Understanding the Removal of Artificial Colour

Updated: Sep 10

This is a very important topic and quite a complex one to wrap your head around. I’m going to break it down as best and as simply as I can for everyone to gain a better understanding on why some lighter and cleaner colours are a lot harder to achieve and why this is the case when artificial colour is already present in your hair.


We all have colour pigments in our hair which determine which level our natural hair colour sits at. These three underlying pigments are red, orange and yellow, which are present in everyone’s hair. The darker the hair, the more red pigments and the lighter the hair, more orange/yellow pigments exist.


I think all hairdressers would agree we would always love to lighten natural hair over coloured hair as we always achieve a lighter and cleaner result, therefore achieving tones that usually resemble people’s inspirational photographs. However, this is something we have to be versatile with and work with as we do it a lot in salon, people like to change their hair and it’s a great way to instantly feel different.


When we colour hair dark, or add more warmth in, we are adding artificial colour pigments into the hair. This combined with the natural pigments of the hair can be a lot harder to remove than uncoloured hair, as it’s not only the underlying pigment we now have to worry about but also previous colour services. We have to try and remove as much of the artificial colour and also lift the natural level, which usually creates a warmer undertone and can take a few appointments to achieve clients desired result.


It can be very hard for people who have been colouring their hair dark for a long time to achieve a beautiful clean blonde. If people have been colouring their hair with a warmer red or orange based colour, it’s even harder again as our hair is made up of these pigments like I explained. Orange is the hardest pigment to remove, especially after prolonged experience to warmer colours. We can always counteract warm tones with toners at the basin but understand that the underlying pigment is still there and to counteract a warmer tone you may have to start off toning down a bit darker to see less of that warmth. The issues surrounding this are that the toner does fade and that the warmer tone will slowly come through again. Each time you go lighter, expect that undertone to change and also be aware it could take a few appointments depending on where you want to end up and also keep in mind the condition of the hair. Always listen to your hairdresser’s advice. We have to be so careful lightening hair as well, as it can really damage the hair cuticle if not done slowly and gently.


Achieving your dream colour might not be as easy as you may imagine but with your hairdressers guidance and a thorough consultation, hopefully your goal can be reached within a few appointments. Expect a much warmer colour after your first appointment if you have been colouring your hair or have a very dark natural base to begin with. Hopefully this can provide a bit of insight into the lightning process and what to expect when you start lightening your hair.






Shauna Lee

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