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Single Vs Double Process Hair Color: A Simple Explanation

photo of single vs double process hair color

Salon goers all have one thing in common: No matter how much time they spend in their stylist’s chair, some terms on the color service menu can still be a bit confusing. While some hair color trends and techniques come and go, there are a few that you’ll always need to know about. Case in point: single and double process hair color.  

What exactly is the difference between a single vs. double process hair color? We spoke to Nancy Braun, L'Oréal Professionnel brand ambassador and colorist, who broke down what you need to know about both color services. Whether you’re looking to go blonde or stick with brunette, keep scrolling for everything you need to know. 

Shop The Best Products For Single And Double Process Hair Color

What is a single process hair color?

In a single process hair color service, the colorist applies one color throughout your mane to create a new base shade. According to Braun, many women also look to single process color as a way to cover up grays. 

“You’re doing a global application all over the head...Usually, the purpose of doing a single process is either to lighten the hair, darken the hair, which includes covering gray, or changing the tone,” Braun explains. 

The service can also be an easy choice for women who want a fresh shade, but not a ton of effort or commitment.

Single Process Hair Colors Ideas To Try Now

If you’re looking to try single process color at your next salon appointment, keep scrolling for five of our favorite looks. 

Good hair day by @berniottjes.

Dirty Blonde

If your hair is naturally light, achieving dirty blonde hair is easy (and won’t keep you in your colorist’s chair for hours). 

Good hair day by @ksenia_nemchaninova.

Golden Brown

If you’re a natural brunette looking to test the waters of blonde hair, meet golden brown. The brunette hue with golden undertones is the perfect way to add brightness, shine, and dimension to your hue—no bleach required!

Good hair day by @leohairartist.

Dark Auburn

Looking to ease into red hair? Try dark auburn. Brown and red seamlessly blend into each other to create a hue that’s flattering for every skin tone. 

Good hair day by @anhcotran.

Dark Brown

When in doubt, stick with a classic shade like dark brown. Whether you opt for a dark chocolate shade or cold brew hair color, dark brown hair is easy to achieve (and perfect for concealing gray hair). 

Good hair day by @ahappyjustin.


Who says black hair is boring? The hue looks striking as an all-over color and leaves hair with a shiny, reflective finish. 

What is a double process hair color?

If you’ve ever gone from a deep brunette shade to platinum blonde in just a few hours, you’ve probably experienced a double process hair color before. Stylists use double process color, or what Braun refers to as a “bleach and tone,” to lighten the hair by two or more shades in one session. The colorist will first bleach the hair completely, then tone it to create your desired shade. 

“First, you lighten it to the desired level, which is usually a pale yellow or pale clear yellow...The second part is putting a toner on it to adjust the tone,” Braun says. 

When it comes to coloring your hair, you should expect to be left with a bit of damage. Since double process color requires bleach, Braun warns it may not be best for anyone already dealing with extremely damaged hair or breakage. 

“If the hair is really damaged, then it’s just a service that you probably shouldn’t do,” she explains. 

Double Process Hair Colors To Try Now

If double-process color sounds more for you, look no further! Keep scrolling for a five of our favorite ideas. 

Good hair day by @barinova_natalia1E.

Ash Blonde

Prepared for a blonde hair color that requires a bit more work to maintain? You’ll love ash blonde

If there’s one product anyone with ash blonde hair needs in their routine, it’s purple shampoo. We recommend swapping your regular shampoo for a color-depositing formula like Redken Color Extend Blondage Color Depositing Shampoo. This shampoo tones, strengthens, and brightens blonde hair. 

Good hair day by @pekelariley.

Red Velvet

If you love to live outside of your comfort zone, opt for a vibrant red shade like red velvet.  To achieve this color, your colorist will first need to bleach your strands to lift your current color before applying the red velvet shade. 

Good hair day by @mbrkl324.


When it comes to the best red hair colors for fall, ginger is the clear winner. Ginger will require a bit of maintenance to keep the color vibrant, but the results are totally worth it!

Rose Blonde

If you’re bored of traditional blonde, add some pink into the mix with rose blonde. To achieve the perfect rose blonde shade, ask your colorist about Redken Shades EQ Violet Rose shades. The formulas can create a cool rose reflect from subtle to high impact. 

Good hair day by @cindyadielssontopstylist.


We’re fully embracing gray hair—which means there’s no better time to make an on-trend, sultry gray shade work for you. 

How do you care for your hair after a single or double process color service? 

Having the right products to maintain and protect your new hue is essential—both for single and double process color. Start by swapping your regular shampoo and conditioner for system for  color-treated hair like L'Oréal Professionnel Vitamino A-OX Color Preserve Moisturizing Shampoo and Moisturizing Conditioner. This system helps to maintain the radiance and shine of color-treated hair. 

If there’s one thing all color-treated strands need, it’s moisture. Braun recommends using a weekly hair mask like L'Oréal Professionnel Vitamino Color A-OX Color Radiance Masque to nourish protect color-treated hair in just 60 seconds. 

No matter which service you choose, be sure to use the hashtag #hairdotcom to share your final look with us!

Interested in a salon color service? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.

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