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Can I dye over dyed hair?


Yes, you can dye over dyed hair. However, there are some important factors to consider when dyeing hair that has already been colored. The existing hair color, whether it has been lightened or darkened, and the condition of the hair will all impact how a new hair dye will take to dyed strands. Care must be taken to avoid damage or unexpected results.

How Does Hair Dye Work?

Hair dye works by penetrating the hair cuticle and depositing color pigments inside the hair strand.

Permanent hair dye uses developer or peroxide to open the cuticle and allow dye molecules to be deposited and oxidized within the cortex of the hair. This results in a permanent color change that will grow out with the hair.

Semi-permanent dye sits on the surface of the hair and washes out over 4-8 weeks. The cuticle does not have to be opened for semi-permanent dye to deposit color.

Challenges of Dyeing Dyed Hair

When dyeing over dyed hair, there are a few potential challenges:

Overlapping Color Pigments

If the new color is significantly lighter than the existing shade, it may be difficult for the new dye to create an even result. The underlying pigments may cause muddiness or dullness in the new lighter shade.

Porosity Changes

The processes of lightening and coloring hair can make it more porous and prone to rapid fading. This can present challenges getting the new shade to properly deposit and adhere.

Uneven Results

If the existing color has faded unevenly, this can lead to spotty or splotchy results from a new dye job. Using fillers or color equalizers first can help combat this.


Hair that has been previously colored tends to be more compromised and vulnerable to damage. Proper conditioning and being cautious not to over-process is key.

Steps for Dyeing Over Dyed Hair

Here is a summary of the steps needed to successfully dye over dyed hair:

Step 1: Evaluate the Current Color

Examine the current color, depth, warmth, and coverage. Also take into account how long it has been since the last dye. This will impact the starting point.

Step 2: Select the New Shade

Choose a new shade that takes into account the current color and is within reach. Dramatically lighter or darker shades present more challenges. Staying in the same color family is recommended.

Step 3: Do a Strand Test

Test the new dye on a few isolated strands first. See how it deposits on the pre-colored hair. This gives insight into how it may process overall.

Step 4: Lighten If Needed

If going lighter, pre-lighten the hair first before applying the all-over color. This prevents the darker base creating muddiness.

Step 5: Use Color Equalizers or Fillers

Using deposit-only conditioning pigments or fillers can help even out the existing color and add vibrancy to faded sections so the new color applies true.

Step 6: Apply and Process New Dye

Apply the new dye strategically and according to instructions based on the evaluation in step 1. Process fully, but not longer than needed.

Step 7: Rinse, Condition, and Maintain

Rinse until water runs clear, then condition well. Use color-safe shampoo and conditioning products to maintain vibrancy. Limit washing to 2-3 times per week.

Best Practices When Dyeing Over Dyed Hair

Here are some best practices to ensure success when applying dye over pre-colored hair:

  • When going lighter, don’t try to lift more than 2-3 levels with a single process. Go gradual.
  • Use a protein-rich conditioning treatment before and after dyeing to fortify hair.
  • Alternate between permanent root touch up color and semi/demi-permanent glossing treatments.
  • Avoid applying permanent color all over repeatedly. Use semi-permanent between full processes.
  • Select permanent dyes that are ammonia-free and gentle.
  • Always follow manufacturer’s instructions for pre-colored hair.
  • Do allergy skin testing if using a new brand to check for sensitivities.

How Light Can I Go When Dyeing Over Dyed Hair?

When lightening pre-dyed hair, patience and going gradual is key. Here are some guidelines:

  • If hair is virgin or naturally light-medium blonde, you can likely lighten up to 4 levels.
  • If hair is pre-lightened, you may be able to lift up to 2 levels.
  • Take dark brunette to light brown safely in one step. Then go lighter in multiple steps.
  • Lift black hair maximally 3-4 levels at a time. Attempt full blonde gradually.
  • With dark shades, pre-lightening with bleach may be required to avoid orange tones.

Doing test strands helps determine the maximum lifting possible in one session. Excessive lightening risks major damage.

