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How to Fade Hair Color That is Too Dark

by Sandy Taylor

If you think your hair color is too dark after dyeing it, you can fade it for a lighter appearance.

In this post, I connected with talented hairstylists and hair experts and asked them to share with me their best tips for fading hair color that is too dark.

Andrea Claire, a licensed hairstylist who has been doing hair for 30 years, explains that color will not lift color. This means you won’t see any lift by applying a lighter artificial color onto an existing head of artificial color.

The best way to fade hair color that is too dark is to use a color remover to shrink the artificial color molecules in the hair and washing the color away.

Andrea provides the following solutions for semi-permanent or permanent colored hair.

For Semi-Permanent Color – Use a Strong Detergent

If you have a semi-permanent color that you need to lighten, Andrea suggests you simply use a stronger detergent than a shampoo, like a dish soap, and soak your hair in it!

Before committing yourself to this technique, test it on a small area of your hair first. It’s advisable to cut out a small inner section of your hair and test on it. Your results may vary depending on how dark your hair is and how long you leave the detergent on. Make sure you are satisfied with the results before committing.

Here’s What You Need To Do:

  1. Emulsify dish soap like you would a shampoo. Simply begin by getting your hair wet and then add a small amount of dish soap into your hands.
  2. Apply the dish soap to your hair and massage it in.
  3. Let it sit for 10 minutes
  4. Rinse out the dish soap in warm water completely.

You will need to do a hair mask after to rehydrate your hair. I’ve written a guide on how to an aqua hair treatment at home. Check it out if you have time!

For Permanent Color

Method 1: Color Remover

If you have permanent color that you need to lighten, Andrea suggests using a color remover.

A color remover works by shrinking the artificial color molecules in the hair to be washed away.  It is effective because it removes all the artificial colors and prepares the hair for a new color that can be done on the same day. Most color removing products have their own instructions so you need to follow the companies‘ directions.

Here Are Some Tips for Using a Color Remover:

  1. If you have thicker hair, you may need to buy and use more than 1 box of the product.
  2. Always conduct a strand test before applying the color remover
  3. Before applying, comb through your hair to remove any tangles. This helps the product spread easier.
  4. Most color remover products can only be applied to dry hair.
  5. Use gloves and cover your clothes with a protective cape.
  6. Don’t mix the product in a metal bowl. Most color removers will oxidize when they come into contact with metal and lose their effectiveness.

Andrea suggests trying Color Oops Extra Strength if you’re looking for a color remover. This product provides a safe and effective way to remove hair color in just 20 minutes! It is bleach-free and ammonia-free which will not leave damaging effects when used on bleach or ammonia-based hair dyes. It’s formulated to remove regular oxidative hair color but will not work on direct color dyes like pink and green.

Method 2: Shampoo Cocktail

A shampoo cocktail is mixing a gentle, slow bleach lifting formula with your shampoo. Andrea provides step-by-step instructions on how to create and use your own shampoo cocktail below.

Before You Start, Note The Following: 

  • All hair has the potential to pull red, orange, or yellow depending on the level of darkness that you start with. Doing a shampoo cocktail can bring out these tones. So keep that in mind as you may need to use a shampoo or a semi-glaze to cancel these tones if you don’t want to see the warmth.
  •  If you already have bleach existing from previous hair color, layering bleach can cause breakage. Even if it’s a gentle formula if you are unsure or it’s an extreme color correction, always consult with a professional hairstylist.

Here’s What You Need To Do:

  1. Do one light plain shampoo on your hair to prep
  2. Mix your bleach and developer. If you can buy it separately, you want to use a scalp bleach, meaning it’s safe for the scalp, and a 5-7 volume peroxide. You can also try all-over bleach kits.
  3. Add shampoo into your mix so it’s about 1/2 bleach mix to 1/2 shampoo. You want the bleach to be diluted
  4. Apply to your hair. Let it sit.
  5. Time for 5 min. You aren’t doing a full bleach out so you should not do this for too long.
  6. Wash with warm water.

Andrea suggests trying the L’Oreal Paris Colorista Bleach. This is an oil-rich formula. It is ammonia-free so it won’t damage hair cuticles or lead to hair breakage. It comes with an anti-brass conditioner that prevents brassiness and leaves hair conditioned.

Break the First Day Rule

Another method you can consider is to break the “first-day rule” if you’re considering fading your hair within the same day that you dyed it.

Monica Davis, a professional hairstylist and founder of her site MyStraightener, explains that the first-day rule tells you to not wash your hair the first day after dying it. This lets the cuticle close and holds the color better. By violating the rule, you can expect the opposite result.

For this method, simply use a clarifying shampoo and wash your hair once a day after dying it. This method is less effective but simple enough for people who are looking for a quick fix.

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