Maffew is a hairdresser, marketer, and dabbler in many things who enjoys sharing knowledge about the science of hair coloring and hair care.
Dark roots in blonde hair can be a problem when you're trying to maintain a hair color that is substantially lighter than your natural hair color.
As your hair grows out, your natural color starts to appear and can cause your hair to look unsightly as it becomes longer. To keep your blonde hair looking great, dark roots need to be touched up every few weeks. Luckily, this isn't too difficult to do yourself.
How Often Should Roots Be Dyed?
Your roots can be touched up anywhere from 2–8 weeks after coloring. Dark roots in blonde hair need to be touched up sooner to keep your color looking good though as the dark hair is much more obvious due to the degree of contrast.
As a simple rule of thumb, roots can be touched up at any time if they are noticeable. However, the shorter they are, the more difficult it is to avoid overlap. Longer roots on the other hand, won't lighten as effectively because the warmth of the scalp works in your favor when you work with shorter regrowth.
This means that for the easiest application, least damage, and best lightening, it is optimal to touch up your roots when they are about half an inch long. Anything shorter than this is hard to work with, and anything longer is more resistant to lightening.
This amount of regrowth will usually occur in about 4 weeks but as individual hair growth can vary you may find that it takes more or less time for your own hair to reach this length.
The Dye Process
The process for fixing dark roots in blonde hair is exactly the same as it is for the rest of your hair, with the exception that you'll only be dyeing your roots and trying to avoid applying any dye or bleach to the lengths of your hair.
Application technique is crucial here as you need to be able to apply dye to the roots without overlapping any previously dyed hair. Failing to do so will risk causing some damage to hair that has already been lightened.
When you have dark roots, the dye process consists of:
- Lightening the dark color
- Toning the lightened roots
- Refreshing the overall color if necessary
Lightening Dark Roots
Dark roots in blonde hair need to be lightened first before they can be toned to match the rest of your hair. This requires the use of hair bleach to pre-lighten your hair.
Unlike previously dyed hair, which is notoriously resistant to lightening, your roots are virgin hair and this gives you an advantage when you lighten them. Not only will they lighten easier, but they will also generally lighten in one process, making it only necessary to bleach them once.
To ensure that your hair lightens effectively, it is important to choose hair bleach that is strong enough to lighten in one process.
Better bleach powders will leave your hair healthier and less damaged after use compared to a generic product, making them a good idea for more than one reason. Use the best product you can afford for this because it does make a significant difference to the end result.
Hair bleach powders like Wella Multi Blonde or Schwarzkopf Igora Vario will usually guarantee excellent results. Unlike generic bleach though, these quality salon bleach products need to be used with a lower volume of developer on scalp as they contain ingredients that boost the lightening effect.
This makes them more effective but can also add to scalp irritation if used correctly. They will still lighten much more effectively than generic bleach when mixed with a lower volume of developer but with less irritation and damage.
- Choosing the Best Hair Bleach
Bleach is necessary for lightening your hair for a brighter color. Discover which products are the best hair bleach for your hair...
To apply bleach for a retouch application and to lighten dark roots, your hair needs to be sectioned out just like it would be for any other hair color. In fact, doing this will directly influence your results. Without proper sectioning, there is no method to your application and it will proceed haphazardly, causing you to miss spots and overlap previously colored hair.
Your hair needs to be divided into at least four discrete sections before you begin applying bleach. This is achieved by parting the hair down the middle and then once more from ear to ear, forming four quadrants that can be clipped up. These quadrants will keep each section of hair separate and out of the way.
You will also notice when applying bleach in this way that the hair in any section can be covered in one direction. By taking thin layers of hair from the top, you can continue in this fashion until the section is completely coated. After you have completed one quadrant, it is time to move onto the next.
This makes it easy to assess your progress and maintain a steady pace because the entire application process becomes very systematic. Instead of trying to apply bleach to whatever area of your regrowth, you can simply follow one section after another through to completion.
When you apply the bleach to your hair, it needs to be applied to the roots of your hair only. Some amount of overlap can occur but the closer you can get to a perfect application, the better the final result and the more likely that your hair will continue to remain in good condition even after many root applications. This is incredibly important if you intend to keep your blonde hair color for a long time.
To make this easy, apply bleach with a tinting brush only, using a slightly thicker formulation of bleach. This can be achieved by using slightly more powder than usual in the mixing ratio. A thicker product is less likely to swell or seep into other areas during application and can help to ensure a cleaner result.
