Going blonde for the first time is amazing when you’ve sported darker hair all your life. You turn more heads when you walk down the hall and the compliments are always overflowing.
You feel like a whole new person – brighter, bubblier, and looking more like a bombshell than before.
But for a lot of people, this high doesn’t last forever. There comes a point where you start missing your dark hair, or maybe want to experiment with another new medium or deep hair shade.
What’s a girl to do when blonde doesn’t suit her anymore?
Not everyone is destined to rock golden, blonde locks all their life. Sometimes, you just have to dye your bleached hair again into something richer and darker.
Does that sound like you? Well, I’m here to help out.
In this post, we’ll be discussing the steps you should take when you’re putting color over bleached hair.
Read on to see how to properly dye your previously bleached hair and end up with a rich, sleek, dark shade again.
Table of Contents
My Hair Journey
First, let me tell you a little story about my hair journey.
When I was growing up, I was never sure what color my hair actually was.
In my little nine-year-old brain, your hair was either blonde, brown, black, or red.
My hair, however, would be best described as strawberry blonde.
It always had been a mix of red and blonde highlights and light brown and auburn lowlights.
I’ve been called a redhead, blonde, dirty blonde, and my personal favorite from my kindergarten students in Korea, “Teacher, your hair is pretty gold like money!”
While I have grown to love and appreciate my natural hair color, that was not always the case.
Throughout middle school and high school, I always wanted black hair with blue undertones.
I never had the nerve to go there.
In my first year in university, however, I learned about semi-permanent dye and naively thought I could try black and have it washed out in a few weeks.
So, I tried it. It did not wash out.
I was thrilled though. I finally had the hair color I had been wanting.
Every time my roots grew in, I would dump more dye on and bask happily in my midnight tresses.
After about a year and a half, I wasn’t as thrilled.
So, What Happened?
While my older brother was gifted with naturally sun-kissed skin and the ability to tan easily, I was not as fortunate.
I am just about as pale as they come with freckles.
No matter what techniques I have tried in order to tan, the result was always the same.
I turn bright red and once that heals, I am back to pale.
Needless to say, instead of complimenting my skin tone, my black hair made me look washed out.
Fortunately, I have a cousin, who at that time, was over halfway through cosmetology training.
She offered to help me get back to my natural hair color, and all I had to do was pay for the products.
Great deal, right?
While I am thankful for her help and knowledge, there were ways we both could have been more prepared for this endeavor.
Long story short, it took three rounds of bleaching, four rounds of deep conditioning treatments, and two rounds of dye over a period of 11 hours, and I still ended up with hair that had the hue of the inside of a watermelon for three days.
Looking back, there was a lot of information I wish we had both known and utilized before attempting to dye my bleached hair.
What Exactly Is Bleached Hair?
The short answer is that bleached hair is hair that has had all the color pigment completely removed.
This is the only way you can change your hair to a lighter color.
To explain a little more in-depth, when hair is bleached it undergoes a chemical reaction called oxidation.
The process starts with an alkaline (pH higher than 7) agent, which opens up your hair cuticles and pores.
Next, the oxidizing agent enters the hair cuticle and dissolves the natural melanin, which gives you your natural hair color, or dye if your hair has been previously dyed.
Darkening Bleached Hair Isn’t So Simple
Simple logic might tell you that since your hair is light, you can just color it right away in a darker tone.
If it were the other way around, it wouldn’t work – dark hair can’t exactly hold lighter tones.
But because you’ve previously bleached your hair, you can’t just go from platinum blonde to jet black right away.
You see, when you bleach naturally dark hair, the chemicals dissolve the melanin (aka your actual hair color).
But they do something else too.
After getting rid of your natural shade, bleach also strips your strands of the warm underlying pigment that you’re born with.
Everyone has a unique natural pigment underneath their hair color.
For black hair, this pigment is reddish, while brunettes have orangey copper tones in theirs.
Bleach disintegrates these dark, warm tones, leaving you with yellow hair that you later tone to get your specific shade of blonde.
Those pigments are what make your natural shade look rich and sleek in shade.
If you try coloring your bleached hair back to your original hair shade, you’ll end up with an ashy tone – a grayish, muddy brown instead of rich, chocolatey brunette, for example.
No matter how expensive or high-quality your dye is, you won’t get the same richness in your locks when you try putting color over bleached hair.
You’ll need to replace those warm pigments stripped by bleach in your hair again before coloring it back a deeper shade.
But how do you do that?
Things To Consider Before Putting Color Over Bleached Hair
When you put your hair through any intense chemical process, it takes on the damage.
