How to Use High Lift Hair Color


In recent years, the hairdressing industry has seen a marked increase in the number of clients who want to go blonde but don't want to use bleach. For a long time, there was simply no way to cater to these clients and you couldn't dye dark hair blonde without the use of bleach. That changed with the advent of high lift hair color, and now it's possible to dye your hair blonde without the bleach powder. Or at least, in certain circumstances.

What is high lift dye?

Many people are afraid of bleach because of the horror stories they've heard about melting hair or scalp burns. This is a problem perpetuated through the use of bleach by people who don't know what they're doing and haven't taken the time to learn about the product before they go ahead and bleach their hair. Combine a lack of direction, making the bleach too strong, and using bleach on hair that is already highly damaged and you end up with a widespread fear of bleach.

Bleach is not the enemy and is actually a highly useful and necessary product in all salons, but more and more people are being lead to believe it is too harmful to use. As such, hair dye manufacturers discovered a new market to penetrate and high lift dye was born to cater to those who refuse to bleach their hair.

High lift color is permanent hair dye, but it works slightly differently to other hair dyes because of its unique composition. High lift colors contain more ammonia, more dye pigment, and are mixed with a double ratio of 40 vol developer. This leads to a hair dye that lightens your hair more effectively than other blonde dyes yet still tones it during the lightening process.

Lightener comparison

Lift potential
Generic bleach powder (20 vol)
3 levels
Generic bleach powder (30 vol)
4 levels
Igora Vario bleach
3 - 8 levels
Wella Multi Blonde bleach
3 - 7 levels
Indola Rapid Blonde bleach
3 - 7 levels
Indola high lift dye
4 levels
Wella high lift dye
3 - 4 levels
Igora high lift dye
4 levels
Matrix high lift dye
3 - 4 levels

High lift hair color vs. bleach

High lift dye was invented to replace the use of bleach for those who didn't want to bleach their hair, but it is not interchangeable with bleach. The uses of high lift hair color are fairly constrained and it can only reliably be used on virgin hair that is already a dark blonde color, or at most a light brown shade.

A regular blonde hair dye mixed with 30 vol developer can lift around 2 - 3 levels, or in other words, lighten hair from dark blonde to a medium to light blonde color. It does this whilst toning the hair, whereas the use of bleach requires you to tone your hair separately as an additional step. High lift hair color offers a boost to lightening, equivalent to about 1 extra level on top of what a regular blonde dye would achieve.

Although you can lighten your hair up to 4 levels using a high lift dye, you're also restricted to using it on virgin hair because like other hair dyes, it will not lighten dyed hair. Dye doesn't lift dye and if you've dyed your hair, you will need to use hair dye remover and bleach to lighten it. This means that you need to already be a natural blonde to use a high lift blonde dye. If you apply one of these dyes to brown hair you will end up with a regrettable shade of orange.


High lift or bleach?

Hair condition
High lift or bleach?
Dark hair
Bleach and tone
Dyed hair
Hair dye remover and bleach
Natural blonde hair
High lift dye
Natural light brown hair
High lift dye
Natural red hair
Bleach and tone

Is high lift dye less damaging?

The most popular misconception surrounding high lift hair color is that it is dramatically less damaging than bleach. This is not completely true though. The damage of a high lift dye or bleach are roughly equivalent, and this shouldn't be the primary factor used to determine which product you use.

When you lighten hair with dye or bleach, it is the oxidation from the developer that is causing your hair to lighten. It does this through a chemical reaction with the melanin pigment that is inside each hair. This melanin is what gives your hair its natural color, and by discoloring it with oxidation, your hair becomes lighter.

Damage to your hair isn't a result of the use of bleach or dye itself though. The damage that occurs is a side effect of the oxidation process that is occurring inside the hair shaft. Whilst oxidation is necessary to lighten melanin and activate the dye molecules so that they become permanent, this oxidation also affects the structure of your hair. When the keratin protein comprising your hair structure is oxidized, it weakens, leading to damaged hair.

From this you can understand that damage to your hair is directly related to the amount of lightening that takes place, through the amount of oxidation. If you were to lighten your hair 3 levels with a high lift dye, or 3 levels with bleach, the amount of damage would be exactly the same because although both products are formulated differently, both work through oxidation. The oxidation lightens your hair, and damages it as a side effect.

The main benefit of high lift dye over bleach in this sense is in being less drying and cutting out the additional toning step that bleaching requires. Dryness compounds damage during hair lightening, so anything you do to keep your hair nourished and conditioned during the process will minimize damage. Bleach is a lot more drying than most high lift dyes.

Matrix UL-AA high lift dye
Matrix UL-AA high lift dye

When should you use high lift dye?

High lift dye has a specific use and it will generally work very well if you use it properly. This means that you should not be applying it to black or brown hair and expect to end up with blonde hair. You also shouldn't be using high lift hair color on hair that has been dyed in the past. Unless your last color has completely grown out of your hair, you can't lighten your hair with high lift dye.

High lift dyes are best used under the following conditions:

  • You have virgin hair
  • You only require 3 - 4 levels of lift
  • Your hair is in good condition
  • Your hair is already dark blonde or a very light brown

Although high lift dyes are generally used to dye hair a light blonde without bleach, they can still be used to lighten darker hair. Please note that you won't reach a blonde shade if you do this, and you still must have virgin hair in order for the dye to work. The darker your hair is, the less lightening that will occur, and you need to tone it afterwards because the blonde dye in the high lift isn't concentrated enough to tone dark hair. In this case, bleach is far superior.


How to prepare high lift hair dye

High lift hair color is prepared in mostly the same way as other permanent hair dyes. You will need a tinting bowl and brush to mix it in, as well as the appropriate developer to mix with the dye.

In this case, the developer used has to be 40 vol developer. The boxed high lift dyes you can find in supermarkets that use 30 vol developer or less are not high lift dyes at all. Manufacturers can call these products 'high lift' or 'hi color' because there is no set standard for naming a high lift dye. These products that mimic actual high lift dyes are merely regular dye marketed in a way that makes it seem like they lift more than other dye brands because of their name.

The reason you need to use 40 vol developer is two-fold. Firstly, high lift dyes are formulated to work optimally with this concentration of peroxide and the lift and deposit balance is changed when you don't use this. Secondly, if you don't use 40 vol, the dye loses much of its lightening power and you may as well be using a regular blonde dye as the high lift will be a waste of time. Always mix high lift hair color with 40 vol developer.

You also need to be aware of what shade you're using and choose an ash shade rather than the shade you want. Even though high lift dyes are formulated to tone hair as your hair lightens, they don't live up to expectations here. An ash shade is necessary to counteract the warmth that will be revealed during the lightening process. If anything, even the ash shade won't be enough to counteract the warmth and you will still need to tone your hair anyway.

Once you're ready to prepare the dye, measure it by volume and to each part of high lift hair color, add two parts of 40 vol developer. It's easiest to mix developer into dye by adding a small amount first, then gradually incorporating the rest. Otherwise the dye has a much thicker consistency than the pool of developer surrounding it and you have to go to extra effort to incorporate it all together without making a mess.

How to apply high lift dye

High lift hair color is applied like any other permanent hair dye. You will see the best results by sectioning your hair out into four sections and applying it one section at a time. To do this, part your hair down the middle from your forehead to your neck, then once more from ear to ear and clip each section with a sectioning clip to hold them in place.

It's standard protocol to begin by applying dye to the back left section of your hair, but this isn't set in stone. Start wherever is easiest and quickest for you. You may even prefer to work down in both sections at the back of your hair then switch to the front and finish it off. Where you start and how you progress really just depends on what you feel is easiest.

Work from the top of each section down to the bottom by taking thin layers of hair and applying the high lift color to each side. It is also preferable to apply the dye to your lengths first and then go back and apply the dye to your roots 10 - 15 minutes into application so that the heat from your scalp doesn't lead to lighter roots. This is more of an issue with bleach, but it can also occur sometimes with high lift colors.

Once the dye is completely applied, leave it for up to 50 - 60 minutes to process, depending on brand. High lift color has a longer development period than other dyes because the extra time is necessary for it to lighten your hair substantially. You can rinse it out after this time has passed.

If your hair is closer to brown than blonde when you apply the dye, you will most likely still need to tone your hair again after the high lift color is rinsed. This occurs even when using an ash blonde high lift and is unavoidable. Dark hair simply can't be toned by the high lift and it will only lighten your hair. You will need the appropriate toner to complete the color.


Schwarzkopf Igora Royal E-0 Lightening Extract Permanent Hair Color 2.1 fl. oz. (60 g)
Schwarzkopf Igora Royal E-0 Lightening Extract Permanent Hair Color 2.1 fl. oz. (60 g)

Igora E-0 is a lift booster that can be added to Igora Royal dyes to add an extra level of lift.


Lift booster

Hair dye brands will sometimes produce a lift booster product that is designed to be added to their high lift color. Lift booster is essentially an ammonia supplement that boosts the ammonia content in the high lift.

Ammonia acts as a catalyst, driving the decomposition of the peroxide in the developer into active oxygen that oxidizes and lightens the melanin in your hair. More ammonia means that more oxidation can take place, and lift booster can provide up to 1 more level of lift when mixed into your high lift color.

Should you wish to use lift booster, you should only be using it if your hair is in good condition. High lift colors are just as damaging as bleach in most cases, and adding lift booster will increase the lightening, but this means more damage as well. You also shouldn't use it if you have a sensitive scalp.


After you dye your hair with a high lift color, it may be necessary to tone your hair. Like all hair color, this dye will fade with time too, and a regular maintenance routine is the best way to keep your hair looking great and prevent it from becoming brassy.

You will also need to condition your hair thoroughly after using a high lift, just like when you bleach your hair. For this purpose, a conditioning treatment or a deep conditioner is all you will need. Add a protein treatment like Redken CAT Reconstructor and your hair will look and feel great long into the future.

Do you have a question about high lift dyes? Are you considering using a high lift dye and wondering whether it is an option for your hair and the result you want? Leave a comment for tailored advice and share your insight with other readers.

More by this Author

  • How to Dye Blonde Hair Brown

    If you want to dye blonde hair brown, you can't just apply a brown hair dye. Doing so could result in green hair or other mistakes. Find out how to dye your hair brown properly...

  • How to Fix Orange Hair

    Have you tried to go blonde and ended up orange? Find out how to fix orange hair and reach a more pleasant shade...

  • How to Bleach Hair

    Do you dream of blonde hair? If you have dark hair, you need to use bleach, and bleach needs to be used properly. Learn the tricks of the trade for stunning results.


Nic 24 months ago

Just wondering and my seem like a silly question but can you mix the toner with the high lift?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 24 months ago Author

Hi Nic,

Technically you could, as long as it's the same brand and product line. For example, you could 'technically' mix Igora Royal 12-1 and 9-1. There's not much point to actually doing it though as adding a non-high lift dye to a high lift will dilute down the lightening power. It's always best to apply a toner afterwards if you need more toning.

What you could do is add an intensifier shade if necessary. For example, if you were using Indola high lift, you could add 0.11 to add pure ash tone to the dye and boost its toning power without affecting lightening. That's dependent on the colour brand you're using having intensifier shades.

Nic 24 months ago

Hi Matthew, thanks for your reply, the reason I ask was, I've lightened so I can tone is there an easy way to do it?

Nic 24 months ago

Sorry pressed wrong button: the reason I ask, if I'm doing foils I can't work out how to get the whole of the section I've lightened so I can tone it is there an easy way to do it? Hope you understand what I'm asking

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 24 months ago Author

Oh, so you're wondering whether you can use a toner after you've already used a high lift dye? You definitely can.

