Going Red: L’Oreal HiColor “Intense Red” and HiColor Highlights “Red” Review

For almost a year now I have been trying to turn my mousy dark brown hair into a vibrant red velvet/burgundy shade. I have used many different box dyes that you can find at CVS or Walmart, and all they ever did was slightly tint my hair and result in a gross brownish-reddish that I absolutely hated. In order for the red to be vibrant, my hair would need to be several levels lighter, which usually means bleaching. I want to avoid bleaching both because it’s damaging, and because I am no professional and would probably screw something up.

This is the haircolor I want (source: Pinterest)

This is the haircolor I want (source: Pinterest)

So finally after hours of research, I decided to try the L’Oreal HiColor line. These dyes are designed for dark hair and they lift several levels while depositing color, all in one step. As with any lightening, there is a risk involved and some damage will happen, but not nearly as bad as bleaching first and then dying over in red. These dyes can be found at Sally Beauty Supply and cost about $4 apiece. In order for them to work, you will also need to buy cream developer. I chose the 30 volume because it lifts about 3 levels. A 20 vol developer is usually the same as the developer they put into box dyes at Walmart and CVS, so I knew I would need something stronger to achieve a more vibrant result.

To achieve this color, I decided to mix 2 different L’Oreal HiColor dyes. One of them is the L’Oreal HiColor Highlights in Red, the other is L’Oreal HiColor in Intense Red. The reason I chose to mix the two is because the first one usually turns out like a firetruck red – bright and punky, while the second one is usually not vibrant enough, more like a dark burgundy with purplish tones (despite its misleading name). I mixed the colors half and half and mixed with 2.5 fl. oz Oreor Crème 30 Volume developer. You will also need a plastic mixing bowl, a plastic tinting brush, a pair of gloves, and newspaper or something similar to cover your bathroom from evil red stains!

You will need the dye, the developer, a mixing bowl, a tinting brush, a pair of gloves, and newspaper covering all your surfaces!

You will need the dye, the developer, a mixing bowl, a tinting brush, a pair of gloves, and newspaper covering all your surfaces!


The application was pretty easy, but messy. I had red stains all over my forehead and neck and ears, but after showering most of it washed off. Here are my recommendations to achieve the best results:

  1. Put some Vaseline along your hairline and on your ears to prevent staining.
  2. Section your hair and begin with the lower sections.
  3. Make sure to mix the dye and developer VERY well – no chunks!
  4. Cover the middle and ends first – stay away from the roots as they will process faster, especially if you have previously dyed hair like mine. The “virgin” roots absorb the red almost instantly, while the rest of it takes a much longer time.
  5. Once you saturated your lengths, let them sit 15-20 minutes before applying the dye to your roots.
  6. Keep it in for another 25-30 minutes.
  7. Rinse out with lukewarm water until it runs clean.


I am pretty happy with the results, although I wish my hair was even lighter. The good thing about these dyes is that they lift with every application – so when I touch up in several weeks, the color will be lighter, gradually becoming what I want it to be.

Here is what my hair looked like before:

See what I mean? Fading reddish-brown. Gross.

BEFORE: See what I mean? Fading reddish-brown. Gross.

And here it is the day after! This picture was taken in the car, so it looks darker than it really is:

AFTER using L'Oreal HiColor Highlights Red and Intense Red

AFTER using L’Oreal HiColor Highlights Red and Intense Red

Here it is in the sun:

AFTER using L'Oreal HiColor Highlights Red and HiColor Intense Red

AFTER using L’Oreal HiColor Highlights Red and HiColor Intense Red

AFTER: my roots are a little bright, but that's my fault!

AFTER: my roots are a little bright, but that’s my fault!

I hope this helps those of you looking to dye your hair red! Please keep in mind, if you have virgin hair (undyed previously) or light hair, your results will be brighter and lighter than mine.


