Fallon Fitzgerald
Published on March 08, 2022

Did you know that you can substantially transform your dark strands without lightening them with bleach and risking dry hair and damage? More so, while lightening dark hair is definitely within a professional realm, changing your current shade, making the color warm or cool, or going a few levels lighter or darker can be actually achieved from home.

Here is a full guide to the types of dyes and the products that are going to be the best bet.

How to Dye Dark Hair at Home?

Anyone who has had a coloring book in their childhood knows that you need a blank canvas for light colors and won’t achieve any results if you have already covered something with a brown crayon. With darker hair colors, it is basically the same.

For any drastic lightening of dark hair, you need to first remove the natural hair color by bleaching and then tone the pale blonde locks with the desired shade. If you want to dye your hair without harsh chemicals (read bleach), be ready that the result will be close to your current hair color. It doesn’t mean that it won’t make a great impact on the overall look, though!

Dark Hair Colored with Semi Permanent Dye

Instagram / @lorealparis

If you have set out to dye dark hair at home, you need to decide what type of hair dye you will use. Here is what you need to know to make the decision.

Temporary Hair Dye for Dark Hair

Temporary dyes are a good option if you want to try a color out or apply funky unicorn shades without making a big commitment. These sit on the outside of the cuticle of the hair, don’t penetrate the hair shaft and can be washed out in up to 1-6 washes.

Temporary Rainbow Colors for Dark Hair

Instagram /

Temporary hair dye does not lighten hair. They don’t contain peroxide, only color molecules that are already formed before application, which makes them safe and easy hair color to experiment with at home. Remember that you can go darker or change the shade, but it’s not possible to go lighter with a temporary dye.

Semi and Demi Permanent Hair Color

Demi or semi-permanent colors are able to change the shade or tone of your strands or make the base color darker. Since they contain 1-2% peroxide in their mixing solution, they can also cause a mild lightening of dark hair by shifting the base by one level.

DIY Rich Brown Color

Instagram / @angelinarose__xo

Demi colors usually last a bit longer and, in some cases, can last up to 6 weeks before they wash out. Most demi colors typically can also “blend” gray hairs and, depending on what formula you use, they can be used to change hair shades, as well as add shine and luster to the hair.

Demi-permanent colors are safe, but are more of a commitment than temporary hair dyes, as they use what is called an “oxidative dye” – the dye which isn’t pre-formed, but forms when the product is applied to the hair. The color sits on both the cuticle of the hair and within the cortex of the hair, which is why the color lasts longer than the temporary option.

Permanent Dyes for Unbleached Brown Hair

Permanent hair dye is used to both darken and lighten dark hair. When using permanent dye to lighten hair, you must remember the rule “color doesn’t lighten color”. This means that it only works if you use it to lighten virgin hair that has not been previously colored. Using permanent hair dye is the best option for covering grays and changing the overall tone. Because you can lighten safely up to 3 levels with permanent color, cool brown ash tones can easily be achieved with a permanent dye.

Permanent Dye for Dark Hair

Instagram / @clairolcolor

Permanent box dyes do not have bleach in them. They do, however, contain an oxidative developer, made of hydrogen peroxide. It is used to activate most colors and bleach at a salon or when bleaching hair at home. The peroxide solution softens and minimizes the natural color within the hair shaft and allows for the newly introduced color molecules to flood the hair and anchor within the cortex.

On its own, the developer is not as harmful as bleach or a lightening powder, but its presence does mean the color will be more permanent and harder to remove from the hair if you decide you’ve changed your mind. Needless to say, it’s most difficult to strip black dye, so never use a permanent dye to try this hair color.

Dark Curly Hair Colored Copper Blonde Without Bleach

Instagram / @rebekah.curls

The presence of a developer in the color also means that the hair has to be strong and healthy enough to handle the oxidative process. Hair that is very dry, damaged and brittle, with little to no elasticity, should not have any color with the developer applied to it at all. If your hair is damaged, skip the demi/semi or permanent option and stick to temporary color. In the event that your hair is compromised but you need to color it darker and need a more permanent option, please see professional hairdressers. They have the products on hand to get you to the desired shade without further damage.

Best Hair Dyes for Brown and Black Hair Without Bleach

For a color that can be washed out in just a few washes, Wella Color Fresh Masks or Clairol Jazzing Collection may be the best hair dye for your dark strands. They offer a wide range of temporary wear and wash colors that deepen or add a fun hue to the hair. These colors are more recommended for a one-off event when you don’t want colored hair with zero commitment.

For a demi or semi-permanent option, try Wella Color Charm or Ion Demi Permanent colors. These can be used to dye hair red, medium brown, dark brown, or black and can be washed out in weeks.

Semi Permanent Dyes for Dark Hair

Instagram / @wellacolorcharm

Want a permanent option for hair color that lasts longer? Use Clairol Professional, L’Oréal HiColor, or, for a gentler permanent option, Ion Ammonia-free hair color.

Loreal HiColor for Dark Hair Before and After

Instagram / @cassyyy_x0

Don’t forget you’re going to need some new haircare in the form of color-safe shampoo and conditioner. Redken Color Extend Magnetics Shampoo makes an excellent color-safe option, as it helps “lock” the color molecules into the hair for a more durable color result, along with added shine and conditioning. Try not to use any anti-dandruff shampoo, like Head and Shoulders, as it strips the hair of all its oils and can strip the color out prematurely, too.

Playing around with the shades and coloring your hair darker at home can be a fun and easy way to give yourself a makeover without breaking the bank. Just be sure to have enough product on hand, because there’s nothing worse than thinking you have enough hair dye and realizing halfway that you’re going to need more! A professional word of advice: always start with the less permanent option (temporary dye first) and build up to something more permanent if you really like it.

Dark Hair Colored with Semi Permanent Dye Temporary Rainbow Colors for Dark Hair DIY Rich Brown Color Permanent Dye for Dark Hair Dark Curly Hair Colored Copper Blonde Without Bleach Wella Color Fresh Dyes for Dark Hair Semi Permanent Dyes for Dark Hair Loreal HiColor for Dark Hair Before and After