Toning highlights depends on how much lighter they are. If they're a lot lighter than your base colour, you can use a semi-permanent dye to tone them without worrying that the rest of your colour will be affected. As long as it's a cool tone of course. I wouldn't recommend putting something like a red or copper all over even if it's a much lighter dye because it will affect the rest of your hair slightly. The only drawback to this is that a semi will wash out over time and has to be repeated.

Otherwise, you can separate out all the highlights again using the tip of a tinting brush or a tail comb. It takes a while so I'd recommend clipping each section of highlights with a sectioning clip or bobby pin until you have every section separated and then apply the toner in foils. You can't apply the toner until you have every section ready or you'll end up with sections that are over-processed or under-processed depending on where you start due to how long it takes to separate a section of highlights out.

The second method takes a while but it's the only way you can apply a more permanent toner without seeing lightening or a colour change in the rest of your hair. The key is to clip back the majority of the hair around a section of highlights and then weave it out with the comb's tail or brush tip until you're holding all the highlighted hair.

Nic 24 months ago

Thanks heaps for your help will give this ago.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 24 months ago Author

Good luck with your colour Nic, feel free to ask if you have any more questions or run into problems.

Jacob 23 months ago

I have short hair that's naturally dark ash blonde, but I have platinum highlights that have grown out 1.5 inches. I want a solid light ash blonde color, should I use a high lift color to achieve this, or bleach and tone? Thanks!

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 23 months ago Author

Hi Jacob,

You can use either. Bleach and tone is best though because it's more likely that you'll reach a light enough colour.

Jacob 23 months ago

Thank you! I'll go and get some bleach and toner today.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 23 months ago Author

No problem, good luck with the colour.

Ashley 22 months ago

I naturally have level 7-8 hair but bleached and toned it with wella t18 permanent toner about 4 weeks ago. In preparing to do my re growth in the coming weeks is it possible to use a highlift dye in lightest ash blonde to achieve the same results and will this process over the toner or will I have to bleach or strip the toner first?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 22 months ago Author

Hi Ashley,

This should be fine. Dye can't remove dye, but the toner is very pale and little dye would have penetrated the regrowth. The high lift will still remove the natural pigment. Given that your natural level is about a 7, this also makes it easier to lighten it without bleach.

JoannaSunley 22 months ago

Hi, i had blonde hair with highlights with an inch of roots. I put an all over blonde dye on but the back is darker than front. It just seems like darker blonde not orange but I want to go lighter. What kind of dye should I use? I have a light golden blonde dye but I'm worried it won't lighten enough, or do I need a cool shade? Would a dye with pre lightener work? Thanks

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 22 months ago Author

Hi Joanna,

How many levels of lightening do you want. If you look at the hair base tones chart in my bleaching article here:

What level is the darker blonde hair roughly, and what level do you want to reach. Also, what tone of blonde do you currently have (Ie, cool or warm; which can be further defined as ash, pearl, natural, beige, golden, caramel, strawberry). Finally, what tonal result do you want to see in the darker blonde hair?

From that information I can tell you what shade and developer to use. This is important because the developer concentration defines how much lightening occurs, and the tone defines the way the colour looks, as well as whether any warmth revealed in the lightening will be neutralised.

However, as you have dyed it previously, and dye is not generally able to lift out other dyes, there is no guarantee that the colour will lighten to any great extent. Bleaching is a more reliable option at this point and a mild bleach wash would be able to lighten your hair a little without any major damage.

Debbie 22 months ago

I have been coloring my hair with Clairol Radiance Colorgloss 4A for years. My hair is long and there is a lot of buildup and looks too black. I want to achieve a deep, coffee color. I also have grey roots. Any advice?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 22 months ago Author

Hi Debbie,

You could try dye remover first to get rid of some of the buildup. As it's such a dark colour and you've applied it so many times though, it probably wouldn't remove very much.

The best route is to bleach wash it to lighten it slightly, then colour over that with a 5N. This will take out some of the warmth but still leave it with more of a coffee colour.

Debbie Nelson 22 months ago

Thank you! How do I bleach wash it? I know that they have a 6N Clairol Radiance - would that work?

TJ 22 months ago


My Mum has been told she is 50% grey and the salon is using Wella to colour her hair to the platinum blonde shade she likes. They have said it contains no bleach and it's high lift but when she asked them what they are using they said they are not allowed to tell her. They put the product on her roots and leave it for 40 mins plus and sometimes stick her under heat. Do you know what Wella product they may be using I dpnt understand why they won't tell her.

Thank you

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 22 months ago Author

Hi Debbie,

If you read my article here: - that should give you a good overview of bleach washing.

As for the 6N, it'd probably be a little too light to really make a difference. If you can't get 5N in your brand and don't want to use a different brand, I'd suggest using 6A as the ash tone will give stronger warmth neutralisation. This works even though the dye is lighter because there is more cool tone than a neutral so it still tones up fairly well.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 22 months ago Author

Hi TJ,

That's strange. It's possible they are using bleach;. sometimes it really is the only product that will produce reliable results and when someone refuses to have it used on their hair but still wants a result that requires it, I can understand how a less ethical salon might use it in stealth. I'm certainly not condoning such a practice, but I have heard of it being done before. It's also possible they don't want her to know what product or shade of dye it is to prevent the chance that she might decide to just do it herself or switch salons.

It's also possible it's a high lift dye though. The big tip off here is the look of the product and the smell. High lift has a sharp but clean ammonia smell, similar to other blonde dyes but stronger, whereas bleach has its own unique smell. You can also tell the difference based on the appearance as the high lift will often look a pinkish, violet, grey, or grey-blue colour and have a smooth creamy consistency. Bleach has a fine graininess to it even with good mixing, foams up more, and is usually white or blue. Cream bleach is a bit harder to differentiate though as it has a smoother consistency.

Savanna 21 months ago

I am planning to use a high lift ash blonde on my roots.. The rest of my hair is almost platinum blonde(dyed). My roots are like a level 3.. What will happen if some of this hi lift gets onto the platinum blonde while I'm touching up my roots? Will it break off ?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 21 months ago Author

Hi Savanna,

It is a possibility if your lengths are damaged and weak. The best way to maintain blonde hair is to ensure that the lengths are always strong enough to stand up to any bleach or dye that will be used on the regrowth and overlap, because even the most precise application causes overlap. If it's too weak, the hair breaks where the regrowth and previously dyed hair meets.

I'd also be concerned about how well the high lift is actually going to work on dark brown hair though. They generally lift up to 5 levels and with maximum results, this would still only take your roots to a light blonde, which is a bit too dark to match platinum. Of course, if your hair reacts well to lighteners and you've used the high lift on your roots in the past, you may be able to pull it off successfully.

Sara N 20 months ago

Hi! I want to use the igora royal E-0 booster with 12.11.

What is the ratio of booster to color? Is it 1 part booster and 1 part color (with 4 parts developer)? Thanks, I love your blog.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 20 months ago Author

Hi Sara,

The ratio is 2 parts colour to 1 part booster; then mix this total amount with 2 parts developer to every 1 part of mixture.

In volume terms, if you used 30 ml (One ounce) of colour, you would add 15 ml (Half an ounce), of booster. This total mixture is 45 ml (1.5 ounce), which would then be mixed with 90 ml of 40 vol developer (3 ounces of developer).

I've listed the volumes in ounces to help if you don't use or understand the metric system. In any case, feel free to ask if you need anymore clarification on the ratio.

Do also keep in mind that when you add the E-0 booster to the high lift, you're adding more ammonia to the dye. This acts as a catalyst and helps drive lightening, but you need to be careful if you have a sensitive scalp. A lot of people won't be able to handle such a strong product and it's not for everyone. The Igora Royal 12 high lift series can reliably lift up to 5 levels on virgin hair with 40 vol developer and this might be enough if that's all you need. Adding the booster can potentially add another level of lift.

Sara N 20 months ago

Thanks for your response Maffew!!! I got the formula on my head now. I am a level 6/7, so if I get that level of lift from the booster, no worries. The blonder the better, just as long as I don't get "blorange". Hopefully the .11 will have enough ash to counter act those warm tones. Thanks again!

Sara N 20 months ago

Still too warm, grrrr!!!! Next time I'm going to try just the 12.11 with the 40 volume developer with out the booster to see if it yields a cooler result. Thanks again for your help.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 20 months ago Author

Hi Sara,

One question: did it lighten enough and it's only the fact that it's too warm that is the problem? Or is it too warm and too dark?

If it's too warm but it lightened properly, this isn't really unusual with high lift dyes. The darker your hair is prior to use, the more warmth it has to deal with and the less likely it will tone properly. You can always tone separately using Igora's semi-permanent dyes afterwards though. Alternatively, add a dash of 0-11 to the high lift to neutralise yellow, or -0-22 to neutralise orange. These are pure tone concentrates that will boost the ash tone in whatever shade you mix them into.

If it's still too dark though, you'll get better results using bleach instead. Usually Igora Royal, Wella Koleston, and Matrix SoColor high lifts can all lighten up to a maximum of 5 levels, which is going to take naturally dark blonde hair to a fairly pale shade of blonde, but some people have more resistant hair and it may not be the best option for you.

Kelly-Ell 20 months ago

I had highlift highlights done on my natural medium blonde hair 4 months ago with great results. I went back a month ago for the same thing. The colorists used too many foils and instead of highlights i got a complete colorchange that is pinkish orange. I went back after 2 weeks to see if she could fix it. She added ash lowlights. Now my hair is pinkish orange and green. Is there a way to fix it?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 20 months ago Author

Hi Kelly,

It's a bit of an awkward fix because of all the different levels and tones in your hair. To correct the green for example. you would either need to add a small amount of red to neutralise it, or lift out the ash instead. Whereas to correct the orange and the hair that is too light, you need to add ash tone as well as darken it slightly. All of this would require foiling in multiple colours to certain areas of your hair in order to keep the highlighted look.

It'd be much easier to just bleach wash it with a mild mix of bleach and shampoo to take out the green and get it all closer to the same orange colour, then dye over it with a medium natural blonde. This will result in your hair being dyed a fairly neutral medium blonde but there will no longer be any distinct highlights or lowlights, so you need to take into consideration whether you want an easier and more reliable fix, or whether you really want to try to keep a multidimensional look. You can always think about highlights again later on though, working from a cleaner slate.

Theresa f. 19 months ago

My hairdresser covered my gray roots with a dark brown color gel then used matrix ul-aa for highlights and I now have a regrettable shade of orange or Carmel honey as some people are saying to be nice. My hair is not damaged yet, can this be fixed??

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 19 months ago Author

Hi Theresa,

The orange colour needs to be toned to be corrected. High lift dyes don't contain enough tone to neutralise darker colours like orange and this is what you're seeing now. Whilst the dye lightened effectively, because it was used on dark hair it can't tone the underlying pigment that is revealed. They're designed for reaching lighter blonde results from natural dark blonde hair so if you don't end up with blonde hair from the lightening, the ash tone in the dye isn't going to cut down the warmth.

To do this, tone with 6A using a semi-permanent dye preferably. You don't want to use a permanent dye because it will affect the colour of your dark brown hair. The semi can be applied all over and won't lighten the dark brown. It's also non-damaging so it will keep your hair in good condition, although it will fade over time. If you do want to use a permanent dye instead, foil it over the highlights only rather than applying all over to avoid affecting the brown hair.

Only leave this dye in until it reaches the tone you like. You don't need to process for the full time if it neutralises sooner.

Mads 19 months ago

Hi Maffew

I have naturally dark hair, not black but very close to it. My hair is virgin afro hair with not very tight curls (think Scary Spice in her curly days).