33 thoughts on “Going Red: L’Oreal HiColor “Intense Red” and HiColor Highlights “Red” Review

  1. It looks good!! I’m a licensed professional hair stylist and I’ve personally used the L’Oreal Hi-Colors on my own hair before I was licensed. I had very dark brown hair and like you I didn’t want to bleach it, so I used the hi-color with 30 volume and it came out perfect. If you ever color your hair black or dark brown, you could always use a color extractor instead of lightener. I had blue black hair in sept and I used the Pravana color extractor twice and it caused no damage. It feels awful while rinsing it out simply because you have to use a clarifying shampoo but after that it feels back to normal. I was able to go from blue black hair to a medium/light brown with a bunch of highlights so I was predominantly blonde. If you ever want to get rid of the red, make sure to use an ash based color 🙂 also be sure to use a really good color preserve shampoo/conditioner to keep your color from fading and keep your hair healthy! 30 volume is harsh whether it’s used for lightener or color so conditioning and oil treatments are a must. Have fun with your red hair! 🙂

    • Hi I did my hair with the magenta from that same line and it just looks red and brown/black I had a dark to light blonde ombré before this but I only used a 20 developer I’m wondering if I retry it with the two colors mixed above and a 30 some of the black/brown spots would lift I’m aiming more for a magenta/purplish/burgundy type color not sure if I’m describing what I want right …without having to strip it or bleach it

    • Helo I need help!!!lol l..I recently dye my hair magenta red I use the L’Oréal highlight hair dye from sallys I use 2 boxes n a 4oz 30 developer n I love the results!!I just want to know what developer do I use to retouch my hair when it’s time do I use 10 or 20 developer

      • I would suggest using a 20. If you use 10 vol, there will be no lift whatsoever and you’ll be layering color on color which could result in your hair eventually being darker after a few touch-ups. With a 20 vol, you’d be maintaining the level you have, while freshening up the color. Hope this helps!

      • It depends on how dark your roots are! If your hair is naturally really dark, use a 30 volume for the touch up. If your hair is medium/light, 20 volume should be fine 🙂

    • i have a question if dyed my hair in December would all the dye be out by now and I’m dying my hair magenta with intense red on Friday and I want to maintain it what products should I use

    • I am sooo scared of using this die and then my hair being a lot lighter than my natural hair color after all the red is out! Will this happen or will my hair turn back into its natural color???

      • Hi there,
        In my experience – yes your hair underneath the red will be lighter than your natural. However, this is a permanent hair dye, so the red won’t come out. Yes, it may fade a little bit, and become a lighter red. But it won’t all come out. Once you notice it fading, you can color over it with the same red (using a lower volume developer) to maintain the red without lightening it further. If you get sick of the red, you can also color it over with a shade closer to your natural. Hope this helps!

      • If you’ve never dyed your hair before, I would suggest going with a 30 developer. It’s strong enough to lighten your hair, but not too strong where it would fry it. I only suggest 40 developer for people who need to remove a dark dye and lighten their hair at the same time.

  2. Hi I really like how your hair came out so I decided that I wanted to dye my hair using your blog. This is my first time dyeing my hair so all of my hair is virgin. I got everything you did except instead of a 30 volume developer I got a 20. I was scared that maybe a 30 would make my hair too bright because you said that if you have virgin hair the result will come out brighter and I’m not sure if I want my hair super bright. I was just wondering if using a 20 on virgin hair will get me the same result as how your hair came out. Thank you.

    • Thank you!

      Yes, I definitely think 20 volume will be plenty to achieve the same result, at least if you’re starting with a medium/dark brown base like me. Level 10 would be too weak and it would just deposit the red on top of your color. Level 20 will lift your color a tiny bit and then color it red, and a level 30 would lift your color too much I think. So, you did the right thing with the level 20 developer! Good luck and definitely do a strand test to figure out how long you’ll want to keep the dye on your head 🙂 Let me know how it turns out!

      • Oh my god thank you so much for replying! That means so much to me like I could cry thank you! I will definitely tell you how it comes out next week when I dye my hair. Again thank you so much you are literally the best!

    • hey just make sure if you keeping using this product to be very careful. The product itself has bleach, so whether you retouch your roots or deposit the whole dye on your hair (trust me you will want to because red fades very very very quickly) you are putting bleach on your hair. I used this product for 2 and half years and now my hair is dead. this product has snapped my hair giving it an unflattering choppy look. i suggest if you want to get the vibrant red again after it fades to use something like manic panic. that will deposit the colour back. remember to use hair masks!!! they will be your best friends after dying your hair!!! goodluck and enjoy the colour because even though it is damaging, you will get a beautiful color…….best “red colour” on the market!

  3. I love using these colors esp in the fall.. Anyone have any luck AFTER its been dyed at the level you want keeping up with it? Mine fades sooo fast 😦 Has anyone tried just using a level 10 every few weeks to maintain the color and keep it fresh. Think that would cause less damage since my hair is already lifted? I just need to redeposit the color again.

