How to Dye Your Hair Darker, Naturally: 10 Tips

Love the look of dark hair? Wondering how to dye your hair darker? We have some great tips!

By Diane Small

When it comes to hairstyles this year, things are getting dark.

Whether it’s the gorgeously rich chestnut hue that Kaia Gerber has been blessed with, or the jet black shade that crowns Zoe Kravitz, it seems darker hair suits most skin tones. It can also add some serious drama to your look.

While (for me, anyway) blonde hair screams ‘beach,’ or ‘starlet,’ dark hair, on the other hand, conveys other messages: mysteriousness, intellect, Gothic darkness, and even downright witchiness. No wonder it’s trending!

The only downside? It can be hard to dye your hair darker at home.

Sure, there are plenty of products on the market that you can use. But getting an even, glossy colour throughout your mane isn’t as easy as you think. And browns and blacks aren’t like trendy rainbow hair hues – these need to be consistent and natural looking. Think: rich girl hair. Heiress. Class.


brunette bun

Check your hair dye ingredients!

Another major issue when you’re aiming to dye your hair darker? This fact: dark hair dyes can contain some seriously nasty ingredients. They aren’t vegan friendly, can damage your health and/or were tested on animals.

A lot of those chemicals are impossible to avoid if you want your hair colour to be permanent. But the less of these there are in your hair colour, the better:

1. Resorcinol

This receives a nasty 8 out of 10 for danger at the Cosmetics Safety Database. It is classified by the European Union as harmful, irritant to eyes and skin and dangerous for the environment. It may also disrupt hormonal function, and lead to  hypothyroidism.

2. Ammonia

Ammonia is irritant to the skin, eyes and respiratory system, and can cause asthma and breathing difficulties. However, it is much less toxic than PPD, and only receives a rating of 3 out of 10 for toxicity at the Cosmetics Safety Database. Still, many companies are phasing out this harsh ingredient, which compromises the integrity of the hair shaft, too.

3. Persulfates

Sodium, potassium and ammonium sulphates are present in hair dyes and bleaches, and are used in concentrations of up to 60%. However, concentrations of only 17.5% have been shown to irritate skin, and persulphates are also toxic when the fumes are inhaled, they cause asthma and lung damage.

That said, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel has concluded that they are safe for occasional use, provided that the skin is rinsed well after.

4. Lead acetate

This is present in some hair colouring products used for gradual darkening, and is another potentially toxic chemical. Lead has well-known damaging effects on the brain and nervous system.

5. 4-ABP

This ingredient is used in colour cosmetics and in hair dyes, to make the colour permanent. It has been linked to development of cancer.

Obviously, it’s essential to use a natural hair dye! Read on to see which brands we recommend.

10 Tips To Dye Your Hair Darker

Want to know more about dyeing your hair darker at home? I asked the hair pros at Madison Reed for some tips on how to do it right, no matter whether you’re covering up grey roots, or changing your colour completely. Here’s what I learned.

Image below: @nikkinelms Instagram

how to dye your hair darker

1. First, consider your skin tone

Your skin tone is pretty easy to determine. Just look at the veins on the insides of your wrist in natural lighting. If you see a blue-violet colour, you have a cool undertone and would suit bluish or silver tones. If you have a slightly more greenish color, you have a warm undertone. Gold or red are the undertones you need.

It’s really important to consider what tone you are before deciding to dye your hair darker. Otherwise you will look washed out, and the dye you use won’t look natural.

Need some examples? Cool undertones should go for more primary colours, like jet black (think Katy Perry), whilst warmer skin tones should aim for colours with reddish or honey undertones (think Jessica Alba or Angelina Jolie).

2. Go for lowlights 

Going darker doesn’t always mean completely changing your hair color. If you like where your hair is now and want to take a more subtle approach to going to a darker shade, try placing some sporadic lowlights in your hair.

Wondering what’s a lowlight? It’s basically a highlight, but in a darker shade. It goes on the inside layers of your hair, while highlights are usually placed on the outside. This technique can give your hair loads of depth and dimension, making it look thicker. It’s perfect for blondes! But you should probably go to the salon for this.

3. Try going darker in stages

This might be one of the best tips on how to dye your hair darker. “If it’s your first time going dark, the general rule of thumb is to take it in baby steps. Going dark is a big change, and has the potential to make you look like a completely different person. If you are a creature of habit, try taking the color one shade at a time, and gradually work your way to your goal,” says Ally Paige from Madison Reed.

4. Try a semi-permanent gloss first

“If you’re looking for richer, more vibrant tone, but you don’t want to go with a completely different color, a semi-permanent gloss is perfect.” Ally says. “It gives you just the right shine and richness you might be and can be the perfect alternative to going for a complete change.”

This is a great introduction to darker shades. If you love it, of course, you can go permanent. But if not? It’s just a question of waiting a few weeks for it to fade.

5. Choose your color wisely

Before you dye your hair darker permanently, why not try on a wig in the shade you want? It will give you the full picture of what your new look could be. On the other hand, checking how hair swatches look against your skin is probably an easier option. Put the swatch right up to your face in a good light to see how it matches your skin tone.

Tip: Remember to be sure to get as close to a natural light as possible; some colors look different when the sun hits them!