Once you have finished the application, allow your roots to lighten up to slightly lighter than the rest of your hair. Rinse the bleach out, shampoo thoroughly to remove all remaining traces, and then move onto the toning stage which will take your yellow roots from bright yellow to a gorgeous shade of blonde.
- How to Bleach Hair
Find out how to mix, apply, and use bleach for salon results...
The toning process serves two functions when you're touching up dark roots in blonde hair:
- It neutralizes the golden or yellow color of the lightened roots.
- It also serves to refresh the color of the rest of your hair and even it out to match precisely.
To tone your roots, you need to use a cool-toned dye like an ash or a pearl shade that is one shade lighter than your current blonde color. If you've lightened your roots to a level 8 light blonde (banana yellow) for example, you should be using a level 9 ash blonde dye to tone your hair.
Using a slightly lighter shade gives more controlled toning and the color of your hair will change over a longer period of time. This is important because if the dye is too strong, you will end up with an uneven result or over-toned hair. The result will also last longer if the dye has more time to develop and improve its permanence.
Once you've chosen your dye, apply it using the same application technique you used during lightening. The toner needs to be applied to your roots first and allowed to develop. Once the color of your roots is close to your desired shade, take the leftover dye and apply it to your lengths for the last few minutes of application.
Applying the leftover dye to your lengths during a root application helps to produce a more even color result while refreshing the overall color with minimal damage because the dye is only acting on this part of your hair for a short period. When your hair is nicely toned, rinse all the dye out.
If fading or warmth becomes an issue again between retouches, you can use a purple shampoo or a semi-permanent toning product like Igora Expert 9.5-1 Mousse when washing your hair to keep it looking perfect without damage.
- How to Tone Blonde Hair
Need more information on the toning stage? You can read my related article here to learn more.
After touching up dark roots in blonde hair, your hair is going to be slightly dry because of the bleach and dye used. This is normal and isn't an indication of damage.
Like with all chemical processes, however, touching up your roots can definitely lead to damage. As your roots are new hair, this damage is greatly minimized because it can handle more processing. The more you are able to avoid overlap during application of the bleach, the less of a chance there is of any further damage to the lengths of your hair.
If damage has occurred though, this can be treated with the use of protein treatments like Redken Extreme Cat or Joico K-Pak Reconstructor. Protein treatments like these are applied after shampooing your hair and left for a period of time to absorb. They are then rinsed from the hair, a conditioner is applied as usual, and you can then rinse, dry, and style your hair as normal.
The use of conditioner is the most important thing after any dye process, and when you bleach hair you should use a conditioning treatment or moisturizing rinse directly afterward to add moisture back into your hair and balance the pH. Doing so will lead to smoother, healthier hair that feels great afterward.
Once you have done all of this, leave your hair to rest for a few days before you wash it again or use any other form of chemical process. This will help to provide the time needed for the pH of your hair to return to normal and for natural oils to restore the correct moisture balance.
- How to Repair Damaged Hair
Damaged hair doesn't have to be cut off. With the right care, even the most frazzled strands can return to their former strength and beauty...
Hair that is properly colored and cared for is beautiful. If you treat it well, you can keep it looking great for as long as you care to keep your color.
Do you have a question about dyeing dark roots in blonde hair? Leave a comment for tailored advice...
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.
© 2015 Maffew James
Cecilia on June 16, 2020:
My natural hair colour is brown however I normally get ash blonde highlights.
My roots are approximately 3 inches. After using box colour and leaving it on my root for 45 minutes as suggested.
I now have unsightly orange roots.
Please help as due back to work soon
Nancy on June 05, 2020:
Hi, i actually have a question please. The day before "non essential" services had to close i had my med brown hair dyed platinum/bleach blonde. She's never been able to get my whole head that light. Needless to say, dark roots greaw back which I like but they were accompanied by brass, orangy colors.
Nothing toned my hair- nothing! I bought box bleach hair color- still was brassy orangy. I asked my hairstylist if light ash blond would cover roots and discoloration, she said it should, so i did, and it didn't. My roots are now like a brassy gold, reddish, w/maybe a hint of natural color. Kind of pretty but nah.
I just wanted to do something quirky, fun, unexpected!!!, i have not enjoyed my hair since she bleached it. Thank goodness for hats. PLEASE HELP!!!!!
KD on January 14, 2020:
I have been bleaching and toning my own hair with Redken bleach and toner. I just touched up my roots and used toners 9V and 9GB, (9GB I’ve never used before) now my roots are light brassy/orange. How should I correct this? I was advised to use 9B with 9V and a 10vol developer but can re-tone over already toned hair? Will it lift or cover the light brassy/orange from my hair?
