Lightening Previously Coloured Hair

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Lightening Previously Coloured Hair

Here’s the big news: You cannot lighten hair which has been previously colour with permanent hair colour.

That includes hair coloured with permanent colour, semi-permanent colour or henna.

It can’t be done.

Let’s break down the options for each colour:

  • Henna: Needs to be grown out
  • Semi-permanent colour: Will wash out with time.
  • Permanent colour: Can only be removing through growing out or through a bleach or colour removal process.


What happens if you colour over darker permanent colour with lighter permanent colour?

I get it. You’ve been merrily colouring with a darker colour and then you wake up one day and you’re tired of it. Why not pop a lighter colour in and, 30 minutes later, you’ve got a whole new look?

Simple. It won’t work. What will happen is that your natural growth at the roots will lighten and your lengths and ends might get a toner treatment (depends on the colour you use), but you will not be able to lighten previously coloured permanent colour with a lighter permanent colour.

Science is science, and your hair colour has now been altered through a chemical process which affected the colour pigments in your hair. Another lighter colour just won’t do the job or give you the lighter colour results you are after.

So what to do?

The only way to lighten previously coloured hair is to remove the darker permanent colour pigments from your hair, lighten the base colour and then recolour it with a lighter colour.

The gentlest way to do this is using a colour remover product, but bear in mind that you might need to repeat this process twice and perhaps up to 4 times, depending on the amount of colour build-up you have and also on the colour you were using. The darker the colour, the more it locks in to the hair and the harder it is to lift out of the hair.

To remove built-up or darker colour pigments, follow the colour removal process and instructions. You will most likely have a very warm colour result, with  orange, red or brassy tones in your hair. That is due to the effect of both the developers you have used over time and the lightening process which reveals tones within your hair, and it is a regular outcome of the colour removal process.

You can repeat the colour removal process up to three times in one day, so load up Netflix, lock the doors and bunker down for a  non-glamorous yet very productive hair day.

After removing your colour, wait 48 hours before recolouring your hair. This is because the colour removal process will make your hair more porous and so a little breather before recolouring or reprocessing will help it settle.

If you are not making the progress with the colour remover product that you would like, even after repeating the application, you may need to use bleach to remove stubborn locked in colour. It would be advisable to go to a salon for professional colour removal if you are struggling to make progress at home. You can of course, apply bleach at home to lift out all remaining colour in your hair, but bleach can be very damaging to your hair if left on for too long or if your hair is not in good condition. If your hair is reasonably healthy and in quite good condition, then you can do a bleach process at home. Keep a close eye on the colour result and condition of your hair and wash the bleach out as soon as you reach the colour level you are after or when you have reached the recommended processing time. Follow the product instructions exactly and do not extend the processing time, as this can result in long-term damage to your hair.

When you recolour, select a colour that is 2 levels lighter than your hair goal colour. You will get a darker result from the colouring process after you have removed colour, because your hair will be more porous, and will absorb and process the colour more rapidly leaving you with a darker colour result.


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One Comment

  1. Marie April 10, 2019 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    This is exactly what happened to me,,as described ,I conditioned three times a day with good quality products,this helped,
    As the colour grew out, I only coloured roots, ,in time I now have a head full of beautiful healthy manageable hair, very shiny,
    Thanks to your lovely colour consultant.

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