Ask Hannah: How Do I Gradually Darken My Hair?

An easy guide to the dark-to-light hair look. (With a fancy diagram!)
Publish date:
April 16, 2011
hair, hair dye, ask

Hi Hannah,

I've been blonde for a little over a year (classic cliche, "wash that man right out of my hair" move after a break-up), but I'm ready to go back to my old hair color, which is kind of light-to-medium brown. I've already got about a half an inch of brown grown in, but I don't know what to do next. I don't want it to be super-abrupt, like, blonde one day, and brunette the next. Plus, I'm really into the ombre look, so I'd love to somehow keep some of the blonde toward my ends. What should I do??

- Megan

Hey Megan. So there are two ways I can think of doing this. First of all though, I want to preface this by saying that I'm no professional colourist, just a girl who's been DIY dyeing and cutting her own hair in the bathroom for the last 10 years. These suggestions are just what I would do, and I'm pretty confident that they'll work out for what you want.

Method A:

Supplies: You're going to need a dye obviously. I like Clairol Nice 'n' Easy, you can get it at any drugstore and it has 56 shades in warm, neutral or cool tones so you can find one that matches your roots or go for something different. They have a shade, 114A, called "Natural Lightest Golden Brown" that would be a nice match but again, I'd suggest going to the drugstore and checking out the boxes to see what stands out to you.

You're also gonna need a tint brush, which you can buy from a beauty supply store, like Sally Beauty Supply, for about a dollar.

Once you've got your supplies, follow the instructions on the dye box to get everything mixed and ready, and then refer to this dye-agram (lame, I know) I drew for colour application.

Start at your roots. That way, the colour is left on there longest and will be most saturated/darkest there. Then, continue applying the dye downward 'til about the tops of your ears (or lower, these guidelines are up for playing with). When you find a point where you want the colour to start to fade, break out the tint brush and start painting the colour on a little sparingly, avoiding the tips all together. Leave on for however long it says, rinse, and bam, if everything goes accordingly, you should be left with a light brown allover colour and blond tips.

Method B: The Longer Way

Supplies: Hair dye and tint brush as above, and a highlighting kit like Revlon's Frost & Glow.

This method would be done when you've got a weekend to yourself. Say, Friday night, you'd dye your hair brown. All over, root to tip, even colour. You'd let it dry and leave it be. Skip to Saturday night, you're going to break out the tint brush and use it to paint in your lighter tips and any highlights you might want.

This method works if you want more control over where the highlights go, and maybe if you dye your hair and find it's too dark, you can lighten it up with the bleach kit. It all really depends on how much time you have and how confident you are in your "hair-painting" skills. I think either method would work out great, but it's all about putting it into practice!

There's also Method C, which involves paying a stylist to do it for you. But what fun is that?

I hope this helped, and good luck in your DIY dyeing adventures!