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Last updated: August 20, 2019

What Would You Do: Leftover Box Dye—Use A Color Remover Or Color Over It?

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Should You Remove Old Box Color First Or Just Color Over It?

There’s nothing more infuriating than a client who is devoted to her at-home box dye sessions, especially when she uses dark color to cover blonde hair (and then wants to go lighter again). One stylist in this scenario wants to know—should she use a color remover first or just go in with the lightener and hope for the best? Keep reading to find out what advice BTC Community members had to offer!


“I have a client coming to me for the second time. Last time was just for a cut and I told her I noticed that she had greenish ends caused by a dark box color covering light hair. And she told me she tried covering her blonde hair that she got done at another salon awhile ago. Now she’s coming back for me to bayalage her hair. The question I’m asking is would you guys do a color remover and then balayage or just trust the bayalage to lift it evenly?”


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Def Do A Strand Test

“Before giving her any expectations of what a color service can do, I would strand test. That way you and her know exactly what the hair can do. I would then prep the hair with Malibu C Crystal Gel Wellness Hair Remedy to remove any build up on the hair. Also, green ends from a dark color is a great indicator of previously lifted hair. The green/blue comes from the fact that porous hair rejects warm tones. I would process very carefully and use professional judgement on how to lighten her again while keeping the integrity of the hair intact.” – @fayedidhair


“Always strand test before! I usually make that a prerequisite before I even book the appointment. I just tell them to stop in for a free strand test, and then we snip a piece of hair. When I get time, I will process it and that will determine what/if any color/lightening will be accomplished at a future appointment.” – Diane D’Amore Mangino


“If the box color has metallic salts, her hair may melt. Strand test and see what happens. If you use color remover, her hair may be reddish and then you need to dye her roots and balayage. Do a strand test no matter what you decide! It is your name/reputation.” – @thaysestylist


“Strand test! And inform her that she can not go from dark to light back to dark repeatedly. I would run from this girl.” – Danelle Schwerin


“If you strand test and it doesn’t melt, do a soap cap of bleach (1 oz. 30-volume developer + 3 pumps shampoo + 2 scoops bleach) on the ends to start the pull and then balayage away. I would test the soap cap first to see if it will even help pull, but it should pull the green and it will already be lightened slightly.” LeeAnna George


“Strand test. She could have metallic salts in her hair—most box colors have them. If that’s the case, as soon as prelightener touches her hair, it will fizz away and the green won’t leave. You might have to neutralize the balayage to a light golden mahogany to cancel that out.” – Lauren Thomson


“I would do two strand tests—one with bleach and the other with the color remover. Sometimes it can lift evenly but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also, try a color remover beforehand!” – @brendiecnavarro



Color Remover For Sure

“It depends on what her end goal is. I would probably color remove all of the dark to have an even canvas, then proceed with the technique that will give her the closest to the results she’s looking for!” – @lachioma.christinalee


“I would definitely use a color remover first and then balayage. I personally do that with my clients especially when box dye is involved. You can even use a permanent clear additive by itself with a high developer—that should definitely help.” – @hairbyalycatt


“I would probably start with Rusk Elimin8 Color Corrector. I’ve had the best results pulling out oxidative haircolor that way because it will not damage the hair. I do, however, skip the neutralizing step if I’m going to lighten and always formulate two shades lighter for anything I apply over top. When toning balayage after color remover, I mix it with clear and apply at the bowl so it’ll be quicker and I’ll be ready to rinse out when needed.” – Taylor Davis


“Consultation and strand tests are a must! Make sure you’ve given her realistic expectations based upon your findings from the strand test. I personally wouldn’t use a color stripper, as a lot of times they pull ash. Use Olaplex and start slow. If her hair is too damaged, don’t try to get around it. Be honest, be thorough and do it gently.” – @celebrity_hair_ninja


“Definitely the color remover. You’re taking a risk with just the balayage, which would be really hard to fix after the fact.” – @kristiebethair


“I love the Malibu C CPR Color Pigment Reducer or the Malibu C DDL Direct Dye Lifter for color removal! It would give you a much more even canvas to work with. Box color can be especially hard and sketchy to lift out with lightener, and you have to consider that there’s lightener under the box color. Toning always helps fill in uneven tones as well if you still end up with them.” – @britfoxgirl


“I wouldn’t trust balayage if you already see green. I had a young girl come in with dark brown box color over blonde and I did a full foil, then I saw that it was lifting green. We ended up having to tone her to an ashy light brown, and the whole process took me all day. It was the worst. If there’s any chance a color remover can be used, I would go that route. Then play it by ear. Make sure she knows she created a very unpredictable situation with box dye and that your priority before doing anything as simple as balayage is going to be color correction—getting that box dye outta there as gently and safely as possible. It may take a few sessions.” – Chandra Dee



Just Go For It!

“I feel like lightener does the same job that a color removal does so I personally just go in and balayage with foils. I always get great results! Now, will you get her to a perfect Level 10? Probably not. But it’s all about an even, consistent professional color. After giving her a consistent color, in the future you can tell her about going lighter and the process.” – @dreamhairbydaisy


Or Tell Her To Come Back Later 😂

“Don’t you just love the clients who want a fresh, beautiful balayage after months, or even years, of box coloring their hair? Tell her to let the box color fade out and to catch you in a few months or so.” – Kaela Christine


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