Can I rid my hair of this black hair dye?

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My hair is naturally ginger and for the past three years I have dyed it black with shop bought hair dye. Now I hate the colour and would like to go lighter!

I've tried shop bought hair strippers and they don't remove the colour. I've also spoke to a few local hairdressers and they say there is nothing they can do for me. Is there a way I can get the colour removed to go brown? I'm willing to travel to go through the process.


Samantha, UK 

Hi Samantha,

Black tinted hair is notoriously difficult to remove, but depending on the length and condition of your hair, it is passable to achieve a good brown colour.

To rid the hair of the black colour it will be necessary to use bleach. Once the hair has an even lighter base a permanent tint should be applied carefully by a competent colourist. Depending on the porosity and the structure your hair is left with after bleaching, the colourist will have to apply different developing times in some areas of your hair to achieve an even hair colour throughout.  

For example; let’s say your hair is longer than 5 inches (13 cm), it will be more difficult and may take more than one appointment to achieve the brown colour you will be happy with. The reason for this is, your hair has been exposed to heat and the elements over years rather than months and therefore will be more dry and porous on the hair ends. Due to this, the new colour molecules will not stay in your hair and will wash out quickly.

However, if your hair is short, up to 5 inches (13 cm), and depending on the condition and thickness of your hair, it should be easier to achieve a beautiful even brown colour quicker.

If your hair is in perfect condition, it is easier and quicker to achieve your desired brown colour. The key for your success is for you to find a caring and experienced colourist, who is willing to take on this type of work. It is highly specialised work, your stylist needs to be given the time to achieve a successful result and for you to be happy too.

The best way to find a good colourist/stylist is by communicating with people in your daily life. Better still, if you see someone with the colour of hair you like and you think they have it coloured, go up to this person and give them a nice compliment about their hair and ask them where they have their hair done, recommendation is always the best way to get what you want.

You should also know that once you have the colour you are happy with, it becomes essential for you to use the best hair care products at home, they are best bought from the salon you eventually have your hair colour done with. Professional products are higher concentrated in the goody section of the content, these products will help keep your hair cuticles closed so that the new colour molecules don’t fall out - which means your hair colour will not fade.

I do hope Samantha that you will find your colour/stylist soon and that they will make you feel and look like a star!

Pierre Alexandre of Pierre Alexandre, Manchester 

Hair that has been coloured black or very dark brown sometimes is very difficult to lighten. If the colour was applied by yourself and you didn't just tint the roots, but ran the colour through to the ends then this is where the problem starts. Your hair probably has 'cuticle stain', this is when the black pigments, from being applied over and over, have stained the outside of the hair shaft and these cannot be removed. 

I would suggest that you visit a colour specialist; they should be able to take a strand test of your hair and see if it is possible to lighten the hair with professional colour removing products.

John Clark, Head of Colour at Brooks+Brooks, London

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