Getting Back To Natural Hair Color

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One of the most common color challenges is the client who has been lightening to a pastel blond for years now want to return to her natural hair color.

While it is possible to simply stop using hair color, letting her natural hair color grow out, it can take months while being somewhat unattractive.
Here are the obvious options.

Cut It Off:

Cut hair into a very trendy, very short style that is about one to one and a half inches long. When this is done any remaining lightened hair at the tips will have a stylish deliberately tipped look to it. Now, while many find this look very smart, the length is not for everyone. It is however the cheapest, fastest and least complicated solution. A quick fix.

The Tint Back:

This is applying a tint of her natural shade over the entire body of her hair. This can be unnerving unless one is accustomed to making drastic changes. I advise clients to be aware that even if the tint back is a perfect match, it may appear to be too dark as our eye seems to adjust quite readily to going lighter the reverse is seldom the case.

I recommend the tint back to proceed as a two step process. Only go half as dark as you think you want to go the first time and get used to that. Then proceed to your final target. This also allows a second dye back which is often necessary even when going much darker simply because bleached hair is over porous and may not hold the new color on the first attempt. Lightened or bleached hair often needs to be prepared to accept the tint or will require a shade with more red or gold pigment than the natural color to achieve a natural look. Be prepared for many comments from those who are accustomed to seeing you as a blonde. Remember what I said above, our eye does not adjust to going darker as readily as it does to going lighter.

Low lights:

As the name implies, this is much like highlighting but in reverse. Putting darker strands through the blonde blends the new growth and gives the same effect as highlighting. The blonde strands and natural color can then be grown out painlessly. This technique is done by applying a darker tint in foils in the same manner as are highlights. As the color often fades over time, it is advisable to use a tint in a darker shade than the natural color.

Slow and easy does it:

One other method is to start by applying a slightly darker shade or “toner” such as medium blonde over the hair. When retouching the new growth, you will not have to lighten it as much. The next month one goes again to a darker shade. Depending on how much darker her natural shade is than the blonde, this will take three months or so. The benefit is that she will avoid the shock of having blonde hair one day and dark hair the next.

Tint back with highlights:

Finally the method I personally like best and clients leave the salon happiest with is to weave out a significant amount of the over lightened hair. Only conditioner is applied to the hair inside the foil packets rather than color. The remaining hair not in foil can then be tinted back to the natural color. The end result is that the natural base color has now been established but with enough highlights to keep the eye from rebelling to the suddenly dark color.

One more consideration before we leave this discussion. If one has been graying over the years, the skin tone has changed also. Therefore, the natural dark hair color of youth is likely too harsh for mature skin tones. In this case it is advisable to only darken to a light or medium brown for a softer look. I like to use the natural level that is current with the grey mix as a guide to how dark I can currently tint the hair. Even those who are ethnically thought to have “black” hair such as Asians can go surprisingly light when the natural hair underneath has lightened due to gray. What is critical to avoid is coloring the hair too dark as the graying of the hair progresses. As it becomes grayer it becomes lighter and lightening dyed black or dark brown hair is the one coloring task that even the most accomplished colorist wants to at all cost avoid.