There are several reasons why you might want to transition back to your natural hair color, whether you’re over platinum blonde maintenance cutting into your budget or you’re longing to reunite with your dark brown roots. (The fact that having the healthiest, low-maintenance hair is trending should be at the top of your list.) When it comes to giving your mane a breather from salon color, you have two options—dye your hair to match your natural base shade, or gradually grow-out your salon hue. If you choose the latter, it’s essential to find ways to gracefully transition your mane to its virgin state (while avoiding harsh grow-out lines and brassiness). It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all process to getting your natural hair color back.
According to Nick Stenson, Matrix artistic educator, when deciding how to get natural hair color back, it’s best to determine the best course of action with your colorist.
“To avoid going “cold turkey”, it’s helpful to partner with your stylist and talk about ways to take subtle steps so that you don’t feel shocked with the change,” Stenson says. “Based on my experience, while some deal well with sudden or extreme color changes, some don’t, and the transition can be traumatic.” Follow along so you wind up with little to no trauma.
Why You Should Book a Color Consultation
This should be the first step in your journey to getting your natural hair color back. First things first, going back to your natural hair color is still considered a big color change, so be sure you book a hair color consultation with a professional colorist. The colorist will most likely run their fingers through your strands to assess the integrity of your hair and scalp. Have photos of you with natural hair color that really showcase your hair so they can see what shade you’re trying to return to exactly.
This isn’t a one-way conversation. By the end of the conservation, you two should have set some expectations for your goals and final result. A skilled colorist should be able to get you relatively close to your natural color, so be sure to do your research on what colorist you use. And if budget is top of mind, don’t leave without getting an estimated cost of services this way there are no surprises at the end of your appointment.
You’ll also want to leave with a regimen on how to care for your freshly dyed locks. The process to get back to your natural hair color will likely involve some harsh ingredients and following up with a colorist-approved routine will keep your delicate strands as healthy as possible. This means stocking up on the right pro-approved products, like shampoo specifically-designed for your color’s needs. One of our favorite products for correcting hair damage is Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Intensive Treatment. This highly reparative rinse-off formula is suitable for all hair colors and works within your hair to strengthen hair bonds weakened by stressors like hair dye and lightening. Use it after your natural shade has made it’s return for 14x smoother hair, 2x stronger hair, 90% more conditioned strands, and 63% reduction in breakage.
So you have an idea of what to expect and don’t go into things completely blindsided, we did some research for you. Whether you’re a salon blonde transitioning back to brunette or growing out a fantasy hair color, Stenson breaks down his top tips and advice to consider before making the change. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know.
For blonde transitioning to brunette
There’s no better time to go brunette (it is the year of the brunette, after all). If you’re transitioning back to dark after a stint on the lighter side, Stenson recommends starting with a few subtle changes.
“The best way to start the process is to partner with your stylist and ask about adding lowlights to your hair or using a toner with more depth,” Stenson says. “This is also a great time to talk to your stylist about ways to soften the “line” and continue the grow-out a little more subtly.”
These steps can help you to find your comfortable level of darkness to transition back to without doing too much too soon—particularly if you’ve been blonde for a while. Stenson also emphasizes the importance of keeping your mane hydrated during the transition.
“Because you were blonde, your hair will be more likely to fade, especially if you’re not properly caring for it,” Stenson explains.
For brunettes going back to blonde
If you’re considering going back to blonde, Stenson says it’s essential to be clear about your end goal.
“When your stylist understands your desired end result, they can make recommendations that help avoid unnecessary damage to your hair,” Stenson says.
Asking your colorist for a blonde balayage or highlights is a great way to ease back into blonde (without opting for a full head of bleach). These techniques will create a natural-looking color that will aid in a smoother grow-out process.
Since damage and overly brassy tones can happen when making these transitions, you’ll want to invest in a color-toning shampoo like Matrix Total Results Brass Off Shampoo as well as a reparative hair mask like Biolage Advanced Deep Treatment Recovery Pack.
For brunettes and blondes going back to red
“Brunettes who want to go back to red will require a slight strip out to lift the orange before they can apply the desired red tone,” says Stenson.” This is considered a major color correct job because you only need to lift the orange so it is not super damaging to the hair.
Now for blondes who want to go back to red, they will first need to fill the hair with a gold tone so that the desired red-tone warms evenly and adheres to the hair. “Previously bleached hair is very difficult,” says Stenson. “Initially there will be a lot of resistance, but with each subsequent layer of color, it will eventually adhere better to the hair.”
For redheads going back to blonde or brunette
Stenson stresses that it’s a very difficult process and can take several months for redheads who want to go back to blonde. “Initially you will be more of a strawberry blonde but gradually you can get back to pale blonde,” he explains.
As for redheads that want to go back to brunette, that’s usually a fairly easy process, especially if it’s darker. “They would just need to apply a demi permanent color,” he says.
For growing out a fantasy hair color
Ah, fantasy hair—as much as we love shades of pastel and neon, they’re the opposite of subtle when it comes to transitioning back to virgin hair. That’s why when it comes to growing fantasy shades out gracefully, Stenson recommends asking your colorist for a rooted look like ombre or balayage to soften any harsh grow-out lines. Stenson also suggests keeping your mane healthy during the growth process with a leave-in treatment like Biolage All In One Coconut Oil Infusion Leave-In Spray.
For growing out highlights or a balayage
“Space out the highlights at the root area so that you get a softer demarcation line,” advises Stenson to those growing out highlights or balayage. “You can also add a base color and pull through the mid sections for more depth.”
For growing out bleach blonde hair
Because hair is bleached out to its maximum, this process might be the most difficult and isn’t for the faint of heart. "Trying to highlight to blend it is very delicate because any overlap can cause breakage…lowlights can turn murky because of the limited underlying pigment,” Stenson says. “This transition requires patience and is also considered a major correction.” In other words, see a pro colorist and follow their lead on this one.
With Stenson’s tips in mind, you can make the most effortless transition back to your natural hair color. Remember, finding the right process to suit your color return is essential so always book a consultation first, and patience is key! These changes won't happen overnight, but with a pro colorist by your side you’ll find the recipe to getting natural hair color back (or at least close to) with the least amount of damage.
Ready to transition your hair back to its natural color? Hair.com has all the salon-quality products you need to get you there and maintain your color-treated strands.
*when used as a system of Acidic Bonding Concentrate Intensive Treatment, Shampoo, Conditioner vs. non-conditioning shampoo