Permanent color over previous highlights?
January 29, 2010 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Can I dye a permanent color over highlights on my own and not have it be a complete disaster?

I have never dyed my hair myself before - I've been getting highlights done professionally for about 2 years now. My natural hair is a mousy brown and I get blonde highlights. I've been itching for awhile now to dye everything over in an auburn.

The problem is that I really don't want to have to go to a stylist for this. Obviously, this would be the best way to go if I don't want any mistakes to be made. It's just that I don't have a regular stylist (a relative does it for me whenever I see him...that won't happen again until July), have no idea of a good place to go (I live in Boston) and don't want to blow at least $100 when there's a good chance I could just do it at home for $9 (everything around here seems so expensive!).

So I guess my question boils down to - does anyone have experience with doing this themselves? Are the risks that my color will come out in wacky shades because of the pre-existing highlights or that it'll all be hideous orange because my hair's dark already too great? Or am I psyching myself out too much over this?

posted by dayspteh to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total)
Could be fine, but you could also be out $150 for a color correction. I'd suggest trying a semi-permanent dye at home until I saw you're in Boston.

In which case, I cannot highly enough recommend Lisa at Shag in Southie. Check them out; it's an amazing place I've been going to for years. Go you Yelp! and read the reviews, esp. about Lisa.

It's the ONLY place I've ever gotten a haircut and gotten compliment after compliment. Seriously.
posted by dzaz at 2:30 PM on January 29, 2010

You shouldn't have any trouble putting an auburn colour over blond highlights. Assuming they are not of the Ash blond variety. Though even that might be fine. The areas that are highlighted will be a bit lighter, but other than that I don't think you would have a problem.

On preview: a semi permanent colour might be a good idea. If you love it, you can always go permanent later.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 2:32 PM on January 29, 2010

are you thinking of a light auburn, almost a strwberry blonde, or dark? you are likely to get better coverage and less orangeyness from a darker shade. To play it safe, choose a shade that is a bit darker than your natural colour, and doesn't have too much of a red tint in it - red tends to fade, so any hair dye with lots of red will bleach out your hair to get the red to stay, and that can make it go orange. Also, you may still see a bit of the highlights you had before as lighter tones in your hair, but it might look quite nice.

keep in mind that a box of hair dye is fairly cheap, so why not give it a shot, and if you don't like it then you can go to a stylist anyway.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:33 PM on January 29, 2010

I did this ages ago, when my naturally dark brown hair had platinum streaks. I used a drugstore brand to take the whole thing back to dark brown and it worked out fine. Two caveats:

(1) Clipping a small lock of hair off and testing the dye is probably the safest way to go.

(2) Over time, the parts of your hair that had been highlighted may react differently to various externalities. For example, the parts of my hair that had been bleached were much more susceptible to fading from sun exposure. I ended up occasionally using a drugstore semi-permanent color for a few years, until all the formerly bleached hair had grown out and been cut off .
posted by lalex at 2:36 PM on January 29, 2010

I have done this off and on for a decade and its really simple and easy. Caveat? You can't exactly predict what color your hair will turn out, but I have always gotten a lot of complements. The lighter strawberry blondes won't have enough pull to lighten up your base to much, so don't worry about it. If you want some variation in tone, pick a color you want your existing highlights to be and it will warm up the rest. If you wan to cover the highlights pick something darker. Even with permanent, the color will evolve as you wash it.

Its just hair, just do it, reds always end up looking pretty good to me as long as you stay out of the obviously purple category.
posted by stormygrey at 2:42 PM on January 29, 2010

I do this(*) ALL THE TIME, but as above - yes, it is somewhat unpredictable. Sometimes I have to double process - the same color twice in a row. With short hair, this does not require me to buy two boxes, but rather I do not throw out the excess until I know whether one process did the trick.

(*) By "this" I mean color at home over professional highlights, or go blonde to dark. I don't normally do red shades, so I defer to others about those particular colors.
posted by bunnycup at 3:08 PM on January 29, 2010

If your highlights are done with bleach, they are a lot more likely to get BRIGHT RED on your first red coloring, and stand out oddly against the base color. I would use a semipermanent dye, and pick a shade that's not super dark, but in between the color you have now and the color you'd like to have, and work your way up to the darker auburn. I really like Clairol Natural Instincts. The bleached hair will actually retain some of the darkening pigment after the first few times, and start to blend in better.
posted by so_gracefully at 3:08 PM on January 29, 2010

Be careful with anything reddish. I dyed over blonde with a box of mahogany brown semi-permanent dye and ended up with CHERRY red hair. That could look kinda cool though, auburn with red highlights. Mine was blonde all over, so a little different than your situation. I'm actually about to ask a hair dye question right now because every single color of hair dye makes my hair redder even if it's not supposed to. ;-)
posted by ishotjr at 4:31 PM on January 29, 2010

Don't forget to have a box of Color Oops handy! It does amazing things for taking out color that didn't come out the way you wanted.
posted by etoile at 6:53 PM on January 29, 2010

I have had two disasters with dying my hair over highlights. The first time, I dyed it black, and came out with gray streaks. The second time, I dyed it auburn, and came out with purple/fuschia streaks. More recently, I covered highlights with semi-permanent light brown color, and this worked out ok but not exactly like the color on the box.

I've never had problems dying my hair different colors when it had been previously dyed, but putting permanent color over highlighted hair has always resulted in emergency, costly trips for color correction along with short haircuts to get rid of the post-correction over-processed hair.
posted by Houstonian at 8:51 PM on January 29, 2010

I dye my hair on my own all the time. Sometimes I do those kits with the self highlights, and sometimes I just do a single color (but my hair color will still be varied due to the highlights underneath) and I have had no problems and am generally very happy.

The advice I would give you is to go gradual. I feel like so many people take this for granted when dying hair. If you are changing the actual hue of your hair (from like brown to red, lets say) start with a warmer tone that is close to your hair color. Then, in a few weeks, if all is well, move a little bit closer to your hair color. Red is tricky because it fades quickly and you may want to consider using one of those purple shampoos to help with the tone.

Another thing is, if after first rinsing out the dye and drying your hair, it looks unexpected and a little off, don't freak out. In a few washes, it will even out. My hair is blond, but sometimes after dying it looks ashier or warmer than I would like, but it kind of balances itself out.

Do not go from a dark shade to a light shade or a bright shade. Follow the shade guidelines on the box and the color of hair it is recommended for. I love dying my hair and am happier doing this than I would be going to any salon.
posted by afterdark at 8:53 PM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

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