5 days ago I had high lift tint done on my virgin hair. The salon said it was lifted two levels. They used bleach on my ends for a (refreshed) ombre effect (with Wella Dark Ash Blonde 6.0). The whole thing was MUCH too light for my skin tone - I'm Naomi Campbell brown and my ends were golden blonde.

I went home and called a stylist who is a friend. She said I should go over with Wella Colour Touch in 3.0 a semi permanent very dark brown. The semi perm is already washing out and I see lighter colour poking through.

My questions are:

What will the semi perm fade to - will it go back to medium brown roots/mid lengths and golden ends?

How can I get back to my natural colour - does the semi perm dye need to removed and another colour applied on top?

I am of course concerned about the integrity of my hair.

Stylist has advised washing with shampoo as often as possible then having a colour cleanse and toner to brighten back up.

My desired end result is natural roots/mid lengths and caramel tips.

Thank you

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 19 months ago Author

Hi Mads,

The semi-permanent probably won't wash out completely; or at least, not for quite a while. Lightened hair is porous and will absorb temporary colours in a way that makes them a lot more permanent. As the fading slows down over time, it will probably settle to a warm brown colour, with more of a coppery colour to the lighter ends, but you can't be completely sure what it will look like until this happens.

As for getting back to your natural colour, were you after your original dark brown colour with the caramel tips? Easiest way is to apply dark natural brown from root to where you want the caramel to start, leaving the ends uncovered. This dye should be permanent so that the colour doesn't wash out. The ends need to be toned to get them to the right shade and you can use a semi or demi-permanent dye for this.

Mads 19 months ago

Hi Maffew

Thank you so much for replying; I really appreciate it.

Yes, I want my dark brown roots back! At the moment the colour seems to be fading with red/copper undertones but it hasn't been a week yet so who knows.

What colour do you recommend I tone the ends with? I have 10% developer already; will I need anything else (other than the toner)?

Thanks again. I'll be sure to give you a shout out on social media (@afroboudoir on twitter)


Mads 19 months ago

Sorry Maffew - it's 3% I have. Bottle says 10 vol.

Should I wait until the semi perm currently on my hair (roots and ends) has faded before I go in with the perm dye and the toner?


Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 19 months ago Author

Hi Mads,

10 vol is fine for toning or darkening hair with most brands of dye. Anything higher is used to lighten hair during colouring.

You don't need to wait for the semi-permanent dye to fade either. It won't impact the permanent dye you apply as a semi is just a stain on the surface of your hair. It doesn't actually penetrate into the hair shaft like demi-permanent or permanent dye, and the ammonia and peroxide in the dye you use will likely remove most of the leftover stain anyway.

As for the toner, look at what your ends look like and decide on the colour based on what tones you need to soften or neutralise, and what you need to enhance. Eg, if your hair looks very coppery, you need to soften this warm tone for a more natural caramel result. You can do this with a light ash shade left on for a few minutes. If you have any trouble with choosing what to use, let me know and I can help you with it if you tell me what colour your ends look when you get to toning.

Mads 19 months ago

Thanks so much Maffew; your website is a Godsend!

I've looked at your pages on removing semi-perm colour and am going to give myself a couple of clarifying washes with anti-dandruff shampoo before I start.

Which dark brown would you recommend? I was going to get Wella Koleston in 4.0 as that what the salon used. Can you confirm that I should only apply this to the parts of my hair I want to dye back to my natural brown. I shouldn't use it on the ends though correct? IE just add the brown to the parts I want to be brown.

I was then going to use Wella Koleston in 6.1 on the ends that I want caramel. Does that sound right?

I'd like to end up with something like this although my hair isn't as long so the very blonde ends wouldn't be as significant.

These are previous images of ombre done on my hair so you can see what it has coloured to in the past. They are both about 2/3 years old though:

Can you please also confirm that the mixing is equal parts hair dye to developer and I leave it on for 20 mins (as I'm using 10 vol).

Thanks again

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 19 months ago Author

Hi Mads,

No problem, glad you find it helpful.

Yes. the brown should only be applied to the parts you want to be brown, otherwise it will all dye and the ends would have to be lightened again.

The 6/1 is fine to use, but if your ends are roughly the same level as your previous ombre, this shade may be a bit too strong and give more of a neutral to slightly ashy tone. You're fine to wash it off as soon as it reaches the exact tone you want, but using a lighter ash closer to a 7/1 or 8/1 can be better in the long-run because you can leave it in for longer before it fully tones, thus causing the colour to last longer before it fades.

As for the mixing, Wella Koleston is mixed in a 1:1 ratio, so equal parts is correct. I'd recommend leaving it on for at least 30 minutes for longer lasting colour though, unless your hair is porous and seems to be darkening very quickly.

Mads 19 months ago

Thanks again Maffew; I'll let you know how it turns out!

Mads 19 months ago

Hi Maffew

I actually bought Wella Colour Charm in 7.1 as your previous message said a semi permanent colour would work to tone the ends and end up with caramel. How long should I leave it on the ends?

Before I get started a couple of questions please:

Can I darken the roots and mid lengths in the same application process as the ends? If so how should I go about darkening the roots/mids and then having ombre on the ends?

This is how light my hair was post salon and after one wash (excuse the state it's in)

This is my freshly washed hair after the semi perm dye was applied.

As you can see, my hair is curly and I'd prefer to colour it without straightening first. Is that possible?

Thanks again

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 19 months ago Author

Hi Mads,

Is that the regular Color Charm or the blue tubed Color Charm. The former is permanent, and the latter is demi-permanent. They don't make a semi-permanent colour though. You can still use permanent dye, but you need to try and apply it only to the blonde if you do and use 10 vol developer. Otherwise it can have an effect on your darker hair. As your darker hair is dark brown and dyed, this effect won't likely be too noticeable, but it could still cause slight lightening if just applied all over.

With a semi-permanent or demi-permanent though, lightening isn't going to occur and it won't affect the dark brown so it's easier to apply as you don't need to worry about being as precise. It's also quicker to apply. If you need to apply dye more precisely, this takes more time, which can mean sections of hair are more heavily-toned where you started application by the time it is all finished.

In any case, I would recommend applying the dark brown first. This will allow you to choose where you want the ombre to begin, and the dye will need to develop for longer than the toner for your ends. You don't have to straighten your hair, but it will make it much easier to apply where you want it. As for toning, if using a semi or demi where you don't need to worry too much about the colour touching the dark brown hair, there's no need for straightening because you don't need the precision. Definitely consider it if using permanent dye though, in order to avoid touching the dark brown hair too much.

Mads 19 months ago

Thanks again. I should have said Colour Touch not Charm.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 19 months ago Author

Hi Mads, that's perfect. Let me know if you have any trouble with it.

Mads 19 months ago

A quick question: as the Colour Touch is demi perm what's the mix ratio? And how long should I leave it on the ends? Is it a case of watch and see?

Mads 19 months ago

Hi again

I tried the Colour Touch (mixed at 1:2) on the ends as a strand test but there was no colour change at all. In fact it might be a little darker! Do you think I need to bleach bath?

Rebecca S 19 months ago

I would love to hear back from Sara N about the Igora 12-11 and the E-0 and 12%. I am going to use this on a client of mine. She is a 6 base and I would love the result to be something like a 9 to 10-0. I don't think I will use the full 1/3 of the E-0 as I think that it will impair the toning quality. I would love to hear what Sara N's result was and whether it was in fact light enough but not enough toning. Please let me know :) Thanks for the great page Maffew!! :)

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 19 months ago Author

Hi Mads,

Sorry for the late reply. If the dye darkens, there should be a colour change that has occurred. It'd be strange to see it darken but stay the exact same colour. When applying ash dye, you're always going to see it darken slightly because cool tone is being deposited and this is what tones it, but you see toning at the same time as darkening.

It sounds like the colour isn't strong enough for your hair. Your lighter hair is still quite dark and it could benefit from further lightening if you specifically want it lighter. If you're happy with how light it is though, try a darker ash for toning. Keep in mind that proper toning will see it darkened slightly so you should get it to a point where it is slightly lighter than what you want before toning and that way it reaches the exact depth you want afterwards.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 19 months ago Author

Hi Rebecca S,

I'm not too sure. Sara only said it was still too warm and didn't mention whether it was also too dark. It does sound like it was only the warmth that was a problem though as she mentioned she was going to try it without the booster to give better toning. Logically, I imagine she wouldn't bother with this if there wasn't enough lightening even with the booster, but it's impossible to be sure unless she does return and elaborate.

In any case, there's a very good chance you'll be able to lift from 6 to at least 9 with 12-11 and no booster if working with virgin hair. If it does turn out too warm, further toning with demi-permanent dye is an easy fix. Previously dyed hair is a lot more problematic though.

Jenn 19 months ago


I had dark brown/blackish hair and had parts of it bleached to a 7 for an ombre effect and then all over red for a vibrant but dark streaky red. I loved it but it was a natural products salon and it faded VERY fast (like 2 wks fast, after only 2 shampoos). I let it fade for about 4-6 more wks to a redish, orange and then used Loriel Hi Color red and it came out amazing.

It's fading again (after 6 wks) to another shade of redish, orange, just not as bad as the last time.

How often can you "safely" use the hi color with mouth over processing and damping my hair??

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 19 months ago Author

Hi Jenn,

You can mix the L'Oreal dye with 10 vol developer instead of anything higher to minimise damage. It's still a permanent dye as well as a high lift dye though, so it does contain a lot of ammonia and using 10 vol developer won't completely prevent damage from building up.

Are you using this dye to both lighten your hair further and refresh the red colour? Or just to refresh the red colour as it fades? If the latter case is true, I'd recommend switching to a semi-permanent or demi-permanent dye for colour maintenance with significantly less damage. Semi-permanent or acid-based demi-permanent dye is the best option because it doesn't contain ammonia or developer, so it doesn't damage hair. Have a look at L'Oreal's Dia Light range if you want to keep to the same brand.

Otherwise, there are mousses like Goldwell Soft Colour or Igora Expert Mousse that can add red tone back in after shampooing your hair. Shampoos like De Lorenzo's Cherry Red or Fire Red can be used in place of your regular shampoo to slow fading; and vibrant semi-permanent dyes like Fudge Paintbox or Manic Panic can completely refresh the red colour, although there are bright and purer red tones compared to dye. Other semi-permanent ranges like Igora Vibrance and Wella Color Touch give a richer and fuller red colour because they are based of the permanent colour ranges of these brands and include a range of tones for a better result, rather than pure red.

Michelle R 18 months ago

Hi Maffew

Some advice please! I have what feels like various colours on my hair at the moment. It's naturally around a 1b but has been ombre'd (box dye) then professionally ombre (base lightened and ends lightened too much) then back at a very expensive salon to colour correct (2 weeks ago) where they added (unwanted) highlights and went over the roots/mid with permanent dark brown dye.

The highlights have faded considerably thankfully but I'm now thinking the only way to get the hair colour I want is to do it myself.

I am after a natural root/mid length and lightened ends. I don't want to use too much bleach as I can see that slight damage has been done already. So far I have Wella Colour Touch in 7.1 and 10 vol developer.

Is it worth doing it in stages? As in I dye my whole head a dark brown (semi or permanent?) to match my natural roots and wait a while before using bleach (and if so what strength) to lighten the ends before adding the caramel/blonde dye?

Please let me know what brands you'd recommend and what process I should take.

Thanks in advance!

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 18 months ago Author

Hi Michelle,

If you look at the ends, how dark are they compared to what you want them to be? As for the highlights, are these darker or lighter than the lengths and ends? Generally highlights are lighter sections while lowlights are darker sections, but it's common to refer to either as highlights and it will give me a better idea of what is going on if you can clear this up.