6. Pick a hairstyle that works

A darker color can add a whole new dimension to your hair. But with the right style, you can achieve an even bolder and more beautiful look!

A deeper colour typically usually adds the appearance of more weight to your hair, so if you like to keep your hair from your face, try some face-framing layers. If you want to try a short haircut with your new color, check out this guide to matching your face shape with an appropriate cut, and make your move from there.

7. Don’t forget your brows

You might be so excited to finally color your hair that you’ve completely forgotten a very important detail: your eyebrows. Yup, those need a little taking care of too!

It’s very likely that if your hair is naturally light, you may have to dye your eyebrows, too. This isn’t easy to do at home, and you should never, ever use hair dye for this purpose! Instead, as a beautician to use a specialist eyebrow tint to match your hair. It will make an incredible difference to your overall appearance.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to put dye near your eyes, you can always use a darker brow pencil to fill your eyebrows in temporarily every day.

8. Use the right shampoo & conditioner

Going darker can also mean  a completely different hair care regimen, if it’s far from your natural color. Where getting away with certain shampoos and conditioners were okay once, now you will want to keep that colour in place. Hair care products that are designed to keep your colour from fading are the key to making your look last! Such products will also keep your hair healthy and glossy.

9. Keep it gentle

Coloring your hair can give you beautiful results, but be sure to keep your hair healthy and hydrated during the process. It’s essential to keep away from hair dyes that contain parabens, ammonia, resorcinol, gluten, PPD and other harsh chemicals that can not only leave your hair dry and damaged, but can cause health issues, too.

If you’re going to  go darker, do it right and keep it healthy and strong with a natural hair dye, like one of these brands.

10. Treat it right

No matter how gentle your darker hair color is, it’s still a chemical product that stresses your tresses! For that reason, it’s important to treat your locks extra-well now, and to lay off the heat styling once in a while.

Let your hair air dry whenever possible, and consider taking a hair supplement that will strengthen stressed hair follicles. Nutrafol is good one, with consistently positive reviews on Amazon. Also try deep treating your hair with an extra-moisturising natural mask once a month to really let it shine.

The best healthy dyes for darker hair

Worried your brand may contain some of these? A good tip for those living in the Americas would be to buy European or Japanese brands. That’s because the EU and Japan have banned many toxic ingredients that are still permitted elsewhere.

Otherwise, there is natural henna that can dye your hair darker. For example, Vegetal makes burgundy, chestnut and black dyes from plants.

And the following hair dyes below have been proven to be less toxic than most brands, like L’Oreal or Garnier.

Photo below: John Shearer/Getty Images

1. Mayraki

Hate mixing hair dyes up at home? Frustrated with the mess they make? You’ll love Mayraki’s shampoo! This is the perfect product to dye your hair darker, naturally.

There are absolutely NO nasties, and no harshness at all. It’s perfect for those of us with sensitive skin. Simply massage it into dry hair, wait 40 minutes, and rinse out.

This permanent, vegan-friendly shampoo-type hair dye delivers beautiful, evenly colored hair with its non-drip, conditioning formula. There are plenty of organic ingredients here, too.

Price: $35

how to dye your hair darker

2. Madison Reed

Whether you’re looking for a light brown or a blue-black hair dye, you’ll find it at Madison Reed! All of their  dyes are not only ammonia free, but contain no parabens, resorcinol, phthalates, PPD or gluten.

The result is no harsh smells, burning or itching that nasty chemicals can normally cause. Despite this fact, some have reported allergic responses to Madison Reed, however. So be sure to do an allergy test before you try this brand!

Price: $25

madison reed hair dye


3. Naturtint Natural Hair Colors

This popular, low-chemical brand contains no parabens, resorcinol, DEA, SLS, mineral oils or ammonia. 

Their creamy, plant based formula is safe for anyone of any age. Naturtint easily and permanently covers gray hairs, no matter how many you may have, and they offer a wide range of darker hair colors, from ash brown to jet black.

Price: Around $28

how to dye your hair darker

4. Hally Color Cloud Foam

Hally’s Color Cloud Foaming Hair Color is ammonia-free, gentle on hair, and locks in color. It’s easy to apply, mess-free, and works on all hair types. Hally will cover greys, and lasts for up to 4-6 weeks before you need to dye again.

There are plenty of natural, nourishing extracts in this, including chamomile, lavender, ginseng, and aloe, and it’s formulated without:

    • Ammonia
    • Sulfates
    • Parabens
    • PPD
    • Resorcinol
    • Gluten

The only problem? If you’re looking to dye your hair darker, you’ll only find two suitable shades here: Cola Coaster (a chestnut brown) or Dark Mode (black).

Price: $15

hally hair dye

5. Naturigin Permanent Hair Colour

This innovative Danish brand won the best Natural Beauty Product 2014-2015 in the US market. No surprise, since its natural hair dyes are 100% free from PTD, SLS, ammonia, resorcinol, and parabens.

It contains a naturally derived formula, with a special blend of certified organic lemon and mandarin essential oils, along with 10 additional pure and gentle organic extracts. These natural oils  protect the hair during the coloring process. Each shade of this brand’s natural hair dyes will reveal shiny, nourished locks!

Price: From $34

how to dye your hair darker

Have you tried to dye your hair darker? Let us know how you did it in the comments, below!

Diane Small
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