Brooke Fenton on July 01, 2019:
My hair was red, I bleached it and then used a semi permanent rose gold. It didn’t come out as expected but was nice. Now I have roots grown out and need to bleach them AND I’d like to lighten the rest of my hair to achieve the rose gold better. How should I do that? Roots first? Previously bleached hair first? All at once?
Teresa Gilbert on June 10, 2019:
I am naturally blond, noticed a lot of gray, so dyed my hair blond and touched up roots blond also. Hairdresser just touched up my roots brown. It's a disaster. How can I fix this?
Markeeta on October 16, 2018:
Can i use ultra light ash blonde to do my regrowth it has a 30 developer in the box or do i have to bleach it first than put that color on after
Giedre Liaugminaite on March 07, 2018:
Hello. I have question. If girl have blond hair, but they colored maybe caramel color. Or bit lighter. And roots are grow up already, and she wanna color on the top highlights... Is she will get same effect from roots till end of hair?
A on December 17, 2017:
I have long blonde hair with long dark roots. I am getting my hair done in a couple days and I am wanting to bleach my roots and this article sounds exactly what I'm trying to do. When I talked the lady doing my hair (someone new because I moved), she said it will be very hard and it will probably burn my scalp and it is generally not recommended but we can try. What do I say to that? Should I be worried? Should I find another person to do my blonde?
Nikki on October 07, 2017:
I have ginger hair naturally and find it ridiculously hard to find a good bleach to get the ginger out and my hair blonde...which bleach would lighten my hair the best in your opinion?
angie on September 26, 2017:
my hair is bleached blonde and every month i just touch up the roots dark growth with a cap on..but my hair got really dry an dbrittle this last time and i been giving it good treatments.so its time for another touch on roots what hair bleach would be gentle so no more hair will break off i guess the bleach touched the other hair when rinsing.i usually use 30 devolper
carol on August 05, 2017:
if you highlight close to root will you get a tiger look?
Kate G on July 24, 2017:
I am looking to bleach highlight my roots and some parts of my existing colour that was meant to be the same colour as my top colour but is a complete different colour. I have never done this before and I know my hairdresser uses 9.1 very light ash blonde but I have no idea what products to use ie bleach, devloper and toner ? Also I need to learn to highlight aswell.
AnitaTaco on March 31, 2017:
Hi there! Okay, so I hate to admit this, because it makes me feel older than I should, but I've been dyeing my own hair since I was 12, for 20 years now. I wanted to go silver again, I did it about 5 years ago & loved it! I'm already about 1/3 premature silvery white naturally,(found my 1st one when I was 15!) and with a level 1 or 2 natural color, it's obvious! It grows in like the Bride of Frankenstein's temple streaks and they don't come in gray, they have zero melanin at all, it's just sparkly white. I've actually tried to find if there's a way to speed up the process or decrease melanin production, but no one wants to know that online, and I mean NO ONE! lol
I digress, I decided to wait on the Feria pastel silver & have it white for awhile. Turns out I love, love, love the white!! So I bleached, like I have many, many times before, and it went as expected. Over the next month I conditioned, conditioned & conditioned in between a few bleach baths & then one final strong bleach bath. I guess I didn't get the bleach all washed out, even though I rinsed for 20 mins, didn't feel any or see any, plus I used a bit of co-wash & rinsed that we'll too! As it started to dry, I noticed a patch that felt STRANGE! I went back & rinsed the living hell out of it. The damage was done, when it's wet it has that weird, overcooked, wet pasta feeling & is breaking on occasion. My hair is about 2 inches below my bra strap, the damage? Oh ya know, that's up about 2 inches from the scalp, to the left of my crown. Now I have 1/2 inch roots & don't know wtf to do! I'm devastated because I ADORE my white hair, I want to keep it forever!! Lol I was in severe depression, I could not have cared less about my appearance or anything at all for the last 3 years; this hair changed everything! I feel amazing with it & am so sad thinking there's nothing I can do to upkeep it aside from using my homemade purple toning shampoo. (If anyone reading wonders, I just get Manic Panic Ultraviolet & mix a bit in with my fave shampoo, I even used some in my co-wash.
I have a silver pastel Feria box (I know) So I don't know if I should just use it & forget about my dreams of keeping my lux white hair, or if there a way to ensure you don't get it on the already bleached part.....
*Big Sigh* I have never, ever damaged hair before. Sorry this is so long! I truly need some insight!
Thank you, you're a doll!
