Livin' La Vida Lucia

How to Get Red Hair Without Bleaching

By Lucia Rossi

The worst thing about getting your precious hair to that eye-catching color is bleaching. But fear not, bleaching is not a must all the time.

Let’s face it, as broke middle class civilians, we don’t want to spend $200 at the hair salon either. Here’s how I dye my hair at home for under $20.

My natural hair color is very dark brown, so I thought getting it to this red would be difficult. With the advice of a friend who is a Paul Mitchell graduate, I found a way that’s easy.

First get yourself familiar with Sally’s Beauty Supply. They have safe and healthier hair dyes that are much more preferable than the box brands and the prices are very reasonable. You give yourself much more freedom with mixing and picking your dyes yourself. Also the associates who work there are very friendly and are always willing to answer questions.

A few things you will need from the 99 Cent store or local grocery store is a plastic or styrofoam mixing bowl (I got the one from Sally’s), a hair brush, Comet cleaner or bleach powder surface cleaner, vinyl gloves, petroleum jelly, a garbage bag, baby wipes, a shower cap, and hair clips. Hopefully, you already have these items in your home. Most importantly, this is how you pick your chemicals. First you need developer crème. Some ladies just use their hair conditioners from home, but depending on what you get it changes the intensity of your color. I use the Salon Care brand at Sally’s because it’s the cheapest and never let me down.


Although brand name doesn’t matter so much, the number of developer does. You will see 20 developer crème, 30 developer crème, 40 developer crème. The higher the number, the brighter your color will be. I always use 30 developer because it’s not too intense or too dull, it’s just right. I also suggest buying the big bottle if you’re happy with the result so you can have more for your next dye job. Also, don’t forget to buy an applicator brush!

When choosing your dye brand, that decision is entirely up to you. The brand that I personally trust is L’Oreal Excellence Red for Dark Hair. If you’re a blonde, don’t use this brand.

This dye completely brightens my roots every time without any bleach. This dye is also meant for highlights but we have freedom so we’re gonna do what we want and ignore the rules. You can also use the box that says the same thing but without highlights and it will just give you a less intense red, a more deeper color.

Keep in mind that these tubes of dye are for dark hair only and are permanent. However, that word doesn’t necessary mean much considering red is an extremely difficult color to keep. It fades very quickly if you don’t take care of it. But that’s an article for another day.

If you’re going for straight up bright hair then get one or two tubes of the Red For Dark Hair Hilights. Get two tubes if you have long hair.

Now that you have everything, let’s get dyeing!

Protecting your skin and clothes are really important. The chemicals you’re working with are strong and can make your skin burn and itch. If you don’t have a smock at home, you can make a disposable one out of a trash bag. Yes, it may look funny but at least you won’t stain your clothes. Just to be safe, where black underneath. Then cut the two bottom corners of the bag with a hole in the middle for your head and viola! You have a smock.

Next, brush out your hair and separate it into sections using your brush and hair clips. Apply the petroleum jelly onto your inner arms, ears, and neck so when dye gets on your skin it easily wipes off and doesn’t burn. This is also why it’s handy to have baby wipes nearby. Now that you’re protected, fill up your bowl with the developer crème and the tubes of dye. Stir the mixture with the applicator brush until it’s frothy and there are no lumps, like cake batter. Then get your gloves on and start applying the dye to your hair.

If you’re standing over a counter top place napkins or paper towels down so when drops of dye fall it won’t stain the counter. Dye is very hard to get out, especially red dye. Also it would be wise to have a towel beneath your feet so it doesn’t stick to the floor.

Yes, I know it sounds like a murder scene straight out of Dexter but the last thing you want are angry parents and stains that won’t ever come out. so, be wise, be protected, and be clean.

Applying dye can take a while. As you can see from my photo I’ll leave my IPad to the side and watch Netflix or listen to music. It just makes the experience more enjoyable. I was watching Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated and proud.

Getting back on track, when all the dye is applied it’s helpful to put a disposable shower cap on in case you lean against something or your head gets extremely itchy. Resist the urge to scratch so much because it will only get worse and then evolve into a burning sensation. Putting your hair in the shower cap also expedites the process.

Leave the dye on for about 30-45 minutes. Then wash the dye out in warm water. When the water runs clear, use color safe shampoo and rinse again. Then apply conditioner as usual. I like to leave my conditioner on for a few minutes so it really penetrates my scalp and hair. Dying your hair can make it become brittle, really dries out the scalp and can make it flaky.

Afterwards, you can apply a leave-in conditioner if you like or use a product that has Argan Oil in it because it helps lock in the color. This is optional. Now you’re done!

Lucia Hairstyles

Now for the clean-up. If dye gets on your sink or counter and doesn’t wipe off with baby wipes, use some Comet or bleach powder and scrub it with the baby wipe. It will come off.

Remember, if you don’t like the way your hair comes out you can always dye it again (not immediately) or try another brand or revert back to your natural color. There’s nothing wrong with that and there’s no shame in trying something new. I only encourage that you be brave enough to try a bold color because its different and its fun. Changing your look can give you confidence you didn’t know was there and that is what beauty is all about.

If all else fails, you can always go to the salon.

For more tutorials and inspirations find me on Instagram: @livinlavidalucia

2 replies »

  1. So my hair is dyed dark brown right now if I use the steps that you have just described will it still work on my hair since when you performed these steps your hair was natural and not color processed unlike mine?

  2. My hair is also naturally a fairly dark brown. I want to add color to it, but don’t want to get it bleached or bleach it in any way if possible. And I don’t want to dye my hair all the way down to the roots either. If I follow these steps, but leave some natural hair color between the dye and root of my hair, do you think it would still work? I just want my roots to stay natural and healthy.

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