As for dyeing it all the same colour, this does give you a more even foundation to work on by evening out all the differences in levels and colour between the ends and highlights, but keep in mind that it will result in more damage ultimately as you will need to bleach it more to get it as light as you want it and the areas that were different colours will often lift out at different speeds and tonal results anyway. Ie, it wouldn't be surprising to see the highlighted areas lift either quicker, slower, or to a different colour to that of the rest of your ends. Much of the way the lightening occurs can be affected by what dyes have been applied to specific areas of hair. Differences in what has been used on different areas leads to different results when lightened.

If you could give me a better idea of how light you want the ends to be, how dark they currently are, and what colour the highlights are, I'll be able to offer a better explanation of how best to proceed. But for the most part, the process will be to lighten the ends further towards what you want and deal with the highlights as necessary; eg, if darker, lighten them separately to even it out - if lighter, either apply foil over them and lighten the rest of the hair to match and even it out, or just lighten it all and then cover with a neutral shade to darken it all to the one colour result.

The colour you use as a toner will be chosen based on what your hair looks like at this point, as well as what colour you want. For example, the toner used may need to be a slightly different shade, darker, or lighter for certain results; eg, ash at level will give a cool result, but ash at a level lighter will give more of a neutral result as there is less tone in the dye, and this results in more subtle toning. Persistent red tones can require green-based ash to neutralise, whereas orange tones will correct with blue. It's little things like this that are hard to account for until you see what it looks like because whilst you can guess based on what tends to happen, you won't be sure what you're dealing with until you get there.

Michelle R 18 months ago

Thanks for the reply. Some of the highlighted ends are perfect in a dark blonde. Some are light brown, others medium to light brown with a red tint and others a natural (dyed) very dark brown. I am happy to leave my roots and mid lengths as is, I'm not too bothered about them as my hair is curly so they colour is kind of hidden anyway. Some ends look like the dark brown dye washed over the highlights as they're a strange murky blonde brown hybrid. I don't want to lighten unnecessarily, would toning on its own work? I don't want to lighten the already dark blonde ends further. I think the salon realised they went too blonde in some bits, she spent ages toning as she said there was a lot of red pigment but also used wella koleston 4.0 to cover some of the highlights as I said it was too much. I'm committed to growing it out if required but wonder if I can just tone to lighten some of the darker ends. I really don't think bleach is my friend at the moment!

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 18 months ago Author

Hi Michelle,

Toning can't lighten. When you tone hair what you are doing is adding a specific tone into your hair to produce an effect, so you're actually adding more colour. For example, add a tone you do want, and this enhances it. Add a tone that is complementary, and this neutralises the appearance of a tone that you don't want. Ie, if you were to add violet to yellow hair, this corrects the unwanted yellow as it adds violet in, and this violet forms a balance with the yellow tone. Equal concentrations of both look neutral, whereas a dominance of either will look yellowish or purplish. If you added red tone instead though, the yellow and red mix to form orange.

So unfortunately, you can't use toning to lighten your hair, but you can use it to modify the way the colour looks if you don't like certain tones. If you have any overly warm or ashy areas you could fix these with toning. You can also darken by dyeing your hair, and this can be used to correct it all to the same level so that there isn't so many different colours and levels present.

Ideally, to get it all to one colour, you would need to selectively add bleach to the darkest streaks, lighten them, and then add bleach to each area that is next in terms of darkness until it was the same level all over, then take everything blonde and tone to the particular shade of blonde you want. Another option is to bleach all over until even the darkest hair is light enough, then fill and dye to darken up to the shade of blonde you want, which will even everything out.

There is one other option though, to strip out the dye without bleaching. This will only work with permanent dye, so it will work with the Koleston, but with so many different shades in your hair, there is a high chance it will end up patchy. In any case, this option is dye remover, and this works by reversing the chemical reaction that makes the permanent dye permanent. The dye breaks back down into its original form and it can be shampooed out. However, the darker dyes used have a greater concentration of dye molecules and you'll see less stripping occurring, and all the different tones are still going to persist. Ideally if you used this, you would use it to strip out as much of the dye as possible, then use bleach to finish the colour up and even everything out before toning to produce the shade you want.

Michelle 18 months ago

Thanks for your detailed answer. So if I wanted a mix of honey and caramel mids and ends to add to the dark blonde I already have what power bleach should I use? And leave it on for how long? I'd want a variety of tones as opposed to a block or solid colour so would that mean bleaching and then adding colour with dye? I have Wella Colour Touch in 7.1 already, would you recommend also using some 6.0 also? I have 10 vol developer is that enough or do I need to buy bleach? If so what would you recommend?


Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 18 months ago Author

Hi Michelle,

If the hair you want to dye is the same level or lighter, this is easier and you can do it with dye alone. If you need it to be lighter though, you will need to bleach it first and then dye to achieve the colour you want.

For the dye, if dyeing over at same level, use the honey and caramel shades. If dyeing darker, mix the shade you want with a natural tone so that it darkens properly and doesn't grab too much of the desired tone. Eg, if you wanted a caramel result, using a darker caramel shade by itself is likely to end up very coppery on lighter hair. Mixing it with a natural tone avoids this. 10 vol is fine for tone-on-tone or darker dyes.

If you're going lighter using bleach though, lift first, then tone based on what you're seeing. You can use a lighter ash shade to soften the warmth and remove when it's caramel instead of orange, or you can use the caramel shade mixed with ash directly. The ash is necessary when going lighter to deal with the warmth that will be revealed. For the developer, use 20 vol with your bleach powder to lighten, and then dye using 10 vol as the developer. As for bleach powder, products like Igora Vario and Wella Multi Blonde are excellent but it will depend on what you have available to you.

John 17 months ago

Hi, I was wondering if you can mix Schwarzkopf Blondme White Blending with Blondme Lifting. The formula I was thinking of using was 30 ml White Blending in Ice, 30 ml Lifting in Blue Steel, with 60 ml 40 volume blonde me developer, with a development time of 45 to 60 minutes. My natural color is a level 6 or 6 1/2 with about 30% grey. Before I went grey I would describe my hair as lightest golden chestnut color. I pull a lot of gold and some golden red when lifting and Ice in the Blondme line and the Cendre in the Igora line give me too warm of a result, I need maximum lift and some grey coverage. What are your thoughts?

Betzaida heredia 17 months ago

Hello, i'm in need of a little help or advice my natural hair color is blackor dark brown.i been dying my hair igora royal 5-88 with some 0-89 concentrated color for a while. I was bored of my hair and notice it made me look old for my skin which is medium color. I went and bought a color fix which it left me uggly red color maybe some orage too.My goal was a medium brown and caramel highlights.Im stuck right now not wanting to damage my hair even more, if i color my hair with a medium ash color would it reduce the red ir should i add more ash to the color.Im just looking for you opinion ,Help!!!

Dyana 17 months ago

Hey hun so I had almost Virgin hair for two years I tried dying it with hi lift natural blonde

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 17 months ago Author

Hi John,

The only other product Schwarzkopf recommends mixing into these high lifts are the Blondeme toners. There's likely not going to be any major problems from mixing them, but the White Blending shades are less effective for lifting and adding it in will weaken the lift.

Using Igora Royal, you do have more ability to modify the shade without affecting lightening as much though. Eg, to 12-1 or 12-11 you can add concentrates like 0-11 to intensify specific tones. A small amount of these additives will go a long way in adding more colour without diluting down the dye too much. Ideally, the concentrate you use will be based on what tones you're seeing; eg, 0-11 (blended ash) for extra ash toning where there is yellow, gold, or only slight orange tone, 0-22 (blue) for neutralising strong orange tones, 0-33 (green) for neutralising strong red tones, or 0-99 (violet) for neutralising strong yellow or gold tones. Be careful with how much of these you use; especially with 0-22, 0-33, and 0-99, which should only be used if you really need them.

Of course, there is still the problem of grey coverage with this, which you can get around with the use of 12-0 mixed into the 12-1. This covers the grey more effectively because of the balance of primary colours present, but it will dilute down the intensity of the ash in the 12-1, forcing you to use more concentrate to get it strong enough to both cover the grey and yet contribute enough ash to tone properly.

Overall though, in your situation, I would recommend just lifting with bleach unless you really want to avoid its use. If you bleach to the level you want, fill the grey hair to match the underlying pigment you've revealed, and then tone over that, this will give the most reliable result. High lift allows for lift and toning at the same time, but it's not always an adequate substitute for the control that you have lightening and toning separately.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 17 months ago Author

Hi Betzaida,

The ash shade will reduce the warmth. How effective it is for this will depend on how dark the red tone is. You definitely can add ash as necessary to better neutralise the warmth if needed though. 0-22 and 0-33 would be optimal for this, but only use a little if you add them as they're very strong. 0-22 is pure blue and neutralises orange tone, whilst 0-33 is green and neutralises red tone.

Betzaida heredia 17 months ago

Thank you Mr.James!

The concetrated color did cross my mind but i was afraid.I do have one last question because im trying to get to a medium ash blonde first do you think i should try a level 7 or a level 8 as it might will turn 2 shades darker.I attached a picture of my hair.thanks again


Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 17 months ago Author

Hi Betzaida,

Your hair probably won't lighten very much using a level 7 or 8. If it's a dark red (close to a medium brown or so), it also won't tone if you use a colour this light. The reason it probably won't lighten is because you have naturally dark hair and you've dyed it a few times in the past.

The most lift you can generally expect from permanent dye is 3 - 4 levels, or up to 5 levels with high lift. Even this is an optimistic expectation though. In terms of actual colour, this kind of lightening means that 4 levels of lift takes you from a black colour to light brown. Bleach is a better option when you need to lighten your hair aggressively; especially to go from a black or dark brown colour to blonde.

To sum things up; for toning, use ash one level lighter to get to a neutral to slightly warm or cool shade. Use ash at the same level your hair currently is to get a cooler result and eliminate much more of the red. To go lighter, it'd be best to bleach first. Bleach to level 7 and then tone with 8A or 7A depending on how much warmth you want to eliminate for example.

Ana 17 months ago

Hi, I have been dying my hair a level 3 color using Framesi's hair color line since 2011. I have only colored my whole hair a couple of times, most of the other time my roots were only dyed. I have about 4 inches of virgin roots which is level 5A. I want to dye my whole hair to my natural color. What's the safest way to do so? I have had my hair thermally reconditioned (Japanese straightened) twice and the salon said its safe to bleach or lighten it.

geoxana 17 months ago


I have blonde highlights but also lowlights through my natural dark blonde hair. I love how the length of my hair came out (just had it done about a month ago at the salon). However I wasn't very pleased with the roots result at that time since it didn't come out like the length which looks like a gorgeous platinum blonde. The roots looked quite warmer and more orangey than the length..i though that maybe I could tone it with the Silver shampoo (the purple one)-the hairdresser said it might work if i still don't like it..although it didn't really..and i chose not to go back..and just accept it..

Now my roots grew quite a lot (since i am in my third trimester pregnant so everything grows faster which is great for my hair but not so great having to look at my dark blonde roots and then at the brassy orangey inch that follows).

Since I have just had my highlights and lowlights done it would be costly and damaging for my hair as well to go back so soon so i am looking for THE solution that would save me the hassle for whenever I want to freshen up my roots between salon visits.

Please, please,please let me know what should i use to achieve some nice light blonde roots that look blonde and not orangey (my virgin hair at the roots is dark blonde quite ashy i would say).

