Hair Color Too Dark? How to Correct This (Without Bleach)
DIY hair-color job gone awry? Stylist mess up your shade? Don't listen to those who tell you that you have no other option but to bleach it out. Bleach should be used to correct hair color mishaps as a last resort only. There is a better way that won't fry your tresses: color remover (or color eraser, depending on what brand you're looking at).
This article will focus on three options for lightening a too-dark dye job:
- Use color remover.
- See a professional hairstylist.
- Try fixing it up yourself at home with one of several DIY methods.
First, I recommend you try color remover.
1. Hair Color Too Dark? Use Color Remover!
What is color remover? Color remover, or color eraser, is a chemical that essentially reverses the oxidation of hair color molecules inside the hair shaft. It smells like sulphur, so don't be alarmed—that's just the product working its magic. While it may dry your hair out a bit, it's still very safe and not remotely as damaging as bleach would be. How does it work?
- First, the remover is applied to the hair much like an all-over color, then left to sit for 15–20 minutes.
- Then, it is rinsed out thoroughly with cool water and shampooed. (Some stylists may also perform a test to see if it's all out by pouring developer on the hair. This will make the color that's left over re-oxidize. Don't worry if this happens, they'll just re-apply the color eraser.)
If all the color isn't out, then the color applied after this process could go right back to the first color. To avoid this, after all this has taken place, your next color should be 1–2 shades lighter than the goal color, just to ensure it doesn't just turn super dark again.
Note: Color remover will not restore your natural color after using a permanent hair color. Permanent colors remove the natural pigment from your hair and replace it with the artificial. Color removers only work on artificial pigments. It will come out an orangey-blond color. However, have no fear, because you're going to dye over it. Also, they will not work on semi-permanent or henna dyes. These stain your hair and the color remover just doesn't work on them.
2. See a Professional to Fix Your Dark Hair Color
If your hair is a complete wreck and you don't want to even think about doing it yourself, you'll want to visit a professional hairstylist for color correction. If the stylist is any good at their job, he or she should ask a few questions before starting, including:
What brand of hair coloring was used?
By knowing the brand used, the stylist can pick a color remover that will work well with the chemistry of what has already been applied to your hair. While hair color brands will usually work with any color remover, the compatibility may also depend on the brand.
Was this a home dye job? Or, did a stylist just not get the correct color?
- Coloring jobs done at home with a drugstore brand. If you did the color at home with a drugstore brand, beware! Some of them are classified "direct dyes," meaning that they may contain metallic ingredients (for shine) that do not cooperate with color remover or bleach. Because of this, it's important that you inform your stylist what kind you used upfront. If you don't, it could lead to even more damaged hair.
- Professional mistakes. If a professional messed up the dye job, you don't necessarily have to go back to them to fix it—but, a perk is that they'll likely bend over backwards to make you happy. At the very least, they might give you a refund if you aren't satisfied with the result. Even if you're so scarred or disappointed that you never want to return there again, giving them some constructive feedback may be very much appreciated by them. So, if you don't want to return to your original, offending stylist, look for someone who specializes in color correction.
How damaged was your hair before you chose to go darker?
Your stylist should be able to determine the level of damage by feeling and looking at your hair. In a lot of cases, the color you applied may have been correct, but your hair was too porous from over-processing. Some people, like myself, have naturally porous hair. The same is true for damaged hair. This can be corrected by (after using the color remover) applying a shade that is 1–2 shades lighter than the desired result.
Just remember to suggest using a color remover (eraser) to the stylist handling the correction. Also, if they suggest scalp bleaching you—run!
3. DIY Ways to Fix Your Hair Color at Home
If your case is only a shade or so darker than what you wanted and is not a mess of fried broken hair, correcting at home is a viable option. Here are three options that you can consider, if so:
3 Ways to Lighten Too-Dark Hair at Home
- Regular shampoo. For very mild cases, washing with a cheap shampoo a few times will usually fade it to a nice color. Look for shampoo containing sulfates. Deep conditioners can sometimes fade a color. Remember, even permanent hair color fades over time.
- Color removers. As mentioned above, color removers are the way to go. Most beauty stores should have salespeople who are knowledgeable about the product and how to use it. Be sure to follow all instructions, or you might end up back in a stylist's chair, paying hundreds, to fix your attempt at correction.
- Bleach shampoo. Bleach shampoo is the one exception to bleach use that may work for those of you trying to correct your dark hair color. Make sure you use bleach shampoo only if you used a professional line of hair color (i.e. without metal salts). A bleach shampoo can be great if you just want the color a little softer or you need it to lighten up some quickly and intend to use a semi or semi-permanent color after. A permanent color may dry out your hair and is not recommended.
Don't Panic Over Your Dye Job
Don't freak out too much over an unwanted color. There are ways to fix it without seriously hurting your hair. I have done it the right way and (to my dismay) the wrong way. The wrong way resulted in a pixie cut that I'm now trying to grow out, and many nights of sobbing over my lost hair length. But, hair grows, and even before it does, you can fix the color easily! Learn from my mistakes—read this article and use it to your advantage.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2011 Rozenwyn