Please help, I have been left with ashy, green-grey highlights!!

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Hello, I have a bit of a dilemma.

My natural hair colour is black. I went to a salon to get highlights, which she initially dyed a brown/orange colour - I was very unhappy with this. She went over it with some platinum highlights. It looked amazing except my roots were orange; I'm assuming it is because of the dye she used.

I went to Sally’s and they recommended me this toner to use. I put it over my entire head when I noticed my highlights were looking like they were changing colour. I quickly washed it off after about 10-15 minutes of the toner being on.

I was left with ashy, greenish gray highlights – absolutely terrible. On top of that, my roots were still orange.

I did an emergency trip to another hair salon and she corrected the colour to where it wasn’t an ashy green anymore. She did a few things, not sure what, but my entire head is pretty much orange with highlights in it. I do not really understand what happened, but I give up and I just want to go back to dark, something around a light brown.

I have no idea what to do now?!

Nguyen Phan, Dallas

Dear Nguyen Pan,

It is difficult to give an accurate answer to your question. First question, you say you have naturally black hair, but did you have your hair coloured black or use a semi-permanent colour to make your hair darker? My second question is, what colour highlights did you actually want to end up with?

The reason that it would of been helpful to know if you had your natural black hair coloured before or not, is the difference it makes if you had no artificial colour on before and your hair was truly naturally black. The colour of highlights you wanted is essential to know for a colourist and should have been discussed clearly in your consultation before any work started.

Then, if you wanted blonde, the question should have been, ‘what type of blonde did you want?’ Usually with black hair, your skin tones are different from those with brown or blonde hair. I always take the skin tone in to consideration, as well as the hair tone, condition, hair strength and length when I consult with my clients.

I give you here the right way of lifting natural uncoloured hair, from what you write I can only assume that you wanted ivory light or platinum blonde highlights, right?

For highlights, there is absolutely no need to lift or colour the whole head! Fine strands of hair should be taken out using tin foils (tin foils need to be longer than the hair length). Starting on the neck of the head, the required strength of bleach should be applied to each strand for lifting the black hair lighter. Each highlight should carefully be closed by folding gently the sides and then the ends of the tin foil without pressing onto the foils, so that when each foil needs colour checking, no bleach leaks out and the foil does not break in any way. The application starts on the neck, then the sides and lastly the top and front.

With naturally black hair, it may take several applications of bleach to lift the colour to ivory from roots to the ends. If your hair is long, say ten inches, it may be necessary to apply the bleach first onto the ends and later on the roots.

This application can take several hours and is a long carefully applied procedure. This is the main reason as to why this procedure is usually expensive.

Once individual highlight sections have reached the ivory colour needed to produce a platinum blonde. The bleach is rinsed off using a gentle shampoo until there is no bleach left on the hair. The reason we start on the neck is that it is easier to work on a back wash basin, taking and rinsing off the tin foils working towards the front.

Once the bleach has been rinsed and shampooed (as mentioned above), keeping the tin foils on, a semi-permanent colour can be used to achieve the platinum colour.

In your situation now, please find a reputable colour expert salon. An experienced colourist can find a way to help you to achieve the colour you wanted in the first place. Your hair may need to be cut or you will need time to bring your hair back to a healthy condition before more colour can be applied. It is also important to use the best hair treatments on the market; of course a colourist can dye your hair a softer brown, but unless your hair is in top condition this colour could wash out and the orange you hate may appear again. 

I do feel for you and I hope that my explanation and ‘how to’ will help you to understand how a professional procedure should work. Please do not try it at home it could cost you tears and many more unhappy bad hair days. I sincerely hope you find a professional colourist and soon, so you have happy hair again.

Good Luck Nguyen,

Pierre Alexandre of Pierre Alexandre, Manchester

When you have naturally dark hair, going lighter always has to be done with a colour expert. It takes time and a lot of skill to achieve a good result. 

Now that you want to go darker, I would find a confident colourist who can rectify your current shade and get it to a more natural looking brunette. They may even need to out the current shade and fill in the highlights before applying your chosen brown colour. I really don't recommend attempting this yourself, as now that your hair has been heavily coloured, only an expert should attempt to dye it safely. 

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

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