What Problems Can Occur Dyeing Over Dyed Hair?

Some problems that can occur when dyeing over pre-colored hair include:

Uneven Color

This happens when the underlying shade was not filled in or evened out first. The new color has no base shade to grab onto.

Dark Roots, Lighter Ends

If the hair was pre-lightened, the darker root area does not lighten as fast as lighter ends. This 2-tone result must be remedied.


If dye is not evenly applied, darker and lighter bands in the hair can result. Always apply dye carefully.

Spotty Gray Coverage

If gray coverage fades unevenly, new dye may not take evenly. Targeted pre-coloring of resistant grays is needed.

Fading Too Fast

Porosity issues from prior damage can cause rapid fading of new dye. Prior conditioning is key.

Unexpected Colors

Underlying warmth combined with new cool tones or vice versa can mix together for odd results.

How to Fix Dye Over Dyed Hair Problems

Here are tips to fix common issues when dyeing over colored hair:

Uneven Color

– Apply a filler or color equalizer first
– Do an all-over color to even out shade variations

Dark Roots, Lighter Ends

– Apply root touch up color just to regrowth area
– Pull mid-shaft and ends through a toning gloss


– Re-dye using careful sectioning and saturation
– Use clarifying shampoo to pre-wash hair

Spotty Gray Coverage

– Target resistant grays with a concentrated semi-permanent rinse
– Use a permanent demi- or semi-permanent toner

Fading Too Fast

– Treat hair with a protein filler or treatment
– Switch to ammonia-free permanent color
– Refresh with semi-permanent gloss

Unexpected Colors

– Re-dye with a shade closer to your target color
– Adjust tone with corrective toners if necessary

Getting professional help is recommended if encountering major issues after dyeing at home. They can assess and remedy the situation.

How Soon Can I Re-Dye After Initial Coloring?

It’s best to wait some time between dyeing sessions. Here are general guidelines:

  • Permanent Dye: 4-6 weeks
  • Demi-permanent Dye: 2-4 weeks
  • Semi-permanent Dye: 2 weeks
  • Root Touch Up: 2 weeks
  • Toner: 1 week

Hair needs time to rest and recover between processes. Rushing re-dying risks weakness and damage. Temporary color rinses can refresh color in between.

Prolong time between permanent dye jobs as much as possible by using semi-permanent glossing treatments. Limit them to every 2-4 weeks.

Does Pre-Coloring Hair Fillers Make Dyeing Easier?

Using pre-coloring fillers or color equalizers can make dyeing over pre-colored hair much easier and improve results. Here’s how they help:

  • Evens out underlying shades so new color applies true.
  • Adds shine, seals cuticle for better color retention.
  • Deposits pigments to block brassy or ashy tones.
  • Filled hair holds onto new color longer.
  • Conditioning agents reduce damage from coloring.

Look for fillers labeled for use with permanent or demi-permanent dyes. Apply mid-shaft and ends only, not near roots. Rinse after 10 minutes before dyeing.

Should I Avoid Permanent Dye When Coloring Damaged Hair?

It’s best to minimize use of permanent dye on compromised hair. Here’s why:

  • Permanent color requires peroxide developer that can worsen damage.
  • Lightening with permanent dye is extra risky on damaged strands.
  • Frequent permanent dyeing can further dry out and weaken hair.
  • Ammonia in permanent color can be irritating.

Instead, opt for gentler semi-, demi-permanent, or ammonia-free permanent dyes. Or use non-permanent rinses in between full dyeing sessions. Always condition hair properly after coloring.

Let damaged hair rest and recuperate by extending time between permanent dye jobs. Limit use only when roots absolutely need refreshing.

In Conclusion

Dyeing over pre-colored hair can have good results when done carefully and correctly. Consider the current color, porosity, damage, and desired end result when selecting your new shade and dyeing method. Permanent dye should be used sparingly. Instead, opt for kinder semi-permanent glosses whenever possible. And always condition hair properly before and after dyeing to prevent further damage. With patience and the right techniques, you can successfully dye over dyed hair.