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How to Grow Out Your Natural Hair Color

Without Looking Ridiculous Along the Way

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long natural hair Cultura/Matelly/Riser/Getty Images

Whether you've colored your hair to mask gray, or changed your hair color all together, there may come a point when you decide that you want to let your natural color shine though. You may want to save money on your hair routine, need a healthy change of pace, or perhaps you've completely forgotten your natural color. There are a few ways to accomplish the transition without just stopping cold turkey and letting it all grow out. The method will depend on what coloring treatments you've had and what your goals are. I highly recommend that you seek professional assistance to ensure the best procedure for your hair.

If You Have a Few Highlights...
If you have simply added a few highlights to your hair to brighten it up a bit, transitioning to your natural shade is pretty simple. You can grow it out and embrace an ombre look until regular haircuts even the shade, or replace those highlights with lowlight in a shade close to your natural color every 6 to 12 weeks until the highlights have disappeared.

If You Lighten Your Natural Color...
If you lighten your color all together, either by highlighting heavily, coloring it in a lighter shade, or changing the tone, it's a bit more of a task to go natural, but it's not usually all together complicated. The first step is to let your hair grow out for at least two to three months. This will give your stylist a good sample of your natural color.

Next, you'll need to do a "tint back" to a shade that is as close to your natural color as possible. During a tint back process, a filler will likely need to be applied to replace the missing pigments that your darker color will require. Filler is often a semi or demi-permanent color that is applied prior to your permanent darker color, and will likely be an orange or copper shade. Some fillers are added directly to permanent hair color formulations. Proper hair filling will ensure that your hair tone is even, and will prevent your hair from turning green or "muddy". I highly recommend that you see a professional for a tint back service. The cost to fix a tint back mistake will far outweigh any savings you may endure by trying to attempt to replace your natural color yourself. It is not as simple as applying color that looks like your natural color to your head. Hair color can be very complicated, and achieving a natural tone should be left to a professional.

Depending on how much you lightened your hair in the past, your hair's porosity, and it's overall health, it may more than one color appointment (over the course of two to six months) to achieve the right tone. Work with your stylist to ensure that you are properly caring for your hair, and ask her if additional protein or moisturizing appointments are necessary to get a better result

If You Darken Your Color...
Hair color that has been darkened will also require a tint back, but the process will be a bit different. Again, I recommend that you use a professional, and allow your hair to grow for two to three months prior to your appointment to allow your stylist to see a good sample of your natural color. Your stylist will remove the darker color by lightening via a soap cap application or a color remover application. After the darker color has been lifted to the desired natural level, a color or color toner will then be applied in the natural shade that you desire.

It is important to note that dark permanent hair color can not be removed by simply applying a lighter shade of permanent color to your hair. Hair color (hair dye) can not lift (lighten) colored hair. So, if you darken your hair and think you can successfully lighten your hair by putting a lighter box of hair color over top of your dark hair you will learn a very hard lesson and will likely need the help of a professional to fix your mistake.

If You Cover Gray...
If you color your hair (either light or dark), to cover gray and are ready to embrace your natural gray hair, the process is different. Unfortunately having your hair colored to a gray shade that will blend and match your natural gray color is nearly impossible. The grow out process can be long, but if you're ready for the challenge there are a few things you can do to make the process less painful. These tips also work if you want to stop coloring, or color less.

  • Cut your hair often, and keep it short. The time to grow your natural hair out will be significantly shorter with short hair. Now is a great time to try a pixie.
  • Try highlights or low lights to blend the color. While first growing out your hair, try highlights or lowlights for a few months to help transition to your natural color.
  • Try a demi-permanent color versus a permanent color. Demi-permanent color will not fully cover gray, but will help blend it for a smoother transition. As demi-permanent color fades away, your natural color will shine through.

Growing Your Hair Out After a Tint Back...
After your hair has been tinted back, you'll simply need to let it grow. Keep in mind, the hair that has been tinted back should still be treated as colored hair. Just because it is your natural color does not mean it is not chemically treated. Hair grows, on average, one half-inch per month. If you keep your hair long, it will likely take years before your hair is truly "natural" again.

The Benefits of Natural Hair Color...
Uncolored, virgin, natural hair color has several benefits. Not only will it save you time and money in the salon, but your hair's health will benefit from eliminating chemical exposure. While your natural hair color may not seem very interesting, allowing the sun's effects to bring out your hair's natural highlights may give you a different perception.

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