TD on March 15, 2017:
My hair has THREE highlights in it
Bleach blonde (I bought Joico ultra high lift) a dark brown in back n odd highlights & a golden blonde
Which I also bought all 3 from Joico K-Pak-Question
Do I really need to bleach my roots prior to re-highliting my hair
I've watched so many vids on YouTube I am now LOST
Tiff on February 18, 2017:
Hello I have a client with level 5 roots and highlighted ends I want to use high lift color on roots and tone the whole hair after. She wants a more solid look have u ever done this ?
Ashley hall on February 09, 2017:
I have naturally light ash blonde hair I have a inch n half of regrowth what toner should I use
firstname.lastname@example.org on January 08, 2017:
What products should I buy as in dye developer and toner. Show pictures of the easiest way to see the back of your hair when doing it yourself.
Zoë on October 08, 2016:
I would like to know how much bleach I would need to redo my roots? When I bleached all my hair I needed three packs!
priya on August 25, 2016:
please give me formulation of black touch up hair color
ashley on July 30, 2016:
good morning, i have been bleaching a level 4 or darker to 9s and 10s (after thousands of dollars spents and years later.. my hair is fried and curls are gone and im tired of the root touch ups and all together tha maintenance of being blonde. sooooo i decided to take on the project of putting a frosty brown color on the blonde.. and break it off with adding some caramels in between hear and there and at the tips. BUT i need to determine what the formulas are for a one step process.. i learned about adding yellow, red, and the brown i want after a protein filler treatment.. because you cant just smack on the brown dye.. but i wanted to get advise before i just go out and start mixiing up reds and golden blondes and warm browns.. can wella products allow me to mix up a formula to get me completed in one day.
Tara on April 19, 2016:
Hi! I'm touching up my roots tonight to get them close to the same color as my salon bleached hair. I couldn't afford going to the salon and my local drugstore didn't have any bleach so instead I'm using the garnier nutrisse nourishing color creme in extra light ash blonde as it seemingly will look close to the same color as my toned bleached hair. Do you know if this will be okay?
Jojo on March 06, 2016:
Hi. I love your blog, it's awesome that you share your knowledge with the world. Now I've got a question. I bleached my medium/dark, red/brown, many times dyed hair to yellow and been using a 7a demi color, and bleaching my roots. My roots grow in at probably a 4 or 5 and my hair tends to go super brassy when I color. I'd like to stop bleaching my roots, but I am not ready to go darker yet. Is it possible for me to do my roots with high lift dye and ash intensifier instead? Or would it be better to just stick with bleach till I'm tired of being blondish?
Maffew James (author) on August 10, 2015:
It could be a reaction to the Olaplex. Of course, this is just speculative because I don't use the product so I don't have any experience of whether it can cause allergies or hair loss. Usually with bleaching or dyeing you won't see hair fall out from the follicle though; it snaps further up the hair shaft where the hair has been most heavily processed. I'd suspect a potential allergy or the higher developer volume is to blame if there was a lot of scalp irritation.
For now, unless you're in the middle of achieving a new colour and need to finish it, the best idea would be to give your hair a rest and watch it for a while to see if you experience any further hair loss over the next two weeks or so. Particularly, pay attention to how much hair ends up coming out whenever you wash it. It's perfectly normal to lose hair during washing because it molts, but if the amount you're losing seems more excessive and this continues, this is where you should consult a dermatologist to have a look at your scalp to be on the safe side as well as work out what is happening. Once you've given your hair a rest, if everything is fine, you can try bleaching it again when your dark roots come in. If you experience the same thing happening, try dropping the Olaplex from the mix and see if that makes a difference.
Lastly, if you're using any kind of beauty product and are experiencing a rash, getting a lot of itchiness, or feel like it's hard to breathe, these kind be fairly clear indications of an allergy and you should rinse out whatever you're using. You can also be allergic to something without experiencing these specific symptoms and this is where something strange like hair loss might occur and may be the only thing you have to go off for diagnosis. The best idea is to be careful with any new product you use and do whatever patch test the product recommends before applying it fully.
Justine on August 09, 2015:
Hi again Maffew!
I have a question about bleaching dark roots. I bought a sample size of olaplex for my recent touch up and it seemed to work wonders at first! Usually my hair starts to shed when Im washing the bleach out and now there were no hair on the shower sewer at all! Until... I did the second phase of olaplex and when washing that out I could see alot of hair in the sewer.. What was surprisin was that the hair that fell out was not broken, but it had gone off from the root!
I did use 30 vol developer as with olaplex you need to up the level, and it did burn my scalp but just a little bit..
Can I still bleach the roots? What if soon I dont have any hair to bleach... I know hair can break when bleaching but never heard that you can lose the whole hair!