There's little doubt that dyeing your hair can give you an instant lift, but finding the right hair colour to complement your skin tone is a tricky business. What looks great on a mate might be a disaster for you. If you feel it's time to return to the colour Mother Nature gave you, be prepared to spend time and some TLC on your locks. Don't despair: While celebrities spend hundreds of pounds correcting their colour at Mayfair salons, you can achieve the natural look more affordably at home.
Moving from a darker shade back to blonde is the easiest colour transition. As a first step, wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo. This will remove excess pigment and strip back the extreme colour. Repeated use will continue to fade the dye.
As an alternative to using clarifying shampoo, try anti-dandruff shampoos such as Head and Shoulders or Vosene. Used repeatedly, they leave your hair free of any product build-up and are well-known for helping return dark-dyed hair to its natural colour.
Remove any remaining hair dye safely with a bleach-free correction product, such as the Hair Colour Remover from celebrity hairdresser Louise Galvin or Colour B4 from British company MediChem. These products work by shrinking dye molecules and releasing them from the hair shaft, allowing them to be rinsed away.
Once the dye has been stripped from your hair, you can complete the natural look by adding subtle high or lowlights. Choose colours close to your original hair colour so that they won't be noticed as they grow out.
Back to black
It is trickier to alter your dyed blonde locks, as hair dye can only be removed if it is darker than your original colour. Instead, you will have to apply more dye over the lighter shade if you want to return to your glowing dark tresses.
One option is to add multi-tonal lowlights to soften the dyed colour and bring it closer to your natural look. Choose a product close to your own hair colour to break up the blonde. As your natural colour grows through, blend it in by adding multi-tonal highlights to the roots.
A quicker alternative is to apply a block colour to your hair. This is tricky and should be done in stages, taking the blonde hair gradually down to your desired final colour. Brunettes have an underlying pigment of red in their hair, which needs to be replaced before the darker shades will take. Without a red tone, your hair will look green or ash.
Choose a block colour slightly darker than your dyed hair. Don't be tempted to use another permanent colour; a red-based semi-permanent product works best. The gentler chemicals will restore the rainbow of colour molecules your washed-out hair needs.
Allow the colour to settle for two to three weeks, then apply a second, darker semi-permanent shade, closer to your natural hair colour. Repeat this until you achieve the colour you want. Haircuts will gradually remove the dyed hair, until you are left with luscious locks in your natural colour.
Luckily, the ombré look, sported by celebrities like Rihanna and Nicola Roberts, is a classy solution to the dark roots problem. Tapering your sun-kissed surfer look to a dark oaky brown at the scalp is easy with brush-on colours that blend and blur the tones.
Use the hair product manufacturer's customer helpline for advice. They have specialist colourist advisors on hand to help with any problems. Their contact details will be on the package.
Always follow the manufacturer's instructions; the chemicals in hair colourants should be handled with care.
Pamper your hair with deep conditioners between treatments, as repeated colour applications will dry it out and make it susceptible to breakage.
Semi-permanent hair colours wash out in four to six weeks.
Always carry out a skin allergy test 48 hours before using any hair colour product. If your scalp stings or burns, rinse immediately and do not use that product.
If you become short of breath while using hair colourant, rinse it out thoroughly and contact your GP or NHS walk-in centre immediately for advice.
Never use hair colourants on eyelashes or brows, beards or moustaches.