How to Grow Out Your Natural Hair Color

Woman with root growth brushing her hair up
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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 coloe. 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 your natural color, there can be something refreshing about resetting back to natural.

But you don't have to let it all grow out. Exactly what you do will depend on what 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.

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 where you can just grow it out, embrace an ombre-ish look until regular haircuts even the shade out. If you're really ready to have it gone, though, you can replace those highlights with lowlights in a shade close to your natural color every 6 to 12 weeks until the highlights have disappeared.

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.

They'll 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 to your head.

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.

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. 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.

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. 

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 grows, on average, one half-inch per month. If you keep your hair long, it will likely take years before your hair is truly "natural" again.

If you color your hair (either light or dark), to cover gray, and are ready to embrace your natural gray hair, the process is different. Having your hair colored to a gray shade that will blend and match your natural gray 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.