How to Grow Out Your Natural Hair Color


@ursulastephen / Design by Michela Buttignol

Whether you initially changed your hair color in order to mask some greys, or you just wanted a different shade, there may come a turning point where you decide that you want to go back to your natural color. If you're sick of salon bills and want to save money on your hair routine, need a healthy change of pace, or perhaps have completely forgotten what your natural color actually is, there can be something refreshing about resetting. But you don't have to let it all grow out. Exactly what you do will depend on the coloring you've had before, and what your goals are in the future. Above all, speaking to a professional about your particular head of hair is highly recommended. We chatted with the experts to determine a handful of easy ways to grow out your dye and embrace the natural look.

Meet the Expert

Keep scrolling to learn how to seamlessly transition back to your natural hair color.

Consult a Hairstylist

Woman with natural brown hair and blonde highlights


"Always ask advice or work with a professional colorist that understands hair color," says professional colorist and R + Co. Collective member Richy Kandasamy. "They will make sure your colorist knows your hair color history and can guide you through the smoothest transition without damaging the integrity of your hair."

Determine the Best Steps Forward

Justine Skye wears wavy ash brown hair with natural dark roots


Hair color that's been darkened also needs a tint back, but the process is different. Again, use a professional, and allow your hair to grow for two to three months before your appointment. Dark permanent hair color cannot be removed by simply applying a lighter shade of permanent color to your hair. Hair dye cannot lift colored hair. So, if you darken your hair and think you can successfully lighten your hair by putting a lighter box of hair color over it, you're going to learn a hard lesson and will probably need the help of a professional to fix it. In a regular tint back, your stylist will remove the darker color by lightening via either a soap cap application or a color remover application. After the darker color has been lifted to the desired natural level, a color or color toner will then be applied in the natural shade that you desire.

It's different if you lighten your hair more than that. Highlighting heavily, coloring it in a lighter shade, or changing the tone turns going back to natural into a bit more of a task, but it's not typically complicated. The first step is to do nothing—just let your hair grow out for at least two to three months. From there, your stylist will understand what your natural color is.

Transition to Your Natural Shade Over Time

Tessa Thompson wears box braids with colored ends


If you've just added a few highlights to your hair to brighten it up a bit, transitioning to your natural shade is going to be pretty simple. This is one of those instances in which you can just grow it out and embrace an experimental ombré look until regular haircuts even the shade out. "You can get natural highlights or lowlights to get a softer blend of transition as your natural hair is growing," Kandasamy says.

If you're really itching to have any dye gone, you can replace highlights with lowlights in a shade close to your natural color every six to 12 weeks until the highlights have disappeared.

Alternately, you can slowly transition your hair by glossing it to replicate the color of your roots. "The best way to grow out your natural color, especially coming from a highlight or balayage look, is to have your colorist gloss down your hair back to the natural level of the roots to allow the natural root to blend as it grows," says IGK Hair Care founder Chase Kusero.

Let it Grow, Then Tint

Vic Styles wears long passion twists


Your stylist might have you do a "tint back" to a shade that is as close to your natural color as possible. But, it's not as simple as applying a color that looks like your natural color. During a tint back process, a filler (a semi or demi-permanent color that is applied prior to your permanent color, likely an orange or copper shade) will need to be applied to replace the missing pigments that your darker color will require. Some fillers are added directly to permanent color formulations.

Proper hair filling will ensure that your hair tone is even, and will prevent your hair from turning green or muddy. We suggest you see a professional for a tint back service. The cost to fix a mistake made during tinting back will far outweigh any savings you get from replacing your natural color yourself.

Go Gray

Shoulder-length wavy gray hair


If you color your hair (either light or dark) to cover gray, and are ready to embrace your natural hair, the process is different. Having your hair colored to a gray shade that will blend and match your natural color is nearly impossible. The grow-out process can be long, but if you're ready for the challenge there are a few things you can do to make the process less painful. If you cut your hair often, and keep it short, the time to grow your natural hair out will be significantly shorter. You can try highlights, or a demi-permanent color as well.

Chop Your Hair Shorter

Taylor Hill wears a wavy bob haircut


"You can have a shorter haircut if you like a proper seasonal extreme change and it can be the best way to speed up the waiting process when growing out your natural hair color," Kandasamy says. "A professional stylist will advise a haircut that will be suitable for your face shape and style."

If you prefer longer hair, however, Kandasamy says, "You can always go for regular monthly trims and slowly work your way as your roots grow out."

Be Patient

Lily-Rose Depp wears long hair in her natural sandy color with a slight wave


"You must understand that it will take some patience during the transition," says Kandasamy. "You will have to grow your roots at least one to two inches. That means you will have to wait anywhere from two to four months to allow your hair to grow an inch or two. (If you can, wait even longer)."

Depending on how much you lightened your hair in the past, your hair's porosity, and its overall health, it may take more than one color appointment over the course of two to six months to achieve the right tone.

For the fastest results, work with your stylist to ensure that you are properly caring for your hair, and ask them what is necessary to get the best result.

After you've tinted your hair back, you'll just need to let it grow. Remember to still treat it like colored hair: just because it's your natural color doesn't mean it isn't chemically treated. Hair usually grows roughly one half-inch per month. If you keep your hair long, it will likely take years before your hair is truly "natural" again.

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