Bleaching can be particularly harsh and damaging to your hair, especially if it is done at home or incorrectly.
One of the impacts bleach has on your hair, is that it opens your hair cuticles and makes your hair more porous.
If you did not apply the bleach and let it process evenly, then your hair may be more porous in some spots and less porous than others.
This can cause your dye job to become uneven.
If you started applying the bleach to your roots, then there is a good chance they are significantly lighter than the rest of your hair.
This is because bleach processes faster with heat, and your scalp gives off a lot of heat.
This will cause your dye job to be lighter at the roots, when typically, roots are a little darker with natural growth and color.
The bleaching process has completely stripped your hair of all pigment.
When you dye your hair, the dye needs pigment molecules to bond to.
You may need to use a filler such as brassy orange or yellow tones to put those color molecules back into your hair.
This will help give a more even coloring all around and add dimension to your hair.
You may also need to apply several rounds of color.
Be aware of the current lightness level of your hair.
The bleaching has taken a toll on your hair health, so you should stick to either the same lightness or a darker level.
I would be wary of lightening your hair anymore.
Difficulties Of Dyeing Bleached Hair
As mentioned above there are many factors to consider when you are putting color over bleached hair.
If you are unsure about the process or have any doubts about what you’re doing, I would highly recommend going to a professional colorist.
Also, you should be ready to commit to your dyed color.
Generally, you would be hard-pressed to find a colorist that will re-bleach hair that has been bleached and dyed, and this would be considered a color correction.
There are several processes that generally need to take place including, fillers, color, and gloss.
This can be a very time-consuming process, so make sure you free up a large block of your time.
If you go to a salon, this can also get quite expensive if you need to do several rounds of processes.
Your best bet is to sit down with your colorist for a consultation and be as detailed and open as possible about what has been done to your hair.
That way, the colorist knows exactly what they are getting into, and there won’t be any surprises about the price.
While hair dye will not come close to being as damaging as bleach, there is still a bit of ammonia in most dyes, and it may dry out your hair.
You want to be sure that you start the dyeing process with the healthiest hair possible, so that will require some TLC before the coloring process.
Fillers Will Be Your Saving Grace
Before you can color your bleached hair to a deeper hue, you need to “layer” back the pigments the bleaching process initially dissolved in your strands.
To do that, you need to fill in your hair with a pre-color treatment.
Filling your hair means artificially putting back all the warm pigments you lost when you first bleached your strands when you went blonde.
Remember having to bleach your hair multiple times to go from very dark to very light blonde?
It’s kind of the same when you want to revert back to black or brown – you have to pack on the layers you stripped back last time.
That way, you’ll end up with a rich, solid color, not a half-hearted ashy tone.
If you don’t fill in your hair before dyeing your bleached locks, you’ll end up with hair that looks ashen and pasty, instead of deep and radiant.
It’s kind of like looking sickly and pale when you’re feeling under the weather instead of with a pretty flush of color on your skin when you’re healthy.
And though I call filling in your hair a “treatment”, a color filler is nothing fancy.
You could use your favorite demi-permanent hair dye to fill in your bleached hair before using the color you want to end with up on top of it.
When picking out a filler color, there are two important criteria to look out for:
It Has To Be Warm In Tone
Everyone’s natural hair pigment is warm.
Those with black hair have red pigment underneath, while those with brown hair have orange tones.
So, it’s important to choose a filler color you think will match best with whatever color you want to end up with in your hair.
The color filler has to be a shade or two lighter than your goal color.
Remember that you’re only filling in your hair as a first step, so you don’t need to make it as dark as the shade you want to end up with.
Your final dye will cover that part for you.
Proper Way To Prep Bleached Hair For Coloring
Before we get into the step-by-step process of filling in and dyeing bleached hair, let me teach you how to prep the right way.
Much like bleaching for the first time, you need to give your hair extra love and nourishment before recoloring.
Bleached hair is almost always dry and rough – more consequences of that forsaken chemical process.
This often makes your hair more brittle and unable to hold on to color well.
Recommended Post: Does Bleaching Your Hair Damage It Forever?
So, before putting it through another round of coloring, it’s important to condition and fortify your hair first with moisture.
Moisturizing your bleached hair properly leading up to recoloring it will give it more strength and resilience against your dye.
So, a day or so before you plan on coloring your locks, pamper them with a high-quality hair mask.
The Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Avocado + Kiwi Mega Moisture Superfood Mask would be an excellent choice for this.
This deep conditioner is infused with 96% naturally derived ingredients.
