Yes, it is possible to darken highlighted hair. There are a few different methods that can be used to remove or cover highlighted hair and restore a darker hair color. The most effective way to darken highlighted hair is to use a color depositing hair dye or toned dye in a shade darker than your natural color to cover the lighter pieces. Other options include using a toner or glaze to neutralize brassiness and darken tones, or removing the highlights completely with a color remover treatment before dyeing the hair a darker shade. The best method will depend on factors like how long ago the highlights were done and how light they are.
How do hair highlights work?
Hair highlighting involves chemically lightening selected strands of hair using bleach or other lightener products. This lifts the cuticle layer of the hair and removes underlying pigment, allowing the hair to be dyed a lighter blonde shade. The lighter highlighted pieces contrast against the darker natural hair color. Highlights are done in thin sections, either using foils, a cap, balayage hand-painting, or other techniques. The lightness of highlights depends on the volume of developer used, how long they are left on, and the original base color.
Why might you want to darken highlighted hair?
There are a few common reasons people may wish to go darker after getting highlights:
- Highlights grown out – Lightened ends against darker roots can look brassy and unnatural as highlights grow out.
- Color too light or brassy – Sometimes highlights can turn out lighter, brighter, or more brassy yellow than intended.
- Change of mind – Those who got highlights but decide they prefer a darker or more natural look again.
- Damaged from lightening – Porous, damaged hair may need darker color to strengthen strands.
- Regrowth maintenance – Roots grow in darker and require constant touch ups to maintain highlights.
- Seasonal change – Some aim for darker hair in the fall/winter months.
Can you dye over highlights?
Yes, it is possible to dye directly over highlighted hair. However, how effective this is depends on:
- How recently highlights were done – More recently lightened hair swells and resists accepting new color.
- Existing hair color and tone – Darker shades may not cover orange or yellow brassy tones.
- Lightness of highlights – The lighter the highlights, the harder to cover with darker dye.
- Hair’s porosity – More porous hair soaks up color differently than undamaged hair.
- Desired end result – A slightly darker tone may be easier to achieve than going very dark.
When dyeing over highlights, permanent color or an opaque demi-permanent dye will work best to provide even, full coverage.
How to dye highlighted hair darker
If you want to dye highlighted hair at home, follow these steps for best results:
- Pick a target shade 1-2 levels darker than your natural color if going darker than current color.
- Perform a strand test to check how hair takes to color.
- Use a protein filler product to prepare porous hair and fill gaps in cuticle.
- Choose an opaque permanent or demi-permanent hair dye.
- Thoroughly apply dye all over hair following instructions.
- Leave the dye on for the full processing time.
- Rinse dye out until water runs clear.
- Style as usual and limit washing for a few days.
It may take a couple tries to reach your ideal shade. Spacing out dye applications allows the cuticle to close and accept richer color.
What about highlights right after dyeing?
Getting highlights immediately after dyeing your hair dark can be tricky. Hair dye leaves residual artificial pigment on the strands that can block lightener from lifting hair to pale highlight shades. Highlights may come out darker and brassier than expected right after dyeing.
It is best to wait 4-6 weeks after permanent color before highlighting. This gives the artificial color molecules time to fade so lightener can better remove underlying pigment. Quicker washout vegetable-based dyes require less wait time. Ask your stylist to strand test how hair will lift. They may need to use higher volume developers and leave lightener on longer when highlighting after dyeing.
Other ways to darken highlights
Besides all over dyeing, you can also use these techniques to subtly darken highlights or lowlights:
- Apply a demi-permanent toner in a dark blonde or ash brown shade.
- Helps neutralize yellow/orange tones.
- Won’t lighten hair, only adds tone over existing color.
- Great for adjusting color between salon visits.
Color-depositing shampoo or conditioner
- Use a sulfate-free shampoo or conditioner designed to deposit color pigments.
- Available in various brunette shades to add tone each wash.
- Gradually helps make highlights subtly darker over time.
- Works well for softening or camouflaging grown-out highlights.
Gloss or glaze
- Salon glaze coats hair strands to make highlights appear darker.
- Doesn’t contain permanent dye or lighteners.
- Subtly deepens color and boosts shine for 4-6 weeks.
- Ammonia-free options available for delicate hair.
How to remove highlights at home
If you want to completely remove highlights and restore an all-over natural hair color, a color remover treatment can help prep your hair before dyeing it back to a dark shade:
- Shampoo hair clean and towel dry.
- Mix color remover ingredients per instructions.
- Section hair and apply mixture evenly from roots to ends.
- Leave on for 20-30 minutes until hair darkens.
- Rinse thoroughly.
- Shampoo again and blow dry.
- Hair should now accept the darker target shade when dyed.
Color removers work by shrinking the cuticle layer so dye molecules can escape. Avoid overusing these harsh chemical treatments. Allow 1-2 weeks before and after color removal to dye hair for best results.
Professional options for removing highlights
For fast, effective highlight removal and colour correction, visit an experienced hair colorist. A professional has access to stronger lightener removers and can safely prep and color your hair in one session. Salon options may include:
- Full highlight removal – Strip all lightener out then tone and dye hair.
- Lowlighting – Add darker lowlights underneath to contrast with highlights.
- Full color change – Dye over highlights in a darker shade.
- Root shadow – Darker color melted from the root area down to light ends.
Be sure to do a consultation first to determine the right technique and realistic results for your hair goals and existing condition.
Aftercare to extend time between highlight removal
To help dark, dyed-over highlights last longer between color touch-ups:
- Use a color-safe sulfate-free shampoo.
- Wash hair less often and use cooler water.
- Use a weekly strengthening hair mask.
- Protect hair from sun exposure and chlorine/salt water.
- Avoid heat styling when possible.
Focusing on gentle hair care keeps the cuticle smooth. This helps lock in artificial dye molecules for longer lasting color results.
It is possible to effectively darken highlighted hair at home with some preparation and the right products. For significant color changes, visiting a salon ensures safely lifting old highlights and depositing fresh darker dye evenly across all hair strands in one session. With proper aftercare, darkened highlights can maintain their richness for weeks or months before roots require touching up. Although it takes some work, you can successfully achieve softer, subtler highlights or a completely different single color by dyeing hair darker after highlighting.