best red hair dyes for dark hair

The 10 Best Red Hair Dyes For Dark Hair

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by Claire Epting

While most of us aren’t born as natural redheads (less than 2% of the world’s population is, by the way), we can always color our hair — and there are tons of great options for those with brown or black strands. The best red hair dyes for dark hair add rich color in shades of ginger, true red, and burgundy — and they’re available in permanent, semi-permanent, and temporary formulas.

The Experts

Mirko Vergani is a colorist at Fabio Scalia Salon in SoHo, New York.

Oliver Adams is a WELLA colorcharm Top Artist.

How To Pick A Shade Of Red Dye

When starting out with a dark shade of hair, Vergani recommends sticking to darker red hues. “Clients with natural dark hair look better with dark shades of red— for example, burgundy, dark burgundy, wine red, dark cherry, or reddish brown colors such as auburn,” he states. That doesn’t mean lighter, bolder reds are off the table, but in order to achieve them, Vergani says it’s necessary to lift the natural base color first. If you can’t make it to a salon, you can bleach your hair at home — but it’s best to read up on the process first to ensure you do it safely. Meanwhile, more subtle copper and auburn shades can be accomplished without bleach.

Should Red Dye Contain Ammonia?

Another thing to consider: Should your hair dye contain ammonia? If you’re looking for bright, long-lasting red hues, Adams believes that a formula with ammonia is the way to go. “In terms of effectiveness, hair color that contains ammonia is usually going to yield a more desirable result in terms of tone and delivering a nicer final color result,” Adams says. While ammonia has a reputation for being harsh, “when correctly used with the right developer, proper application, and accurate timing, there will be minimal damage, if any at all,” notes Adams. That being said, if you have particularly delicate hair or are sensitive to the smell, Adams says there are plenty of solid ammonia-free options on the market.

Below, I’ve rounded up a wide selection of red hair dyes that yield effective results on dark hair — including a recommendation from Adams himself. Bolstered with plenty of positive reviews from real shoppers, these hair dyes prove that redheads might actually be the ones having the most fun.

1. This Semi-Permanent Dye With Rave Reviews

  • Also available on Ulta, $18

Arctic Fox has earned rave reviews on Amazon — their semi-permanent hair dye line has over 45,000 perfect five-star ratings. The ammonia-free formula conditions hair while depositing color and, unlike many hair dyes, it doesn’t have a harsh smell. (Many reviewers actually credited Arctic Fox’s scent — which reportedly smells like grapes — as one of the reasons why they use this dye over others.) There are two red shades — “wrath” and “poison” — which will add multi-dimensional hints to dark hair. “Wrath” is more of a true red that fades into a pinkish color, while “poison” has a slightly more orange base. According to reviewers, the color lasts for about four weeks.

According to a reviewer: “I have fairly dark brunette hair (with some blond highlights), and this dye colored my hair beautifully! I mixed Ritual and Wrath to get this gorgeous wine color. Definitely recommend!”

Available red shades: 2

2. A Shimmery Permanent Hair Dye For Multi-Faceted Color

Ready to take the plunge and commit to red locks? L’Oréal’s Feria permanent hair dye makes it easy. The formula does contain ammonia so the color can lock into your hair, but added moisturizing conditioner keeps your strands from drying out. Out of the eight available red shades, those with natural dark hair should check out an auburn hair dye shade called “cherry crush” — but there are copper and burgundy hues to choose from as well. The shimmering color adds multiple tones to your hair, resulting in a dynamic, multi-faceted red hue.

According to a reviewer: “I'm a naturally dark brunette and this colour without any bleach or anything makes my hair so beautiful and reddish almost similar to the picture. my hair stays so shiny and red for even after each wash, I'm very impressed with this brand and how its been working for me. Definitely a life long product!”

Available red shades: 8

3. Expert’s Pick: A Semi-Permanent Dye That Can Be Mixed For A Custom Result

WELLA colorcharm Top Artist Oliver Adams recommends WELLA’s own semi-permanent hair color for those with naturally dark hair. “They give my red clients a beautiful, vivid rich tone, while being super gentle and adding moisture and shine,” he says. Perhaps the best part? Every shade is fully mixable, so you can combine two different reds to get a perfectly customized result. And at such an affordable price, there’s nothing stopping you from purchasing a few different hues and creating your own personal blend. The ammonia-free dye lasts up to 20 washes, fading out naturally over time.

According to a reviewer: “I am highly allergic to most dyes because they contain so many harmful chemicals. [...] Can I tell you that I'm the happiest person in the world, now? I bought the Coral color and my hair turned out beautiful! NO ALLERGIES!!! I have used it several times and I love the coverage that I get!”

Available red shades: 6

4. Writer’s Pick: A Nourishing Permanent Dye That’s Beginner-Friendly

Using permanent hair dye for the first time can be intimidating, but Garnier Nutrisse’s nourishing color creme makes it easy as cherry pie — and it’s my pick for the best permanent red hair dye. When I first began permanently dyeing my hair red in college, this is the product I used and, unlike other runny, liquid dyes, this creme formula is easy to apply and doesn’t make a mess (which is especially great if you’re sharing a dorm bathroom). The highly pigmented dye adds rich red color, even to dark bases, resulting in intense auburn shades. While it does contain ammonia, it’s also infused with avocado, olive, and shea oils, which work to lock in moisture during the dyeing process. You also get a small packet of grape seed oil, which can be added directly to the dye for an extra-nourishing boost.

