Go dark brunette, without a regret!

I love playing with hair color as one can probably tell from all my posts about hair dying over the years…I feel nothing feels fresher than a change of color. Natural black hair is gorgeous, but after a year of playing with lightener, aka bleach/peroxide, I have rocked lighter hair color all summer in the way going“bronde”, which is a very light brown. Being a dark brunette, I could never go to light butter blonde without killing my hair, but in general I have been wearing much lighter colors than I was born with.

But a recent resurgence in the brunette hair color has come about…basically because of the royally babe-alicious Meghan Markle. I think she really showed the world how amazing dark brown hair can be since getting engaged and married to Prince Harry really put her in the spotlight.. She set the bar high for a representation of brunette beauty, and it has inspired me to let go of my beachy light locks, for a dark chocolatey brown; a refreshing look for my sister’s upcoming wedding.

The new Duchess always made dark hair so glamorous. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
No regrets

In the past I have gone darker with tons of regret, and I’ve learned a lot from the mistakes I’ve made. All the pitfalls of dying darker were results in hair color that was either too dark, too green, too inky, or too flat. Here are my tips from going lighter to darker and loving it:

  1. Go for drama: Going only one shade darker will not be noticeable and has no mystery or depth. I recommend aiming for 3-4 shades darker for the freshest change. Sometimes it’s scary getting a dark color because it’s so intense! But I have a tip to combat this (see tip #4).
  2. .Choose demi-permanents: When getting hair darker, pigment is being added to the hair shaft, and only needs to be on the surface, unlike lightening that has to go deeper to remove color.  A less harsh way of dying is by using demi permanent colors. Because they use less peroxide, they are gentler to hair than permanent color, and add deeper tones. It’s also easier to lighten hair back with a demi if not truly satisfied.  Demis, unfortunately, will fade faster, but at least the fade will be less brassy since less pigment is lifted with a low peroxide dye.
  3. Notice the hair tone you are starting with: Previously lightened hair has a certain base tone to it that is very visible. It can be neutral, golden, red, or ashy. The base color that a darker color will lay over, should be on the warmer side, since red and gold tones are what makes dark hair pretty. If the starting hair color is very translucent and pigment free, sometimes adding an redish auburn color first is needed to create depth before adding a darker color on top.
  4. A trick I use for not going too dark and inky: Buying two shades. Demi permanent color always processes darker than the sample swatch since it is adding color and not lifting anything. For example, starting with light brown hair and adding a light brown demi, the results will be dark brown because of layering. To keep hair from being too intense in darkness, I like to dilute my dark shade with a blonde or clear color by a ratio of 1:1 and use the right amount of activator accordingly. This makes sure you are getting the dark color you want, while the texture of each strand and subtle highlights are still visible…resulting in more faceted color.
My Own Results

To get my hair to Meghan Markle dark, I had to be careful or else I would get something too dark and flat. So I used an ashy brown mix of colors on my warm roots, (Wella Demi in 5N and 7A) and then a neutral brown mix on my midshaft and ends, since they had an ashy light tone (wella demi in 5N+8N). I diluted the brown color by adding some blonde shades to both mixes of color.

See how in the sun, it’s visible how the back and ends of my hair picked up the dark demi permanent differently. It was also ashier because of previous lightening.

The only thing I had to tweak after darkening was the different color on my midshaft and ends. The back of my hair was so light from previous dye jobs, it didn’t pick up the demi fully, and was also a cooler tone. I fixed this by doing another treatment, a rinse of auburn red in a semi permanent color. (Semi permanent is peroxide free and like a conditioner with dye, no activator needed). And now hopefully, I feel my hair is uniformly dark and mysterious!

After the rinse in an auburn red semi permanent to fill in my mid-shaft and ends. Nice and evenly dark. Yay!
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My Hair Color Transformations and Comicon Cosplay!

I had lightened my hair several times within the last half year in an attempt to find a hair color that suited my aging complexion. Age plays a big part in what hair color to wear, and my complexion recently has turned a bit more pale and ashy, less olive and creamy. Also been getting a few grays here and there. My natural hair color of black was no longer an option, because dying black hair black, looks like inky mess. So ultimately, I lightened my hair (soap capped it) to a “bronde”, a bronze-dark blonde.

Tinting it with a Pink Semi Permanent:

But I remember recently about how I used to have a goal to have rose tinted brown hair…a subtle red/pink that would glow under the sun and bright lights. So one day, feeling tired of my “bronde” locks (my previous article about “bronde”), I saw there was an unused tube of vibrant purple/pink semi permanent hair color on my shelf, and decided that was the day that I was gong to use it.

