How to lighten dyed dark brown hair to medium brown

before and after

  • To lighten your dark brown hair to medium brown, all you need is a level 4 shade dye and a 20 volume developer.
  • But you should know that you can only lighten your hair one shade, no more, because using dye on dye won’t lighten more than one shade.
  • The biggest advantage of using medium brown dye is that you don’t need to bleach your hair before using the new dye. And that is excellent news because you must already know that bleaching your hair can be pretty bad for it.


And I want to clarify that last point because although we are constantly being assaulted by information 24 hours a day, we are usually less informed than ever before. Or even worse, misinformed.


For example, a person made an appointment in my salon to bleach her hair.

When she got to the salon, I saw that her hair was dyed dark brown, and I thought she wanted to change her color to blonde.

But I was extremely surprised when she told me there was no way she’d go blonde, she just wanted to lighten up her brown hair a little bit.

Because what she was looking for was something kinda new, but nothing crazy.


When I asked her why she had gotten an appointment for bleaching her hair if she didn’t want to go blonde, she told me that a friend had told her that she’d need to bleach her hair beforehand to then be able to use a lighter brown.

Ay, no! It really irks me when those friends that don’t know the real facts give that kind of advice. It’s a good thing that my client didn’t end up listening. Can you imagine if she had bleached her hair?


It would have all for nothing because it wasn’t necessary for the change she was looking for and besides, the bleach would have done some bad damage to her hair since her hair was very thin.

 So, in the end, all I did was use a medium brown dye on her hair and we were able to get what she was looking for, in a much, much simpler way than she had imagined. 


That’s why if you find yourself in the same situation, don’t go away, because I’ll tell you:

  • What dye to choose to go from dark brown to medium brown
  • How to use that dye on your hair

Ready to lighten your hair?


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How to go from dark brown to medium brown – which dye you should use

use 20 volume peroxide

Like I said in the beginning, to lighten your hair from dark brown to medium brown, you only need to use dye.

 Just like my client, you probably thought that the transition would be much more difficult; however, it’s not because we’re only talking about lightening your hair one shade.  


In colorimetry, there is a color table that all the international brands use.

You’ve probably noticed that on color kits besides a beautiful model, there is also a number with three or four digits.

The first digit is the one that determines the deepness or the level of the color, meaning how light or dark each shade is.

According to that international table with colors, the numbers mean:

1 – black

2 – darkest brown

3 – dark brown

4 – medium brown

5 – light brown

6 – dark blonde

7 – blonde

8 – light blonde

9 – lighter blonde

10 – lightest blonde


  • As you’ve seen, your current tone – dark brown – is number 3, while medium brown is number 4.
 That means when you buy your color kit, it’s key that you check that number and you buy a dye that has the number “4” on it. 

Any dye with any other number will not work to cover dark brown hair, so don’t waste your time or money on it.

Why do I say that?


  • Because for example, although a level 5 dye does belong to the family of brown dyes, it is within the realm of chocolate browns, which means that the color formula in the dye is different.

That’s why my recommendation is that if you’re looking for medium brown, then you should use a level 4 dye.


  • Inside the color kit, you’ll find peroxide, known as the developer because it is the chemical in charge of lifting your hair fibers to allow the dye’s pigments to deposit in your hair.
 You should always make sure that you’re using a 20 volume developer when you dye your hair because if you use a higher volume one, you will be putting your hair’s health at risk.  


  • A 30 volume developer will lighten your hair, which is why a 20 volume developer is ideal to make sure your hair does not lighten or leave red or orange tones.

If you use a 30 volume or stronger developer, then your roots will likely end up orange and the rest of your hair will take on an uneven, faded brown.

Since the peroxide in the developer lightens your hair and the dye during the application process, you should never use a strong developer when applying darker shades.


How to lighten your hair, step by step

The time has come to update your look with that medium brown you’ve so desired.

What will you need to do so?

  • A level 4 brown color kit
  • Dye brush (optional)

When you have all of the materials, you can begin.


Step by step

Once you have everything, the only thing left to do is apply the dye.

 It’s very important that you closely follow the instructions included with the product. 


I’m going to leave you with a few pieces of advice that should be useful in your application of the medium brown:

  • Don’t wash your hair before you dye it; it’s always better to dye dry hair.
  • You can use the applicator included with the kit or a dye brush, whatever is easier for you.
  • Respect the time that the dye kit suggests for leaving the dye in your hair. Even if you were to leave the dye in for longer than suggested, the color won’t change. There’s a certain time when your hair is saturated with the pigments in the dye and it won’t absorb more color. The only thing you’ll achieve by leaving it in longer is leaving your hair exposed to chemicals unnecessarily.
  • Rinse your hair with water that’s almost cold, that way your hair will cool off from the chemical process involved in dye it. Hot water can also damage the pigments in recently applied dye.
  • Use the post-color treatment included in the kit, since its function is to hydrate and nurture your hair. And that’s very important after dyeing your hair.
  • Don’t wash your hair until 48 hours after you’ve applied the dye.


Now the only thing you need to do to update your look is run to the store to buy the right medium brown color without wasting any more time.


What brand of dye will you use for this color change?

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