It’s not that reverting to a lighter shade is impossible, but it is challenging. After a brown dye job, going blonde again is considered a color correction: “It would involve color removal and a very long day at the salon, around eight hours, and there’s quite the price tag to go along with it,” Still says. (Color corrections typically start at $200 and go up from there.) “Also, the damage that will be done to your hair is not inconsiderable.”
If you can’t let go of having some light dimension in your hair, highlights or balayage are safer options than returning to platinum. Making another hair 180 is up to personal preference and finances. I, for one, won’t make the same mistake twice. Now that I’ve gone back to brunette, I’m staying on the dark side.
How to dye blonde hair brown at home
While most hairstylists always recommend heading to the salon for such a major change, keep in mind that if you’re not in the mood to drop a ton of cash or don’t feel safe going into a salon, you can dye your hair on your own. “Taking blonde hair to brunette at home can actually be significantly easier than trying to lighten your own hair,” says Clairol color consultant Jeremy Tardo. He adds that the most important thing to keep in mind is how damaged your hair is, and if it’s super damaged from bleaching, the color will be inconsistent so it’s better to head to a pro. But if you’re a dark blonde or your hair’s in good shape, you’re good to go at home.
1. Add the underlying pigments.
As I mentioned before, blonde hair is stripped of pigments that makes hair seem dark and rich. Tardo says it’s crucial to add these pigments back in before going dark so your new color isn’t dull or green-ish. He recommends using a copper color with an orange tone since it will fill in those red and yellow pigments (he likes Clairol Natural Instinct in Light Auburn). “I know that adding orange into your hair sounds scary, but this is a necessary part of the blonde to brown process and will also be done by any good salon colorist before taking a blonde to brunette,” he says.
Apply the “filler” color to your damp hair, so the absorption is more even from root to end. Follow the recommended process time for the dye, and shampoo and condition your hair.
2. Add the brown color
“Now that your hair has the natural underlying pigments of brunette hair, you can safely add your brown hair color,” says Tardo. “When I darken blonde hair, I always use demi-permanent brunette colors from lines like Clairol Natural Instincts. These colors do not contain ammonia, so they leave your hair shiny and healthy.” (Check out our guide on how to dye your hair at home for more helpful advice.)
3. Touch up
After rinsing, you might notice that some parts of your hair haven’t absorbed either the filler or brunette shade as much as the rest of your hair. No need to freak out, just touch up that section by adding color back into that area for a little longer. “When doing this, a good way to check for the necessary processing time is to wipe some of the color off of your hair with a wet towel,” says Tardo. “When the darkness matches the rest of your hair, go ahead and rinse the touch-up out.”
4. Maintain the shade
“Whenever previously lightened hair is first darkened, any color you put on it will fade easily,” says Tardo, but he notes that the more you continue to color it brown, the color will begin to stay longer each time. In the mean time, use shampoos and conditioners for color-treated hair, just as you would after leaving the salon.
Halie LeSavage is a fashion writer in New York City. Follow her @halielesavage.