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.

When starting out with a dark shade of hair, Mirko Vergani, colorist at Fabio Scalia Salon in SoHo, New York 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.

Another thing to consider: Should your hair dye contain ammonia? If you’re looking for bright, long-lasting red hues, WELLA colorcharm Top Artist Oliver 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

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'm so in love with this dye. I have dark brown hair and didn't want to damage my curls with bleach, so I just let the dye soak in my hair for 1 hour. The color was amazing. My lighter ends took much more color up, but even my roots took the red. Will definitely be buying multiple colors to have some fun with my hair. The smell is great (not too strong).”

  • 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: “This product has me hooked, it's easy to use and you don’t have to bleach your hair at all even if you have dark hair. I went from Brown to burgundy and it added lots of reds and purples to my hair that I can’t get enough of. Oh and did I mention it's cheap? Yeah, do yourself a favor and buy this.”

  • 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’ve been coloring my own hair for over a decade. I've tried hundreds of different brands, colors, etc, but nothing has worked as well as this. It stays in my hair for weeks which is more than I can say for many major brands tbh. Personally I mix it with a little developer because I prefer my dye a little thinner, but either diluting or not, the color always comes out BRIGHT.”

  • 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 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: “One of the only (maybe the only) hair color for dark hair to transform into a lighter shade. I have been using these for a year and half. Color does last long. The oil serum smells wonderful and makes hair so soft. I had zero experience coloring hair by myself but I managed to color the whole head of hair and did not have to worry about a few missed spots. The color looked wonderful.”

  • Available red shades: 7

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

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 L'Oreal Paris Colorista Hair Temporary Makeup is great. The red worked well even for my daughter's black hair. It surprisingly does well enough to hold the color for about 2 days without wash.”

  • 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: “I used the color infrared and it is amazing!!! So rich and vibrant, even on brown hair. The product makes a big mess but the result is well worth it!! Definitely will buy again.”

  • 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 this hair dye instead of permanent that you always have to deal with roots showing. I have dark brown hair and the auburn added a nice red tone to it. It lasts about 2 months, but slowly fades so it isn't noticeable as your hair grows.”

  • 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: “AWESOME dye. Though runny right out of the bottle, you can mix it with a little conditioner to thicken it up. The color payoff is AMAZING. Even on my dark brown hair the color shows up.”

  • 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: “Best red I’ve ever used, hands down. I have almost black brown hair- without bleaching, and just using a 20 lightener, I end up with vibrant reds that are the envy of friends and coworkers. If you have dark hair this is the red you need.”

  • 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: “I have very dark brown hair and the deep red was perfect! I thought it might be too intense but it's only really bright in the sun. Also it wasn't that messy. It washed right out of the towel and didn't stain anywhere in my bathroom. [...] My hair feels soft and clean without shampooing.”

  • Available red shades: 7