I am not sure if I should get a highlight color for example: Matrix Socolor Permanent Hair Colour / Tint 11A High Lift Blonde Ash (would this be good?) and mix it with Vero KPak Color Veroxide 6 percent 950 ml for example? Would that be good to get my roots to be light nice blonde?

Please let me know what i should do as I am very confused and don't want to ruin my hair. If you could tell me exactly the products that i should use?

Thank you and can't wait to hear your answer.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 17 months ago Author

Hi Ana,

To do this, bleach to slightly lighter than level 5 and then tone with 5A to neutralise the warmth. As long as your hair is in good condition before bleaching, it will be perfectly fine, but using bleach on chemically straightened hair does amplify the potential damage that can occur. The prior good condition of your hair and the fact that you'll only need to bleach once for a short period for the 2 levels of lift you need helps prevent any complications.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 17 months ago Author

Hi Geoxana,

Best idea is to use the level that matches your lengths. Eg, if your lengths are about a level 9, you need to use a level 9 dye for this. You can use a high lift dye, but they're really geared to maximise lightening and help tone at the same time; it won't necessarily give you a homogenous result.

Taking the level of your roots into account, this is a level 6 if your hair is dark blonde. The difference between level 6 and 9 is 3 levels of lift, meaning you need to use at least 30 vol developer to reliably lighten this far. Using 40 vol is an option that will take out more of the underlying pigment and give you a cooler toned result if desired. Whichever you choose, mix this with 9A, apply only to your roots, and develop until lightened and toned. You may still need to tone it again separately if there is a lot of warmth. Going more than 2 levels lighter with dye leaves a chance of this happening because there is a lot of warm pigment to deal with, even using an ash shade.

After this, you can mix up more of the 9A with 10 vol developer and apply to the lengths for a few minutes to even out the colour there to match the roots more closely if desired. This is only if they're looking a bit brassy though. If you tone separately to finish the colour and deal with the warmth, you can apply this to roots only, or all over depending on where there is warmth and what you want it to look like.

As for the exact products to use, this really depends on what you can get and what you're comfortable using. Salon dye gives better results, but if you're more comfortable using box dye this is fine. I would recommend pouring out the supplied developer and adding your own though. You don't know what volume of developer they're giving you, so you can't accurately gauge how well it will lighten unless you use your own developer instead.

geoxana 17 months ago

Thank you for your fast answer, Maffew! :)

I really appreciate it as now I have a clearer idea of what I need to do.

geoxana 17 months ago


Just want to check two things just to be sure.

1. Should I get a normal 9A hair dye? Or do I need to get a high lift hair dye?

I was thinking : Joico Vero K-Pak Color 9A (Light Ash Blonde) - would this be alright? or I would need to get a high lift one? and thought to combine it with: Vero KPak Color Veroxide 12 percent (40 vol).

What do you think? and this is for my virgin level 6 (dark blonde hair) at the roots..

2. I also mentioned about the next portion that follows after the roots area (about 2 cm of a warmer blonde) which I have before the level 9 that I have on my length begins. I would be interested to know if this portion that follows the roots area will be lightened as well..?

As if not..I might end up - hopefully - with a level 9 at the roots (which I do want) but with slightly darker portion after the roots and then the length being level 9..?

I might look like a zebra at the top of my I imagine something that is like: roots- level 9 (hopefully) but then the warmer blonde portion - i don't know what level that might end up and then level 9 again (which I have on the length).

I hope that my question makes sense.

Just want to know if you have any suggestions on this as you didn't seem to mention about the portion that follows after virgin roots.

Thank you again!

Ana 17 months ago

Hi Maffew,

Thanks so much for your reply. What level of peroxide do you recommend that I should use on my hair when bleaching it and how long should I keep the bleach on for? What color am I aiming for (to know that it's slightly lighter than level 5)? Am I aiming for my hair to be red, orange or yellow? I tried to do a strand test with bleach where I used 30 volume peroxide and kept it on for 30 minutes. My hair was not damaged at all, but the piece of hair came out a dark orange-red. I tried to cover it with 6A and I kept the 6A on for 45 minutes. My hair looked too red.

Ana 17 months ago

Also, sorry about the additional message - but what should I do about my virgin roots? If I were to put bleach on them, they would go white. I am worried about getting my lengths lighter but not having them match my 4 inches of roots. I am worried about having a line of demarkation.

Camille 17 months ago

Good day!

I bleached my black-but-box-dyed-to-brown hair about a month ago and I ended up with brassy gold hair, like yellow-orange. Can I use box dye in an ultra blonde shade, say revlon colorsilk sun blonde or in platinum blonde instead of toning to lift/fix my hair? Toners are hard to find in our country and the last time i toned with wella t18 my hair was still brassy! The toner was expensive too! Please give me advice! Thank you!

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Geoxana,

1. Yes, 9A. High lift dye is different and will have a different level number like 11, 12, 100, or 1000. Sometimes it's even a letter or two like HL or UL depending on brand. In any case, you don't need the extra lightening power of a high lift, and it won't deposit colour as effectively.

The Joico dye is definitely fine; it's a good, reliable brand. You can use it with 30 vol or 40 vol: both will lighten properly, but it's going to be ashier with 40 vol if that's what you want. The reason for this is that the 40 vol will lift more pigment than the 30. Less pigment left means that the ash tone in the 9A will become more dominant because it doesn't have to neutralise as much warmth.

2. The warmer area will lighten as well. It may not end up the exact same colour though as it's previously dyed hair and a different colour to begin with. The easiest way to prevent this happening is to treat the different areas separately by bleaching that warm area down to level 9 and then toning; followed by applying the 9A dye to the natural roots after this. If you don't want to go to that hassle, it will still end up fairly close if you just apply from roots to the warmth in one process.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Ana,

If you're using salon bleach, use 20 vol because these bleach powders are much stronger and most are only recommended to be used with 20 vol at most on-scalp. If using a cheaper brand, you can generally use as high as 30 vol. If in doubt, look at the manufacturer's maximum developer volume for on-scalp bleaching. Also, note that even if you're applying away from the root area and the brand states a higher volume can be used off-scalp, I'd still recommend using the on-scalp recommendation unless you're applying withing foil or meche for highlights, and even then, only if you really need that extra lift.

The colour you're aiming for is just after it turns bright orange. Once it begins to show a golden tinge, you're heading towards level 6, so it's fine to dye it from that point. This is natural hair though, so depending on what you've dyed it with in the past; especially if you've used darker brown or red dyes, it can look more reddish or orange where it normally wouldn't. If in doubt, base it on the darkness rather than colour. Have a look at how dark 6N is and once your own hair is a little darker than what this looks like, you're about where you need to be.

As for the roots, if you can apply very neatly and not cover them at all, this is best, at which point you can even it up later on. If not, don't worry too much. If they become lighter than you need them to be, fill them in with the same colour that your lengths look, then tone over everything for an even result. Eg, if your lengths are an orange colour once light enough, fill your roots with this colour if they are lighter.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Camille,

Toning is basically just a form of dyeing where you're adding specific tones to your hair only, and not lightening or darkening it. You can do this with any dye, whether it's temporary or permanent, and yes, you can use a box dye for this if preferred. However, you need to base the dye you use on how dark your hair is. If it's a yellow to orange colour, it's probably somewhere between a level 7 and level 8. It can be hard to tell though because the brown dyes you've previously used cause these red tones to appear at the blonde levels where natural hair would follow a regular transition from orange, to gold, to yellow, light yellow, and finally pale yellow. If you can find a picture that shows hair at a similar darkness to yours, that will help approximate the level.

When you work out what level it is, use an ash toned dye one level lighter than your hair for toning. If using box dye, you'll find that the developer is the liquid already in the mixing bottle, whilst the actual dye is the tube you add to this. For better results, feel free to pour out this developer and then add your own 10 vol developer. This will minimise damage. Blonde box dyes are designed to lighten your hair and will contain a higher developer than you need for toning. If you use 10 vol developer, this works fine for toning without lift.

As for the Wella t18, I hear about this a lot. The problem is that this dye is designed only to be used on pale yellow hair, in which case it tones it to white in the perfect scenario. A lot of people end up using it on darker hair though, in which case it causes minimal, if any change because the colour is so pale and delicate.

geoxana 16 months ago

Hi Maffew,

Thank You SO much!

I really appreciate all your help!

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Geoxana,

I'm glad you've found it helpful. Let me know if you run into any problems or have any further questions.

Sara Melanie 16 months ago


im doing a root regrowth and need help. Her base colour is around a 5 and she had blond on her hair and bleach highlights which are now grown out so im needing to cover them. Her hair colour is a mix of shades 10, 11 and 12. I was going to use wella high lift tint with 40% but im not sure if this will lift the natural 5 enough and also wont the 40% be harsh on the scalp?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Sara,

You'll likely have trouble with the high lift. They lift well, but for the amount of lightening you're after you'd be better going with one of the Blondor bleach products unless your client is averse to using bleach. Apart from the inadequate lightening, you'll also see significant warmth because when it doesn't lift as light as you want, the cool tone deposited by the dye probably won't be able to deal with all the warmth that the lightening brings out; forcing you to tone after dyeing and taking away a lot of the convenience of using the high lift.

Scalp irritation can definitely also be a problem. The 40 vol used with a high lift is about the same level of irritation as powder bleach and 20 vol, but whether someone is able to have either of these products used on their hair comfortably is going to vary a lot with how sensitive their skin is.

Muneera 16 months ago

Thank you alot for yor informative article. I am a level 2 virgin hair and i would like to get a dark blond ash or light brown ash. I am planing to use high lift : wella 12/69 or Agora Royal 12/19 with 40 volume violet developer

Do you think this is enough to get me the color i want with out brassy look ?

Thank you in advance..

Jess 16 months ago


I previously dyed my level 2 hair a light brown colour using a box dye which went very coppery because of the red tones in my hair. Now my roots have grown out about 3 inches (ahh) and it looks like I have a really badly blended ombre.

Was wondering if I could use Wella Koleston in 12/11 to blend it all out and make it a more subtle looking ombre?

Thank you!

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Muneera,

Whilst it is possible for high lift dye to take a level 2 to a 5 or 6, it's not the best option for this. At these darker levels, the pigment in the dye is going to have very little effect on the warmth that is revealed. You really need a 5 or 6 in ash for this because it's the darker dye pigment that will deal with all that warmth.

Overall, best option is to bleach it because it's so dark right now. This will allow you to watch it as it lightens. Once it gets to the point where it's a golden orange colour, you can rinse it out and tone with 6 ash (6/1 in Wella, or 6-1 in Igora) to neutralise the warmth and take it to dark ash blonde.

Otherwise, if you definitely want to avoid using bleach for whatever reason, you can use dye, but I'd recommend going with a 6 in ash instead of a high lift to try and get that lift and toning to occur at the same time. You'd still be mixing this with 40 vol developer to push as much lightening as possible, but the darker dye pigment is better for toning at this level. You can use the high lift, but you'd need to apply a darker shade as the toner after it lightens if you do this.

Muneera 16 months ago

Thank you sooo much for taking the time to answer my question.

I am not aginst using bleach but i am afraid if my hair is golden orange it will keep coming back as the 6 ash dye will fade with time and shampoo and i will be left with orange gold undertone.

Is there any way to overcome this problem?

