How to tone brown hair to turn it into ash brown

hair toning

  • To tone your brown hair, all you need is an ash brown dye.
  • If your hair is dyed a level 4 brown, you should choose a 4.2. If you used a medium brown 5, then you should buy a 5.2 dye. And if your hair is a level 3, that is dark brown, then you should use a 3.2 dye.
  • This ash dye will definitively eliminate the copper tones that tend to appear after washing brown hair several times.
  • And to maintain the ash brown, you should use a purple toning shampoo and always touch up your dye with an ash brown dye.


As you can see, it’s not too hard to tone your hair to change it into an ash brown. But, choosing the right shade is the most important step.

Brown is the color that needs the least amount of maintenance, but that doesn’t mean you can just follow your normal routine without any changes.


It reminds me of Ella’s hair. She’s one of my clients that loves brown hair. I think she’s tired of just about every brown in the book.

10 days ago, she ran into my salon like a soul fleeing from the devil. Between all of the words that spilled out of her mouth, I only understood, “These horrible red highlights!”


When I heard that, I looked at her hair, and then I understood. Ella had taken a few days’ vacations at the beach. And that means sunshine, which tanned her skin nicely, and salty waves, which she fearlessly surfed.

But, of course, sunshine and saltwater didn’t give her hair much of a vacation. They caused something called oxidation in her hair, the process that makes those red highlights appear in brown hair.


 To make it simple, that means the water and sun basically made her hair color fade.  


If you like the highlights, then you don’t have to do anything except enjoy the look. If red highlights aren’t your thing, or they aren’t what you were looking for, you should tone them.

After trying to coax her back to her normal Zen state by offering her a delicious chamomile tea, I told her that we could use an ash brown dye on her hair that would eliminate those reddish tones she didn’t like.


And I also gave her some tips for making that ash tone last longer in her hair.

Do you want to know what I told her?


If so, keep reading, because I’ll tell you:

  • Why you should tone your brown hair with an ash brown dye
  • How to apply the ash brown dye to your hair
  • A few extra tips for taking care of ashy-colored hair 


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How to choose the right ash brown to tone your hair

use 20 volume peroxide

Toning your hair to turn it into ash brown is easy, and you can do it at home.

That way, any red tones leftover or that appeared from the sunlight or frequent washing will instantly disappear.


 Brown is a classic color, and most browns usually have a mahogany undertone, which is to say, a red undertone. Can you guess why? Because to make brown, you need to use red.  

When brown fades, those red undertones tend to appear.


In colorimetry, the color palette goes from 1 to 10, with 1 being black and 10 platinum blonde.

On this color palette, brown hair falls under one of three numbers or “levels”: level 3 is dark brown, level 4 is brown and level 5 is light brown.

Have you noticed that most dyes have more numbers after a comma or period?


Those numbers determine the color tone, which in the case of ash tones, is number 2.

So, to tone your brown hair, you need to choose your new dye with two key aspects in mind:

  • First, you should always choose the same level that you already have in your hair.
  • And second, you should choose a dye with an ash tone, which is defined by the second number.


 So, if your hair is a brown level  4, you should go for a 4.2 dye. If your hair is dyed level 5 light brown, then you’ll need a 5.2 dye. If your hair is a dark brown 3, then you should only use a 3.2 dye.  

Because you’re not trying to change your hair’s level, just tone those red undertones.


How to apply ash brown to your hair in four steps

Once you’ve gotten your dye kit with the right numbers for the right level and tone, all you need to do is use the dye. Do you want to know a hairdresser’s secret?


 Before you use the ash brown dye, you should wait until your hair color fades as much as possible. You should use the ash brown dye around the same time that you’d normally go to get your color touched up. 

That way, your hair will absorb double the amount of pigment since your hair fiber will have lost the pigment it had before.


Step 1: Preparing your hair

Brush your hair out as much as you can so it’s easy to manipulate when you need to apply the dye. You might not think this step is very important, but it is because knotty or tangled hair will make it very difficult to spread the dye evenly throughout your hair.


Step 2: Preparing the mix

Mix the 20 volume developer and the dye tube that came in the color kit in a plastic container (never use a metal one) until well-mixed and smooth.

You can add a few drops of coconut oil if you have it on hand. It won’t interfere with the deposition of the dye, and it will help protect your hair. Don’t forget to put on gloves.


Step 3: Applying the mix to your hair

I recommend applying the dye from your roots to your ends,  carefully covering the entire surface of your hair. 

This step is very important, so you better put your phone aside and don’t let anything distract you, because if you leave any part of your hair bare, then that area won’t get toned, and it will be a different color than the rest of your hair.

Let sit for 30-40 minutes.


Step 4: Rinse

Once you’ve let the dye absorb for the prescribed amount of time, rinse your hair with water, and use the post-color treatment that comes in the dye kit since that will help your hair look shiny and feel soft.


Do you want to know the secrets I shared with Ella to make her ash brown last longer? If so, you’re seconds away from finding them out.


How to maintain your color longer

I still laugh about the face she gave me when she heard me say, “purple shampoo!” She thought that if she used it, her hair would turn purple.


But that’s not what it does.   Purple shampoo tone those unwanted colors that might appear before you touch up your hair with ash brown again.  

You just leave it in your hair a few minutes while you shower, then rinse it out completely with lukewarm water.


But, if you can, let your hair air dry or at least use a heat protectant spray if you’re going to straighten your hair. That will make a big difference in making your color last.


  • Lastly, when it comes time to touch up your color, you should use ash brown dye on your hair again.

Whether you use medium brown, dark brown, or light brown, you should always choose an ash brown, that way, you’ll be able to keep those red undertones under control.


Now all that’s left to do is choose carefully which level and tone of dye you want to use to tone your hair.

Which of the three options I suggested goes best with your current hair color?

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