I used Ion Color Brilliance Semi-permanent in “hottie pink”. And I diluted it 1:1 ratio with conditioner and a bit of coconut oil. Why did I dilute it? My hair was a warm caramel color to begin with. Without diluting, the hair dye would have come out darker, more muddy, layered on top of my existing color. But with diluting, the color came out as a tint over my existing shade of hair. It darkened it as a “no-lift” color will, but also added a rose tone to the hair (the purple in the pink dye was cancelled out by orange tones in my hair) With my dark roots showing and the caramel undertones, it was like a cup of tea infused with rose petals. Thus why I call it “rose tea” 🙂

Tea anyone? Can you see the rose glow on top of my brown locks?

Going to Light Brown for Montreal Comicon:

Ok, now part 2 of my summer hair coloring: Going to a light brown I call “brown sugar”: it’s kind of a golden, muted brown color…I used a permanent Wella color since the ammonia in it could lift my faded reddish color to the right lightness. The character I was channeling for this color inspiration? “Cat” from the TV series Gotham, as a cosplay costume for Montreal Comicon 2018!

This is my starting color from the washed out Rose tint. (took me about 8 shampoos)
Used 10 volume on roots to avoid lifting brassy orange tones. Rest of my hair 20 volume to lighten ever so slightly…
Mixed an Ash blonde for toning with a double NN blonde for more pigment…a must for darker hair going lighter!

Using a blonde color (level 8) was what I wanted to do because I knew with out bleaching first, my hair couldn’t get any lighter with a permanent color, so I had to make sure any color deposit would be light. Also, since my hair is darker than level 8, I mixed ash with a double neutral for better pigment coverage. After processing, I washed the permanent dye out and the result: Light brown: hello Selina Kyle! It was so much fun transforming my hair instead of buying a wig for costumes. It was actually more economic, and less wasteful for the environment. I thrifted most the rest of the cosplay costume too!

Cosplaying Selina Kyle “Cat from the Gotham TV Series! Got the hair color I wanted without using a cheap wig!

My current Hair Color: “Bronde” and how to get it…

(**Disclaimer! I’m not a hair professional, but have just done my research and worked with my own hair to get results I’m happy with. But whenever dying your own hair at home, please follow manufacturer’s directions and consult with a professional when possible or in doubt)

As you all know…I’ve been lightening and coloring my hair since late last year, in an attempt to get a lighter color that is neither brassy, or too harsh/dark for my complexion. Check out my articles on hair coloring and soap capping. And recently I’ve been rocking a hair color that I found out was called “bronde”; too light to be a solid brunette, and too dark to be a blonde. Kind of a caramel color in between two opposites. A nice neither region that I would like to reside in for the next little while. Why? It’s not as high maintenance as a light blonde, and it’s not as brassy as that rust color dark hairs get when they lift too little color. It’s just peachy. Check out this Vogue article about this hair color to get some inspiration. But for how, here are some famous “brondes”:

Jessica Alba: at the tonight show with just the perfect balance of light and dark caramels and soft, bouncy waves.
Amber Heard on GQ? As a darker blonde than she normally is, I think she’s got a lot more mystery and allure…
Beyonce is Bey-youtiful with a hair colour that compliments and warms her complexion. 

Okay, so you get the idea…how the color should look, but now how to achieve this neutral tone, middle level “bronde”color…Go to an expert hair stylist who does great hair color, or try it at home with these tips!**

For Brunettes want to go Bronde:

Step 1: Lighten enough: Believe it or not, us brunettes (black or brown hair) have to lift a level or two above middle lightness to achieve ‘bronde”. It’s not fair, but it’s just the way it is. For those doing this at home, you need to get to a level 7 lightness, at least. Check out swatches on how light a 7 level is.

Step 2. Tone/Glaze: This is so important as it adds the finishing shine and touches to a lighter hair color. Lightening dark hair always brings out warmth. And warmth is the enemy when trying to achieve a gentle tone in hair. Use a demi permanent hair dye with a low peroxide developer to add ash (blue/green) pigment to your strands. Use a lighter level than your hair is. So as a level 7, get a level 8/9 ash tone color. Toning with an dedicated hair “toner” only works for hair that has been lifted past a level 8.

A bit on the warm side, but I will be toning/glazing with a demi in the next week or so.

For blondes wanting to go darker to Bronde:

I’m not the most experienced in this matter, since I am a brunette, but here’s what I do know:

  • Use a demi-permanent hair color, since you are depositing only and not lifting levels. It’s gentler and from what I hear, shinier!
  • Stay away from ash tones. Ash upsets the darkening process by getting too dark/green too fast and then you’re stuck with it.
  • Always use a demi color one or two levels lighter than you want to achieve. So if I were a light blonde, I would do a 7 or 8 with warm/golden tones to get to caramel. Depending on the intensity of bronde you want, diluting the hair color formula with a clear gloss demi would be smart for avoiding over saturation and it looking flat and fake whenever dying darker.

Hope these tips help for all that want this hair color. I find it suits all skin tones and ages and just looks really healthy. Try it today.

**DISCLAIMER: all advice I give is based on my own personal experience with hair color. I’m not a professional hair stylist, so use my advice with a bit of caution and never hesitate to consult to a professional! Thanks!