These include avocado oil, cocoa seed butter, kiwi extracts, chia seeds, and more nourishing botanicals to make your hair smooth, soft, and strong.
You might also want to consider using a protein treatment.
The color molecules in dyes bond to the protein in your hair.
Bleached hair doesn’t have a lot of protein (once again, it was probably stripped by the bleach), so you might want to beef up your hair’s protein levels with a keratin-infused mask.
Suggested Read: DIY Protein Treatment For High Porosity Hair
Picking The Right Color To Suit You
Hair tones can be divided into two categories: warm tones and cool tones.
So, how can you tell what is the best tone for you?
The best way is to go and stand in natural light and look at the veins on the inside of your wrist.
If you have purple or blue veins then you have a cool skin tone, and should stick to cool tones.
If your veins appear to be green or blue-green, then warm-toned colors are for you.
Now, if you have a difficult time distinguishing between the two colors, or you see a mix of both, then you have a neutral skin tone and both warm and cold will complement you.
Another way to tell is what jewelry looks best on you.
Silver complements cool skin tones.
Gold compliments warm skin tones.
Neutral skin tones will be complemented by both.
Putting Color Over Bleached Hair: The Application Process
Now that you know what a color filler is and how to prep your hair with deep conditioning masks, you can finally dye your bleached hair.
So, I am going to touch on two options here.
The first will be if you are taking your bleached hair back to a darker natural color.
Then, I am going to talk about going for unnatural colors, like blue, purple, green…etc.
Natural Brunette Color
Going from bleach blonde back to a natural brunette color is a bit involving.
The first thing you want to do is even out the porosity of your hair with a bonding agent.
This will make sure the color will take evenly and consistently.
Then, since bleaching dissolves all the pigment in your hair, you will need to put those tones back in with a filler.
This will help give your dimension and more natural-looking color.
(This is also the reason I ended up with watermelon-pink hair. We did not use a filler and so the color did not take as it should have and it did not have anything to bond to.)
The filler should add orange/yellow tones back into your hair.
Hair dye needs existing color molecules to bond to.
Now that you’ve added the warm pigments back into your bleached hair, the next step is to color your hair with your goal shade, whether it’s black, brown, or anywhere in between.
Since you’re essentially coloring your hair twice, it’s better to look for a dye that is gentle and healthy for the hair.
For that, I recommend the Garnier Nutrisse Permanent Hair Color Cream.
It’s infused with shea butter, avocado oil, and olive oil to moisturize your hair while delivering bold, vibrant color.
Whichever hair dye you choose, follow its instructions to a T to get the best results possible.
I would use a 10-volume developer for this step.
You may need to do several rounds of dying to achieve the color and shade that you want.
Section your hair into four equal parts, and start at the bottom back while working in small sections.
Process according to the directions and use lukewarm water, color shampoo, and conditioner.
Avoid washing your hair for 72 hours after dyeing it.
Bright Unnatural Colors
For these types of colors, you want to start with hair that is as white as possible, for the best canvas.
When you bleach your hair, you may find you have orange or yellow tones throughout your hair.
You want to go through a toning treatment to mute these tones.
A blue toner will mute orange tones, while a purple toner will cancel out the yellow.
In regards to color theory, the idea behind this is, that you locate the color of your tones on the color wheel, and then move to the opposite color.
Recommended Post: Understanding The Hair Color Wheel
The first thing you want to do is make sure you have everything you need.
Your color, around a 10 volume developer, as this will permanently deposit the color, and an old shirt.
I would advise against box dyes, just because the cost difference is not that much for professional colors, and you have more control over the results.
Also, start with dry hair.
I would advise using a bonding treatment beforehand to even out the porosity of your hair.
Furthermore, if you are using multiple colors, I would advise using foils to keep them from mixing.
For foils, take your section and lay it on the foil.
Start at the root and paint the dye onto the section on the foil.
Use the brush handle to help you crease the foil in the middle and fold up.
Tuck in the sides and secure if necessary.
To section off your hair, first, make a part down the middle of your head, and divide your hair into two equal parts, one on the left, and one on the right.
Then for each side, start at the top of your head at the highest point, and part that section down past your ear, so that you have four equal sections, two on each side.
Let down one of the very back sections and start at the hair that is at the very bottom of your head that falls underneath.
Take a small section of hair about ¼ of an inch.
You can start at the root and work the dye down towards the ends.
Work from bottom to top to stay organized and to keep from having a mess.
Allow the dye to process.
Follow the instructions to gauge how much time to leave the dye in.
Then proceed to rinse your hair in lukewarm water.
I usually work the foils out while I am rinsing.
