The 11 Best Hair Dyes for Dark Hair Without Bleach

According to experts, editors and reviewers

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a collage of hair dye for dark hair with a woman with braids and color in her hair and a blue background
Dasha Burobina/PureWow

Copper browns, radiant reds and rich blues are just a few of the trendy shades making waves this year. Luckily, blondes aren't the only ones who can have fun with hair color. Believe it or not, dark hair can get a pop of color (or get a boost in their undertones) without stripping moisture and shine. Here's your sign to experiment with the boldest shades right at home with some box hair dye—no commitment necessary. We found the 11 best hair dyes for dark hair without bleach, damage or dryness.

The Best Hair Dye for Dark Hair at a Glance


Best Overall

DpHUE Color Boosting Gloss + Deep Conditioning Treatment

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Best Purple Shade

Splat Midnight Complete No Bleach Kit

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Best Budget

Jerome Russell Temporary Hair Color Spray

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Best Temporary Dye

L'Oréal Paris Colorista Hair Makeup

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Best Red Dye

Overtone Hair Coloring Conditioner

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Meet the Experts

  • Shvonne Perkins is a master colorist and manager of training for Madison Reed. She has 17 years of experience in the industry, specializing in color services and educating future stylists on innovative techniques. Previously, she worked as a stylist in San Francisco, California for over a decade.
  • Sharon Dorram is a celebrity colorist and owner of Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger Salon with over three decades of experience in the field. She is also a color director and brand ambassador for Virtue. Her previous clients include Barbara Streisand, Kate Hudson, Meg Ryan and Priyanka Chopra.

How We Chose Best Hair Dye for Dark Hair

We asked professional hairstylists and colorists to share the best hair dyes for dark hair. Aside from providing top brands, they also recommended the trendiest shades for darker locks. We also scoured the internet and spent hours browsing through reviews to find at-home hair dyes that offer a nice hue without stripping your hair dry. Ready to try your hand at coloring? Ahead, our top 11 picks for dark hair.

Best Overall

1. DpHUE Color Boosting Gloss + Deep Conditioning Treatment

What We Like

  • available in 11 shades
  • gentle formula
  • easy to use

What We Don't like

  • can feel greasy for some hair types


Add this deep conditioning treatment to your wash day and watch your hair's natural color change. According to the brand, you can see a fresh shade appear on your strands in as little as three minutes. Plus, the formula doesn't contain any peroxide or ammonia, so you can use it as often as you like without drying out your strands. Try out semi-permanent colors like auburn, copper or strawberry, which offers a boost shine and softness to your dark locks. "It took all the cool tones out of my hair and warmed it up [with] just the right amount and left it soft and shiny. I will continue to use this when I need to help my grays blend in better with my natural dark hair without that harsh stark contrast," shares one Ulta reviewer.

Best Purple Shade

2. Splat Midnight Complete No Bleach Kit

What We Like

  • comes with color, conditioner, a pair of gloves and instruction sheet

What We Don't Like

  • can stain clothing, skin or sink easily


Packed with finely milled micro-pigments that attach to the surface of your hair (rather than penetrating the shaft), this semi-permanent dye provides up to six weeks of bold color. The bleach-free kit is infused with baobab seed oil to nourish and protect strands, as well as quinoa extract to prevent breakage, improve shine and seal-in shade. It's specifically made for brunettes, so try out the "Midnight Tanzanite" shade without needing to lighten hair first. As one shopper notes, "It works great on brunettes. Purple is very vivid and [leaves] such a pretty color. You may need help because if it gets on the skin it can stay on for over 24 hours." Make sure to slip on a pair of rubber gloves before you get started because—as you can imagine—the dye is quite powerful.

Best Budget

3. Jerome Russell Temporary Hair Color Spray

What We Like

  • gentle formula
  • easy to wash out

What We Don't Like

  • strong scent
  • finicky nozzle

Jerome Russell

If you're looking for a temporary color, Jerome Russell offers 17 shades for under $10. From copper tones to icy blues, spray the vivid hue directly onto your strands and opt for subtle ends or spritz all over to your hearts desire—with no mess, bleach or peroxide in sight. Shoppers enjoy the no-fuss application, using it primarily to cover grays or thinning spots. "I have fairly dark brown hair and needed this for a Halloween costume as Ginny Weasley [from Harry Potter], who has bright red hair. Of course, I didn't expect it to turn out as red as in the movies, but this did the job fairly well. It made my hair look reddish and was easy to apply," shares one Amazon shopper.

