"I'm going from blonde to brunette. You can too"

Rihanna at the 2012 Grammy awards

I went blonde for summer, but now want to get my hair back to my natural colour, which is light brown. Is this possible to DIY? I can’t afford hundreds at the salon… – Carlie

Carlie, of course you can DIY! Just do what I did when I was 19 and had been blonde my whole life, and buy an at-home dye that said ‘golden blonde’ because I thought a bit less ‘white’ would be good in my hair, and then end up with hair the colour of a soggy cigarette butt. Cute! Of course, I made haste to the closest hairdresser and tearily asked for it “to be fixed.” She used a rich brown semi and, enchanted with my new dark, shiny locks, I remained various shades of brunette for a decade. The end.

Now, while that was an especially exhilarating anecdote, it isn’t actually that far from the actual answer I am about to give you, Carlie. Because what I didn’t realise at the time of dyeing (ahhhh, the letter ‘e’ makes all the difference) is that you DO need to fill blonde hair with a “golden” shade, (which means it’s anchored in red tones – the exact tones that are stripped from your mop when you bleach it blonde), before you even think about getting it brown.

I do recommend a salon for this if it is at all feasible, because they are great at these big changes, and will do things to ensure your hair isn’t trashed in the process, and doesn’t fade after one wash, but if not, buy a semi-permanent dye in a warm golden brown shade.

Look for words like golden and chocolate, which are red-based, like Garnier HerbaShine in Dark Golden Brown, or Tints of Nature organic semipermanent hair dye in copper brown. (This is precisely why whenever you ask for a brown semi at the salon, your hair fades to red. Ask for a cool, ashy brown instead and for the love of washbasins avoid ALL talk of warm and chocolate.)

After you’ve done this semi, and dried your hair thoroughly, apply a second semi that most accurately matches your natural colour, or if you’re anything like me, your roots, which will be brazenly perched atop your scalp. Don’t be scared to go for a cool or ashy tone if that’s what you eventually want to achieve all over. Maybe L’Oreal Casting Creme Gloss in Light Brown or Iced Mocha? (Remember that colours may take darker than the box, because you have all that hungry blonde hair under there, desperate for a slurp of pigment.)


This two-step process should will get you brunette. It will not be your actual colour, it will likely be a bit darker, but you’re on your way to growing your natural brown out, and simply masking the blonde with regular semis.

It will fade quickly, because your hair will be porous from all the bleach underneath, so use weekly treatments (like Aveda Color Conserve Strengthening Treatment once a week – since you’re not spending too much cash at the salon, spend a little on a good mask or treatment) and certainly some good colour-protect shampoo and conditioner, like Redken Color Extend.

Zoe's regrowth

Another option is to do “faux-deliberate” balayage, and let your roots grow out naturally, with no semis whatsoever. This, Fiona, is what I am currently about to embark upon, inspired by Rihanna’s Tina Turner-esque hair at the Grammy’s, and the fact that I don’t want a “golden” brown, I want my natural, ashy brown, which I need to grow out a bit to match properly with a semi later (much in the year.) My groom has requested but one thing for our wedding, and that is a brunette bride. I am happy to oblige (and not because I am sick of all the blonde upkeep, I swear.)

I can do this grotty regrowth biz because I am going to be in Europe/London from May-August, and can have big filthy roots without anyone noticing or caring, because no one knows I am a beauty editor there, and am supposed to have perfect hair. Also, it might look cool, who knows! (I do, and it’s very likely it won’t.)

I’m having my hairdresser paint on a few darkish blonde highlights (as opposed to using foils, which gives a sharp line) before I go, so that the line of regrowth is not so stark and obvious. If you are silly and brave and awesome enough to do this with me, I highly recommend the same. Roots aren’t cool, guys… but deliberate balayage roots?? Now that’s hip!!!

If you’re reading this and have done light to dark yourself, by all means share your prodz suggestions.

If you’re Rihanna and you’re reading this, then thanks for the inspiration. (Regarding hair, not men.)

Zoe Foster is an author, columnist and porridge fan. She was beauty director of Cosmopolitan, Harper’s BAZAAR and PRIMPED and then collated all the best tips and tricks from her time in these roles for the beauty bible, Amazing Face. She is currently the dating columnist for Cosmopolitan magazine, although her best advice in this arena can probably be found in the dating and relationship guide, Textbook Romance , which she co-wrote with Hamish Blake. Zoe has published three novels, Air Kisses, Playing The Field and The Younger Man, and she rates them among the best novels ever written in the history of the written word. Find more info on her here, or supervise on her daily procrastination here and here.

Please understand that Zoë cannot respond to ALL your questions – but never fear, there are readers that are bound to know the answers, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Have you tried DIY hair colour before?