Fading Hair Color

Woman with fading a hair color
Photo: Sergey Zapotylok/Shutterstock
Q: Hi. I have noticed every time I get my hair dyed, that when the color fades, it always goes lighter than my natural color, even if the color I dyed it to was darker!
I'm now well on my way to growing a fresh crop of virgin hair, but I want to dye it a little darker, WITHOUT having it all weird and light in a few months, because my hair is too delicate to dye more than a few times, and I can't keep re-dying it back.
Are there any products that don't lighten your hair or is it just a fact of dying your hair?

A: It sounds like your hair responds really quickly to the developer used in your hair color.
In most cases, a deposit-only hair color formula uses 10-volume hydrogen peroxide developer. This generally only lifts the cuticle and allows the color to be deposited into the hair shaft without dispersing any of the color already there.
However, in some cases, the hair may respond very easily to the peroxide developer and some lightening can occur even with 10-volume developer - especially if heat is used in processing or if the hair is stressed by frequent chemical services. This is most likely why your hair fades to a lighter color than your natural color after being colored darker.
I recommend speaking to your stylist and asking about using a weaker developer in your color formula. (If you do the color yourself at home with a kit, you will likely need to change products.) Make sure the stylist is, in fact, using 10-volume peroxide and not a stronger formula.
Some salons will carry only a limited range of developer strengths to save inventory space. If 10-volume is what is being used, ask about going with a 5-volume or equivalent (achieved by combining equal parts of 10-volume developer and conditioning cream).
You may also want to consider using a shampoo and conditioner for colored hair of the shade you prefer. These formulas are designed to add minuscule amounts of color to the hair and keep your color from fading (or from fading as rapidly as it would without the added color). These products can dramatically increase the longevity of your color and may mean you can wait longer between color services, which will mean healthier hair overall.
See also:
Hair color levels
Peroxide formula
The chemical reaction of peroxide developer
How to minimize hair color fading