Thanks again for being so helpful.

renae 16 months ago

I recently went to my hair dresser to have my roots done, I am a dark blonde with fine hair and have been having my hair colored by only hair dressers for years, I have been going to my current hair dresser for 2 1/2 years. She uses Goldwell and does my roots and up until this last coloring my roots have always lifted to my desired blond color. After this last coloring I noticed when I got home that my bangs felt lighter and it wasn't until the next day I realized I had hair breakage that significantly thinned my bang area. I also began looking at my root area and noticed that the majority of my roots were my natural dark blond color but at different lengths from my scalp, it looks like the dye colored some of the hair follicles but then didn't from around an 1/8 inch or less down to my scalp. The breakage looks like some of the hairs broke where my natural hair color and color met? My hairdresser does not understand what happened as she has used the same color on me countless times and has no answers for me as to why this happened. I would appreciate your help because I do not want this to happen in the future.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Jess,

You can use the 12/11 to lighten your hair, but with hair that is as dark as yours, you'll see a lot of warmth and will need to tone with a darker shade afterwards to deal with this. It mostly just depends on whether you want to avoid using bleach, because a high lift can be used on darker hair like yours to lighten your hair more than regular dye, but because they are generally only made in blonde shades, they won't tone darker hair. Like with the use of bleach, you still have to tone separately.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Muneera,

You'll notice the same thing happening whether you dye or 'bleach and tone'. This is because your natural pigment doesn't wash out of your hair, whilst artificial colour does because it can break down over time as well as be stripped out by shampoo. IE, when you bleach your hair, the warmth that is revealed isn't going anywhere but you can add in cool tone to neutralise the way it looks. When this dye fades out, the warmth is gradually revealed again.

In any case, not all the dye will fade out, so even when the warmth does reappear, you end up with a slightly warm shade, rather than bright orange again. With continued toning, the dye builds up and fading becomes less of a problem. It is always something to think about whenever you dye your hair a lighter colour though, that when you tone, the shade used as the toner will fade over time, so there will always be some level of maintenance involved after lightening hair.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 16 months ago Author

Hi Renae,

As the root application can only overlap onto the last area where it was applied, the last time you had your regrowth lightened, you shouldn't really expect to see breakage like this if you've never seen it before. What this suggests is that for some reason your new growth is somewhat weaker than it was previously.

Have you used any heated styling tools, or spend a lot of time in the sun? Both heat and UV light can damage and weaken your hair, but I wouldn't expect this to be the cause. It's more likely something nutritional. If you're deficient in any vitamins or minerals, or not getting enough protein in your diet, this can cause your hair to become weaker or grow slowly. Even being sick with a virus like the flu can temporarily lead to weaker hair because it stresses your body and takes nutrients and energy away from hair growth to prioritise repair elsewhere.

Apart from that, it's difficult to work out why new hair growth can be suddenly weaker, so unless this happens again next time you have your regrowth treated, I wouldn't worry too much. If it does become a continuing thing, this might warrant a closer look at your diet, stress levels, and general health to see what's going on because it could be a symptom of something else.

Suzy 16 months ago

Hi Maffew!

My ten year old has light to medium brown hair. She has wanted blonder streaks in her hair for a while. Right before school, we went for a trim, and I told her stylist that she wants blonde highlights, but I was unwilling to allow it because I didn't want to damage her hair with bleach. She said she could do what we wanted without bleach and proceeded to use a Hi-Lift. Needless to say, I am completely disappointed to read that it is just as damaging as bleach. It sounds like we should let this grow out and not do a hi-lift again. I am now concerned about the roots when it grows out though since she is at a pivotal time in her youth when she will start middle school and identify herself. What are your thoughts on how we could eloquently fix this situation? Thanks so much for your help and advice.

LC30 16 months ago

Hi Maffew,

I went to a new hair salon toda and asked for my usual full head of hilights toned with a violet ash. The stylish insisted that I use a high lift blonde tint on my roots instead as it's less damaging. It came out orange and despite her toning it I still have really warm brassy roots and a distinct line between the hilift colour and previous hilights. Is there another toner I can use or does this.need to be corrected with bleach? I'm naturally very.dark brown.Thanks

Katie 14 months ago

Hi, I'll give you a little background on my hair first, I have naturally around a level 3 brown hair, really thick and long, ive been having it lighted for years but getting fed up of the dark roots as it grows so quickly (having it done every 5 weeks with around an inch of growth each time!) anyway I'm also after a more natural softer look on the root that I can manage in between appointments and so have used a highlift on my roots this has given me suprisingly good results and is a warm light blonde with a hint of ginger! I've toned it both times which has also resulted in the darker of my highlights to go the same warm/ginger colour whilst sending some of the lighter ones a shade of blue. It doesn't by any stretch look horrendous (although it sounds it!) Intend on having it highlighted again soon but just so I am able to got to the hairdresser more like 10-12 weeks rather than 5 weeks plus I'm happy with the highlift level I just want to get rid of the ginger tinge whilst not sending the rest blue! I've thought of putting a light ash semi permanent colour all over on just to even it all out as its not just the roots that need addressing, any suggestions? Thanks

Cory Fawn Mullins profile image

Cory Fawn Mullins 14 months ago

Hi Maffew,

Please help me! My hair has been some kind of bleach blonde on the top 50% and underneath was a more reddish blonde For the past 7 years. I let my daughter talk me into dying it a darker color all over-6 light brown raspberry. I used a protien filler and my hair turned out super dark and i hate it!

It's been a month and i still can't stand it. Can i add some blonde highlights throughout the top and framing my face or do i have any options?

Thanks so much!!

Alison 14 months ago

Hi Matthew I have bleached highlights which are now practically full head & want to apply highlift tint all over how do I do this??

lisaleslie 14 months ago

what do you suggest i do to refresh my two month old high lift tint highlights?

i just got my hair trimmed and want to just freshen them up but can't afford to get them highlight tinted in a salon at the moment


tracypoppet 13 months ago

Hi Matthew. This page is so informative, however I'm still a bit confused. I've used wella koleston 12/81 with 40 vol 2-1 under a cap for 60 minutes. My yukky mousy brown hair goes a nice pale blonde. I've done this every 21 days for 15 years. My hairdresser gave this advice, very kindly, when I could no longer afford the £100 every 3 weeks. Another in Aveda looked at it and said "pick another colour, you're not meant to be ash blonde dear" (I left) My question..I read that after lightening one should 'dye' it. Isn't my 12/81 just that? Have I been lucky that my hair hasn't fallen out? It feels good. I've been told it's good strong hair. Other forums give out the vols and then put 40 vol.... '"don't try this at home!!" I just do the roots, redken extreme mask afterwards. Mousy brown to ash blonde, at I doing this right? oh, and I must be very blonde, it's my persona/job. Tia ps I'm truly afraid of blue bleach, I will not use it. A hairdresser managed to turn it into chewing gum, it snapped off.

Brennan 13 months ago

Hi Maffew,

I've read at least 40 of your color correction advice posts and you give great advice.

I have fine, textured hair, level 5 to 6 natural with 10% gray. My hair was dyed 9 weeks ago with Aveda permanent 6YO at the crown and a Demi 5N underneath. Previous to that, redken shades just to tone and condition after a bleach wash to lighten lightly all over.

The Aveda color has gone from chocolate brown to deep auburn/copper with very yellow tone in the sun. I wanted to remove some color and make it more neutral with highlights, so I partial foiled with Paul Mitchell synchro mixed with goldwell 20% creme peroxide. I processed to a golden wheat color which is nice. I did not apply bleach to my regrowth because it would over-lighten. I was going to go back in and hi-lift with joico HLB (blonde beige) at the base of all the highlights... But now I don't think it will lift enough. I think the overall tone will still be too orange/warm. At most, I want neutral.

My goal: medium natural blonde with sun kissed look of tiny wheat colored highlights.

What I have: warm medium brown with caramel highlights and natural medium brown regrowth.

My possible formula:

Color removal all over and reassess natural underlying pigment left.

Assuming level 5 natural regrowth and as light as 7 on ends; I have goldwell topchic: 8SP & 30% foils throughout, a few 9NBP foils at crown, a few bleach foils face framing. (Any reason to use I use the high lift for the end result?)

Please also tell me if you think my formula is good and what I can do to condition my hair as the ends are quite dry (I read about using a cider vinegar mixture to rinse through to lay the cuticle down.)

Thank you in advance!

Betsabe123 13 months ago

Hi Mathew,

This is a great website!! I was trying to read some of your comments to try to get an idea of what I should do. I want to be a blonde. But I am scared of the bleach because I think my hair is so fine. Well this is what I did. I decided to strip my hair by using peroxide and baking soda with coconut oil and brought it down to like a strawberry. Kinda like a soft orangy. More exact copper. I was impatient and decided to dye it with Revlon Colorsilk Ultra Light Ash Blond 05 . The result was a like golden yellow kinda orangy on top and the length golden copperish. I need help. My question is how do I get it to a descent blond without bleaching? Should I dye one more time? I saw you mention the high lift. If that. Which color should I use to try to get a nice even blond? Not so light Please help I was trying to do this as economic as possible. How can I fix this?

Thank you :0)

Tay 11 months ago

Hi so I recently had my hair bleached from dark brown/ black color and I've toned it twice to get rid of the brassyness and its helped some but I still have some brassy spots and my goal was to achieve an even platinum/white shade. what do you think my best bet would be? I was considering trying a blonde dye or hi lift but I really don't want much more damage done to my hair.

greeneyedblondie profile image

greeneyedblondie 11 months ago

This is an awesome hub. Thanks for sharing! One day I'd like to go platinum but I'm not sure when.

deen 10 months ago

Hi.. I have base color level around 2-3. I have dyed my hair twice with highlift. I know that dye doesn't lift color, but I found my hair got lighter after the second process. If I use ash blonde highlift once more, what will it do to my hair? Will it lift some remaining pigment from my natural color so I can get more lighter hair, like light brown maybe? FYI, I'm not aiming to be blonde so bleaching will never be my option. I just want lighter hair color. Thanks..

missbellauk profile image

missbellauk 10 months ago

Love this! my hair is natural dark and i normally use heavy beech it messes my hair up for a few days, ill try this thanks for sharing x

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 10 months ago Author

Hi Deen,

When it is said that dye doesn't lift dye, the reality is a bit more complicated. Whilst the artificial pigment from a previous dye job will rarely be lifted by use of another dye, it is still possible to get your hair lighter because the dye can still lift the natural pigment. Dyed hair is a combination of the dye pigment that has been added, and whatever natural pigment is still present in the hair.

However, the amount of lift you get from use of a dye on top of previously dyed hair is very mininal if you've applied darker colours, or have used many dyes over time. The darker a colour is, and the more times you've used a colour, the more artificial pigment there is in your hair and the less chance there is of seeing lightening occur with another dye.

If you have seen some lightening through use of the high lift at this point, feel free to try it again if that's what you'd prefer to use, and your hair is strong and healthy. It is of course possible that it will work in your situation where you aren't aiming for extreme lightening or achieving blonde hair. Other alternatives to lift more pigment out with minimal or no damage include bleach washing, or dye remover.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 10 months ago Author

Hi missbellauk,

High lift is effective for lightening, but you may prefer the bleach for lifting dark brown hair to blonde. The high lift is ideal for taking light brown or darker shades of blonde to a light blonde. On darker brown hair, you can end up with orange hair because the amount of lift isn't adequate to push through to the blonde stage.

Of course, if you'd like to try it for yourself you can do so on a small section of hair as a test strand and this will give you a better idea of how it reacts with your hair. As with bleaching, you need it to get to the point where it's beginning to turn golden before it can truly be dyed blonde.

missbellauk profile image

missbellauk 10 months ago

mmm your right my hair is really dark i love it as it looks thicker but it's annoying when i want to lighten it xx

shafiqahmed profile image

shafiqahmed 10 months ago

This is a very useful hub article. It provides a step-by-step guideline for hair lovers. I mean who love caring their hair and understand the value of their hairs. Love this hub.

