Help my hairs.
August 9, 2010 10:35 AM   Subscribe

Haircolor conundrum: can I go back to brunette life after a (very short) fling as a blonde?

Hair. Why does it cause such trouble?

I am a natural brunette. Lovely chestnut hair which shimmers in the sunlight. A month or two ago, I decided to color my hair a semi-permanent, darker reddish brown. It was quite nice but washed out within about two weeks, leaving me with a slightly orange-ish, but not unpleasant, tint.

A few weeks later, I am tired of the tint that the semi-permanent color has left, so I buy a box of dark brown dye from the store. I think it was Garnier Nutrisse. It turned out VERY dark, and I was not very happy. It lightened very slightly as I washed my hair a few times a day. It was improving but I was still unhappy. I am naturally quite pale and the really dark hair made me look, well, a little too goth for my liking.

Three days ago, I visit the Aveda Institute for another dye job. This time, I want to be a blonde for the first time in my life. The idea had crossed my mind before but I had never tried it. So I choose a dark blonde from a picture and the ladies go to work. My boxed color and natural color came out of my hair "beautifully" as they bleached; everything came out evenly and I was left with a macaroni and cheese look. Then the dye went on. My hair was an interesting dark blonde which had the very slightest green/yellow tinge. I wasn't sure what to think at first but it grew on me after a day or two. Because I did all-over color at the salon, I thought I should do some highlights too (but didn't have the time/patience/money to go back to the professionals for this). I used some of that Sally Hansen creme hair bleach which is meant for womanly mustaches and arm hair and the like (which I have used many a time in the past). The highlights worked out fine.

Now, today, Monday, I'm not sure what to do. I kind of want my brown hair back, even if it's not exactly my natural color. Is it safe for me to dye over this blond with a box of brown dye? I'll certainly do a strand test beforehand. Basically I feel like an idiot. I'm a brunette. It's part of my personality. I feel very unlike myself right now and very self-conscious. My boyfriend has suggested that I add some more highlights but I don't think that will help me feel more secure. He thinks I could look great as a blonde but that the current color isn't quite right. I have basically given up at this point and just want to look like myself again!

I know I've messed up, but can you help me? Any experience with dyeing darker (at home) over a blonde dye job?
posted by sucre to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do NOT just dye over it with brown dye. I did that one time and it came out TEAL. No lie.

If you don't want to pay to have it done by a pro, at least call the Clairol Hotline or go to a beauty supply shop and ask someone what to do.
posted by bink at 10:39 AM on August 9, 2010

Have you considered a radical haircut? Very short hair will feel like more of a change than any dye job. And letting your hair grow out is the easiest and most reliable way to go back to your original colour.
posted by 256 at 10:40 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just as an FYI, you might want to consider living with it for now.

Your hair has gone on a wild ride lately, of which the most damaging was bleaching it (some of it twice!). You're already likely to have it dry out, break, be frizzy, and for the ends to split like no one's business.

Any further chemical alteration is only going to make those much worse. Not to mention what havoc it could be wrecking on your scalp.

At least wait a month.
posted by royalsong at 10:45 AM on August 9, 2010

Oh man, I've done this.

But my experience with the Clairol Hotline was they told me to completely bleach out all color and then recolor. I ended up with blisters on my scalp and orange hair (I had to stop the stripping process because it hurt so much).

It took me 3 months to finally be in good enough condition to return to brown, so I had three months of Bozo-like orange hair. Yes, I can laugh about it now.

At this point, I wouldn't do anything myself and I'd go to a respected colorist, just because their expertise about the current condition of your hair and what various chemicals and colors can do, it's worth the price.
posted by dzaz at 10:48 AM on August 9, 2010

I used a medium brown box dye over a blonde salon dye job. I'm naturally a light brown / dark blonde. In any case, I made the mistake of choosing an ash brown shade because I had been told by several stylists that I should go with ash shades in the blondes to avoid brassiness. Turns out that an ash brown over blonde can (and did, in my case) turn kind of green.

On the advice of the drugstore cosmetician, I redyed with an auburn-y / reddish brown to cover (cancel?) the green pigment. It worked. Or at least, it got rid of the green, even though I was left with a darker shade of brown than I had originally wanted.

The moral of my story is: ask the person at the cosmetics counter, or pick a box brand and call their customer service line for advice on what shade to use. These people will likely know what they're talking about.
posted by kitcat at 10:51 AM on August 9, 2010

a shorter hair cut is a good idea- it is going to take awhile to return to your natural color and the less length you are dealing with the less obvious you will be. new growth is the only thing that will do that since you have stripped all the color off. any dye is going to wear off, as you have noticed, leaving you with roots. on top of that your hair is way beyond virgin hair at this point, making at home color risky and unpredictable at best. visit a professional. low lights may help you feel more brunette and aid in the growing out process. as new hair comes in low light could help your new growth natural hair blend in with your color treated hair. do you have any curl in your hair? i find when i have roots from too long in between highlights wearing my hair wavy rather than straight camoflages them a little bit.
posted by domino at 10:56 AM on August 9, 2010

I am notorious for coloring my hair, and coloring my hair too much, and never having had it done professionally. In addition, I just did the blonde back to brunette transition last night.

