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. Elizabeth

    November 4, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    While it is sort of getting off topic from the post, I have to agree with the others on box color, bit not on the necessity of having a pro do your color.

    I have naturally dark brown hair and stubborn gray’s coming in along my part and temples. I had pro color for two years that consistently faded and left my hair brassy. Frustration with that + unemployment led me to Sally. The Clariol soy based colors and Loreal that are for stubborn gray are my nirvana. Mix the color up with some developer and color it yourself but with better products.

    I switched stylists and she was floored that I color it myself because of the rich color and great condition of my hair. Was in for a cut today and two clients who came in when I was done raved about my color (to which I just said thanks to spare a really great stylist embarrassment) – but, yeah…you can do great color at home. By blending two colors, I have natural looking color and a few highlights where my gray is. Plus it costs less than $10 each time I color my hair.

    Colors are $5 each and my shoulder length hair gets w uses; add in gloves, developer and bowl and brush and I can color my hair for two years for what 1 “pro” job costs.

    Sorry to write a novel!!

  2. Mel

    November 4, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Ugh, I hate my natural color. I would never let my hair go back to it. It’s mousy…And I have a few grey hairs. But those saying it’s so wrong to NOT go to a professional are totally screwy. :p I can’t afford $150+ every 6 weeks. I’m a grad student.

    That being said. If I botched a job badly again? Like the one time, I used garnier, I do believe…or herbal essences color maybe….Over highlighted hair. I ended up with blackish streaks. I used a removal kit (had to buy 2 becuse the formula is thin and my hair is super thick). It kind of bleached and made my hair orangey. But I was able to semi-permanent the same day.

    My hair was dry for MONTHS.

    I have also used the clarifying shampoo secret and it works well.

  3. AP

    November 5, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Something very similiar happened to me with Garnier. I wanted to go two shades darker than my light brown hair and ended up with Wonder Woman like black/blue hair. When the clarifying shampoo didn’t work, I went with a hair color remover and went went the subtle correction where you don’t use the toner. I lucked out with a lovely shade of chocolate brown and almost no damage after a deep conditioning treatment.

    Though I had that one bad experience, I still like box hair color. If you aren’t lightening you hair and it’s just a single process color, I have a hard time paying a professional so much for such a simple job. Plus, I hear just as many horror stories about going to a pro as going it alone.

    If you have the time, money and a quality stylist, I’m sure it’s great to color at a salon. But if you just want to cover some grays or enrich your natural color, using a box is a good option.

  4. Nikki

    November 9, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Had to add…to get my hair colored at my favorite salon, which is indeed high end, is $75 every 8 weeks or so. Which is $450 a year…I will gladly nix the Starbucks lattes and make mine at home for the sake of beauty!

    And beware of buying professional color when you are not a professional..there are so many things you have to consider such as gray coverage, what was on your hair already, how lifting/depositing works..how to cancel out warmth etc etc. It SO isn’t just a read the bottle and apply type job!

    Just want to warn anyone out there thinking of trying to do something drastic without knowing how!

  5. Rachel

    November 10, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Warning: Really really long comment coming your way right about now. I am in no way affiliated with Color Oops. I have just used it with really relieving results. I am not a hair care professional, but I have effed up my hair really seriously many times, and am totally down to email with you about said incidents. I am not proud, but I have learned from my mistakes.

    I had this same exact thing happen to me, and I cannot say enough good things about COLOR OOPS in regards to removing too-dark hair dye. Like, actually removing it, not fading it. Just so you know up front, it will turn your hair an orangey color, but the point is to dye over it with your desired color. Anyone who has ever had their hair professionally color-corrected knows the orange hue of which I speak.

    So here’s the deal with Color Oops: It strips all the dyed color from your hair without using bleach. The way the package describes it (from what I remember), it shrinks the dark color molecules and, from my experience, that is exactly what happens–No dark dye streaming out of your hair down the drain when you wash it out. The molecules! They shrink into nothing!

    Anyhow, I’ve completely done this before and I would recommend first using Color Oops as directed. Your hair will probably turn an orangey color if it has been dyed using permanent hair dye of any kind, so expect that.

    **If your hair was virginal before said incident and you used only semi/demi-permanent color on your beautiful virginal hair, your journey ends here. Your hair should now be your blessed natural color!**

    Next, apply a semi/demi-permanent hair color, starting at the roots or wherever the hair is lightest and working your way down/away to the darker/damaged parts, so they have less time to soak up pigment. This and the use of demi-permanent dye will prevent the black-ness of which Lindsey speaks. I believe said black-ness is due to very dry segments of the hair soaking up far more dye than the adjacent healthy hair, which picks up the normal, desired hue.

    If, on the other hand, your hair is just a tad too dark, but evenly applied, just put Color Oops on for a few minutes, as opposed to the whole 20. I’ve heard good things.

    That being said, when this happened to me, I used Color Oops, then had my stylist dye my hair with a demi-permanent color much darker than my natural hue. It has since faded to my normal hair color and the roots growing in are indistinguishable from the dyed hair!

    I credit my stylist (and a lot of luck, probably) but my main point is that is you really want to get that dark, yucky hair color out of your hair and you don’t want to bleach it (which no one ever really wants to do unless they want to lighten their hair, because it is so damaging), use Color Oops–even if you are going to get it professionally color-corrected. This will save you so much time and money, I promise. I’ve spent $300+ (and 5+ hours) on color-correction in a hair salon before. In the situation described here (in the same salon!) (I know, I have issues if I’ve had to do this to my hair more than once.) I spent around $70 and about an hour for my stylist to color over what Color Oops removed.

    It should be noted that:
    1. This product works best when used ASAP
    2. If possible, you should pile atop your head and wrap your hair in a plastic grocery bag, cellophane or some similar material while this product processes and, even better, wrap the whole mess in a towel. It works off of heat, so mashing your hair against your head will utilize the heat emanating from your skull.
    3. You must rinse (and, if possible, shampoo) your hair for as long as is humanly possible after using the product for it to work properly (I’m talking like, an hour), and
    4. Your hair will darken over time. (…which I know because, when I used it, I had to wait almost a week before my stylist could get me in and my hair, which started out an orange-brown color after using the product, darkened to a more normal, albeit uneven, brown within a few days.)

    All THAT being said, unless you are a professional, I recommend, if at all possible, going to a salon for even the simplest of tasks, such as darkening hair and trimming bangs. TRUST.

    -rconrique at gmail dot com
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..Perseid and a run-on sentence. =-.