Honey brown is a rich, intense brown perfect for the fall and winter seasons but shines at any time of the year. Honey brown is generally a warm-toned hair dye, giving your skin a natural glow. Unfortunately, it can be a very hard dye to find since there aren’t many options; its tonal sister, honey blonde, generally takes the spotlight, but if you’re looking for a darker, less damaging color, this is for you.
This article will cover how to identify your hair type and color, how to do a strand test and skin test, the types of dyes available, how many boxes to purchase, how to care for your hair after dyeing, and my best honey brown hair color recommendations. Learning before starting is your friend if you’re new to dyeing your hair.
Bottom Line Up Front
Honey brown is a rare dye to find. So if you’re looking for a box dye randomly in a grocery store aisle and hoping for something that exactly says honey brown, you probably won’t find it. With this guide, I hope to make it easier for you to find the dye you want, know where to go and know how it’ll fit into your budget. Because honestly, going to the store at 2 am and picking out the hair dye you saw first is not the way; trust me, I know.
“But Lillie,” you’re probably asking, “what’s YOUR favorite hair dye? Well, thank you for asking me; My personal favorite is ion Ammonia-Free Permanent Hair Color Light Honey Brown 5G.
Identify your Hair Type and Color
Depending on your hair type, length, and color, you may need more or less hair dye, you may need to bleach your hair beforehand, and you will need to figure out how to apply it.
Hair Type and Length
Let’s talk dye quantities. It all depends on your hair type and length!
I use a little less than one box of hair dye and about 1/3rd of a dye tube for my short natural hair. I apply the dye with my fingers because even though my hair is short, I have a lot of it, so spreading it with my hands is easier and faster and still covers more hair than an application brush would.
I’d recommend using a brush applicator if you have straight and medium-length hair. You will probably be okay with one box of hair dye.
If you have natural or medium to long hair, I’d recommend using 2-4 boxes of hair dye. Remember, the more hair, the more dye is needed!
Warm or Cool Skin Tone: What Are You?
Another critical step to finding your best honey brown color is thinking about warm or cool tones. Honey brown is generally a warm color, but there are cool-toned honey browns! For example, if you look at a box dye that seems silver-toned, it’s cool-toned.
To know if you have warm or cool skin tones, hold a gold piece of jewelry and a silver one to your face. Go back and forth with them and figure out which makes you look better and brighter. Whatever color looks better will be your guide: gold is warm-toned, and silver is cool-toned.
It isn’t easy to find a cool-toned honey brown dye, but it is possible to discover neutral or cool-leaning honey brown colors. So don’t be discouraged if you look better with silver, cool tones!
Strand Test and Allergy Test
It’s essential to do both a strand test and an allergy test when using a new dye. If you’re a seasoned veteran, you probably know this (maybe you don’t do strand tests anymore), but when applying any dye that will lighten hair, it’s still a good idea to make sure that the dye does what you want it to do, and doesn’t cause an allergic reaction.
You may have been okay with one hair dye, but the next could cause a breakout. To make sure this doesn’t happen, mix up a little bit of your dye and take a strand of your hair from a place you can personally see but can be easily hidden (if things go south), and apply a small amount of dye. Then, leave it on for the directed amount of time according to the dye’s instructions; check it every once in a while to see how it comes along.
Note: This strand shouldn’t be more than one inch wide…just enough to see the color and get a sense of what it will do.
With the dye mixed up, apply some to your arm, but don’t leave it on for more than 15 minutes.
The strand and allergy test will tell you if you are allergic and if you like the color you’ve chosen.
Three Types of Hair Dye Available:
- Sold in any given store
- Easily accessible
- A smaller amount of product
- Hard to get out of hair if you want to go lighter in the future
- It comes with everything you need
- Medium to high hair damage
Permanent hair dye
- Sold at hair or beauty stores
- It comes in a small box or tube
- Needs developer (purchased separately)
- Lifts hair color
- Small to medium damage
Semi-permanent hair dye
- Usually comes in a plastic or metal tube
- It doesn’t need anything else and usually doesn’t come with anything else
- It can be left on for a long time for a more vivid color
- No damage but no color lift
Best Honey Brown Hair Dyes
So, why did I choose these dyes? And what makes a good honey brown dye?
- It has the right undertones of a honey brown (warm, golden/yellow, sometimes a bit red or orange)
- Is darker than a level 7/8 hair color (dark to medium blonde)
- It can easily be found. You can find every one of these dyes in grocery stores, Sally Beauty, Amazon, and local beauty supply stores
- Either personal experience or great reviews. Basically, the 5 degrees of Kevin Bacon, but with knowing a hair color brand
- Diversity! It’s important for me to include dyes for POC hair as well
- Where to find: Sally Beauty(in-store and online), Amazon
- Price: $9-13 (+developer, which can range from $2-20 depending on brand and size)
This dye does need a developer, but ion is known for producing a great, long-lasting color. This hair dye is also the best-smelling hair dye I’ve ever used. I recently used this line’s color in purple, which smelled like cucumber and fresh water. I know, it’s possible! ion is very nourishing and left my hair feeling just as good as it did before the dye, if not a little better. This feeling can probably be attributed to the almond, pistachio, grape, and avocado oils.