I strongly advise you to wait it out, at least a few weeks. In the meantime, condition the bejeezus out of your hair -- it's just been through a lot.

When you do decide to go back to brunette, skip the drugstore kits, and get thee to Sally Beauty Supply or another cosmetology supply store. First off, it's cheaper. Secondly, you can ask questions of the folks there to determine what to do.

What I would advise is not just getting straight brown, but going with something that will work with the color you end up with. For example, if your hair is too orange/brassy, you'll want to counteract that with a cooler brown (sometimes called ash brown). If it's looking greenish, you'll want to counteract that with a warmer (golden or auburn) brown.

I would also advise you to choose a brown that looks a slight bit lighter than what you want to end up with. Those samples on the shelf are what the color looks like over clear hair, not over pigmented hair, which is what you have.

Good luck!
posted by pixiecrinkle at 10:57 AM on August 9, 2010

My hair has been blonde, brown, jet-black, various shades of red, purple, pink, gray and nonexistent. And, in the process, good and fried many times.

Like bink, I've known of brown-over-blonde corrective dye-jobs gone terribly wrong, as in "orange" or "green" wrong. One of the orange ones was mine. :/ I suggest going to a professional if you want to correct your color. A pro has fixed botched or regretted haircolor many a time and will know just what to do. Also, get as short a cut as you can bear (you can always grow it out) to keep the multiply-dyed parts of your hair to a minimum - they WILL be in poorer shape than the stuff growing out.

When you do get your color corrected, use gentle shampoos for color-treated hair and condition it well to help prevent breakage and frizz. Garnier and Pantene are good drugstore brands, Kiehl's - especially their Olive Fruit Oil Hair Repair deep-conditioner - is more expensive but great quality.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:10 AM on August 9, 2010

Agreeing with pixiecrinkle - first, give your hair a break from the trauma, and do a few deep conditioning treatments. I don't think 3 times a week would be too much at this point.

Now, I never did nearly as much to my hair as you have, but I did go blonde for a while once. When I was ready to go back, I called one of the haircolor company hotlines (probably Clairol or L'Oreal). Their instructions were to first go red, to lay a base layer of pigment, then brown after that. And I think they said to get a lighter shade of brown than what I actually wanted, which should prevent that overly-goth problem you mentioned.

In sum: either go to a pro, or call one of the hotlines and ask their opinion as well (since they could give you actual shade names/numbers to go with). Peruse the shelves at the drugstore first and determine which shade is closest to your natural color as a reference for the person on the phone.
posted by timepiece at 1:35 PM on August 9, 2010

I agree with everyone else - sit it out, go to a pro. But if you are at all like me, and just can't do either of those things, know that whatever you do will fry your hair. Expect lots and lots of split ends.

YMMV, IANYHS, etc. When I had bleached blond hair and got tired of it, I dyed it a shade of red first, then waited a day and dyed it brown. That way you avoid the blue/teal overtones (most brown hair dye has blue in it). I ended up brown with red undertones - this worked for me because my natural color has some red in it. The color looked fine, and has lasted plenty long enough for my hair to grow out. I did have some wicked split ends for a while, though.

Good luck!
posted by dirtmonster at 3:14 PM on August 9, 2010

I did this a few years ago, it was a major fail! My brown sorta washed away leaving me with silver-blue hair. The salon fix cost three times as much to fix then if I had just gone there is the first place. Never again!

Although if you consider keeping the blonde have low lights put in. That will add some brown back into your hair. Repeat as your hair grows out to combat roots.
posted by saradarlin at 3:47 PM on August 9, 2010

Oh sweet jesus! Just leave it alone!

If you will frakking DIE if you have to have blond hair for a few months, and you really feel that you must do something, at least go back to the Aveda Institute that originally did the bleaching. More drugstore color experiments can only end in disaster.
posted by Sara C. at 8:32 PM on August 9, 2010

if anyone is curious..... (and yes, I know, I'm freaking impulsive sometimes. but to be fair, the blond looking terribly greenish and orangish in some lights. I felt very self-conscious!)

I ended up going strawberry blond yesterday, which was more like tangerine blond, and then today did a medium brown over that (both Nice & Easy). and guess what. my hair looks amazing now! it's a nice medium brown with some reddish tint. it's quite lovely and very close to my natural color. I spoke with a Clairol lady on the phone earlier this week and this is what she advised, just like some of you did. red, then brown.

THANK YOU all for the warnings and tips. I am really glad I added in some red first. cause teal? no thanks. :)
posted by sucre at 6:27 PM on August 13, 2010

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