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May 25 / denisa

The Best Products To Lighten Your Locks

Lets start with saying that experimenting with hair dyes is a very risky thing. The payoff can be totally worth it, once you get it right, but choosing the wrong at home product can be disastrous. And we mean hysterical tears or a $300 corrective dye job disastrous. But we here at Ask Denisa have been there, done that, so that you, hopefully wont have to.  I’ve been coloring my hair since I was 16. I have gone through almost every color of the rainbow when it comes to hair dyes, and through every major brand out there.  Including coloring it at a fancy salon. I once had a professional hair colorist tell me that he could not make my dark hair lighter, only add color to it, because it was impossible to lighten hair color without stripping it first. This was funny to me because I’ve been doing it for over 10 years from home. And no, I did not strip my hair color first, nor did it cost me $200.

The key to doing this is choosing the right product for your hair type. No guts no glory right? Once you find something that works for you, stick to it like glue. If you’re like me, who always forgets the product or color I tried last (purchased 3-4 months ago perhaps), be sure to cut off the front label of the color that worked for you and stash it in a drawer for later reference. Savvy girls keep a note on their cell phones with the name and color, but as we all know, data can be accidentally deleted or lost, so a box clipping is always a good idea.

For first timers, I cant say it enough: test strip, test strip, test strip; even if it means having to buy two boxes of hair color (some products are only “active” for an hour or so).  Clip a bit of your hair and apply the dye to it.  Let the srand dry before you judge the color and make sure you note the time. Some colors take 30 minutes, but coarser hair may take up to an hour. Every one’s hair is different which is why this can be so tricky. What works for you, may not work for me, etc. Another reason to stick like glue to what product works well for you.

At the moment, a tried and true product that has always worked perfectly for us is Garnier Nutrisse 100% Vibrant Colors Ultra Lift Browns. This product is especially made to lighten dark or black hair without turning it red or brassy. If you’re like me, this has always been my biggest problem. The collection of Garnier Hair colors is pretty extensive, very affordable (about $8 a box) and does what it promises. It actually leaves your hair softer and shinier than before albeit smelling a little bit like chemicals.

Another great buy is L’Oreal Superior Preference Les True Brunettes

This one does just as good a job and even though it might be a few dollars more (around $10), and offers a few other color options. The key is to choose a product specifically made to lighten dark hair. Otherwise your color will come out too dark or worse, too brassy. Although, there are other products out there that can help if that is your result.

Try to avoid the less expensive dye products such as Clairol’s Nice N’ Easy or Balsam Color. (Around $3 a box) Although the price may be tempting, these dyes are made to cover gray hair and can be very harsh and damaging to your hair. They provide very flat color and they almost always make your hair much darker than you might want it.

Up next, how to get great highlights!

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  1. Andi / Feb 17 2014

    I have naturally light brown hair, and for the first time ever this year had it died, and it turned out almost black. It has faded some, seeing as It is a semi-permanent dye job, but I would like to die it back as close as I can to my original light brown. What product would you recommend that you think will be highly affective? Thanks so much for all your tips and great advice!


    • admin / Feb 17 2014

      First you have to try and remove the hair dye that caused your hair to turn black. You can do this in a few different ways. If its “semi permanent” you can try washing it various times with dandruff shampoo (it has an ingredient that strips hair of the artificial dyes).
      If that doesn’t work, you can try a product named Color Oops, which can be found at Target or online.This should remove the dye and take you back closer to your natural color.
      You may have to try using this product twice if it doesn’t get you back to where you want the first time.
      Even after removing the color it may still not be back to your original light brown. For that you may need to dye your hair back to as close a color that you can find. I recommend Garnier Nutrisse Nutri-Browns. They actually lighten hair (other dyes can only darken it) and can get it to at least close to the original color.

  2. Ash / Aug 22 2013

    I am curious to find out if this would work on dyed black hair? I just want to lighten my hair to a brown rather then black.

    • admin / Feb 17 2014

      Yes it should work on black hair, but be sure to get the Nutri-Browns brand, otherwise it won’t work. Also leave it on for 2x the amount of time indicated on the package. The longer you leave it the better it will work, but it will stop having effect after about an hour and a half so no need to leave it longer than that.

