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Ask Bella: How Do I Lift Black Hair Dye?

Recently, a distressed reader contacted me about an unfortunate incident regarding a box of black hair color and the subsequent regretful results. Here's her story:

Three months ago I had an adult identity crisis and dumped a box of jet black dye on my naturally medium brown hair. Now I can't get it to lift out for anything — professionally or at home. Can you make a suggestion? I'm a 25-year-old woman and I look like a scene kid. It's rough.

There's no excuse for looking like a Brokencyde groupie. Lifting pigment can be a tricky endeavor, though, so you have to be careful. For my advice on helping this reader to lighten up, just read more.

  • Pro only: Even though it might be tempting to change your hair to a statement-making color at home, please reconsider. If you're making a bold change to black or any other extreme color, get thee to a salon for a professional color treatment, as box color has its limitations, and the chemistry behind hair color is more complex than it seems.
  • Color remover: At the salon, the colorist will most likely use a special chemical color remover to help dissolve the pigment. These types of products, which should be used by professionals only, work by shrinking color molecules without bleaching or stripping the hair.
  • What about bleach?: Thinking about bleaching out a too-dark shade? Think again. Bleaching can compromise the integrity of the hair. Another problem? Depending on what previous hair dyes were used on the strands, the color can lighten unevenly due to the various layers of hair color. Therefore, every single part of the hair could be a different hue. Yikes.
  • At-home solution: Wash your hair as often as possible with a heavy, clarifying shampoo to lift the pigments away. Don't try to take any chemical solutions in your own hands.
  • Ask for help: Most salons will offer a free consultation, so meet with a colorist before booking an appointment.
  • The moral: Be honest with your stylist about your hair's coloring history, and when making bold moves — from light to dark to vibrant — seek professional advice. Also, if you step into a salon and colorists can't seem to help you, head elsewhere. Even if he or she can't get all of the pigment out, a skilled stylist will be able to work with what you've got to the fullest.

Source: Flickr User Orin Zebest

Join The Conversation
COLOR OOPS!! 10 bucks at walgreens, it lifted my super dark red/black hair to a gingery blond and I was able to easily dye over it a natural reddish brown. it smells awful but it works unbelievably well
notinthemood notinthemood 7 years
I'd recommend a salon... and yes, be HONEST!! I used LUSH henna to dye my hair and was honest with my stylist but she was still shocked (as was I) when my hair turned blue. Apparently the mix I used had indigo in it (a blue/black dye) and even after doing a "color remove/fix" process it wasn't gone, so when she tried to lighten my hair, it lightened to a nice, soft blue. It was quite a bit of work to make it look normal again, and quite expensive. I have been tempted to try a box color to save some money, but I'm 26 and it's not worth the risk. I'm working on growing my hair out (5 months and counting) and then, I will be extra-careful about what I do to my hair.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 7 years
I'd suggest LUSH cake shampoos. They strip hair colour like theres no tomorrow! It'll probably take a few washes but it'll lighten the black somewhat. I went from fire engine red to carrot top in one wash!
eatingcookies eatingcookies 7 years
Allytta - true, if you know what you're doing, doing it at home is fine. Most people don't. And yes, people in Salons can screw it up just like people at home. Hair color is... sometimes dangerous.
Allytta Allytta 7 years
i don't believe in salon colour anymore. they always burn down my hair. it's dead by the end of it and i'm sick of looking for a better place. if you know your stuff you can do it all at home. i want from 5 to 11 all by myself :) with garnier colour never the less
eatingcookies eatingcookies 7 years
I am a professional hairstylist, and I cannot tell you how frustrating it is when people lie about what they've put in their hair, or tell you they haven't colored it, with they clearly have a two inch grow out. I think that sometimes there's a misconception that if you colored your hair "awhile a go," that it no longer is chemically affected by that dye. Wrong. Chemically coloring your hair permanently alter's the hair shaft; color doesn't "wear off." It may fade out, especially if you're a serial colorer - your hair shaft becomes less and less able to close the cuticle down over the pigment you just deposited, leading to bleed-out. But don't think that leaves you out of the equation either. Bottom line, if you have had a chemical touch the hair on your head, and all of the hair, and I mean ALL OF IT, hasn't been cut off yet, you have colored hair. And please, please, remember the brand you used to dye your hair. Some brands do NOT mix well with professional color - #1 culprit - Loreal Feria. Full of metalic salt dye loads. I have heard some horror stories.
sugajen sugajen 7 years
you can't look scene with out a choppy cut. I think black hair is nice.
scissorz scissorz 7 years
i'm glad you guys are all aware that lightening black hair color isn't easy. knowing it will be a process and take several visits helps as well.
Miss-Bree Miss-Bree 7 years
As far as I'm concerned, salon is the only way to go. After a particularly icky breakup I also did the irrational black thing. And I had to get it out professionally. I was lucky and had a friend at an Aveda institute to help me and do it for a little cheaper (it took 3 girls 10 hours!!). It worked wonders, but no matter what "stripping" is going to most definitely damage your hair. Just keep that in mind and be realisitic about your expectations. I'd recommend seeing if there is an Aveda or other professional institute near you if you'd like to not spend a TON of money. Also, remember that when you strip your hair, it won't go back to your natural shade (think bright carrot orange) so have a shade in mind that you'd like to go. That's my advice! All in all, my hair turned out fine after a bunch of deep conditioning and laying off the blow dryer for a while. Good luck!
Merlin713 Merlin713 7 years
^^Bust out the Dawn dish soap if you can't do anything else.
Sabrina-See Sabrina-See 7 years
Baby shampoo will life color out subtly. Until you figure out what you're going to do in the long run, you should probably switch to it and then reap the benefits of having it make your hair a few shades lighter.
starlotus713 starlotus713 7 years
I've used Prell brand shampoo to tame down too-dark at-home color, it only lifts a few shades but it was a noticeable difference! It's in a green bottle, probably on the bottom row at your local drugstore.
Yogaforlife Yogaforlife 7 years
This is so similar to my problem. I'm naturally a medium ash blonde and I usually dye my hair a light brown or red shade. I have a problem with the color fading dramatically in the first two weeks after it's been colored no matter how gentle and color safe my shampoo/conditioners say they are (use pureology). So we usually dye it a few shades darker than I want it, knowing it will fade. However, when I wanted to just go au naturelle, my stylist couldn't get the pigment out and it makes my hair look even more ashy than it is. An awful hot mess - which causes me to redye it all over again. I so want to go my natural color but nothing matches my shade of ash blonde enough that I can just grow it out.
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