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Can colored hair go back to normal?

Hair color is a fun and easy way to change up your look. Whether you’re looking to go lighter, darker, add some highlights, or try a bright fashion color, hair dye allows you to experiment with different colors and styles. However, what happens when you get tired of your new hue and want to go back to your natural shade? Is it possible for colored hair to return to its original state?

The Effects of Hair Dye on Hair Structure

When you color your hair, the artificial pigments penetrate into the hair cortex and bind to the natural melanin pigment inside the strands. This causes a chemical reaction that deposits color into the hair shaft. Permanent hair dyes make this color change permanent by including harsh chemicals like ammonia and peroxide, which swell open the hair cuticles and allow deeper penetration of pigment.

Semi-permanent and demi-permanent hair dyes work a little differently. They deposit color onto the outside of the hair strand rather than changing the underlying pigment. This results in a less drastic color change that fades out over time.

Regardless of the type of hair dye used, any kind of chemical treatment causes damage to the hair strands. The cuticles may not close properly afterward, leaving the hair rough, dry, and porous. The harsh chemicals break down the structural proteins that make up the hair shaft, causing weakness and making the hair prone to breakage.

Can Hair Be Restored to Its Natural Color?

The first thing to understand is that hair dye does not remove or replace your natural pigment. Unless your hair has gone fully gray, the original melanin is still present in your hair shaft after coloring. This means it is possible for previously colored hair to return to its former shade.

However, the extent to which the new color can be removed depends on the original base color and type of hair dye used. In general, reverting to a lighter shade is easier than removing artificial dark pigments.

Fading Darker Hair Colors

For dark brown or black shades, semi-permanent dyes are the easiest to remove. With repeated washing and some clarifying treatments, these coatings will gradually fade back to the natural color.

Permanent dark dyes, however, penetrate right into the core of the hair strand. This means you’ll need to take a more aggressive approach to lift artificial pigment. Bleaching is an effective method, but must be done slowly and carefully to avoid excessive breakage and damage.

Here is a table showing approximate timelines for permanent dye to fade from different starting shades:

Starting Shade Fading Timeline
Black 8-12 months
Dark brown 4-8 months
Medium brown 2-4 months

Lifting Lightened or Highlighted Hair

Hair that has been lightened with bleach or colored with blonde/highlighted shades should fade back to its darker base color more quickly. This is because the artificial pigments sit on the outside of the hair shaft rather than penetrating deeply like permanent dark dyes.

However, the damaged and porous state of hair after bleaching may cause the color to linger longer than expected. Using clarifying shampoos to strip color along with moisture treatments can help speed up the fading process. Here is an approximate timeline:

Starting Shade Fading Timeline
Bleached blonde 4-6 weeks
Medium blonde 3-5 weeks
Light brown 2-4 weeks

Tips for Returning Hair to Natural Color

If you want to accelerate the fading process, here are some tips:

  • Use a clarifying shampoo 2-3 times per week to remove color deposit and buildup
  • Try anti-dandruff shampoos containing zinc or selenium which can help strip artificial dye
  • Make a baking soda paste and massage into hair before shampooing to lift color
  • Apply vitamin C powder mixed with shampoo and leave on for 30 minutes
  • Get regular trims to remove the ends where color stays locked in longest
  • Use hot oil treatments or deep conditioning masks to reduce dryness and damage from color processing
  • Avoid chlorine, salt water, and other environmental factors that can oxidize and darken hair

While natural fading takes patience and care, it is possible for colored hair to revert back to its former shade. Avoid excessive chemical stripping which can cause more harm than good. With time and gentle cleansing routines, your hair should lighten up and regain its original base pigment.

When to Seek Professional Help

In some cases, you may decide natural fading is taking too long or your efforts aren’t working well enough. Seeking professional hair color removal services can speed up the timeline.

This is especially recommended for permanent black or dark brown dyes. The concentrated chemicals used to acheive very dark shades can be nearly impossible to lift on your own. Bleaching severely darkened hair at home often ends in breakage and damage.

Here are some signs it’s time to visit the salon:

  • No noticeable fading after 2 months of washing and home treatments
  • Excessive shedding and breakage from harsh stripping techniques
  • Unwanted brassy orange tones appearing as dye fades unevenly
  • You don’t want to wait 6+ months for black/dark brown dye to fade gradually

Professional decolorizing services use stronger lightening products paired with conditioning and bond-building treatments. This enables them to lift stubborn color quickly while keeping your hair relatively healthy. Ammonia-free dye removers are also gentler than bleaching.

Salon processes like color correction and bleach washing can remove dye, minimize damage, and re-tone your hair for a natural look. This provides faster results than DIY methods. However, there is still risk of some dryness and breakage.

Coping With the Grow-Out Process

Regardless of whether you fade or strip color at home or the salon, growing out dyed hair has challenges. As your roots regrow, they contrast against the colored lengths. This awkward grow-out phase can last months as you transition back to normal.

Regular root touch-ups and trims can help minimize the line of demarcation. Use root cover-up powders or sprays to mask regrowth and blend with colored hair. Also use gentle, moisturizing products to keep hair healthy and minimize breakage as the dye fades.

You may have to get creative styling your hair in ponytails, braids, updos, and hats until those last stubborn artificial tinted ends are trimmed away.

Maintaining Healthy Hair After Color Removal

Removing permanent dye leaves hair dry and compromised. It is critical to nourish and protect your strands during and after the fading process. Here are some tips:

  • Use repairing masks and leave-in treatments containing keratin, olive oil, or silk proteins
  • Reduce heat styling and processing treatments until hair is stronger
  • Rinse with cool water and avoid harsh shampoos
  • Get regular trims to nourish ends and remove damaged sections
  • Take biotin supplements to stimulate growth and strength
  • Use bond-building treatments like Olaplex to reverse and prevent damage

Focus on gentle cleansing, deep conditioning, and protective styling. With time and TLC, your hair can recover from the trauma of color and return to a healthy state.


Although it requires patience and care, it is possible for colored hair eventually transition back to its natural shade. How long this takes and the process depends on your original base color and the type of dye used. While natural fading does work, those with stubborn permanent dye may need professional removal services.

Expect the grow-out period to present challenges like contrasting roots and brassy tones. Regular trims and touch-ups can make the process smoother. Most importantly, nurture your hair against damage from harsh stripping and maintain the healthiest strands possible. With time and care, your hair will regain its true color and natural beauty.