How I Went from Dyed Black Hair to Blonde Hair Without Completely Destroying It

Learn from my year of trial and error!
Publish date:
July 27, 2016
bleach, hair color, blonde hair, ombre, lightening, damaged hair

Once upon a time, I had platinum hair, and I loved it. But eventually, I wanted a change, so I dyed it a deep red. And then, after red, I dyed it dark brown. And after dark brown, I figured, what the heck — I'll dye it black! And I kept it black for six years straight.

Even though I was bored of it after the first couple of years, I was terrified of lightening it. I really didn't want to risk damaging my hair by lifting it. But after half a decade, I finally decided to lift the ends into an ombré.

However, the colorist I entrusted fried off most of what she lightened. Her immediate response to my hair after she lightened it was "Uh oh... I'm so sorry. This is really bad. It's crumbling off in my hands."

Yeah. That actually happened.

I lost about six inches of length to that. She didn't even charge me for doing my hair, she felt so bad. Needless to say, I never saw her again.

After that incident, I dyed it all dark again and waited it out for another year to try and grow out what she had fried off. Finally, after a year, it had grown back to its original length, and I decided to go to a different colorist that a few of my blonde friends highly recommended. I decided to give it another go and try lifting it all over.

When you lighten black hair, it often goes coppery red. Luckily, I didn't really care what color it went as long as it wasn't black anymore. And it actually turned out being a pretty nice red after we lifted it. But I knew my desired look was more of a brown/blonde ombré, so I booked another appointment to lighten it three months after the initial lightening.

I waited this long between lightening sessions because when you bleach your hair, even if you use Olaplex (which is what I swear by now) you have to take your time between lifting it, or it will end up over-processed and break off — which is exactly what I didn't want to do (again). So I went in stages, always using Olaplex and waiting two or three months between each lightening session.

After the initial lightening of the black and a couple ombré attempts I ended up switching to my current colorist, Lisa Dubois, because I didn't really like how the ombré technique was working out. She seemed to just be adding highlights as opposed to doing a color fade or gradient, which wasn't what I was asking for or paying for.

Lisa is still my colorist today, and I can't say it enough good things about her. I always trust her to do exactly what I ask for, without totally murdering my hair. I always know she's going to make sure my hair is healthy.

She also really knows her stuff, so I always ask Lisa a million questions throughout the process, so I figured I'd share some of her hair-color tips with you! She told me:

  • Effasol is a gentler hair cleanse used to remove color build up to have a better base to start out with versus just bleaching it to lighten.
  • Olaplex is great to have added to your service to help maintain the hair's integrity. It repairs the hair's bonds to keep it stronger.
  • Previously colored hair may take four ot five times to get lightened to the lightest blonde without over-processing.
  • In between appointments, you should be using damage-repair shampoo and conditioners.
  • Once the desired level of blonde is achieved, only lighten the root area for touch-ups. There is never a need to put lightener on already lightened hair after you've reached the desired look; this causes damage, and no amount of treatments or repair shampoos and conditioners will fix ongoing damage.
  • You really do have to get your hair trimmed to keep it healthy every four to six weeks, or it could start looking stringy and thin at the ends. (This has definitely happened to me when I put off trimming it in hopes that it would just grow longer. The opposite happened.)

One of the most important things other than making sure you don't bleach your hair for too long or too close together is having a good shampoo, conditioner and hair masks. I learned that the hard way. My hair was perfectly healthy and long for months, but when I went on vacation, I forgot all of my hair stuff at home and ended up using the hotel shampoo and conditioner they give you. WORST. DECISION. EVER. My hair felt like straw and actually started breaking off. Within the 10 days I was on vacation without my hair stuff, and only washing my hair a few times, it broke off about four inches. I mean, there was some length left, but only stringy bits. It was pretty bad.

As soon as I got home, I used my trusted Davines Nounou Shampoo, Conditioner and Hair Mask. Within the first wash, my hair felt entirely different. It finally felt smooth and soft again. And like hair, not straw. It's actually insane how much a good shampoo/conditioner can make such difference. I'll never leave home without it again.

And of course, if your hair does start breaking off and looking stringy and thin at the ends, don't wait — get the trim. I waited because I didn't want to cut it and make it shorter. I should have just gotten it trimmed as soon as I noticed it was looking stringy. It ended up having to be cut even shorter than it would have if I had gotten the trim right away because by then, the damage had worked its way up even higher in my hair.

Now I'm in the process of growing those four inches back, so I take a multivitamin and biotin every day. You don't have to take biotin — some say that biotin can cause breakouts, especially with the higher amounts, but I've never noticed any break outs or side effects from it. Drinking water also helps a lot.

I also don't wash my hair any more than two or three times a week if possible, and I try not to use hot tools on it any more than twice a week. You really just have to let your hair chill out more often than not.

So it is possible to go from dyed-black hair to blonde without totally damaging the hell out of it. You just have to make sure you take your time, baby your hair as much as possible, and use really good shampoo and conditioner. And masks — lots and lots of masks. It took me about 10 months to get to the blonde that I wanted, so be prepared to wait it out. It's definitely a process, and a very costly one, but in the end, it was worth it.