How to Darken Highlights: 4 Effective Ways

How to Darken Highlights: 4 Effective Ways

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Highlights have been around for years, and this hair color technique has no plans on leaving.

That’s not a problem for us because highlights are such a great way to add life to your hair. They can turn your locks from meh to striking.

It’s no wonder many people are getting them. And you can get it too, or you probably already have.

a woman facing backward flaunting her medium length wavy hair with light brown highlights

But what if you end up having highlights that are too light for your liking? You should know how to darken highlights.

And what if they have turned into a bright brassy yellow? What can you do about it?

We’ll show you ways to darken highlighted hair without having to lose those beautiful streaks.

What Are Highlights?

You may be reading this because you’re scared of getting highlights. You’re worried your salon appointment may end up badly.

So let’s talk about what highlights are first to help you consider getting them.

Highlights are streaks of light color added to the hair using a lightener or bleach.

This technique is done by weaving out tiny strips of hair and separating them from the rest of your hair. Then the lightener or bleach is applied to the strips.

The result is beautiful stripes that contrast with your natural hair color.

The color used for highlights is commonly blonde, but other light colors can be used as well. You can choose subtle highlights for enhancing your hair’s natural color, or you can get something bold and dramatic like platinum.

Whatever you choose, highlights can give dimension and movement to your hair.

How to Tone Down Highlights That Are Too Light

We get it. Ending up with unwanted shades for your highlights is a total bummer. And we know how expensive it is to go back to your hairstylist and get your hair fixed.

It’s a good thing we’re here to tell you how to darken highlights at home. It’s much cheaper than going back to the salon.

You can use hair dye to get a darker shade or toner to remove unwanted brassy bright tones. However, do note that it’s best to wait two weeks before doing another chemical process to your hair.

We know you might be itching to change the color of your highlights, but after bleaching or coloring, your hair porosity becomes higher.

This means your hair is prone to moisture loss and lower elasticity. So you should let your hair recover first before coloring or toning it again.

If you can’t wait that long, you can try shampoo. No, not the regular ones you use to wash your hair.

We’re going to show you how purple shampoo, clarifying shampoo, and even dry shampoo can help in darkening highlighted hair.

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

How to Darken Highlights Using Hair Dye

Of course, the number one answer to how to make highlights darker is hair dye. After all, it is what we use to darken our hair.

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

That’s because permanent hair dyes mostly have ammonia and would need to be paired with peroxide to take effect. We know that these two chemicals are notorious for drying hair.

Well, semi-permanent dyes don’t have these harmful ingredients. Plus, most of them are conditioner based, and many are vegan. These are best used to darken your highlights.

For this method, we recommend dpHUE Gloss + Semi-permanent Hair Color and Deep Conditioner, which is vegan and cruelty-free and will tone your highlights and boost your color.

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

But wouldn’t that lighten your base color as well?

No. The thing about semi-permanent dye is it doesn’t penetrate the hair shaft. So it won’t work as well in changing the base color of your hair.

Additionally, you’ll be using the hair dye a bit differently. Here’s how to make your highlights darker using semi-permanent hair dye.

What You Need


  1. Detangle your hair and slightly dampen it.
  2. Divide the hair into 4 sections.
  3. Apply the dye to each section.
  4. Let the product sit for not more than 20 minutes.
  5. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm or cool water.

We’ve mentioned that this method is similar to coloring your hair, but with a few differences. Let’s understand why.

You need to put the dye on damp hair instead of dry hair, and 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 then your base-colored hair because they have undergone bleaching; therefore, they’ll absorb the dye faster and easier.

How to Darken Highlights With a Toner

Sometimes, your highlights may seem too light, but in reality, they’re not. What gives? 

The truth may be that you’re just seeing undesired tones. You may have yellow or orange pigments in your streaks.

It’s natural to have them right after bleaching or weeks after your salon appointment when the color starts fading.

If that’s the case, then what you need is something that won’t exactly darken your strands but tone them down instead.

And that’s where a hair toner comes in. It neutralizes yellow and orange tones in your hair. Additionally, it evens out the existing color and deepens it into a darker tone.

For this method, you can use Wella Colorcharm Permanent Liquid Hair Toner. It offers delicate shades of blonde and it’s a toner that won’t damage your hair.

What You Need

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


  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 5 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.

As you can see, there’s no exact time to leave the toner processing. You have to check every 5 minutes to see if the color is changing the way you want it.

Moreover, do take note that hair with toner on looks darker when wet.