According to a reviewer: “I have very dark brunette hair and most colors won't show up at all. This one far exceeded my expectations. Will definitely be purchasing this brand again!”

Available red shades: 7

5. The Temporary Color Spray That Washes Out In The Shower

  • Also available on Ulta, $11

Sometimes, your love affair with red hair is only meant to last a single night. This temporary hair color spray from L’Oréal Paris makes it ridiculously easy to add red highlights and streaks to any hair, even if it’s dark. Because the spray sits on top of your strands without actually altering the color, it’s possible to get a bold red shade in less than a minute, making it the best bright red hair dye for on-the-spot coloring. Great for music festivals, Halloween costumes, and cosplay conventions, this spray-on dye washes out after just one shower. Pro tip: Place a towel between your hair and body before applying to keep the spray from staining your clothes or skin.

According to a reviewer: “This product is great and the blue and the red show up on dark hair. My grandkids love it!”

Available red shades: 1

6. This Bold Semi-Permanent Dye From A Classic Brand

This semi-permanent hair dye from Manic Panic deposits serious color to dark hair, providing lasting results. Specifically, the shades “vampire red” and “infra-red” deliver rich cherry and burgundy tones to dark hair. Providing color for four to six weeks, the ammonia-free formula is fortified with conditioner, leaving hair silky and smooth. You get two jars in a pack, which is great if you have extra-long or thick hair. If you have shorter hair, you can save the second jar for your next dye session.

According to a reviewer: “Just the red I wanted, vibrant but not too bright. I leave it in for two hours and it doesn't fade, I re do it every two weeks or so to keep up with my roots.”

Available red shades: 11

7. This Natural-Looking Semi-Permanent Dye That’s Gentle On Hair

If you want to add subtle auburn tones to your hair without dyeing it full-on red, Clairol Natural Instincts semi-permanent dye is the way to go. Made from 80% naturally derived ingredients like coconut oil and aloe vera, the ammonia-free formula is extra-gentle on hair. It also lasts a long time — up to 28 washes — so you can go longer in between dye jobs. Boosting your hair’s own tones and highlights, this dye creates a red tint without straying too far from your hair’s natural color.

According to a reviewer: “I love the way this hair dye leaves my hair looking and smelling! The color tints my very dark brown hair and even though my color doesn't match the color on the box completely it is the closest that nonperminent dye has. It is very hard to find nonvivid colors in semiperminent dye so I'm thankful for this brand!”

Available red shades: 4

8. This Fan-Favorite Dye That Comes In Tons Of Gorgeous Shades

Despite its unassuming bottle, this semi-permanent dye from Adore delivers bold color, even on dark brown hair. With over 17,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, the ammonia-free formula has earned a loyal following. Adore has the widest range of red shades available — everything from warm gingery orange to cool burgundy to an intense red hair color — so you can find the one that suits your skin tone the best. Reviewers reported that the dye lasts about three to four weeks, and the formula is more liquid-based than others, so you should mix it with a small amount of conditioner to make application smoother and less drippy.

According to a reviewer: “I mixed paprika and orange blaze to get the shade I wanted. This stuff smells good, made my hair feel soft, didn't bother my skin in any way and is so vivid! Would definitely recommend!”

Available red shades: 14

9. A Crème Hair Dye Specifically Designed For Dark Hair

L’Oréal’s permanent creme hair dye requires a couple extra steps to use, but devotees say it’s worth it, having awarded it a 4.7-star overall rating on Amazon. The no-bleach hair dye is designed specifically to transform dark hair into a vibrant red color, so if you’re going for those Jessica Rabbit vibes, this might be the dye for you. In order to use this dye, however, you’ll need to get a tint brush, bowl, and hair dye developer. (Hair care site Bangstyle has a handy guide to figuring out which level of developer is best for you.) You get three tubes of permanent red hair dye in a pack, which will last for multiple coloring sessions, but keep in mind that this professional-grade pick is best for those who have experience dyeing their own hair at home.

According to a reviewer: “My hair is natural black, this is my first time using this brand of hair dye. I mixed the red and magenta with wells volume 40 and left it on for 30-45 minutes. It turns out wonderful! This is a great brand for dark hair, since I didn’t want to bleach my hair.”

Available red shades: 1

10. A Plant-Based Dye Made With Henna

Maybe your scalp is sensitive to the chemicals in permanent hair dye, or perhaps you’re simply looking for a natural alternative to box color. Either way, The Henna Guys specialize in permanent plant-based dye that’s free of harsh ingredients. It’s made with henna powder and indigo powder, both of which have been used as natural dyes for thousands of years, and you’ll get permanent results without the use of ammonia. Keep in mind that this pick is formulated for people with lighter hair — but those with darker hair have reported great results. There are several different red shades to choose from, including ginger and true red, but those with dark hair will see the most noticeable results from deeper shades like burgundy and auburn.

According to a reviewer: “This is the absolute BEST red dye I've ever found for brown hair! I have medium to dark brown hair and almost nothing works on my hair unless I bleach it. This is the only hair color I've ever used that actually colored my hair without bleach. It started off pretty orange and over two days it turned to a really nice deep red.”

Available red shades: 7