Best Temporary Dye

4. L'Oréal Paris Colorista Hair Makeup

What We Like

  • offers great pigment
  • washes out easily

What We Don't Like

  • dries quickly


Do you have a fun event coming up? Turn heads with a temporary color. This hair makeup washes out after one rinse (with help from your go-to shampoo) so there's no need for the color commitment. Pick from five bold shades (like green or raspberry) and try out those money piece highlights you've been holding off on. "This color is awesome on my dark brown hair. I used it to change my hair color for a Halloween costume and I got so many compliments on my hair all night. I applied it to dry hair, combed through and then used the blow dryer. I then went and had my hair done with a curling iron and more teasing and brushing and the color stayed in wonderfully," says one Amazon customer.

Best Red Dye

5. Overtone Hair Coloring Conditioner

What We Like

  • hydrating formula
  • ready in about 15 minutes
  • great for all hair types

What We Don't Like

  • pricey
  • stains things easily


Hair dyes can leave a very strong (and often unpleasant) scent behind which has everything to do with the chemicals. However, this is not the case with this color conditioner from Overtone, which is specifically designed for brown locks. The formula has coconut oil, shea butter, avocado oil and jojoba oil to moisturize and repair strands. Leave it on for 15 minutes, rinse and see the pigment shine through—regardless what color you choose (though our favorite has to be the rose gold hue). "This is the second color for brown hair I've tried. Both worked well for me (purple and rose gold) and I love that it doesn't damage my hair. The color is really pretty though and Overtone [conditioner] smells great!" shares one Overtone reviewer.

Most Pigmented

6. Ion True Tones For Dark Hair Permanent Crème Hair Color

What We Like

  • available in eight shades
  • contains peqi and argan oil

What We Don't Like

  • not great for sensitive scalps


This line is literally dedicated to dark hair, so expect color to actually show up on strands. It's designed to tone and color your hair in one step without a pre-lightening treatment. Whether you want a fiery red or a blue tone, it only takes 30 minutes to get the rich pigment. It has 300 5-star reviews and even has one Sally Beauty shopper dropping a review for the very first time: "I honestly am not much of a review person, but I decided to leave this one because I love the product. I have very very dark brown hair and it works great. I love how bright and vibrant the colors turn out without me having to bleach it! I go through red hair phases every few years, and I use this every time. 100 percent recommend."

Best for Natural Hair

7. As I Am Curl Color

What We Like

  • available in nine shades
  • pleasant scent
  • washes off easily

What We Don't Like

  • stains things easily

As I Am

The brand behind the beloved curly hair products created a line of vibrant temporary colors. Try one (or all) nine shades on your curls and coils for the day. One PureWow editor (yours truly) even tried it—and yes, the claims are true. My dark curls took on fun colors I didn't think were possible without bleach. I never knew I could look this good in blue, gold or red.

Best Hair Gloss

8. Madison Reed Color Reviving Gloss

What We Like

  • contains keratin and argan oil
  • adds shine

What We Don't Like

  • doesn't cover grays well

Madison Reed

A hair gloss is a great way to boost your natural hair color and Perkins loves Madison Reed's Color Reviving Gloss for this. The semi-permanent shades (like Espresso) helps refresh locks, neutralize brassiness and improve shine. It can last for up to eight washes and works best when applied to the mid-length and ends of hair. "My preference is always an ammonia-free color and this one has keratin to strengthen hair and argan oil to moisturize strands, so you're improving the health of your hair while you're coloring it," says Perkins.

Best Demi-Permanent

9. Clairol Natural Instincts Demi-Permanent Hair Dye

What We Like

  • has over 30 shades in browns, reds and blacks
  • great gray coverage
  • improves shine

What We Don't Like

  • can feel drying on some hair types


"I like demi-permanent dye [because] it deposits color and adds shine, as opposed to permanent dyes, which require peroxide for the color to take to the hair," says Dorram. Her favorite demi-permanent formula? The Clairol Natural Instinct line. With over 30 shades to try out, from dark bronze brown to dark burgundy, and infused with coconut and aloe vera, the color can last up to 28 washes—and it works well on gray hairs. The hair dye is also ammonia- and paraben-free, making it a gentler option for those with fine or thinning locks.