Depending on the color, the dye will have extra ingredients, such as chamomile extract or chestnut seed! The honey brown color is a darker, more ginger-toned honey brown (even though it says brown; on research, every review I’ve seen has said it looked more honey blonde). It would be great for darker hair colors or the fall months.
They also have a medium AND darker honey brown; yes, THREE honey browns in one line! How exciting is that? This line is for you if you’re looking for a great selection with nourishing ingredients and a great smell. Can you tell this is my favorite?
- Smells great
- Clean ingredients
- Cruelty-free, gluten-free, vegan, ammonia-free, PPD-free
- Often on sale at Sally Beauty
- Can be easily bought online or in-store
- It needs a developer, so it will cost you a little more
- You’ll need a few more tubes of dye if you have a lot of hair
Best Semi-Permanent: Kiss Tintation Semi-Permanent Hair Color Treatment (Honey Brown)
- Where to find: Amazon, local black beauty stores
- Price: $7-14
Kiss hair dye has been a staple in my home for a long time; they have a vast selection of dye colors, and the dyes last longer than most semi-permanent hair dyes. In addition, this dye brand includes oils to rejuvenate your hair, and it always makes my hair feel better after using it.
Semi-permanent hair dyes don’t have all the harsh chemicals that most box dyes do because it doesn’t lighten the hair at all, so yes, you’ll need lighter hair if you want the color pictured, but it will add warmth to any hair color. Note that this dye works best on bleached or lighter hair colors.
- Vivid color
- They can be mixed with other colors from their line
- Healthy for hair
- It cannot be found at stores and is a rare find at beauty supply stores
- Often sold out or can be found by second-party sellers
- Runny, so it’s harder to work with
Best Vegan Cruelty-Free: Adore Semi-Permanent Hair Color #048 Honey Brown
- Where to find: Amazon, local black beauty stores
- Price: $4-8
It can be hard to find an ethically made hair dye, as most are either tested on animals or contain animal products. While many people are okay with using dyes that aren’t vegan or cruelty-free, others do not want to use any dye that’s been tested on animals.
This dye is perfect for your clean living ethics and is a semi-permanent dye that’s very affordable and can be found at any given beauty store even cheaper than online (you can get Adore dye for as little as $4 in person!). However, Adore dye doesn’t last very long, in my experience, and you will have to lighten your hair for the dye to stay more than three washes.
Note: it does wash out pretty fast if you shampoo normally.
- Not permanent if you want to switch colors up
- Mixable with other colors in their line
- Very runny formula
- Bleeds a lot within the first few washes
Best Affordable Option: Clairol Professional Texture and Tones Permanent Hair Color, Fade Resistant Hair Dye & Color in 5g light golden brown
- Where to find: Target, Walmart, local grocery stores, Amazon, Sally Beauty
- Price: $3-5
Sometimes buying hair dye can get expensive, especially if it’s not a box dye. I mean, there’s a reason people love box dye, even though it can be problematic to get out of your hair. Even then, getting a few boxes can cost more than two large pizzas if you have long or thicker hair.
This affordable dye can cost you as little as $3 and goes up to $6, which is still around half the cost of most other box dyes. It’s also designed for women of color (we finally got one, boys! We got a hair color for us!), but anyone can use it. While not a traditional honey brown, it’s a bit lighter than most and has a little red undertone, but it’s cheap and is a darker version of their honey blonde.
- Nourishing and meant for curly or POC hair
- No ammonia
- Works on relaxed or permed hair
- Very budget-friendly
- Customers say they need to leave it on for hours to get results instead of the recommended 30 minutes.
- The hair color isn’t a traditional honey brown
Best At Home Salon Experience: HIGHLIGHTS Palmi – Warm Honey by Madison Reed
- Where to find: Madison Reed site, Ulta Beauty
- Price: $26.50
Madison Reed has made a name for itself as the best at-home hair coloring kit, making it the easiest for the consumer to try out new or old colors. They have everything you need in their kits and personalized instructions to make your dye application easier.
It also is ammonia-free and chock full of great ingredients for your hair to keep it healthy and happy, even when you’re dyeing it. This dye is also for highlighting only, so if you’re looking for some beautiful lighter highlights that are warm and soft, this is the dye for you.
