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3 Best Ways to Remove Highlights from Hair

Whoopsies! You thought a full highlight would be just the look you wanted, but now, you can’t stand the golden streaks you’ve added to your hair. Suddenly, you miss your natural hair color, and you’re looking for the best way to get back to it.

Or you loved that beautiful balayage your stylist gave you, but after a year, it’s super grown out and dull; you’re ready to go a bit darker. Not to worry, there are a few ways to cover up or remove highlights from your hair!

We will go through the best methods used to remove highlights and even give you the steps, so you can get back to the hair that you’ve been missing.

How to Get Rid of Highlights from Hair

Method #1: Tone Hair with Color Closest to Your Natural

Ways to Remove Highlights from Hair - Toning

If your hair is highlighted just a shade or two lighter than your natural, this could be a great option for you. 

Toner is a demi-permanent hair color used to correct unwanted tones or lightness in the hair. It can deepen lightened hair, making your highlights darker and leaving you with a beautiful, dimensional hair color.

Another great thing about toner, it’s relatively easy to apply at home, or if you prefer to see your stylist, it’s a quick service, usually taking an hour or less. Since demi-permanent toners do wash out of the hair over time, you’ll have to repeat this process every couple of months. 

Steps to Tone Hair at Home:

  1. Choose a shade that is close to your natural hair color. For example, if your hair is naturally a level 6 (lightest brown) choose a toner in a level 6. You also will need to purchase a developer, which is usually sold separately. Toners use a low developer, such as a 5 or 7 volume. 
  2. Mix toner in an applicator bottle or in a bowl with a brush. Toners are usually mixed in a 1:2 ratio but make sure to follow the directions included with the color.
  3. Apply the toner to clean, towel-dried hair (make sure you get as much moisture out of the hair as possible before applying), and work in sections to make sure the hair is saturated. This can get messy, so be careful! 
  4. Let the toner process for the recommended time, usually about 10 minutes. 
  5. Rinse hair well and use a color-safe conditioner. Blow dry to see your highlights are no longer noticeable, and you’re back to natural! 
  6. Repeat every 2-3 months or when the highlights start to show again.

Method #2: Color Hair with Demi-Permanent or Permanent Hair Color

Ways to Remove Highlights from Hair - Full hair dye

If your hair is a few shades lighter than your natural or you know you don’t want to go light again for at least a year, this could be the route you want to take. 

When the highlights in your hair are much lighter than your natural, a toner might not be enough to hide them completely. In this case, you’ll want to do an all-over color with either a demi-permanent or permanent hair color.

Doing an all-over color is different than a toner because you’ll be applying the color on dry hair, and toners do not have a permanent option.

If you choose a permanent hair color (it will give you the least amount of fading), be sure you are ready to commit to the dark color for at least a year because highlighting through dark, permanent color can be almost impossible in some cases and/or damage hair. If you’re unsure, see a stylist to decide on what kind of color is right for you. 

Steps for an All-Over Color:

Step 1: Choose a shade either the same as your natural or darker, depending on your desired look. For example, if you’re naturally a level 7, choose a level 7 or darker. Also, decide whether you need demi-permanent or permanent hair dye.

If you want a lower amount of fading and going longer between coloring, choose permanent dyes. If you aren’t sure if you want to keep darker hair for a year or more and don’t mind a little more maintenance to keep highlights hidden, choose demi-permanent.

Make sure you also have a developer, for all over- color you’ll need 10 or 20 volume (the instructions on the hair dye will tell you what to use). 

Pro tip: Be sure to take into consideration if your hair is feeling dry or damaged, a demi-permanent will be the more moisturizing and gentle option in those cases. 

Step 2: Mix up the color in a bowl with a brush. Follow the directions for your specific hair dye but hair dye is usually a 1:1 ratio of color to developer.

Step 3: Section dry hair into four quadrants using clips to make color application a breeze. Work back to front using the color brush to fully saturate all of the hair. 

Pro-tip: use gloved hands to emulsify color into the hair after coloring each section. This will ensure proper saturation. Proper saturation is key if you want those highlights gone! 

Step 4: Let the color process. The processing time is usually about 30 minutes, follow the instructions included.

Step 5: Thoroughly rinse hair color out and follow with color-safe shampoo and conditioner. Blow dry to see the results! 

Method # 3: Get the Right Haircut

Ways to Remove Highlights from Hair - Cutting Hair

If your highlights are very grown out, and you’re ready for a shorter look or even just a big trim, this could be an amazing choice. 

Getting a haircut is the only way to 100% remove highlights from your hair. Although you can hide your highlights with darker colors, they’re still underneath the hair and can be seen again as hair color fades.

If you’re wanting to get back to natural without the upkeep of coloring your hair, a haircut is an amazing choice! The amount of hair you will need to remove depends on how grown out your highlights are.

If they’re super grown out, you may only need a couple of inches off, but if the highlights are further up, you could consider a bob or even a cute pixie!

Steps to Getting the Perfect Haircut:

  1. Find a hairstylist you trust!
  2. On the day of your appointment, be prepared with lots of inspiration photos, and make sure you know how much hair you feel comfortable cutting.
  3. Let your stylist know you want a haircut that will remove old highlights. 
  4. Sit back, enjoy your haircut, and step out of the salon ready to show the world your new look! 

Key things to remember:

  • Toner can be a great solution for easy-to-cover highlights.
  • Toners need to be touched up fairly often but are the gentlest, easiest option.
  • For more difficult-to-cover highlights, use a demi-permanent or permanent hair dye for all-over color.
  • All-over color needs fewer touch-ups, especially permanent hair color but can be a bigger commitment if you like to change hair color often. 
  • To permanently remove highlights from your hair, you’ll need a haircut.