It’s always risky to undergo a mega color transformation, but it’s even more of a deathcon-five sitch when you’re committing to a hue that’s basically irreversible. While I’ll argue all day that there isn’t a color sultrier than inky jet black, not everyone can pull off the dramatic shade—especially in the dead of winter. While even the best among us have had moments of serious hair regret, what do you do if you’ve dyed your hair darker than midnight and you want out by dawn? It may feel like the end of your mane world, but with some patience and the right tricks even a total color blunder can be corrected. We tapped 901 stylist Ashley Ruiz to find out her pro tips for gracefully backing out of black.
Clarify and Condition
If you regret dying your hair black your best bet is to clarify your locks and try and remove the excess color. “Wash with a clarifying shampoo, or do a Malibu treatment to start subtly making it appear lighter,” advises Ashley. Ultimately, even if you channeled Wednesday Adams on your own, you should schedule a color consultation at the salon and enlist a pro.
“Not every lightening process is the same,” adds Ashley. For those in a pinch, Head & Shoulders: $8.88 works wonders as a hair removal clarifying shampoo. Following some thorough sudsing, you want to prep the hair for heavy-duty color removal. Ashley recommends using a conditioning treatment, “in order to prepare for the lightening or color remover process,” on your own.
Black hair dye is different from other colors because it’s “the deepest and darkest color,” Ashley explains. Because of this, it has the strongest pigmentation, which literally locks into the hair. Unfortunately, that means that lifting black will cause damage. “You’re opening up the cuticle of the hair to try and remove or lighten black pigment, which can cause the hair to feel dry and/or damaged,” Ashley says of the process. Note that color removers are gentler on your mane than a lighter like bleach.
Of course, even if you want your color to disappear over night, that’s probably not realistic. At what point you start the lifting process depends on the integrity of your hair, which is why prepping with a good conditioning treatment comes highly recommended.
Try a Color Remover
To expel the black pigment out of your hair, Ashley notes that you can either use straight-up color remover (like Color Oops Hair Color Remover: $11.99 or a bleach to remove and lift. In many cases, both will be used together to get your mane back to sunnier days most effectively.
Again, even if you got yourself into this mess, you probably shouldn’t get yourself out. “Visiting the salon is the best way to achieve a more controlled process, especially because lifting can bring up a lot of brassy and warmer tones.” Trust us, going to a professional is the best way to control your color.
What to Expect When You’re Lifting
Try not to flip when watching your hair go from dark to light—there’s a good chance you’ll be closer to the rainbow than comfortable. “Color goes through different stages of lighting when lifting, so from red to orange and yellow. If the color was light or dark prior to being dyed black, is also a factor that will dictate how fast or slowly it will lift.” Luckily, toner is your BFF. “When you lift black hair color, toning it is very important to neutralize all the unwanted shades,” continues Ashley.
Like anything else in life, all you can do is learn from your mistakes. The next time you see a photo of Kendall Jenner and you think—“dye your hair black now!” Take a deep breath and accept going a step lighter. “Opt for a dark brown gloss,” says Ashely. “You can always deepen it, but it won’t deposit as much.” This means it will fade easier and also be less difficult to change (even in the near future).
For her final piece of advice, Ashley notes not to be hasty with the removal process—you may not like your color in the short-term, but that’s no reason to destroy your locks over the long-term. “Try to get the hair to its healthiest state before removing. And be patient—it could be a lengthy process.”