  3. Tara / Oct 30 2012

    Hi there!
    I just got my hair done today at a nice salon and asked to go from a light brown to a dark chocolate brown and even showed my colorist a picture. Unfortunately, it turned out jet black somehow and I hate it. It is a permanent color, not a demi or semi-permanent. I would like it to be a few shades lighter or anything but black! Please help!

  4. stacey / Aug 31 2012

    I am a bernette and I’m thinking of going blonde, so i decided to do the ombre style brown on top blonde on the bottom.I’ve never died my hair blond before. What products will work to gradually lighten my hair without bleach or die

  5. Ann / Jun 21 2012

    Thanks for all the tips, you seem to know a great deal about hair coloring.
    My issue is that I have a lot of grey since I was very young and now that I am in my 30’s it’s about 45-50% grey. I wear my hair natural (no perm about 4c hair type) and my natural hair color is a 2 combined with all the grey. I’d like to lighten my hair to achieve a light golden brown color. How can I achieve the color I desire while covering my grey? Help!

  6. Patryce / May 31 2012

    I want to lighten my dark hair to an light ash brown. I used to be able to get this color now it seems I only get orange. I would like to try the color brand you recommended – but I need to know what will it do to my grey roots?

  7. Katharine / Jan 23 2012

    Okay so I’ve been dying my hair since I was 16 too, and have had countless shades of reds and blond highlights. My latest upsetting hair color is a super dark red (that almost looks brown) that I was forced to get at a salon. The lady there said since my hair is dark and colored so much that to her the color of light red I want would never happen if I didn’t bleach it at least one or two times. I freaked at the price and damage it would do to my hair so I said thats never going to happen. So the solution she gave me was to pick a red that was to the shade of my hair.

    The result was I got a darker hair color then I had before! Now I don’t know what to do with this
    color that’s now fading reddish brown and dark.
    I still really want to get my light/medium rich red hair without killing my hair in the process.

    I hope I’m not a lost cause. Please help!

  8. Jay / Dec 14 2011

    Sunday I had my hair striped with a color remover not bleach.. Then I had highlights and what was supposed to be an ash blond color… Needless to say 5 hours later and $ I was already regretting my stupid dye job.. The next day I picked up a lighter shade which was like a light golden blond but did NOTHING except lighten up the roots.. The next day I picked up a a darker ash brown to match my ends and roots together.. Today my hair looks half black and a tint of green.. My question.. If I use ultra lift garnier do you think it will set me back to a brown.. ?? YES 4 days in a row of dying my hair please help. I have a Christmas party Friday and my hair looks horrible!!

    • denisa / Dec 16 2011

      Hi Jay,
      So sorry to hear about your struggle. First of all, you’ll need to give your hair a few days to “rest” before you apply any more dye. I would recommend using a color remover first to get rid of any dyes that you can before going back (24-48 hours later if possible) and applying a dye that claims it has good gray coverage. Garnier %100 color and Ferria are two that would be good choices. I would then leave the dye on a for a little longer than the 30 minute time (45 minutes to an hour) and hopefully you will see better results. Be sure to use the deep conditioner included with the packet as your hair has gone through ALOT and will need as much conditioning as possible.
      Good luck!

  9. Feather / Dec 11 2011

    Don’t forget to tell people that if they have hilights they will not have a good outcome. I have been getting blonde hilights in my hair for years. I don’t dye my hair for grey coverage, just to lighten it up. I have been broke for a few years and have tried to fix it on my own. I put an ash brown from the recommend brand and my hair turned grey. Now I have to pay the big bucks and I look old. Be so careful with do it your self color. I could make you look dead.

    • denisa / Dec 16 2011

      Ash brown is a great color choice for people who get very brassy/orangey color when they try to lighten their hair, but if you naturally have lighter hair ash brown will not be a good choice as it will wash out all the reds in your hair and make it look very dull and bland. You’ll need a warmer color with the words “golden blond,” or “warm blond” in them in order to counter act what you have at the moment. You could even go for a warm light brown or light golden brown if you want a deeper shade with more depth.

  10. chelsea / Aug 23 2011

    where in the uk can i buy Garnier Nutrisse 100% Vibrant Colors Ultra Lift Brown from?x

  11. Amy / May 8 2011

    Thank you. This was very helpful. Exactly what I needed. :)

  12. Jordan.x / Mar 16 2011

    This has been the most hepfull thing i have found. Thank you x

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