How To Fix An Overly Dark Dye Job (or just a bad one)


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In the years and years that I’ve been coloring my own hair, I’ve had a total of two “oops!” dye jobs.  The first is unfortunately immortalized on my current driver’s license in the form of completely black hair.  Lots of pale people can pull off brown-black or black hair.  Apparently, I am not one of them.  The second “oops” occurred yesterday.  It’s autumn and I want lovely, shiny, dark brown hair.  And I mostly have it.  I deviated from my normal hair color brand and shades, choosing something seemingly innocuous and ended up with almost-black bangs, roots, and ends.  The middle?  A medium brown.  It was interesting, to say the least.

Unable to afford a professional fix and headed to a wedding this weekend, I and my patchy hair went to a beauty supply store, where they presented me with two options:  buy a professional dye kit, bowl, brush, developer, etc or buy L’Oreal Color Zap to bleach the color out.  I went with the third option:  Google.  Armed with the knowledge of the masses, I went back to the drugstore and my mainstay hair color, as well as bought some dish soap.  The unsealed hair color box made me suspicious, so I checked to make sure the numbers on the bottle and on the box matched.  They didn’t.  When I was in high school, a friend regaled me with a story about how her co-workers used to switch hair dyes around when they were bored at work.  Horrified, I’ve checked and double-checked product numbers ever since.  My neurotic behavior has finally been vindicated!

Back at home I lathered up my head (particularly the roots and the ends) with this dish soap, rinsed and repeated.  I let it air dry, and apologized to my poor, innocent hair, promising to buy it ice cream or maybe a pony.  At the very least, some really deep conditioner. (This one is amazing.) It is of course, entirely possible that I botched this one and applied it poorly.  But I’m skeptical of that being the lone culprit having colored my hair dozens of times before, and am going to go ahead and point some blame at the brand.  Whose name will go unmentioned so as to protect the innocent.

Screw that, it was GARNIER.

In any case, thanks to a little dish soap (another alternative being a good clarifying shampoo) and some freshly and carefully-applied L’Oreal Feria, my hair is rested, redyed, and ready to work.  Perhaps a little bit more fragile, but no longer resembling the back end of a raccoon.  I obviously wouldn’t recommend this as a regular antidote to overly darkened hair, but as a quick fix?  It totally worked.

Here are some of my favorite deep conditioners to restore that luster you might be missing at this point in time. (Bonus – they are all non-toxic!)

Thanks for your submission, Lindsey! Lindsey is in her mid-twenties and hails from the Midwest, a land second only to the South in Really Bad Hair. Having spent much of her youth supporting that title, she feels compelled to help others escape a similar fate, and is convinced salvation can be found in department store product aisles. Lindsey hates seeing people with wet hair in public.

  1. Kristin

    November 4, 2009 at 7:07 am

    I’ve been coloring my hair for 10+ years and I’ve never had good results with Garnier. It always seems to come out too dark, or spotty, or streaky, or just bad. I’m glad to know it’s not just me!

  2. JQ_Brat

    November 4, 2009 at 7:27 am

    i had the same thing happen to me just a couple weeks ago. well, not exactly the same thing, but close. i dyed my hair what was supposed to be a lovely deep red for a wedding i was attending on saturday. when i was done, my hair was purple, and i was freaking out because it was sooo going to clash with my blue dress! lol. i washed my hair 4 times with Dawn dish soap. I was too afraid to redye it so I just washed it 4 times before the wedding and most of the purple was gone. my hair was still bleeding dye every time i washed it for two weeks. i used Herbal Essences #44 and i will avoid it like the plague from here on out!
    .-= JQ_Brat´s last blog ..Close enough. =-.

  3. tera Stephens

    November 4, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Johnson & Johnson works well in cases like this also!

  4. Amanda

    November 4, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Great Tip!

  5. Sarah, Ohana Mama

    November 4, 2009 at 10:30 am

    I no longer hit the bottle (the color bottle, that is) but I am so spreading the news about drug store employees changing hair color in the boxes, holy schmolly that scared me straight! Off to tell all my girlfriends.

    Great article, love your writing!
    .-= Sarah, Ohana Mama´s last blog ..Ohana Mama’s Mom-Made Gift Guide: The Pretty Peacock Jewelry {giveaway! ends 11/16} =-.

