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Dear Color Crew: How Do I Color Highlighted Hair?

by Madison Reed September 16, 2021

Woman with blonde highlighted hair smiling

Image by Madison Reed

Dear Color Crew is a monthly blog post where we answer hair-related questions–no matter how hairy they may be–from readers like you. Got a question? Email our team of professional colorists at

Dear Color Crew,
I have highlights but I would like to go back to my natural color. How do I do this without the color coming out differently on the highlighted hair versus the rest of my hair? Can I even do this at home?

Great question! Especially coming out of the summer and into fall when many people are thinking of going from their summer highlighted hair to a darker shade. It takes a couple of steps, but going back to your natural color or darker can be done at home. Keep in mind that going to a darker shade might be a shock at first, so take your time.

First off, let’s talk about what’s happening with highlights and hair color. When you get your hair highlighted, you’re removing natural pigment from the hair by using a bleach or high lift permanent color. The lightening process can make your hair more porous. To go back to your natural color, you need to put back in what has been taken out. It should be a two-step process...


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How To Get Your Natural Hair Color Back After Highlights

  • Luckily, it's easier than you think. First, apply a  hair gloss, such as our award-winning Color Reviving Gloss, then a permanent color like our award-winning Radiant Hair Color. (Yep, both have won Allure Best of Beauty awards!) This will ensure that your highlighted color won’t look too dark or drab.

  • Not sure which shade is right for you? If you have any questions at all, you can always book a complimentary Video Hair Color Consultation with a Licensed Colorist Concierge. Or just take our color quiz. We have stunning permanent hair color shades for:

  • brown hair

  • blonde hair

  • red hair

  • black hair

How to Choose a Gloss To Apply To Highlighted Hair

  • If you’re going back to black or dark brown, choose a gloss that has warm bronze tones. Color Reviving Gloss in Amaretto is a rich mahogany that will deposit bronze tones before applying permanent color.

  • Amaretto-Allure- Interim Package

  • If you’re going back to medium brown to light brown, choose a gloss with copper gold tones. Color Reviving Gloss in Cannellahas the copper-gold that does the job.

  • Canella-Allure- Interim Package

  • For those that have used bleach for a super blonde look and want to go back to a medium to a light blonde, choose a gloss with gold tones, such as Color Reviving Gloss in Prosecco.

  • Prosecco-Allure- Interim Package

How to Apply Gloss to Highlighted Hair

Color Reviving Gloss is easy to apply—there is no mixing required, and you simply apply it on dry hair. Focus on the hair that has been lightened the most and leave it on for 20 minutes. Shampoo and dry hair.


How to Choose Permanent Color

If your natural hair color is a black to a light brown, we suggest choosing a color from our Knockout Shades in the NNN series (those in the NNA category will be too cool for going darker as they contain ashy tones). They are neutral shades that have a lot of pigment and perfect for going darker (and covering grays!). You will want to choose a color that has gold tones, and steer clear of colors that have ash tones.

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How to Apply Permanent Color to Highlighted Hair

How to dye over highlights at home? Here's the next step. Your roots will need to process longer than the rest of your hair, so apply your color to the roots first and set a timer for 15 minutes. Your mid-lengths and ends will grab the color faster, and need less processing time. Once the timer goes off, apply the color to your mid-lengths and ends and set the timer for another 20 minutes. If you want a darker result, let the color process for another 5-10 minutes.

Do I Really Need a Gloss Before I Go Back to My Natural Color?

Not necessarily. Highlights that are slightly lighter than your natural color do not need a gloss. In this case, we suggest using one of our shades from our line of Knockouts. These shades range from black to a light brown.

How Do I Maintain My New Darker Shade?

Because the hair is lightened, the color may fade depending on porosity and the shampoo used. To protect your color and help keep it from fading, we recommend using our Color Protecting Shampoo and Conditioner to maintain the color. To keep your color hydrated and toned, you can use our Color Therapy color depositing hair mask in place of your regular conditioner. To maintain your color and add intense shine, you can use Color Reviving Gloss between coloring sessions.

Still have questions on how to dye highlighted hair? No worries. Like we said, you can always schedule a complimentary Video Color Consultation with a Licensed Colorist Concierge who will be able to look at your hair and give you tips and tricks. Or visit one of 85+ Madison Reed Hair Color Bars to have it colored for you. Either way, it’s going to be a beautiful fall!

Introducing Light Works - The First Balayage At Home Hair Highlighting Kit
And don't miss this detailed overview on Balayage.

Originally published: July 12, 2017

Updated: September 16, 2021