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