How To Grow Out Your Hair Color Without Looking Crazy

Photographed by Ben Ritter.
There are dozens of reasons to go on a hair-color hiatus. Weaning off the bottle will help improve the health of your strands and can save you serious time and money. Taking a step back from dying altogether is also totally en vogue right now, with colorists jumping on the bandwagon of endorsing soft, lived-in locks. The only problem? After years of regularly scheduled color appointments, how is one supposed to transition back to a more natural — or totally dye-free — mane without looking crazy in the process?

"The most important thing is to have a plan," Nine Zero One hair colorist Morgan Parks told us. In other words, forget dying your hair the one color you think best reflects your natural shade, or diving headfirst into color-correction boot camp. Parks suggests taking baby steps, by softly blending your roots into your current color, then slowly adding soft touches of color over several months. Not only will it save the integrity of your hair, it'll also make the transition easier on you, too. (Anyone who's done it knows that a quick color change can be jarring, to say the least.) However, not all shades should be treated the same. So Parks, who regularly takes people back to a life of less maintenance, broke down the process for us.
Bye-Bye, Mall Girl Highlights
Some highlights will grow out without so much as a follow-up appointment (such as baby lights or sombre), but if your colorist has been foiling the color right up to the scalp, it will take some skill to blend and soften it into a seamless grow-out. “This is my favorite thing to do,” Parks told us. “Nine times out of 10 when someone sits in my chair with over-highlighted, stripy hair, they actually have a really beautiful natural color.” Which, she told us, makes it easy.

“It's as if you create a root, so it’s easy for their natural color to transition in,” Parks explained. “Using a glossing service, you can create a natural root that will blend out their natural color. It’s almost like I am going in and erasing all of the highlights.” This can be done just at the root to soften the line between the roots growing in and the lighter highlighter, or throughout all the hair, if someone wants to cover all the lighter pieces. Then, Parks will go in and add a few highlights to blend it all together. Your colorist may also use a toner or a gloss to do this.

It's as if you create a root, so it’s easy for their natural color to transition in.

Hairstylist Morgan Parks

The Goth Awakening

Building a bridge between light ends and dark roots is one thing, but what happens when the tables are turned? "One of the more intricate situations is when clients want to go natural after dying their hair darker for years,” Parks said. First things first: Resist the urge to dye it all at once, which is a recipe for damage. “It’s baby steps — the most important thing is the health of your hair,” she stressed. “Don’t let anyone start bleaching all your hair!” Instead, Parks explained, “You want to create some kind of base color that is lighter than what they had, almost like a middleman.” Parks does this by taking all the hair to a shade between the natural color and the ends. Then you can pepper in highlights, little by little, until you’ve flushed out the dark.

Giving Up Platinum
One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to platinum is that you can simply cover the blonde when you’re sick of it. “That’s not how it works,” Parks said. “You’re definitely going to have maintenance, as it takes a couple [processes] for your hair to absorb the darker color.” If you go down this route, expect your colorist to apply around four coats of color to your hair for it to fully take the darker hue, then plan to be back after a few weeks for the same treatment again. You’re at risk for fading and a slight green tinge, plus it can be shocking. “It’s a harsh transition," Parks admitted. “Instead of shocking yourself by going dark all at once, I suggest you add lowlights, then use baby lights to break up and [soften] the roots.” Et voilà: Ombre!

It’s baby steps — the most important thing is the health of your hair.

Hairstylist Morgan Parks
Ditching Candy Colors
You finally went for it and added a trendy pop of color to your ‘do. Then, of course, you got over it. Now what? “You can dye over it, but it really depends upon the integrity of the client's hair,” Parks said. Since your hair was most likely bleached to get the pink, blue, or purple to be vibrant, it may not take darker dye in the same way. “Your hair goes in one way and comes out another,” Parks explained. Luckily, since colorful shades fade quickly, you can also remove them fairly easily. “There is a company called Malibu that makes in-salon extractors that we can use to pull a lot of that color in a gentle way,” Parks said. “Most of the time it removes most of the color, and you’re left with just a small amount.” The remaining color can then be covered over more easily.

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