How can you dye hair darker but keep highlights? 2 options, but only 1 is recommended

woman with highlights wants to darken her hair

  • Obviously, if you want to dye your hair darker but keep your highlights, you can’t just apply a dark dye all over your hair. You would lose the highlights.
  • So you have two options.
  • You can resort to a technique known as “lowlighting” to bring down the color several notches while keeping your highlights.
  • Or you can apply a dark dye to all of your hair, and over that dye, apply new highlights. Although as a colorist, I don’t recommend this option and I’ll tell you why later.


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If you’re looking for  darker hair but want to keep your highlights , as a colorist I invite you to think carefully.


Because it’s not simply about applying a dark dye throughout your hair. Because if you cover all your hair with the dye, logically you won’t be able to keep your highlights.


However, there are some alternative solutions. But if you want to choose one specific option out of these two, I recommend you go to a salon.

Why? Because to dye your hair and keep your highlights with either of these choices, you will need to have knowledge of colorimetry. But in addition, you will have to work with almost the precision of a surgeon.

Want to know why? I’ll tell you below. Let’s start by talking about the first option.


Option 1: dye your hair darker but keep the highlights, applying a few “lowlights”

long hair

When you renew your highlights, it’s inevitable that those strands of hair will go completely blonde.

And to tell you the truth, many clients don’t like or want all their hair darker. Unfortunately, you can’t dye your hair dark and keep your highlights, because it would be impossible to separate each hair.


Therefore,  one of the options is to apply the technique in reverse: dark lights, or lowlights. 

What are they?


The technique consists of using a cap, pulling a large number of strands through holes in the cap, and applying a darker dye to these. That’s right!

Lowlights are said to be the reverse of highlights because they don’t bleach the strands. Quite the opposite. You apply a darker color.

What will you achieve with lowlighting?


 You’ll see that 70% of your hair will look darker, while the remaining 30% will maintain the color of the highlights, which will not be affected by the process. 


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Lowlights are the solution for hair with extra blonde highlights.

By darkening your hair in this way, leaving some of the blonde highlights out of the process, you can make your hair darker while keeping your blonde highlights.


But the big secret of lowlights is to choose a shade of hair color that harmonizes with your highlights.

  •  If your highlights are extra light blonde 10 and very light blonde 9 , you can choose a dark blonde 6 for the lowlights.
  •  If your highlights are very light blonde 9 and light blonde 8 , you can choose a light brown 5 for the dark highlights.
  •  If your highlights are light blonde 8 and blonde 7 , you can choose a brown 4 for the lowlights.


Option two: dye your hair darker but keep your highlights by applying a dye and then highlighting again

I have to be honest. This option is actually kind of like a “factory reset”.

Personally,  I don’t recommend this option because your hair will go through successive chemical treatments. 


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Let’s think for a moment. Let’s assume that your hair has already been bleached for several months since your stylist bleached different strands of your hair at each highlighting renewal.

Then you arrive at the salon. Your idea is to darken your hair and keep your highlights.

If you don’t want to apply some lowlights, your stylist will have only one option.

  • First, she’ll apply a dark dye to all of your hair. Perfect.  Your hair will be darker, but in this case, your highlights will be gone.  Your hair will be drier because you apply the dye with developer and it contains ammonia. However, the story doesn’t end here. You still have a few more hours left in the salon.
  • Secondly, since you want darker hair, but with highlights, your colorist will separate some strands, and do the highlights. So that hair that’s already been dyed today and has lost moisture still has to endure bleaching of some strands. Hence, more dehydration and more drying out of your hair.
  • Finally, as some orange or yellowish tones are likely to appear, your colorist will apply a toner, which also includes developer. And here we continue to take away moisture and nutrients from your hair.


If you choose this option, I recommend that you think about using OLAPLEX during the whole process. This way you will avoid ruining your hair. And also, try to find a professional with a lot of experience with the highlighting technique.

Otherwise, your hair will turn out darker but will have orange and yellowish highlights.



As a professional colorist, I recommend that if you want to dye your hair darker but keep your highlights, you should opt for the lowlighting technique. And to do so, go to a salon.

Because your hair has already likely endured several bleachings. It’s essential a professional evaluates the state of your hair before applying the lowlights.

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