Why does my dark brown hair look red in sunlight?

girl with brown hair under the sun

  • Your dark brown hair looks red in sunlight because of the amount of red pigment in dark hair.
  • Don’t panic, there’s nothing abnormal or worrying about it.
  • It’s actually the different types of light that change the reflection of your hair.
  • Now you know there’s nothing to worry about, in this article we’ll see how your hair changes when you see it in warm or cold light.
  • I’ll also show you the difference between natural and colored hair.


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Have you been out in the sun and your dark brown hair looked red?

Have you noticed reddish hair in a photo you took in the park?


Well, as I was saying,  dark hair tends to have more red pigments  and when seen in the sunlight, these pigments are what stand out the most.

In this article, we’ll look at this topic in depth.

Join me!


Sunlight and pigments make your dark brown hair look red

Woman with reddish hair in sunny day

The first thing to understand is why your hair looks red in sunlight and why it doesn’t look blue or green, for example.


Our hair contains pigments inside it.  Imagine a hose full of ping pong balls. 

The hose would be the hair and the balls would be the pigments. So far, it doesn’t matter if it’s colored or virgin, undyed hair. But let’s look at some differences.


How does sunlight reflect on virgin hair?

In the case of virgin hair, it contains  three types of pigments: blue, diffused (yellow) and granular (red). 

Depending on the degree of concentration of these different types of pigments, the hair’s color will range from black to very light blonde.


This is why, when exposed to sunlight, dark brown hair appears red. But  that doesn’t mean that your hair is red, but rather that it’s composed, for the most part, of red pigments. 

Does the same thing happen if you look at yourself by the light of a lamp?


If instead of sunlight, you look at your hair through a cold light (usually with blue hues) the mixture of red and blue will result in your hair having a purplish look.

And  if the light has a blue-green hue, you’ll see the same hair in a neutral brown tone. 


How does sunlight reflect on color-treated hair?

Woman smile with headphones on sunny day

This pigment issue is crucial when you decide to have a new hair color, because  the way the pigments work lets you know which hair color is right for the shade of hair you want to achieve. 

Now let’s see what your colored hair will look like depending on the type of light:


  • You should understand that  sunlight, yellow, or warm light will have a greater influence on red  or orange reflections, giving them greater strength.

So don’t panic when you see yourself under warm lighting. Remember that it is a partial reality.


  • On the other hand, if you look under the light of a fluorescent light tube, white energy-saving lamps, or cool LED lights, these  will accentuate your cool highlights, therefore, your hair will look browner. 


That’s why many hair salons choose to have mostly cool lighting since all shades look neutral under these lights. Is that really true?


That’s right. Highlights, streaks, or balayage look more even, more neutral. Those same highlights,  if you expose them to warm lights, will look more golden. 

Actually,  the most “neutral” light could be said to be the light of a cloudy day,  because it’s just clarity. There’s no influence of any kind, neither warm nor cold.


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Conclusion: your dark brown hair looks red under warm light because it has a higher concentration of red pigments

As we’ve seen, if you see your hair looking reddish under sunlight or other warm lights, that  doesn’t imply your hair is red. Rather, it means it has a high concentration of granular, or red, pigments. 

It all depends on the light you see things in. This applies to both hair tone and the way you face things in life.


Keep in mind that,  the darker your hair color, the more reddish it will look in the sunlight.  Don’t panic:  in cooler light it will look browner.  And if you dye or bleach it, exactly the same thing will happen.

 Dyes cause reflections that make a color look warmer or cooler.  That’s why there’s no one better equipped than your hairdresser to help you choose the most suitable tone for you. Leave it in their hands and everything will work out well.


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