Use a color-preserving shampoo and conditioner.
Then, do not wash your hair again for 72 hours after dyeing, so that the color has a chance to lock in.
Suggested Read: How To Highlight Hair At Home Without Foil
Won’t Coloring Twice Damage My Hair Even More?
Some of you might be unpacking some of your trauma from your bleaching job right now.
You may be asking, “Won’t coloring my hair twice in a row – once with filler, and another time with my final shade – be detrimental to my hair’s health?”
Bleach may have done a number on your hair when you first went blonde.
You probably experienced dry hair, straw-like roughness, tons of breakage – the works.
But the good news is that doesn’t happen when you darken your hair.
You’re not stripping your hair cuticles of anything.
Instead, you’re adding pigments back.
If anything, you’re adding more smoothness and hydration to your hair, especially if you choose fillers and dyes that are formulated with botanical oils and softening ingredients.
The real threat lies in going blonde again after bleaching your hair and then dyeing it back to a dark color.
This is where severe damage will come.
So, if you’re considering darkening your already-bleached hair, know that it’s a permanent commitment.
Any sensible hair stylist will tell you that bleaching your hair another time will be extremely damaging to your locks and is therefore not an option.
How To Care For Your Hair Post-Coloring
Even if recoloring your bleached hair to a darker shade isn’t as damaging as the lightening process, you still need to take good care of your locks afterward.
For one thing, the dyes you used still had chemicals that might strip or dry out your locks.
You also have to use extra hair care products to help maintain your new color.
But it’s best to try to extend your color’s lifespan as much as you can.
You don’t want to waste all that hard work, do you?
To maintain the integrity of your new color, there are several things to be wary of.
Color-Safe Shampoo And Conditioner
The first thing you should do now that you have a new hair color is switch out your shampoo and conditioner for formulas that are color-safe and sulfate-free.
You might already be using products like these to take care of your old blonde hair.
If not, I highly suggest making the switch now.
Look for shampoos and conditioners that are free of sulfates, which wash out color molecules faster, leading to premature color fading.
Good sulfate-free shampoos will keep your hair color vibrant for up to 40 washes.
Try a color-depositing shampoo. This will give your color a needed boost and keep it looking fresh.
Color Depositing Mask
You’ll also want to use some kind of color-depositing product to help maintain your new shade.
The Moroccanoil Color Depositing Mask is a fan favorite for this.
This deep conditioning mask nourishes the hair while depositing some pigments to keep your hair color looking fresh and vivid.
It’s formulated with amino acids, argan oil, and apricot kernel oil to keep the hair soft and shiny while enhancing the color.
The brand has a wide range of colors to choose from.
Do not dye your hair right before a big beach trip, or traveling somewhere tropical.
The heat and UV rays from the sun can damage your hair and fade your color.
Ocean and especially pool water can react with the dye and cause discoloration.
Heat Styling Appliances
Frequent use of hot tools such as curling wands and flat irons can make your new color fade eventually.
You should avoid the regular use of these appliances.
Avoid Frequent Washing
Cut back on washing your hair, one or two times a week.
The more you wash your hair, the more the color will fade.
Again, hold off on washing your hair until 72 hours after dyeing your hair.
This is the time it takes for the color molecules to really lock into your cuticles.
Glossing And Conditioning Treatments
You can also maintain your color and shine by regularly undergoing glossing treatments.
You will want to do at least one glossing process once your hair is dyed.
This will make the color more vibrant and bring out the dimensions in your darker color.
Also, the occasional deep conditioning treatment will help your hair stay healthy.
Related Post: How To Apply Hair Glaze
Even if you’re itching to darken your blonde locks already, you can’t simply pack on black or brown hair dye and hope for the best.
There’s a proper way to do it if you want even, consistent, and perfect results.
You need to use a filler first to get the rich, vibrant color you want later on.
You also need to put in extra effort to maintain your new color, seeing as how you’ll be coloring your hair twice.
Although filling and darkening your hair after being blonde doesn’t damage your locks all that much, it’s better to be on the safe side and nourish your strands to make sure they’re in good condition.
If you’ve decided that you’re done with blonde, darker hair colors are here to welcome you with open arms!
Remember, a lot of factors play into putting color over bleached hair.
From what color(s) you’re using to your hair health, texture, thickness, and dryness.
This does not have to be an overly complicated endeavor as long as you find good resources and products.
Changing your hair color should be fun and not something overly stressful.
Lastly, if you ever feel too uncomfortable doing this yourself at home, have a consultation with a professional.
It will be worth the ease of mind.