellow where you can dye it with your preferred shade of red.

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Each volume of the developer has a different lift factor

Since you won’t be using bleach, you will rely on the strength of your developer.

While Volume 10 has little to no lift, you can go for Volume 30 that can lift your hair in 2-3 levels or even Volume 40 that will lift it in 3-4 levels. However, this will depend on your hair type and how light you want to get.

Also Read: How Long to Leave Bleach in Hair 40 Vol?

The process between virgin and dyed hair is different

If you’ve got a virgin, black hair, you can easily go for red without using bleach.

However, if you’ve recently colored your hair and want some change, you’ll need to use bleach to remove the existing color in your strands before dyeing it red.

You cannot simply put a red color on top of your dyed hair to make it red.

Remember, the permanent dye only deposit color, and the developer cannot remove the existing pigment from your hair, but only lifts it into 3-4 levels.

Also Read: How to Fix Hair Color That is Too Red?

Step-by-Step Guide on Dyeing Your Black Hair Red

Prepare your hair dye and other necessary items

You’ll need a box or two of red hair dye, volume 30 or 40 developers, a measuring cup, non-metal mixing bowl with an applicator, plastic gloves, non-metal hair clips, a comb, and conditioner. Also, you need to prepare your workspace, and to avoid unwanted stains, cover them with old rags and towels.

Section your hair with non-metal hair clips

Everything will depend on whether you want to get some red highlights or a full color, but make sure you’ll be able to apply the dye evenly. Most of the time, it’s better to start on the bottom half of your hair working your way up. So, clip the top part of your hair into sections, and leave the bottom section down.

Mix red hair dye and developer in a non-metal bowl

The ratio of dye and developer differs in every brand, so it’s always best to follow instructions on the box. Most of the time, you’ll need to mix one part dye with two parts of the developer. For the choice of developer, you may go for Clairol Pure White 40 Creme Developer Maximum Lift (link to amazon).

For the choice of dye, you may opt for your go-to drugstore brand or L’Oreal Excellence HiColor Red(link to amazon) which is a permanent color used by professionals. It has a cream formula that’s easier to deal with and is specifically designed for dark hair. If you’ve got long hair, you might need 2 boxes of hair dye.

Apply the mixture to your hair from root to tips

Your roots are more vulnerable to damage, so always start from the tips working on your way up. Apply the mixture to your strands on the bottom section of your hair, and unclip them as you finish.

Leave it on your hair for about 30 minutes

The processing time will depend on the brands of dye and developer, so follow the instructions on the labels. Most of the time, 30 minutes can be enough for the color to process but don’t leave it for too long. After 30 minutes, check if the color sets in, if not, you can wait for another 5 minutes.

Wash your hair thoroughly and apply conditioner

Rinse your hair with cold water and skip the shampoo. Just apply a deep conditioner to your hair and leave it for 5-10 minutes, then rinse again. You may want to follow it with hair serum, hair oil, or nourishing hair product to restore the moisture in your strands. 

On your next shower, only use hair products formulated for colored hair, since clarifying and sulfate laden types will likely fade your color. To maintain the vibrancy of your color, you may want to opt for John Frieda Radiant Red Color Protecting Shampoo and Conditioner(link to amazon).

How to Put Red Highlights in Black Hair Without Bleaching?

For the highlights, the process is the same as above, but you only need to apply the color on certain areas whether you like to go for ombré, balayage, frosted, or baby lights.

Unless you’re an expert on dyeing your hair, you might need some help from a pro.

If you want some bright pops of red, think of hair extensions that can easily be clipped in and styled in minutes. Hair extensions vary in lengths, colors, and textures, and you may even experiment with synthetic hair or human hair.

Or, opt for temporary color sprays, such as High Beams Intense Spray-On Hair Color(link to amazon) that works on black hair. It provides instant results, yet can be washed out easily. While it’s easier to use for a full-on color, you can strategically spray the product on your strands where you want to get some highlights.

Also Read: How to Lighten Black Hair Without Bleach?

Related Questions:

How to keep your red hair vibrant?

Opt for shampoos, conditioners, and creams that are safe for color-treated hair—and skip the hot rinse.

As much as you can, use a deep conditioner, hair serums, and hair oils to keep your hair healthy and vibrant. Sun fades color faster, so wear a hat or hair scarf, and apply a heat protectant to your strands when going outdoors.

How long should you wait before re-coloring your hair with a different color?

It will depend on the condition of your hair, as the bleaching process is quite damaging. Once you colored your black hair red, you’ll need the bleach to remove the pigment first, before applying a new color. You cannot simply repeat the process above with a different hair color since you’ve already got a non-virgin or dyed hair.

Monika Dimitrovska

A makeup freak who's passionate about books, beauty products, vegan food, daydreaming, and stargazing.

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