This method is great for toning down highlighted hair, but the effect doesn’t last as long as that of a semi-permanent dye.

How to Darken Highlights with Shampoo

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

Yes, you’ve read that right. You can darken highlights with shampoo. But as we’ve said, not the normal cleansing product that you use every shower.

Toning Shampoo

The first on our list of shampoos is toning shampoo. This is used when you want something to maintain your hair color easily and subtly.

Toning shampoo contains a dye pigment as an ingredient that’s not for coloring but for toning. The most common is purple shampoo, but there’s blue as well.

How does it work?

A toning shampoo (and toners too) makes use of the color theory. It’s based on the color wheel.

Colors placed on opposite sides of the wheel cancel each other out and create a neutral color (gray or brown or something in between).

In that case, if you refer to the color wheel, you’ll effectively cancel out unwanted tones in your highlights.

For blonde highlights, a purple shampoo would work best because purple cancels yellow. And if your streaks are turning orange, you use a blue shampoo.

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

The best toning shampoos for us are L’Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Purple Shampoo for blonde highlights and Matrix Total Results Brass Off Blue Shampoo for brunettes with subtle highlights.

Clarifying Shampoo

Another shampoo you can use to change your highlight color is clarifying shampoo. Think of this as something stronger than what you regularly use.

It’s used for deep cleansing because it strips off dirt, oil, and product buildup. It’s made for squeaky clean strands.

In addition, it can also strip off hair color.

So if your highlights are too bright, you can use a clarifying shampoo to fade the hair color. The effect may not be instantaneous, but with a few uses of this product, you’ll definitely see most of the color gone from your streaks.

However, this product is what we least suggest because it can also strip off your base color. If you want a clarifying shampoo that isn’t too drying on your locks, try Paul Mitchell Shampoo Three.

Tinted Dry Shampoo

According to WebMD, dry shampoo is a product that you use on your hair to absorb dirt and grease. Furthermore, it’s called dry shampoo because you don’t need to wash your hair when using it.

Did you know that some dry shampoos are made with a base of starch? This is what absorbs the oil from your strands. But this is also what leaves a white cast on your hair.

So if you have a dark hair base, you may choose a tinted dry shampoo in a darker color. It’s also one of the ways how to darken highlights. Our favorite is Batiste Dry Shampoo in Beautiful Brunette.

Spray it lightly on your roots and across your highlights. This will turn the streaks a couple of shades darker.

Darkening Highlighted Hair with Natural Ingredients?

If you don’t want to use chemicals on your hair anymore after the drastic highlighting process, you’re probably wondering how to darken blonde highlights using natural ingredients.

Well, there might be several options you can find online:

  • Coffee
  • Black tea
  • Carrot juice
  • Food color

But! As hair experts, these are things we don’t really recommend when it comes to coloring your hair. 


If you look at people actually using these products on YouTube, you’ll see that they don’t really get visible results. And if ever some are lucky enough to get a hint of color, it just washes off easily.

This is not worth the trouble of spending hours making the concoction and saturating the hair.

So leave these natural ingredients for conditioning your hair, not coloring it.

If you don’t want to use harsh chemicals on your locks, use a vegan hair dye instead.

a close-up image of a girl's hair with white highlights

Frequently Asked Questions

Will purple shampoo darken my highlights?

As we’ve explained above, purple shampoo cannot truly change or darken your hair color because it doesn’t contain an ingredient that actually colors the strands.

What it does is tone the hair, removing the unwanted pigments. When this happens, the hair will look cooler because the bright brassy tones are neutralized.

What to do if you don’t like your highlights?

Before leaving the salon, try to communicate your problem with your hairstylist. Just make sure to say it in a nice way so nobody gets offended.

Tell them what you didn’t like about the highlights. This will help them figure out how to fix your streaks.

On the other hand, if you tried doing highlights at home and it ended up being patchy and, well, not really good, you can wait for two weeks before trying our suggested methods. Or you can have a professional colorist fix it.

Darken Your Highlights at Home

Light, brassy highlights can make the rest of your hair look unappealing.

If you want your highlights fixed, you can go to the beauty store and buy hair color to make the streaks dark enough to be natural-looking.

Choose semi-permanent dyes so you won’t damage your hair, and pick a color that’s two shades darker than your highlights.

You can also darken highlights with toner to tone down brassy and yellow warm tones.

Another thing you can do is darken your highlights using shampoo.

Do these color correction techniques for pesky highlights that stick out like a sore thumb and bring them back to a color that complements your base.

Looking for other hair color ideas?

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