Johnathan Skot 9 months ago

Hi Maffew:

I'm a new hairdresser and have a question about Igora High Power Browns, in particular the Brown Booster. I've used shade B2, cool brown, with success on a client with dark hair, mix B2 one-to-one with 40v and processing for 45 minutes. Gave a nice natural looking level 5/6 brown. But she'd like a little lighter. I know the Brown Booster should give me more lift, but I can't find any information on mixing it. What is the ratio I mix Brown Booster with the other High Power Browns? And can Brown Booster be used on the scalp? I can't find this info. anywhere.

Ellen 8 months ago

Hello - I love your blog and than you for sharing your thoughts. I started dyeing my hair at home because I ccoulbd't afford to go to the salon anymore. To some mixed results over the last year :) The biggest issue is that my hair pulls so red - but I've used Wella 8A and 50 (the violet additive) to combat that as toners were not getting out the brass and red. The problem is that its gone the other way and is a bit greenish... So i'm not sure if I should use a warm toner or something like a T28? Also one other question - when you balyage (which I've done a few times and love the look) can you ad 50 violet additive to the bleach mixture Or is that not a good idea? Thank you in advance and I greatly enjoy you blog.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 8 months ago Author

Hi Ellen,

A green tone can be caused by two different things: blue and yellow mixing together to create green, or actual green pigment from darker ash shades in certain brands. As you're using a Wella dye, the latter is unlikely because 8A in this brand's colour lines is predominately violet-blue. This means that the green is the result of the blue tone grabbing to your hair and mixing with yellow pigment that is present to create a green tone.

You can fix this a few different ways depending on your preferences here, starting with the way you tone it. If it still looks warm with that green tone, increase the amount of violet additive and this will take care of both problems. The violet will counteract the yellow tone, meaning that the mixing to create green will no longer occur and the warmth will also be further reduced.

If you're happy with the current warmth however, you can correct the green tinge by mixing the 8A with 8N. This will dilute down the amount of blue pigment within the dye to prevent the green tinge from appearing, but you'll also likely need to increase the violet additive because there will be less toning occurring overall.

The above methods can be taken to prevent the green tone from happening in future. As for correcting its current colour, you can do this by using a demi-permanent or semi-permanent dye in 10G with a small amount of 10C, or, a dash of copper intensifier / additive / concentrate. Apply this and leave to process only until it warms up slightly or it will start to shift back in the other direction again. If you have trouble finding the right shades of dye for whatever reason, you can make your own toner by adding a small amount of semi-permanent orange dye (Like Fudge Paintbox or Manic Panic) to conditioner. Just be careful with how strong you make this because you only need a tiny amount to correct the green tone.

As for adding violet additive to bleach, I wouldn't recommend this. The problem with adding dye and other products to bleach is that there is the potential for the two to interact. Together, the mixture could reduce the effectiveness of the bleach or create byproducts that are harmful. You may want to consider Wella Magma for this purpose instead, as this is very similar to the product you were hoping to create by mixing the violet and bleach. Wella Magma is a bleach that contains strong pigment in a variety of shades that can be used to bleach and tone in one process, or at least reduce the amount of toning required following bleaching. 8 months ago

I have been using Clariol 12/1 half tube + 2" 000 booster & 70ccs of 40 vol coming out to ash.. my level us 6. Can I mix it with 12.0 otherwise I look ashy...

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 7 months ago Author

Hi Carolyn,

That's perfectly fine to mix shades within the same brand and colour line. It may take some experimentation to get the exact mix you want though. Depending on how ashy it looks, and how much warmer you would prefer it to be, you may want to start with just 10 - 25% as the natural shade and then adjust up or down as necessary from there.

Steph 7 months ago

Hi therr

Steph 7 months ago

Hi there Maffew,

I have been told I'm a natural level 7. My hairdresser has been using the Igora hi-lift with 12% on my roots which usually appears too dark/warm. We started off using a 12.0 for a while, then gradually added some 12.11 in increments over a year before using 12.11 exclusively. I always have the tint left on for 90 minutes (my request) and my hair is in good condition.

Looking back, I think the 12.0 gave a lighter result. The 12.11 doesn't really seem more toned in comparison, just darker. Could it be that the 12.0 lifts better because it isn't concerned with toning?

I have long hair which varies in lightness/tone - the undersection is quite orange, while the top layer is a more acceptable creamy blonde which I like. However, purple shampoo makes this area appear grey which only serves to exacerbate the orange under layer!

I don't know what to do... I'm anti-bleach, want to stay as light and blonde as possible, yet hate the brass! I sometimes cover warm roots with Idola wash-off mousse in an ash tone but this isn't a great solution.

Any advice would be great fully received!


Heather 7 months ago

Hello Maffew,

I need your help! I basically had ombre tips in my hair.. and i lightened it with pravana 000 plus 20% developer. this made my tips "lighter" .. The basic look I was going for was a "teal mermaid" color.. with blue and gr

Heather 7 months ago

Hello Maffew,

I need your help! I basically had ombre tips in my hair.. and i lightened it with pravana 000 plus 20% developer. this made my tips "lighter" .. The basic look I was going for was a "teal mermaid" color on only my tips of my hair.. (this was already lightened so didnt need to bleach) but this is where the problem- I decided I wanted to go higher on my hair.. - which was virgin black .. So what I did was first bleach my virgin black (middle part of my hair) and it came out to a dark brown.. then i used the pravana 000 to get it lighter (did not work- didnt get any lighter, not sure why).. this is where it gets really BAD.. i decided just to use the pravana teal mermaid mix I made - from 2 different pravana colors (pravana locked in teal, and locked in yellow) and just coated my "middle" of my hair which was bleeached only once.. and then the super bleached tips..

the end result.. NOT GOOD

basically the middle of my head is light green.. almost lime green yellowish.. very ugly.. but my TIPS are BEAUTIFUL.. the tips came out a beautiful teal... now this is where i could use your help...

1.) should i use the pravana 000 on the middle of my hair to get the teal out.. and THEN bleach to get lighter?

2.) or should i just use a teal color to go over the ugly yellowish green.. will this change the color..?

its quite confusing because i need the color from the middle of my hair to match the tips (the pretty teal)

I need your help please!! :) I would appreciate it so mucH!!

Yvette Saldana 7 months ago

Ok so since I used Loreal's Ombre Touch kit & got red/orange hair, using a hilift blonde color will not work to lighten my hair even more to get it where I want it?

Kelly 7 months ago


Love your site! Very informative. I'd love your advise:

My virgin hair is level 7N with underlying gold.

I had highlights 18 months ago and since then i've just had high-lift blonde and toner to give an all over level 9 (the ends are more of a 10 from the past highlights) but it inevitably kept turning a bit brassy.

I had 2.5 inches of roots so last week decided to try BLONDME Coloring in Natural Ice but only used 20 vol on my regrowth then the recommended 7 vol to refresh the lengths and ends. My hair is very porous and baby fine so I thought 20 vol would be enough but it didn't quite lift it high enough! Now I have slightly warm 8G roots and 9N/P lengths and ends.

Should I have used the BLONDME Lifting cream in Ice with 30 vol or 40 vol instead?

Now it just looks bleurgh so i'd like to get it to an all over 10N, how could I do that?

Thank you!!

Stephanie 7 months ago

Good morning, I am African American and just this past Saturday I went to my hairdresser and got my hair bleached, (my natural color is bleached, or so I thought, to make a long story short, she used hair booster to lighten my hair, which turned out to be cinnamo n in color. After finally getting a half answer on the process, she told me that my hair needs to be high lifted to go lighter. Is this true in order for me to achieve the blonde results I wanted, or is there nothing else I can do at this point?

Margo 7 months ago

My hairs is naturally a strawberry blonde with more strawberry. I highlight my hair by a professional but this time she decided to used a lift and tone. I didn't want to tell her but I do not like it. It brought out a bright red throughout my hair. What can be done?

Kate 6 months ago

What do I use to die my hair blonde when it box died dark red and dark brown.

Leah 6 months ago

Hi, I have mousy brown hair with a full head of highlights a inch or two of roots. I bought a 12-1 with 40vol to put on my roots as I have highlights and was just sick of paying out every 4 weeks, big mistake! My roots have gone orangish. I'm not sure if this is because I never left it on long enough or that I need to tone it or a purple shampoo? Thanks in advance x

Jessica 6 months ago

Hi:) I have level 8 hair, and would like to use the Pravana ultra high lift violet. Can I use developer by a different brand?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 6 months ago Author

Hi Leah,

What colour were the roots and what colour were you intending to take it to? If you were aiming for brown to match the rest of your hair, you'll need to tone separately after using the high lift dye because it doesn't contain enough pigment to tone at darker levels like this. You end up getting the intended lightening, but all the underlying warmth is uncovered and not corrected during the dyeing process.

To correct, assuming it is light enough now, take an ash shade 1 level lighter than the roots and apply, allow to tone, then rinse. If it is too light, you can darken it up to match the lengths and also tone it by using a mix of half ash and natural shades (using less ash as necessary depending on how cool toned you want it to be). If it's still a little too dark, take an ash shade 1 level lighter than the target level and use 20, 30, or 40 vol as the developer depending on how many levels still need to be lifted. 20 vol will lift 1 - 2 levels, and you'll get up to 1 additional level of lift for each jump up in strength. Allow this to develop and it will tone while it lifts.

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 6 months ago Author

Hi Margo,

Apologies for the late reply. If the warmth is still a problem, you can correct this by toning with ash blonde. As your hair is highlighted and there are lighter areas, you want the ash to be no darker than 1 level below the lightest highlights or else it will grab to them and look cause them to become over-toned. The use of a lighter shade means that the highlights will be toned by the base won't change much, but this should be fine because it's those bright highlights that are causing the redness to be more pronounced by the sound of it. Warm highlights make the overall colour of your hair look warmer, whilst the opposite is true of ash highlights. You could also add lowlights using natural blonde that is 1 level darker than the lightest highlights to cancel out some of that brightness in the overall colour through the same mechanism.

Jean 6 months ago

Hi Maffew,

I went to my hairdresser about a month ago looking for that silvery/cotton candy-ish pink color all over, less the roots. My natural hair is about a 6. I had virgin hair half way down, and then I had previously bleached/browned the bottom half. My hairdresser was supremely confident that we could achieve my desired color - but we didn't. I lef there with a natural looking strawberry blonde on top and neon pink underneath.

I went back a few days later and she did a bleach bath, then replaced the pink and it came out slightly better but a lot of orange compared to pink. So $200 later, I was all set with continuing to struggle with her.

I've colored my hair on my own many times but because of the large scale bleach process, that's why I put it in the hands of a professional.

Anyway - about a week later I bought a lather toner and toned it - that took out some of the orangeness and I put the pink back on, it wasn't bad but still not what I wanted.

So now it's been a month and I decided to try lightening it again - I did a bleach bath with 30, it didn't do anything to the lift, only removed the pink. So I did a bleach bath with 40 today and it got to a nice life, but needed to be toned. I went to Sally's in search of the Wella T14, but they were out, so I asked if they had any out back and the person there gave me "Argan Oil Hair color - 11 HLA Hi-Lift Cool Bloonde." I was a little skeptical but she said it should work the same as the toner and to use it with 30 vol.

So I got home, put it on, and per the instructions on the box planned to wait 30 minutes - I cleaned up my bowls from mixing and took a peak and its muddy green/grey. So I immediately shampooed the heck out of it and I was able to get most of the muddy green/grey out. I put my pink on, in hopes that the pink would cancel some of the green - but it just looks terrible. The sections that I was able to shampoo out the awful color look wonderful, they're like a silvery, metallic pinkish/purple. But there are other sections that are still muddy green/grey.

