Root regrowth


Hair: Michelle Lawley at Royston Blythe
Photography: David Goldman

Dear Hair Doctor,

Having resisted hair colouring for many years, I finally decided to have some blonde highlights at my parting (i have long, straight, dark blonde hair that’s got darker over the years and a few greys were becoming obvious!). I liked the result and went back after six months to have it done again, this time with two colours. Had a third visit in April and asked for the same effect but with a shade darker. Thing is, now I have a definite line and roots are about 3.5cm around my parting. With highlights I didn't expect roots to be quite so obvious and I'm not sure which steps to take. Do I forget the whole colouring and just let it grow out, use a ‘remove colour treatment’, or go to a salon for parting highlights in my natural colour?

Many thanks,

Anon, UK


Highlights are misconceived as a technical service more and more these days. They should be very natural, like strands of sun-kissed hair, just noticeable and nothing more. Never large, thick pieces as this is a different service entirely.  The mark of good colouring is the growing out process. If your hair is to be natural and sun-kissed, like holiday hair, then the upkeep and maintenance is minimal, however, when you add more colours to this, it becomes higher maintenance, more work and less natural.

Most clients think a highlight is a noticeable strip of the tone, and that’s where this whole process has been misunderstood. Your hair predicament won’t disappear with one service, so to save condition and stress, have a consultation with a colour specialist that’s recognised for their experience and explain what you would ideally like.

It’s also good to know that you don’t need to have your hair cut off or go through six months of growing your colour out. If your colourist knows what they are doing, the service will help, save, care for and give you the right finish.

Nelson Brown, Browns

It's hard to say without seeing how light the highlights have become, but it seems that you may have had a few too many highlights and that they’ve now become more of a solid colour instead of highlights.

You can ask your colourist to add lowlights matching your natural colour or have your highlights more spaced out and have a quasi colour painted on in between, again to match your natural colour. If you go for this option be sure to have an allergy test at least 48 hours before this process to make sure you’re not allergic to colour being applied near to the scalp.

Ask your colourist for advice on which technique would be best for your hair, and the less highlights you have, the less root will show.

Clare Lodge, Paul Edmonds

It sounds like we’ve got a colour build up; this usually happens with highlights because it’s very difficult for the hairdresser to only colour the same strands over and over. So after a time you get more hair that is coloured rather than natural hair.

I wouldn’t recommend using a colour remover as this won’t give you your natural colour back. Highlights permanently change the hair that is coloured and once it’s lighter you cannot ‘remove’ the colour and get your natural shade back.

I would suggest that you have a demi-permanent shade that is very close to your natural colour woven through the area that is too light for you (either in highlights or balayage). This will tone down the colour and give you a more muted, natural highlighted colour.

John Clark, Brooks+Brooks

Highlights can be made to look very natural or very intense, depending on how many you have, the thickness of them, and how much they contrast in relation to your natural colour. It is easy to get a build-up of colour if the highlights are painted all the way down to the ends each time, which then results in a more noticeable regrowth. Trying to grow it out can be very long-winded and will look untidy on hair your length; colour remover treatment won't work very well on highlights.

My advice to achieve a natural look is to have your blonde highlights put in on your root area only, weaved in along with some other highlights in your natural colour. Once you have achieved the look you want, you can stop having the darker ones put in, and ask your hairdresser to continue highlighting the root area only. This will prevent the formation of a block of colour and noticeable line. In addition, in the future you can ask your hairdresser to discuss different highlighting methods that are designed to minimise obvious regrowth; for example, using the colour brush in a zigzag pattern at the top of the hair, backcombing the root before colouring, or having the highlights applied in the sides of the head will make for less noticeable roots when they start to grow out.

Michelle Lawley, Royston Blythe

Don’t worry, there are a couple of things you can do to help with the maintenance of your colour. I would suggest you go to the salon and ask for subtle lowlights. These should be a shade that is the depth of your natural base but slightly warmer to avoid a flat look. It may also be good to incorporate a few highlights but just around your face to soften the definite band of roots you have now.

Ask your colourist to put a toner on your hair once it’s been shampooed to slightly tone down the existing highlights. This will not only make life easier for you and avoid the lengthy process of growing the whole colour out, but also add more shine.

Maria Brand, Cobella

There are a few options for this problem depending on what you want from your colour. If you are using a darker shade between your highlights, inevitably you will end up with a strong line between your roots and your colour. You mention that you want to cover grey hair that was beginning to show, therefore just highlights in your natural colour will leave some greys showing. I would suggest that you continue to have a second colour to disguise your grey hairs, asking your colourist to suggest a colour as close to your natural tone as possible so that your roots are more blended when your regrowth comes through.

Christel Lundqvist, HOB Salons and Academy