    • Hi Rebeccca,

      I use the red and magenta colors mixed with a 20 volume developer (and L♡ve my gorgeous red hair) and I keep the color fresh by using Quantum Riveting Reds Color replenishing shampoo and conditioner, I add a couple drops of Wild Growth Light Oil Moisturizer to the sampoo and conditioner to help with moisturizing and hair growth, you could find all products at Sallys or Amazon….Hope that helps…;-)

  4. Hi, I just love the red in your hairs. Especially in the sun it looks so vibrant:) I have question for you if you can help me out or anybody else , I would really appreciate it:) my hairs are naturally black. I got red highlights and now they are fading. What’s the best way to restore it at home?? Thank you

  5. I did this to my hair before and it was super bright which is what I wanted. I dyed my hair back black with box dye and it’s been months. I can see red shimmer from my hair. I want my red hair back. Should I do this same process again? Or would it totally fry my hair?? Answer back asap please!

    • Hi Mya! I don’t think it would totally fry your hair, especially if you use a developer that is level 20 or 30 (I wouldn’t recommend going higher than 30). But the black dye in your hair might cause some resistance and you might end up with a darker color. My advice would be to use a color remover to get rid of the black pigment first, and then use the L’Oreal red on top of that with a vol 20-25 developer. Good luck!

  6. I have a question I recently bleached and dyed some part of my hair crimson and the color didn’t take. I was wondering if I redye it the Crimson red again will it take. It’s been a week since I dyed my hair…..

    • I think you can try again, just don’t use a high volume developer (10 or 20 vol should be just fine) as to avoid any damage from redying it so soon. I am not really familiar with Crimson red, so I’m not sure why it didn’t take in the first place. Either way, you should try again or try a different dye, as long as you use a low volume developer and use a moisturizing mask afterwards, you should be fine 🙂

  7. Hi, My hair is between medium and long length but thin. I used 2 boxes and a 30 developer on Saturday morning. My hair was originally dark brown. It seems like it is only in the roots and I did the roots last. should I apply another box to it to have it everywhere or not?

  8. So I spent $125 at the salon trying to get red hair on top of my previously dyed dark brown hair… My roots are lighter of course and virgin so the color now on them is a red/brown… Not what I wanted. And the rest has a tint of red in it. So my hairs burgundy. Not red! Help please. Will this product work if I do the application twice?

    • Hey girl! So sorry that happened to you!
      I do think this color will work, however if I may, I would suggest you use a color remover first, to remove any old dye – the red and the dark brown you’ve had in your hair. This will allow the L’Oreal dyes to go on more evenly. They work well on hair without previous dye, but do have a harder time lifting old dark dye. So my suggestion would be to
      1. Use a color remover (like ColorOops or something similar) to remove the dark burgundy part of your hair.
      2. Do 1 application of the L’Oreal dyes as described in my blog post above.

      This should get you much closer to the color you want, and it’s less damaging than doing the application twice. I hope this helps!

  9. hi, I just want to know where I can get L’Oreal Excellence Hicolor Hilights (Frm Malaysia)? bcause mostly store online not ship to my country.

  10. Thanks you for the detailed article :),
    I’d like to ask if it could be used with any developer?
    as I wasn’t able to find it locally in Switzerland and I can’t import peroxide, the developers locally available is Wella and L’Oreal oxidant, do you think it would work?

  11. Hey! You have my goal hair. To me it doesn’t look bright but more so a deep wine color, which is what I’m looking for. I have used hicolor but in magenta and red, I’m planning to try this tomorrow. I dyed my hair recently with L’Oréal chocolate cherry but it’s kind of ugly lol and turned some of my hair too dark! So it’s a weird reddish brown almost like yours was. Do you think I should use a 20 or 30 developer? I don’t want bright hair so I’m scared to use 30 like I used to haha. Then again intense red is a darker color and I’ve never used it so it might be okay

  12. Hi I Have A Question .

    I Used Your Blog To Dye My Hair The Exact Same Color You Had & I Loved It ! But My Question Is How Does It Look After It Starts To Fade Away ? Thats My Only Concern I Dont Want It To Be Like Orange 😓😓

  13. Looks fab! Purchased two of the H11 intense red but now I see the lady at Sallys failed to mention the developer, so I will run back up pick up some 30 Volume in the morning and go for it. My hair is dark brown black and I have olive skin. I am oober ezcited to see the results tomorrow. Thanks for your tips. It would have been a waste without dwveloper, plus now i see the box says the same… the girl at sallys thought I could skip bleaching so I guess I thought didnt need developer anymore. Lol. Ugh.

    Thanks and yours looks fab. xx.

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