How to Tone Down Red Hair: What Dye Works the Best?

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One of the most common questions I get at my salon is “How do I tone down the red in my hair?”


  • To tone down the red in your hair, you should use a darker dye that still falls into the range of red shades, always toning down one shade at a time.
  • It’s also very important that you know which shade of red you previously used and which brand of dye it was since each brand uses different red pigments.
  • And you should keep in mind the tones within the shade you choose.

Let’s see if you can guess the piece of good news that I just told you.

Think hard. Have you figured it out yet?


The good news is that you don’t need to bleach your hair or anything like that. And that is a piece of excellent news because it means that you don’t need to undergo any serious chemical processes that damage your hair to tone down your red.

 All you need to do is apply a darker shade of red and you’ll be able to tone down that color that is bothering you so much. 

At the beginning of this article, I told you that this is one of the most common questions I get at my salon. Do you know why I think that’s the case?


Because red is a color that creates a lot of emotion in people. Who could be indifferent to red hair?

I think just about nobody is, because people that have red hair don’t want to go unnoticed; they want to shout to the world, “Here I am and here’s who I am!”


That’s the kind of enthusiasm that women that dye their hair red have. And although we recommend starting with softer reds, in the beginning, those women usually start with the brightest reds.

And then, within a few days, they realize that their red is too bright and fiery, and they want to tone it down.


That’s what happened to Caroline who came into my salon, determined to dye her hair bright, attention-grabbing red, or as she put it, “Very red.”

And although I thought maybe she’d be better off with a subtler red, like a burgundy, she decided to go for a deeper red.

And of course, after a few days, the deep red was “too much,” so she came back to the salon to change it up a bit. And we did.


We ended up going for a medium red instead, which truthfully looked great with her eyes, skin tone and even the make-up she usually wore.

 That’s why I said the solution was so easy, really all you need to do is use a darker color red to tone down your color.  

And today you’re going to learn how to do just that without having to put your hair through any kind of extra suffering.


So, stick around, because I’m going to tell you:

  • How to tone your hair down after dyeing it red
  • How to choose the best shade of red based on your skin color


Are you ready to find the red shade that is going to make you truly happy?

Let’s hop to it!


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How to tone down red hair

Before I explain how to tone down that red shade you don’t like, I think it’s important to make something very clear.

A lot of women think that all kinds of red are the same, but that’s not the case. Each different shade is marked by a specific number. The cherry reds are the lightest and the darkest ones reach burgundy red.


 You should also keep in mind that many brands have their special line of red because each one uses different pigments to get their specific shades of red.  

So, this is my first piece of advice when it comes to toning down your red hair.


  • Always choose the same brand of dye

You should always go for the same brand of dye because if you don’t when you manage to tone down your hair, your color won’t be so vibrant because of the different compositions of the different dyes.

 I recommend that every time you dye your hair red, you cut off a bit of the top of the box it comes in so you can have the brand and shade that you chose at hand.  

What will that help you do?


Always remember which shade of dye you used and which brand of dye it was.

Why is it important to know that?


It’s very important to know which shade of dye you used so you can always know which shade you should use next time.

For example, a 7.66 cherry red isn’t the same as a 5.66 dark red.


  • Choose a darker shade of dye within the spectrum of reds

Since red is just another hair color, going down shade is the same for red as for blonde or brown: use a darker dye within the same color spectrum.

 The only difference is that I recommend just going down one shade at a time, rather than two or three since red contains a lot of pigment.  

Do you know why you need to go slower and safer with red?


Your hair takes 15 days to get rid of the leftover dye in your hair, so imagine what would happen if you were to all of a sudden use a shade that is two shades darker. Your hair would not be able to absorb it.


  • Choose the right red for toning down your color

This step is key, so in order to help make sure you don’t mess up, I’m going to give you a few examples:

  • If you used a 7.66 shade, you should use a 6.66 to tone your hair down.
  • If you used a 6.66, then you should go for a 5.66.
  • If you used a 5.66, then you should go for a 4.66.

Look hard at those numbers, is there something specific about them that raises any questions?


Exactly, if you take a good look at the examples, you realize that the shades go down one full number.

Probably you saw that I didn’t give the same of the shade and that is for a very simple reason.

Each brand has its line of reds, so each brand gives it a special name every year.

So, for us stylists, it’s easier to just go off the numbers. We classify reds as:

  • Dark red 3.66 – 4.66
  • Medium red 5.66
  • Light red 6.66 – 7.66

So, the name isn’t so important; what you have to pay attention to is the number.


  • You should also keep in mind the tone that goes along with the base shade.

Besides the base shade number, you should also keep in mind the tone number, and it’s very important not to change that when you go to tone down your hair.

  • For example, if you used a 6.64, you should switch to a 5.64.
  • If you used a 7.67, use a 6.67.
  • If you first used a 5.66, then you should use a 4.66 after.

That way, your hair will look the same as the first dye you used, just one shade darker.

And what happens if you toned your hair down one shade, fifteen days went by and you’re still not happy with your color?


You can tone your hair down one more shade. You can tone your hair down as many shades as you want, you just need to make sure that you do it one step – or shade – at a time.

Do you want to know what my last piece of advice is?


  •  Every time you use a red dye in your hair, wait a few days to decide if you like it or not. 

Dye takes 4-5 washes to set in your hair since that is the amount of time that your hair fiber needs to eliminate the excess dye it couldn’t absorb.

That means that the red shade you had the day you first used the dye won’t be the same that you have in 15 days.


To finish up, I’m going to tell you about a few tricks for deciding which red shade might be ideal for you.


Tips for finding the best shade of red for you

Red hair does catch attention and can be beautiful, but you should always choose a shade and tone that is harmonious with your skin color.

  • If you have light skin, avoid burgundy because that will make you look even paler.
  • Now, if your skin is beige or golden, you can go for medium copper red, but keep far away from eggplant red because that will make your skin look yellow.
  • If your skin is olive or darker, I’d recommend avoiding super bright red because they can make your skin look green.  


Now you know everything you need to know to tone down your red hair without putting it at risk.

What new shade of red will you go for?


Did you dye your hair red and it ended up too light or too dark? You aren’t happy with how it ended up? I can tell you how to fix red hair here.

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