How To Darken Highlights: 5 Effective Ways

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase.

Highlights give you such a great way to add life to your hair; they can turn your locks from meh to magnificent!

But what do you do if you get highlights that are brassy or too light for your liking? Then you should know how to darken highlights.

A woman is looking at her hair in a round mirror while smiling in the salon after a hairstylist colored her hair

And we’re here to guide you through every step of the process! We’ll show you ways to darken highlighted hair without having to lose those beautiful streaks.

5 Proven Methods To Darken Your Highlights Successfully

Product UsedStepsResults
Semi-Permanent Hair DyeDampen hair, apply hair dye, let sit for 20 minutes, then rinse.Darkens highlights without damaging the hair
Gloss TreatmentApply the gloss treatment to damp hair,  wait 10 to 20 minutes, then rinse.Provides subtle darkening, adds shine, and deepens hair color gradually
TonerMix toner and developer, apply the mixture, wait five to 20 minutes, then rinse. Neutralizes brassiness, making bright, saturated highlights look darker
Toning ShampooWet hair, massage the toning shampoo into the highlighted areas, massage, leave, then rinse.Removes brassy tones; deepens and refines highlight color with frequent use
Tinted Dry ShampooSpray tinted dry shampoo on highlighted areas, distribute the product evenly, then let set for a few minutes.Temporarily darkens highlights; ideal for a quick color transformation

Ready to learn more about how to tone down your highlights? Keep reading as we explore each of the methods above in detail!

How To Darken Highlights Using Hair Dye

a hair stylist applying bleach to her client's hair in a aluminum foil for highlights

Of course, the number one answer to how to make highlights darker is using hair dye. After all, it’s used to change hair color, so you can rely on it to do the same to your overly bright highlights.

What You Need

  • Hair dye
  • Gloves
  • Alligator clips
  • Bowl and brush

Steps

  1. Detangle your hair and slightly dampen it.
  2. Divide the hair into section sections.
  3. Apply the dye to each section.
  4. Let the product sit for no more than 20 minutes.
  5. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm or cool water.

As you can see, this method is fairly similar to dyeing your hair but with a few differences. Let’s see why.

Use of Semi-Permanent Dye

Since your hair has already gone through a damaging highlighting process, we suggest you use a semi-permanent dye instead of a permanent one.

This is because semi-permanent dyes generally don’t contain ammonia or peroxide, which can dry out your hair and lead to breakage. Many of them are also conditioner-based, meaning they can nourish and hydrate your hair.

For this method, we recommend the Clairol Professional Beautiful Collection Semi-Permanent Hair Color, which has an impressively effective formula that can darken your highlights and give them a lovely shine.

Quick Tip

Remember to choose a color that’s only two shades darker than your highlights (not brown or black!) to help preserve those beautiful streaks!

Application to Damp Hair

You’ll also need to put the dye on damp hair instead of dry hair.

This is because semi-permanent dyes do not contain ammonia, the ingredient in permanent hair dyes that opens up the hair’s cuticles to allow the color to penetrate the strands.

So you’ll need to wet your hair slightly to slightly raise your hair’s cuticles and allow for better absorption of the color.

Quick Tip

Don’t apply your dye to dripping wet hair, as this will also prevent your locks from absorbing the color fully. Instead, make sure your hair is only a tad damp.

Sitting Time

Lastly, you only leave the product on for a maximum of 20 minutes. The reason is we don’t want the hair dye to take its full effect on your strands.

That way, the focus will only be on darkening the lightened streaks of your hair.

These lightened streaks are more porous than your base-colored hair because they have undergone bleaching; therefore, they’ll absorb the dye faster and easier.

Quick Tip

Wait two to four weeks before darkening your highlights with semi-permanent hair dye. This way, you can prevent any hair damage that can be caused by doing one color treatment right after another.

How To Darken Highlights With a Gloss Treatment

woman holding a hair product in a white plastic bottle

Using a hair gloss treatment is another popular method for darkening highlights!

It works by depositing a sheer layer of color onto the hair.

So you can choose a gloss treatment in a darker color than your existing highlights to deepen their color and enhance their appearance in a subtle and elegant way.

What You’ll Need

  • Hair gloss
  • Gloves
  • Shampoo
  • Towel
  • Blow-dryer (optional) 

Steps

  1. Wash your hair with shampoo to get rid of any dirt or product residue. 
  2. Towel-dry your hair until it’s damp. 
  3. Put on your gloves and apply the hair gloss treatment to your hair, particularly on the highlighted areas you want darkened. You can massage it into your roots to ensure even results. 
  4. Let the product sit for 10 to 20 minutes. Consult the product label to see the recommended amount of time.   
  5. Rinse your hair thoroughly with lukewarm water until the water runs clear to remove all gloss residue.
  6. Blow-dry your hair. 

Quick Tip

Repeat this process two to three times until you get your desired results.

If you want to try this method, we recommend using the Glaze Super Color Conditioning Gloss! Not only can it give your highlights some depth after a few uses, but it can also add lustrous shine to your locks. 

