As someone who's lightened her hair for the majority of her lifetime, 2020 has been quite the trick. Pre-pandemic, I was able to see my amazing colorist (Cassondra Kaeding) at 454 North Salon in West Hollywood every eight weeks or so for a much-needed refresh, but with multiple shutdowns and on-and-off stay-at-home orders this year, I've seen Kaeding half the amount I normally would. So over the course of the year, my dark, dishwater roots and I have become *very* intimately acquainted. (Spoiler: I feel best and most like "myself" when I'm at my blondest, so although it might sound superficial, it's been an adjustment emotionally.)
Being that my current bleach and tone routine is probably the most high-maintenance tone and color protocol out there, there have been so, so many times I've considered going completely rogue and dousing my head with a bottle of brown box dye to just make the jarring look of my exposed roots go away as quickly as possible—a nervy temptation that I always admitted like word vomit to Kaeding when I have been able to see her this year.
Of course, if I ever was to transition to my natural brown hue and grow out my super-bleached strands, pouring box dye all over my head in a shade that I think matches my natural tone is definitely not the way to do it. (Please don't!) The last time I was in to see Kaeding, I asked her what the process would actually be like if I decided to cut the bleach and go to the dark side.
As she began to talk about the process and share her top tips for making the change as gracefully and healthily as possible, she shared she's been doing a similar process with one of her celebrity clients, Hailey Bieber. Of course, I'm completely obsessed with Bieber, and I think her hair color is gorgeous, so I asked Kaeding to elaborate and reshare her exact protocol for growing out natural hair color below. Thinking about ditching your color habit or, at the very least, your high-maintenance color habit? Keep scrolling for five important tips to bear in mind.
Tip #1: Break Up With Your Color Habit—Completely
When I asked Kaeding to share the most common myths or misconceptions associated with growing out natural hair color, she told me that a lot of people don't realize they're going to have to cut their color habit cold turkey. (Or at the very least, you'll have to wait three months or so before dabbling in a super-subtle color process like lowlights or a tint back, which will help blend everything to your natural hue.)
"Many of my clients will still get (or want to get) color or lightening services," she explains. "They'll come in and say they want to completely grow out their hair but would love to get some soft highlights."
Our tip? If you're struggling with that in-between phase, try experimenting with strategic hairstyles that will help hide obvious grow-out and invest in a top-rated root cover-up to help blur out the intensity of your new growth. (Tinted dry shampoos will come in clutch, too.) Also, ombré hair is a thing—embrace it! Own it!
Tip #2: At the Very Least, Avoid Bleach at All Costs
There are usually two driving forces when someone wants to grow out their natural hair color. A: They're tired of high-maintenance color and everything it involves (lots of appointments, lots of expensive products, etc.). B: Their current color esthetic has sacrificed the integrity of the hair.
If you want to grow out your hair to help get your strands back into fighting shape, Kaeding says to, at the very least, avoid bleach if you can't resist color services completely.
"I know it's hard, but my strong advice is to stay away from the bleach," she presses. "If you want natural, healthy hair, you have to stay away from the chemicals." (Box dye is also off the table!)
Once you have reached your desired hair health and length, Kaeding says you can talk to your colorist about incorporating some subtle color processes. They'll be able to professionally assess the condition of your hair at that point and can offer some ideas to help refresh or enhance your natural tone. (Again, the goal won't be to alter your color—it's more about keeping your natural hair vibrant and dimensional.)
Tip #3: Up Your Water & Supplement Intake
"Take vitamins to speed up the growth process, and drink lots of water," encourages Kaeding. "Depending on the current length of your hair and the time from your last color service, the grow-out process could take up to two years."
Hey, patience is a virtue, right? Of course, we always encourage you to talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement routine, but Kaeding says high-quality hair formulas should start to deliver noticeable results after about three months. Expect to see new growth where you haven't before and a little bit of extra fullness. Our editorial team has had luck with Hum's berry-flavored gummies and Viviscal's best-selling tablets.
Tip #4: If You Can, Ask Your Salon for a Gloss to Enhance Shine
Fear not, for you don't have to break up with your colorist and/or salon for good if you decide to take your color au naturel. To keep your mane looking fresh, vibrant, and shiny through your natural grow-out, Kaeding recommends going to the salon to get glosses—one to enhance shine and one to keep inevitable brassy or unwanted tones at bay. (There are also wonderful at-home options you can try if you don't have access to a salon or colorist—see our picks above and below!)
Tip #5: Prioritize Hydration-Packed Products & Treatments
"Make sure you are using a hydrating shampoo and conditioner that also has some reparative benefits to it," notes Kaeding. "Additionally, make sure you're masking at least two to three times a month. These types of products will keep your hair bright, healthy, and resilient throughout the grow-out process."