- Easy to use
- The best option for a more subtle look
- Great for cool and warm tones
- Only for highlights
- It has mixed reviews on how well it lightens hair for those with darker hair colors and how long it stays
- It is pricier than other options on this list
Best in All Drugstores: L’Oreal Paris Feria Multi-Faceted Shimmering Permanent Hair Color, 63 Sparkling Amber (Light Golden Brown)
- Where to find: Target, Walmart, Meijer, local grocery stores, Amazon
- Price: $9-12
I swear, I see this dye whenever I go down that big aisle of hair dye in a store. It’s always staring back at me. It’s a perfect light honey brown, and it is at literally every store ever, according to my experience. Feria is known for its color kits and how they achieve such bright, shiny colors.
While this is probably the boldest brown on this list, it’s still beautiful. Since it is lighter, though, you may have more damage to your hair. Just make sure you get a good shampoo and conditioner for use after dyeing your hair.
- It comes with some conditioner
- Has a virtual try-on to see if you like the color on you
- Cruelty-free (doesn’t test on animals)
- It can be found just about anywhere
- It isn’t a gentle dye, and it has a lot of reviews noting it damaged their hair
- Very hard to get the color out of your hair
Additional Recommendation with a Twist
I wanted to include an honorary mention of a honey blonde dye that I used to use for a nice honey brown color; because I am a woman of color, most honey browns looked too dark for what I wanted, too red-toned for my skin, etc. It’s important to color match; a blonde color could look like a light brown on certain skin tones.
- Where to find: Walmart, Amazon, Sally Beauty, eBay
- Price: $4.99-$10
I broke my own rules a little bit, I know. I used this honey blonde dye on my dark brown hair for two years, and it was the best box dye I’ve ever used—up there with the best dyes I’ve used, ever. So why add this to a Honey brown article?
This dye turned my hair the perfect honey brown for me, bordering on blonde but still rich and warm. Dark & Lovely is one of, if not the best, box dye brands on the market, especially for dark, thick, curly, or POC hair.
Now I don’t want to say for sure that you’d get a perfect honey brown out of this dye; it is a blonde, but it deserves a spot on here for being nourishing, easy to work with, including a decent amount of product, is up to 100% gray coverage, useable over a perm or relaxer, and very affordable.
- Nourishing ingredients like argon oil
- Formulated for protection against dryness
- It says color lasts up to 8 weeks, but in my case lasted four months
- Comes with conditioner
- Five-star reviews across the board
- A much lighter choice than the other entries on this list
- Dark & Lovely often isn’t sold with their entire color line in stores, so check your local store to make sure they have it
- It might not be the best option for thin, light-colored hair
Answer: Most box dyes have instructions on the box, but they usually consist of mixing together part one and part two and then applying it thoroughly throughout the hair, from bottom to top. This is because your roots will take color faster than the ends because of the heat from your head.
Answer: Depends on the dye quality. You’re getting a medium brown; if you use a semi-permanent dye, it will wash out. If you’re using permanent dyes (which can include box dyes, check the box to see if your box dye is permanent or semi-permanent), it should stay in your hair until you decide to change it or cut it.
There are many other ways to have the lasting color you want without the upkeep, time, or energy! I recommend wigs. You can find wigs at your local beauty store, online, or custom-made by a small vendor. A wig might cost a lot more upfront, but it’s better than a hair color you may not want on your own hair. I recommend @melanin.minx_ on Instagram or their website; they have a great cause, are a small business, and you can get the exact color and length you want.
Answer: Sometimes box dye comes with a one-time conditioner to help revitalize your hair, but most don’t. Getting a good sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner is usually enough, but a hair mask can also be beneficial.
Answer: Maybe! If you didn’t mix your developer and color together, you could keep it until you want to use it again. However, if you mix up those two parts, they cannot be used again later and should be thrown away. This doesn’t mean you can’t put the dye on again if you need to get it lighter the same day; this just means you shouldn’t use it after it has been mixed and sitting for more than three hours.
It can be daunting, facing so many dyes. You might think, “well, I love them all! How do I choose?” Don’t worry, babes, I got you. My favorites are ion, Dark & Lovely, and KISS. I’ve tried every brand on this list, and those three never left my hair feeling bad, I always got the results I wanted (though with Dark & Lovely, I needed to dye twice to get the color I wanted), and they’re all clean brands.
Sometimes when I choose a box dye or a dye with a model’s face attached to it, I look to find the one with someone who looks like me. And while it’s not the best judge of character, most companies don’t sell a dye that wouldn’t work for short hair when all the models have short hair (likewise, with curly hair, long hair, and even the same skin tones). That might be the deciding factor if you’re stuck between one dye and another.
Honey brown is an excellent option for many people when choosing a hair dye. I know it can be hard to find your perfect color or the one that works best for your hair type, so I hope I have helped you find the best option! Especially in the colder months, having a warm-toned dye can brighten up a windy, stormy day.
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