  6. Nothing But Bonfires

    November 4, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Totally second the dish soap idea — that’s what I always use when my hair comes out a little darker than I’d planned. It’s usually right as rain in a few days, and then I just slather it in conditioner for the next week to apologize to it.

    And that’s HORRIFYING about people switching bottles around in the hair dye kits! Though it does kind of make a little bit of sense: a couple of weeks before my wedding (my WEDDING!), I dyed my hair my usual color, knowing that it would start out a little too dark but would have faded to my preferred shade about ten days later. Well, weirdly, it came out the exact right shade right away. Which, yes, of course meant that it had FADED by my wedding and wasn’t quite as dark as I wanted it to be. Eh, whatever, it wasn’t a massive issue or anything and it could certainly have been a whole lot worse, but STILL. Thanks a lot, L’Oreal Feria. Or maybe I should be thanking the bored and pimply teenagers who switched the bottles around.
    .-= Nothing But Bonfires´s last blog ..More Reasons To Like Sydney =-.

  7. Anyabeth

    November 4, 2009 at 10:45 am

    I have only had two oopses too and both with Garnier. It is of the devil maybe.
    .-= Anyabeth´s last blog ..Happy Halloween =-.

  8. Cee

    November 4, 2009 at 10:49 am

    I recently went from blonde back to my natural brown, and it ended up practically black. I used clarifying and dandruff shampoos to help it fade quickly. It’s been about a month and now it’s a nice rich brown, close to my natural colour.

  9. Groovymarlin

    November 4, 2009 at 11:17 am

    I saw a few products in the hair color aisle at Walgreen’s recently. One was a “Haircolor Remover Kit” by L’Oreal (looked very old school), and the other was “Color Oops Extra Strength Hair Color Remover.” Has anyone ever tried any of these products? I’m curious about how well they work vs. dish soap, and how gentle they might be as well.

    I’ll admit I’m nervous. It’s time to cover my gray again and I picked a light brown shade by Garnier. According to the color guide on the side of the package, it should leave my somewhat-dark brown hair about the same color it is now, while covering my gray (and old highlights) with the lighter brown. But I’m terrified that I’ll end up too dark (or too light and orange) all over.
    .-= Groovymarlin´s last blog ..Pomplamoose! =-.

  10. am'ti b

    November 4, 2009 at 11:59 am

    hair thursday you have read my mind. i too had a botched dye job (trying to cover sprouting grays) it said dark brown on the garnier box but after it turned out black, very garish, i checked online-soft black it said. WHAT! anyway i washed it out a bit with head and shoulders.
    i returned 6 weeks later with feria a shade lighter than i usually use, my roots look terrible, but i plan to patch them up with clariols root touch-up. i have since decided i will be leaving it up to the pros.

  11. Darcey

    November 4, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I think this is the perfect topic for a post on my blog today! Off to go write!
    .-= Darcey´s last blog ..Me No Likey! =-.

  12. Nikki

    November 4, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I am so disappointed to see the promotion of BOX COLOR and DISH SOAP on hair! No way! The ingredient list in box color is horrifying, I don’t think my hair would ever forgive me.

    Only 1% of your hair is pigment, the rest is moisture/protein. I suggest finding a great hairdresser with an even better color line that will take care of what your hair is made of while adding the perfect color. Nowadays you can find all kind of deals from salons..it’s totally worth the investment. It’s your H A I R!

  13. Amy

    November 4, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I agree with Nikki – I’d rather go back to my regular mousey brown than switch from a natural, professional salon color to box color in order to save money. Actually, that’s what I did – stuck with my amazing stylist for cuts and nixed the color.

  14. Mon

    November 4, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    I once suffered the bottle switch and ended up with “minivan burgundy hair”. And it was Feria. Which I love, but man, it’s rich color. So a hat and trip to the drugstore later, I check the bottle/box numbers and let Feria brown me up as per the original plan. I then had my hair cut a little while later to get rid of the damaged parts and whaddya know, hair grows back!

  15. Groovymarlin

    November 4, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I don’t know…when my hair was longer, I colored it myself regularly with Feria. I had no problems dying it myself and as long as I was using a good shampoo/conditioner for color treated hair, I didn’t have any damage or issues. In fact I got many compliments on how beautiful my color looked – including from the stylist who cuts my hair! I’ve also always done my own highlights with no issues whatsoever. I think if you know what shade works for you and are careful, there’s no reason not to do your own color if you feel capable.
    .-= Groovymarlin´s last blog ..Pomplamoose! =-.