I'm not sure what else to do at this point.

Melinda 6 months ago

Hi Maffew, I've never coloured my hair before and it is a natural number 6-7 blonde which i only want lightened about 1-2 levels. Highlift generally lightens your hair 3-4 levels and I feel like that will be too much for me. If you always have to use 40 vol developer what should I do? I was considering using wella 12N high lift blonde. Also is there anything else you can add to the dye mixture to aid your hair such as olaplex?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 6 months ago Author

Hi Melinda,

If you use Wella Koleston 9/1 or Wella Color Charm 9A with 20 vol developer, that will work fine for your purposes. You don't really need a high lift in your situation unless you wanted to take it to platinum and were dealing with very resistant hair.

The /1 or A shades listed in these lines are an ash tone and this will neutralise the warm underlying pigment as your hair lightens so that it doesn't end up looking bright yellow. If want more of a beige result, mix the ash as half ash and half natural shade, eg half 9/1 and half 9/0 to reduce the concentration of ash tone present in the dye. You can also use 8/1 or 8A in each respective colour line. Base the level choice (The first number before any other numbers or letters, which signifies how dark the shade is), on how light you want your new shade to be.

The developer strength is what determines lightening however, and the level of dye used is mainly to ensure it is dark enough to tone properly. The 8 and 9 will yield roughly equivalent lift when mixed with 20 vol, but the 8 will tone stronger. You'd use the 9 preferentially if intending to go much lighter because the darker 8 will over-tone if used for this.

As for adding anything to the dye, anything you add to dye, other then the developer or different shades of the same brand and product line, may affect the lift and colour result. For example, conditioner will decrease pigment penetration and lightening because it coats the hair shaft and dilutes the dye preparation. It's best to use dye as-is and then apply any conditioning or repair products that you want to use after rinsing to ensure the dye works properly. Whilst I haven't used Olaplex, I am aware that it tends to greatly decrease lightening.

Heather 5 months ago

Hi maffew! So i have a client that is natural 6 and has about 2 inches outgrowth. When she first came to me her top half was yellow/blonde and the bottom half (underneath) was level 4 1/2. She wants to go lightest blonde. She was a little damaged so i just weaved highlights through her brown to get it to the blonde she wants and ofcourse have been doing treatments for months. Now we are ready to go lightest blonde. Im thinking of doing her base .13B high lift blonde idol. And then refreshing her 1/2 oz 09gb shades eq gloss + 1 1/2 crystal clear+2 oz processing solution? Do you have any other recommendations for me or u think that will work?

zara 5 months ago


I naturally have black, virgin hair. This is my first time colouring, I was looking to go a deep burgundy colour.

I bought some hair dye from the store, and strand tested. Unfortunately the dye did nothing for my hair.

I used a 20 vol developer which came in the box, was wondering if I should use a 40vol instead?

KelMic 5 months ago

Hi!! My hairdresser gave me highlights and I went back because my roots were very dark still. She then put highlift on my roots (I have dark blonde hair) and it turned them really brassy orange. I thought my purple shampoo would get rid of it. I tried once and left it on for about 5 minutes. I don't think it it made any difference. What do I do?? Help! I don't know if I can go back to her again. She seemed annoyed when I went back to get my roots fixed!

Please help!

Ashley 5 months ago

Ok I have Ion 8N & 9N on the bottom half of my hair and the top has bleach with about 1" of light brown regrowth. I have just bought Ion HL-N with 40 VOlume developer. My hair always pulls orange and I was wondering if I added Red Out to the color would that help?

Joanne D 5 months ago

I have mousey light brown hair with a touch of gray here and there, not much at all. I had old highlights on my hair and asked my hairdresser to save me the cost of foil highlights and just give me a full head color. She highlifted my roots only with the highest number she told me. I came home with yellow roots with some orange hues which over the course of a couple of weeks toned itself down. Going forward what do I ask her for in order not to go yellow and to go a little darker when my tan fades. The lightest highlift is too light for my skin tone without a summer tan. She doesn't seem to understand me.

Lacy 5 months ago

Hi I have platinum hair right now and would like to go to a warmer shade like a honey or sandy blonde. What color should I use??

Kathleen 5 months ago


Thank you for providing answers!


A month ago, I dyed my short, natural hair to a medium golden brown color. Color has faded.

Want to try light blonde hair color now, to achieve 'Florida beach kinda look'.

Thinking of first applying an ultra light platinum dye, then apply a blonde toner.

What do you think?

TamaBana 4 months ago

Hi Maffew!

I recently bleached my hair, it is now a true gold color- level 8.

I want it lighter and beigeish.

Can I use a high lift blonde on it?

Which brand do you prefer?

Thank you!

Kamila 4 months ago

Hi! I dyed my hair black/burgandi maybe 8 months ago now that is summer I want to go lighter like 6 or 7 I been doing some research about what new products are out there with out bleach( my hair is really fine and breaks very easy even tho I don't dye it often or use heat I like that) so I used a color remover 3 times and now I have it brown/red and a little orange so now, I'm no sure what I should do? If do a bleach wash, get a high lift by Schwarzkopf for browns or just apply a level 7 ash or make some balaye and then apply 7A all over my hair skipping my roots because I want to have like a ombré effect. I hope u can help me, I know are many questions but this time I want do it. I don't have many good experience going to the salon. Thank u

Janet Schwartz 4 months ago

Hi, Maffew,

2 questions. Do you apply the high lift dye on clean dry hair? Can you use it to balayage or highlight? Thank you.

Jessica 4 months ago

Hi, such informative and awesome information!!!:) I have dark brown almost black hair. The lengths have been bleached blond. My roots are coming in and I have about 10% grey. I am trying to decide between doing my roots with chi infracolor hilift blond (which is a hilift bleach) and the clairol Liquicolor hilift blonde in 12AA-BV. I don't know what the difference is with hilift bleach and hilift color? My hair has always responded horribly to bleach and I don't mind having to do it a couple of times but which do you think would be better? Looking forward to hearing from you, thank you so much

Zenny 3 months ago

Hi can i ask if i can use high lift tint,even my hair is not virgin,my hair is already in color but not balance,i just want to achieve honey blond.

Dags 3 months ago

Hi, I was hoping you could help. I had my hair highlighted with a box dye, which has resulted in fairly damaged hair and I now need to touch up !y roots without damaging the rest of the hair. I feel My hair has darkened a bit as well and would want to listen it by another shade or two. My natural hair is lift brown, probably around level 5. The highlights vary from fairly light to medium/dark blonde. I was thinking about using a high lift colour (12.11?) on the roots and then toning the whole head with an ashy blond toner. Would this work or is there a better solution?

pat 2 months ago

I need help! Professional colorist for 30 yrs. Client over 10 yrs. used matrix hilift ul-a on level 5.a liitle warm but ok. matrix changed formulas of hilift and ive been struggling. Went to bleach, too much damage, fine hair. sooo, I have warmish roots smoky midshaft brassy end. My thought, olaplex treatment bleach with 10 vol on brassy areas but not sure what to do with new growth. Thank you so much for your time.

Cindy 2 months ago

Hi, I am going for a silver light ash brow to a silver dark ash blonde. I can't seem to achieve this color. Ill start by saying my hair is over processed. I haven't had a hair cut in a long time. My scalp is a little sensative. My natural hair color is a dark brow which are my roots. I have colored my hair professionally and recently a kit from a drugstore. As well as I like to color the bottom half of my hair black. And i use heat almost everyday to straighten my damaged hair. I still want to achieve a silver ash brown or silver ash blonde color for the top half of my hair. Please help.

Hairdresser 2 months ago

Hi i have colored my hair with a high lift blonde and 40 volume develpoer for 20 plus years. Over the las few years i have had trouble with breakage in my crown area. I started using a flex bonder the last 6 months with mt color formula. Well several weeks age i had a horrible amount of breakage on the top of my hair. My hair is coarse and thick. I double my developer when i do my roots. I do not pull the color through my hair. I do not understand why my hair is breaking after i color now?

Wael Almasri profile image

Wael Almasri 7 weeks ago

I used high lift and got very light root but the hair is still dark. I have black hair. Can i apply the high lift on my hair again without applying it on the roots to get lighter hair color and balance it with the kinda orange roots now?!

MM 5 weeks ago


I've recently bleach and toned my naturally level 3 hair using olaplex so it's held up really well. I toned it using T18 wella. I've noticed that while my roots are pretty white, throughout the body there is still some darker sandy bits. I'm lucky that there's absolutely no yellow because I was patience and exact with the bleaching but the darker bits are sandy beige. If I want a striking white (with the tiniest hint of violet/silver to make it contemporary), would using a simple Kenra Demi SV Silver Violet 5 Min Rapid Toner (20 developer) followed by the

Kenra Perm 10SM Extra Light Blonde Silver Metallic work (w/ 9 vol)? Or do I have to repeat the bleaching process? Or perhaps a high lift? Help! Thanks in advance!

Bon 3 weeks ago

hello can i use a highlift after i have done a bleach bath? Thanks

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 3 weeks ago Author

Hi Bon,

That's perfectly fine, as long as the hair is not excessively damaged. However, note that the high lift will not necessarily work on hair that has been previously dyed because it is not very good at lifting the artificial pigment from a previous dye, so if this is the case, you may find it more reliable to continue bleaching it until you get it as light as you want it.

Arron 3 weeks ago

Hello I've had my hair lifted to an ash blond with some dark brown low lights. I have a little bit of a gold/yellow in some spots. I want it brighter and get rid of the brass color can I add the red gold correction in the mix? Will this help?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 weeks ago Author

Hi Arron,

That's perfectly fine. If you've got the dye mix correct and like the way it turns out, other than the slight excess warmth, a dash of corrector can deal with this. Just be careful not to add too much as these products tend to be very intensely pigmented and will go a long way in blonde hair.

Rachel 2 weeks ago

I used igora 12:11 & it's deposited too much ash. What can I use to get a cleaner blonde?

Maffew James profile image

Maffew James 2 weeks ago Author

Hi Rachel,

Now that you know this, I'd recommend switching to 12-1, rather than 12-11 for future treatment of regrowth if you use a high lift again. You could also use 12-0 mixed with 12-1 if you wanted to further reduce the ash intensity.

Keep in mind that the way you were using the dye has a major effect on this though. Eg, it may have deposited too much ash because it is a strong ash tone, being a double ash, but this may have also been caused by a lot of lightening occurring. The more the hair lightens during the high lift, the less warmth that is present to contend with, and thus more of the ash will show through. Use of the same shade may not produce the same result on regrowth if it is darker than the hair that was treated in your previous experience as more warmth would be present.

As for cleaning the current colour up, a few shampoos should do this relatively quickly. The ash will fade and you can then move onto using toning shampoos as necessary to maintain it where you want it to be. If you want to speed the process along, you can mix up a weak bleach bath using 10 vol developer, bleach powder, and shampoo on damp hair. Apply for a few minutes and rinse and this will take care of the excess ash tone. There is next to no damage with this process because the bleach is very weak and diluted, and is not applied to the hair for very long.

Alternatively, apply 10G (lightest golden blonde) in the form of semi-permanent mousse or demi-permanent dye, leave a few minutes to add warmth, then rinse. Another method is to mix a dash of a darker permanent dye like 9G into a small amount of shampoo with 10 vol developer and apply this to damp hair for a few minutes to form a kind of colour toning wash.

Maham 10 days ago

How to get Sandy light Matt blonde on Dark brown hair after bleach upto level 7-8?

Maham 10 days ago

After bleaching black hair upto level 8 or more .. how to get this tone of hair?

I do not have wella toners T series in market..

only koleston wella , Free limix range, available

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article