However, a gloss treatment may not be able to drastically darken your highlights the way semi-permanent dye can. You can use it if you only want a more subtle transformation.

How To Darken Highlights With a Toner

Hands squeezing toner into a purple mixing bowl

If your highlights appear too light right after bleaching or weeks after your salon appointment when the color has started to fade, they may be brassy. In this case, what you need is a hair toner.

Take note that a toner will not darken your highlights per se. What it’ll do is tone down any brassiness that makes your highlights appear overly bright, thus making them appear darker.

What You Need

  • Toner
  • 10- or 20-volume developer
  • Mixing bowl
  • Applicator brush

Steps

  1. Mix the toner and developer in a bowl.
  2. Separate the hair into sections.
  3. Apply the mixture to your hair, either focusing on the highlighted strands or your entire head.
  4. Leave the toner on for five to 20 minutes, depending on your desired results.
  5. Once you’ve reached the shade you wanted or the time is up, rinse the toner out.

Quick Tip

Check your hair every five minutes to see if the color is changing the way you want it!

For this method, you can use the Wella Colorcharm Permanent Liquid Hair Toner. It offers delicate shades of blonde, and it won’t damage your locks.

One of the perks of using a high-quality hair toner is it can also even out the overall color of your hair, although its effect won’t last as long as semi-permanent hair dye.

How To Darken Highlights With Toning Shampoo

a woman wearing white gloves is applying toning shampoo to her hair to darken highlights

Yes, you read that right. You can darken highlights with shampoo, namely a toning shampoo!

Like toner, it can help remove bright, brassy tones from your highlights and make them look darker by depositing color pigments that neutralize these tones.

What You’ll Need

Steps

  1. Wear plastic gloves and drape an old towel over your shoulders to prevent staining.
  2. Wet your hair in the shower. 
  3. Apply the purple or blue shampoo evenly to highlighted areas using your hands or a wide-tooth comb.
  4. Massage the shampoo into your hair, then leave it in for the recommended time (follow the product instructions).
  5. Rinse your hair with lukewarm water until it runs clear, removing all the shampoo.

Quick Tip

Toning shampoo can sometimes be drying, so apply conditioner to your hair after using it.

Remember that purple shampoo helps remove brassy yellow tones in blonde highlights because purple cancels out yellow. Meanwhile, blue shampoo can get rid of brassy orange tones in light brown highlights.

The best toning shampoo for us is the L’Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Purple Shampoo.

With frequent use, you’ll notice your hair getting a deeper, less brassy tone.

How To Darken Your Hair With Tinted Dry Shampoo

a woman applying dry shampoo in a black can to her hair

Dry shampoo can refresh your hair and eliminate greasiness. It usually contains starch that absorbs excess oil, which can leave a white cast on your hair.

To prevent this, many brands have come up with tinted or colored dry shampoos that match each user’s hair color.

And the great news is you can use a tinted dry shampoo in a darker color to darken your highlights temporarily!

What You’ll Need

  • Tinted dry shampoo
  • Brush or comb

Steps

  1. Ensure your hair is clean and completely dry before applying the tinted dry shampoo.
  2. Divide your hair into manageable sections for even application.
  3. Shake the dry shampoo can well.
  4. Hold the can about six to eight inches away from your hair, then spray it lightly on the highlighted areas that you want to darken.
  5. Gently brush or comb through your hair to distribute the product and blend the color.
  6. Allow the dry shampoo to set for a few minutes, letting the color adhere to your hair.

Quick Tip

Use this method to tone down your highlights quickly before going to an event!

Looking for a top-notch tinted dry shampoo? Our favorite is the Batiste Dry Shampoo in Beautiful Brunette!

However, remember that its darkening effect is only temporary, so the dark tint it lends to your hair will fade once you wash your hair. So you can use this for a quick fix.

The back of a woman with a bob haircut and blonde highlights.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Darken Your Highlights With Clarifying Shampoo?

No. Clarifying shampoo can actually brighten your highlights further because they’re designed to remove buildup that can cause dullness.

Is It Possible To Darken Highlights With Natural Ingredients?

This is also not recommended. You might not see any visible darkening results using coffee, black tea, berry juice, or any other concoction. And even if you do see a slight hint of a darker color, it’ll easily wash away.

Darken Your Highlights at Home

Overly light, brassy highlights can make your gorgeous look unappealing.

Luckily, you can try fixing your highlights at home with any of the methods we’ve listed above!

Whether you use hair dye or toner, a gloss treatment, or a tinted dry shampoo, you can find new ways to tone down the saturated appearance of your highlights and get the right hue that seamlessly goes with your base color.

Of course, you can always go to your favorite stylist and ask them to help you fix the issue and achieve the stunning highlights of your dreams.

Looking for Other Hair Color Ideas?

Check out these suggestions:

Author

  • Rachelle Velasco

    Rachelle, is a sought-after freelance hair and makeup artist, shines particularly in the world of hair color. From subtle ombres and balayages to vibrant hues and intricate root work, she crafts unique styles tailored to individual preferences. Beyond her artistic talents, Rachelle also holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, showcasing her diverse skill set and dedication to learning.