Step 1: Color Remover

The question I am asked the most often is how to lighten dark hair to a light blonde color? Let me take you through the steps...

The first thing you should do to lighten dark hair, is get as much black (or dark color) out of your hair as you can. You may have to do this process a few times.  Color remover, like “Color Oops,” works by entering the hair shaft and removing the artificial color molecules.  It does not remove any of the natural pigment in your hair.  Because of this, this step will not work on hair that has not been previously colored.

Color remover will not return your hair to the same color it was before dying it.  

The end result of using color remover is going to be a brassy color.  You can tone this color and live with a more desirable tone of hair for a few weeks.  Since the color remover may cause some damage, spend time reconditioning your hair.

The question I am asked the most often is how to lighten dark hair to a light blonde color? Let me take you through the steps...

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Hollee Wood is a professional hairstylist with over 10 years of experience in the hair industry. She loves teaching about the science of hair along with everything else beautiful.


  1. Debra Chambers Reply

    Help please🤔I have colored my hair with a 7
    Medium ash blonde by Loreal Excellence line. Will Hi Lift Loreal Feria Downtown Brown compliment this color or do nothing? It says on the box it takes dark and medium browns to a cool blonde.
    Thanks in advance

    • Is it talking about virgin hair or previously colored hair? Theoretically, it wouldn’t lift hair that has been dyed. You can always call the color company (the number should be somewhere in the packaging) and ask them about it. Good luck!

  2. Tracy Perez Reply

    I am so glad I found your blog! Great information. I have very dark brown hair that I have box colored myself for years to cover my about 20% gray. I want to start highlighting my hair heavily looking for a pretty salt and pepper look, I am 58. My stylist told me it would take mos. I thought she had to be wrong because I see so many celebrities go a different color in a day. Your articles have helped me to understand it now! I guess I’ll keep my stylist LOL😉

    • Thank you for the kind words! And… celebrities definitely use a lot of fake hair. If they fry all of their hair off, they’ll chop it off and wear extensions. I was front row at Britney Spears one time and I noticed a ton of breakage on her hair…haha. Even if it could be done in one setting, your hair will be much happier to take it slower!!

  3. Hi there, i have naturally dull light brown hair and want to go to an ash blonde. I currently have the remainder of a darker brown box dye (4 months old) on my hair. Will a decent box dye work on my hair as it would be between 2-3 shades lighter or should I rather go through the whole process?

    • You’ll definitely want to lighten the previously-colored parts of your hair, otherwise they will both be different tones. Good luck!

  4. Hello!thankyou for this informative post could you please guide me how can i go light brown,i have naturally dark brown hair color and i got highlights once but now as the highlights have faded im left with blonde stripes which is not so classy is their anyway i can do it at home?i have sallys near me pleade recommend some products from there or Walmart!thanks

    • That should be pretty easy but it might still be a little lighter than the rest of your hair. The best way to match it would be to put the new color only over the highlights, while leaving the rest of your hair out of the color. Does that make sense? You would probably want to use foils to section out the highlights as much as possible. It would honestly be a lot easier to have someone else do it, but if you are willing to try, I would definitely go to Sally and buy your supplies there. Just talk to the people that work there about what you want to do and they should be able to help you. You’ll want to pick out the shade of brown you want to use, and use a 10v developer with it (you aren’t lightening your hair, only depositing color). If your highlights are super blonde (like white or platinum blonde), then you might have to use a filler first. They sell fillers at Sally so you can ask them about that too. Just follow the instructions on the filler and color that you chose. If you are confused, the color brands usually have a hotline you can call to get additional help. Good luck! Hope it all turns out well! 🙂

  5. I have virgin dark blonde hair color with highlights of gray. I want to go platinum and do it myself. My hair length is only to earlobes. What would you recommend as my steps to achieve the desired look? Thank you for your time and advice.

    • Hi Janie! Thanks for the question! Since your hair is virgin, and naturally a blonde color, I would look into using a high-lift blonde color. Platinum blonde usually has a purple base, so make sure you chose a high-lift blonde that says “platinum” in the name of the color. Another option would be to bleach it (you can use a low-volume developer to minimize damage) and tone it with a platinum toner. I don’t see you having a problem getting it to the desired level with either of those methods. Good luck! 🙂

  6. Hi there,
    I don’t want to go blonde – but I do want to go lighter – just a nice darker brown (so that my grey doesn’t show up so quickly and with such contrast). I have naturally black hair – and I color it with natural black to hide the grey – I’d say I am about 25% grey. My hair grows super fast, is very thick and naturally wavy. It’s also porous, so it takes color pretty quickly. Bleaching is scary to me. What would color oops do to my hair? I’ve read about it but it too scares me! lol – I was researching quite a bit online and found the Feria Hi-lift color – but that looks like it is only for virgin hair. Any suggestions? Thank you!

    • Hi Daphne! The hi-lift color will not work on colored hair. It would probably make your roots a really blonde color and won’t do anything to the rest of your hair. Color oops may lighten some of the color out, but probably not since I’m guessing you’ve probably colored over the colored hair many times. It will probably be pretty hard to lift out, but since you are only wanting to go to a dark brown, it can probably be done. My advice would be to go to a hairstylist to get it to the color you want. Then, it might be easier for you to match your outgrowth to that color on your own. Just remember that if you keep coloring over the colored hair, it will continue to get darker and darker. Please let me know if you have any other questions! Hope it helps! 🙂

  7. Hi Hollee, Love your blog 🙂 I’m wondering, will a toner work on a drugstore box dye? I used to use Garnier nutrisse in chamomile and got tons of compliments but I always felt it was wayyyy too warm and brassy. Wondering if a toner would work on that?

    • Thank you so much for the kind words and question! It should work because toners just deposit pigment to counteract the color you don’t want. It isn’t going to lighten your hair at all, but will help cancel out some brassy tones. My best advice, if you want to do it yourself, would be to go to Sally Beauty Supply and talk to someone (make sure they are experienced with hair color) about the best tone to use. Hope it helps!! 🙂

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