Does brown hair get lighter in the sun? Yes, dark brown as well as light brown hair

woman at the beach

  • The sun lightens dark brown or light brown hair, giving it a slight lightness. In addition, the sun acts as a lightening agent on both dyed and naturally brown hair.
  • This process is known as photodegradation, i.e. the effect that the sun’s rays have on melanin, which is responsible for the color of your hair.
  • Therefore, if you expose your brown hair to the sun for long periods of time, it will become lighter. But remember, the sun’s ultraviolet rays also dry out your hair. Therefore, you may want to look for other options to lighten your hair with as little damage as possible.


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 Do you want to lighten your brown hair with the sun? 


I can tell you this. No matter if your hair is dark brown or light brown, natural or colored, the sun will lighten it.


But let’s be honest.

Even if the sun does lighten your brown hair, you won’t get that balayage effect your best friend got by paying a small fortune at your local salon.

Nor will the sun be able to lighten your brown hair to a golden blonde or platinum blonde.

Nope. It just doesn’t work like that.

Let’s just say the sun will lighten your brown hair the same way 10-volume developer would.


If you want to get balayage effects without damaging your hair, you need to go to a professional. The same applies if you want your brown hair to become platinum blonde.

Because in this case, you will have to go through several bleaching sessions. And it’s also essential you put your hair in professional hands.

balayage in dark hair


And don’t forget this vital fact: continuous exposure to the sun’s rays takes moisture and nutrients out of your hair.

In other words,  your brown hair will become lighter in the sun since the melanin in your hair will be bleached. But it will also leave your hair drier. 

So, in order for you to make the best decision, today I’ll tell you how the sun works on brown hair.


The sun lightens brown hair by half a tone

woman at the beach

I mentioned above that  what the sun actually does on brown hair is to give it a bit of a lightening effect. And that lightening will be very slight , both on light brown hair and dark brown hair.


It’s probable that this lightening will be more noticeable at the ends or on the strands around your face, what we colorists call face framing.


So what happens? The lighter your brown hair is, the more the yellow or golden highlights will stand out. You can’t expect the sun to magically turn dark brown hair into light blonde hair.

It all has to do with the base pigmentation of your brown hair.

For example:

  •  If you’re European , your base pigmentation will be more yellow and the sun will take less time to lighten your brown hair.
  •  If you’re South American , your base pigmentation will be orange and the sun will take a little longer to lighten your hair.
  •  If you are African American , your base pigmentation will be redder and the sun will take considerably longer to lighten your brown hair.

Once you start to lighten your brown hair, you’ll start to notice harsh colors appearing. To neutralize them, you should use a toning shampoo.


curly hair woman at the beach

  •  On dark brown hair , the sun will leave reddish tones. Therefore, you should use green tinting shampoo.
  •  On mid-brown hair , the sun will leave orange tones. You should use blue shampoo.
  •  On light brown hair , the sun will leave yellowish tones, and you should neutralize them by using violet shampoo.

Generally, you use toning shampoo once a week, replacing it with your usual shampoo.



Now you know. The sun can lighten your brown hair by half a tone, giving it a slight lightening effect. This will be more visible on your ends and strands around the contour of your face.

Therefore, if you want your hair to have a professional balayage or if you want to lighten your brown hair by more than three shades, you should go to a professional.

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