Can I Use Red Hair Dye As A Filler?

Caucasian woman with short hair using red hair dye as filler in front of a mirror in her own bathroom

Can I use red hair dye as a filler? Yes. This is a common question that arises when people are trying to repigment their hair. Fillers are an important step in the dyeing process because it puts pigment back into your hair, thus providing a strong foundation for future dyes to latch on to.

If you put a dark dye into bleached hair without a filler, the porosity of the hair can affect the dye saturation and you can be left with a dull, uneven color. In some instances, the color will not hold in the hair and will wash out.

The wonderful thing about filler is that it will not only add in pigmentation but will also coat your strands and smooth out breakage. When wanting to go dark, red hair dye as a filler is a vital step in the dyeing process.

It adds warm pigments back to the hair. Below we are going to explore what fillers are, why certain products make better fillers than others, and in what filling cases red hair dye should be avoided.

What Is A Filler In Hair Color?

A filler in hair color is used when an individual is trying to dye their hair from a very light color to a darker one. Basically, the filler would act as a transition color from your regrowth and a base color; its job is to add pigment and depth to your hair before you apply the final dye.

It also helps the final color saturate evenly. In most cases, fillers are recommended to be used in the dyeing process if you have very bleached or very light natural blonde hair and are hoping to darken it. 

According to Erika Brown, a beauty blogger, and cosmetologist, there is a difference between working with natural and previously bleached hair as the porosity of the hair will have to be considered with the latter.

Hair that is more damaged is often more porous, which could exponentially increase the risk of something going wrong. This is where a filler comes in to save the day! By not using a filler on your hair you may end up with a muddy color, or worse: a lifeless green! 

What filler to choose also depends on how many levels you want to go darker. For instance, if you are going less than 3 levels darker, a filler is not needed. Now some of you may be wondering what exactly levels are: Levels are a standardized system of how dark or how light your hair color is.

Leveling is a universal method that categorizes hair numerically with a level 10 being the lightest blonde and a level 1 being the darkest black (anything over a level 10 is considered to be platinum or white).

The leveling chart should be referenced throughout the coloring process so you know how many levels you want to go from your current color—this will also indicate which filler and pigment you need.

Can I Use Permanent Red Hair Dye As A Filler?

While it is possible to use permanent red hair dye as a filler, I would advise against it. You would be exposing your hair to large amounts of ammonia during the process if you use permanent dyes as a filler, which could seriously damage your hair further if your hair is already lifted.

Remember then that you will need to put more permanent color on top of that. The divide between cosmetologists on this topic is primarily seen through their personal preferences.

Brown claims that demi-permanent hair dye is a better choice when jumping 5-7 levels darker, with a suggested addition of color pigment that matches well with the formula.

Contrarily, a member of the Joico Design Team, David Murray, advises matching the filler dye type with the final dye type. This would mean permanent dye for a finale and filler.

Some professionals recommend that if, by chance, you must use permanent red hair dye to color fill your hair, then do not exceed using a 10-volume developer with it.

It is important to keep in mind that by using a permanent filler, you will likely need a color correction if you decide to lighten your hair again. Meanwhile, other stylists would favor a semi-permanent filler since it is just there to act as a latch.

What Can I Use To Fill My Hair?

Many people are left wondering: If it isn’t recommended for me to use permanent dye, what can I use? Semi-permanent and demi-permanent colors are generally safe to use.

Since semi-permanents do not contain ammonia and they do not require developer, they are a good choice; demi-permanent colors often require very little, low-volume developer.

Meanwhile, protein fillers equalize porosity by filling in damaged spots in the hair fiber with hydrolyzed proteins. This will assure the even distribution of the final color of your choice.

Protein fillers also work great for correcting hair that is green from chlorination. Most of the time, protein fillers are used as a pre-treatment and remain neutral. This will be the best filler choice if your main concern is not levels, but porosity.

Remember when picking a filler, it is important to try and avoid any product that will require a large amount of lifting developer. Thankfully, there are developer options that will not lift your hair while still activating your color including:

Can You Fill Blonde Hair With Red Dye?

Yes, you can fill blonde hair with red dye but only if the final color you want your hair to be has red pigments in it (like brown). When hair is bleached or lifted, the natural pigments are stripped out of the hair fibers.

This is especially true for individuals that have a level 9 or a level 10 color. For hair that is heavily bleached, it is pertinent to use a filler to add back in color since the hair is lacking a multitude of pigments. The amount and shade of the red dye to be used depends on the level of brown you would like to obtain. 

On another hand, if you are a light blonde and want to simply go a little darker, you would steer clear of red hair dye. Blonde hair has different natural pigments than brown does; adding red as a filler in this case can leave you pink!

Final Thoughts: Can I Use Red Hair Dye As A Filler?

To sum it all up, red hair dye definitely can be used as a color filler when dyeing your hair as long as you are not aiming for a darker natural blonde or are using a permanent dye.

Fillers themselves are irreplaceable in the dyeing process since they are the key to achieving a dimensional and even end color. It is important to keep your end goal in mind and to choose the right pigments to add back into your hair during the filler stage.

Furthermore, if your hair is prone to breakage, you would want to avoid anything that damages it further (anything that will lift it, anything with harsh chemicals). 

Remember to always consider the levels you want to go between and your hair’s porosity, as these factors will largely determine what sort of filler you will choose: You know your hair the best.


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By Daphnie Bachmann

Daphnie Bachmann is a licensed esthetician and beauty writer at Kintegra Research. She loves beauty and skincare. She always has her eyes open for the next new beauty or skincare product to test out and review. She's driven by her passion for the beauty industry and is always willing to share her beauty secrets!