Best Color Stick

10. Hally Shade Stix

What We Like

  • great pigment
  • safe for kids

What We Don't Like

  • finicky applicator


Although it's not a traditional hair dye, this temporary color stick can still provide fun, bold hues for you to decorate your strands in for any festival or party coming up. Whether you're eyeing pink, orange or yellow, it's easy to apply and wash out, so you can dabble in multiple hues at once. For one mom, she found it to be great for her kiddo's hair: "My kids are obsessed with these! No mess and the color washes right out of their hair. So much better than the temporary hair sprays and chalks. [I] will be buying all the shades!!"

Best Shade Range

11. Arctic Fox Semi-Permanent Hair Color

What We Like

  • comes in 14 shades
  • vegan formula

What We Don't Like

  • stains things easily

Arctic Fox

This semi-permanent hair dye offers the boldest shades for dark locks. From oceanic blue to deep purple, there are 14 colors to try out—minus any harsh chemicals (aka peroxide, ammonia and PPD). Shoppers say it's easy to use and the scent is deliciously good for a hair dye. "I love Arctic Fox hair color. It's easy to use and smells lovely. Most of the vibrant colors even give me a pretty good tint on my dark roots. It lasts a pretty long time on most of my hair but fades quickly on my grays," says one Ulta reviewer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What to Consider When Shopping for the Best Hair Dye for Dark Hair

1. Look for brands dedicated to dark hair. There are plenty of brands like Overtone and Splat, who have collections formulated for dark hair. Start with those brands to find a color for your strands.
2. Take hair type and texture into account. Think beyond your natural hair color. Your hair type and texture, as well as your porosity and density level can determine how well your hair can take color.
3. Consider doing a patch test first. Dorram suggests taking a small strand behind the ear and testing out the color before fully committing. She also recommends drying your hair after washing it, so you can really see how accurate the color looks under very good lighting.

Which Hair Dye Colors Show Up Best on Dark Hair?

Don't fall into delulu land and expect every hair color to work on darker strands. It's unlikely dark locks can turn into bright blonde pieces without the use of a lightener like bleach. "Permanent hair color will lighten natural hair about 1-2 levels, which might be less than you envision. It can mean going from dark brunette to medium brunette at best," says Perkins. "If you’re looking for a noticeable change to lightness from dark hair, you may actually need to consider lighteners —which is not necessarily a bad thing in the right hands with a transparent consultation."

How to Dye Dark Hair At Home

The experts provided salon tips and tricks, so you can color your hair at home like a pro.

1. Gather all your materials. Aside from the hair dye, have clips, gloves and a brush ready. Also consider wearing an old T-shirt and/or a towel you don't care about getting stained.
2. Cover your hair coloring station. Perkins suggest placing some parchment paper down to catch any drips and avoid staining your sink. "Also tape the instructions on your mirror, so you don't have to keep touching it when you have color on your gloves," adds Perkins.
3. Apply Vaseline on skin to avoid stains. Dorram suggests applying Vaseline (or any petroleum jelly) on your hairline, tips of the ears and along the nape of the neck. She adds, "This step will ensure the skin will not have tell tale signs when you are through [coloring your hair]."
4. Use a color with ash tones. "While all natural hair colors have some amount of warmth to them (think yellow, orange, and red tones), darker hair has the most. Even if you’re not going for an ashy, cool-toned color, having some blue or green pigment is necessary for your hair to look neutral and not reddish," says Perkins.
5. Follow the instructions on the box. It's important to go through each step slowly to ensure an even application. Most box dyes will have you start at the root before blending it down to the ends using an applicator brush. Remember to work in sections and wrap your hair up while you wait for the color to process.
Wash your hair and condition afterwards. Dorram say a sulfate-free shampoo and a deep conditioner can help keep your hair color looking vibrant and fresh.

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Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...

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