Three Ways to Darken Highlights that Are too Light

Last Updated on January 6, 2023 by Gaga

Getting your hair highlighted can leave you feeling your best. But nothing drains that confidence faster than when those brassy, unwanted tones start to show up. You’re somewhere like 4-8 weeks out from your original appointment when you notice the color just isn’t the same.

Whether you’re a brunette or a blonde, brassy and yellow tones find a way to show up. It leaves you having to ask yourself, why does my color fade to such orange (or brassy) and yellow tones?

Or you may have ended up with highlights that are too bright for your liking and don’t blend nicely with your hair color. Highlights that appear way too bright may also be irritating. Then the follow-up question is always, what can you do about it?

Darken Your Highlights

hair highlighted hair in a beauty salon

It’s not just on-trend, but there’s something about the subtle dimension that makes people “look” at the same time it minimizes fading. When you get highlighted but only go a shade or two brighter than your natural color, the results are stunning and easy to maintain.

If you’re not quite sure what I mean, imagine you are a dark brunette wanting highlights. Instead of getting blonde highlights, you can a lighter brown. Play with the tone of it, that’s where the fun comes in.

What if your highlights are already light and you want to darken your highlights?

One amazing option is called a color melt. Color melts darken your highlights, can change the tone as well, and will leave you with an easier hair schedule to boot.

1. Color Melting

So, what exactly is a color melt? There are usually 3 colors involved in a melt and it’s designed to deepen your highlights or shift the tone or both. You’ll have the darkest color at your roots, a shade or two lighter for the mid-sections, then the ends are the brightest.

This creates a natural-looking gradient effect of color from darkest to light. When you darken your highlights using this method, the effect is seamless and natural.

How here’s the real catch, when you sport darker highlights, you will also keep them from fading to orange or yellow tones. There may be some fading, but it’s minimal.

color melt hair braon to blonde

Does a Color Melt Work When Darkening Highlighted Brunette Hair?

Yes! As mentioned before, instead of being a dark to medium brunette with light blonde highlights, darkening your highlights will give you the “bronde” effect. And color melting is a beautiful way to achieve this while maintaining highlights that are darker than your original. I suggest you leave color melting to a professional colorist. Talk to your colorist about it and see what you can come up with!

2. How to Darken Highlights with a Toner

highlights colored darker with hair dye

The easy way to temporarily tone down your highlights is to tone your hair using a toner. Toners work by depositing pigments on the surface of hair strands, so they can darken color that appears too light.  

When deepening your highlights at home, don’t go more than two shades darker than the original highlights. For example, a common bright blonde hair would be considered a level 9. Going two shades darker would put you at a 7 (a dark blonde). But if you’re original point is a 7, then you can come down to a 6 or a 5. A level 6 is considered the lightest brunette almost blonde. A level 5 is considered a medium brunette.

It’s important to determine your original starting point level. That way when you go to purchase your toner, you will accurately get a shade that is no darker than only 1 or two levels deeper than the highlights.

Things you will need:

  • Appropriate toner
  • A mixing bowl
  • 10 or 20-volume developer


  1. Mix the toner with the developer.
  2. Apply the mixture to your hair. You can focus on your highlights or apply toner to your entire head. Toner will not affect the rest of your hair with a darker color.
  3. Let the mixture sit in your hair for up to 25 minutes. Check your hair every few minutes to ensure that you are on a good way to getting the desired results.  
  4. Once the time is up, rinse the toner out of your hair with lukewarm water.

Using a toner is a temporary solution as the molecules deplete over time and eventually, your highlights will return to their bright state. If you wish more permanent solution, consider applying a hair dye the same way you would use a toner.

3. Darkening Highlights at Home by Using Hair Dye

hair higlights darkened with a hair dye

Some of you are just good with your hair and may take it on yourself to darken your highlights at home without losing them completely.

Using hair dye just in the way you would use a toner is one of the easiest ways to darken your highlights. The results last much longer than when you use a toner for the same purpose.  

Make sure you have all things necessary for the dying job including a bowl, dye brush, and gloves. You will also need a 20-volume developer.


  • Detangle your hair and slightly dampen it
  • Mix the dye with the developer.
  • Apply the mixture to your entire head of hair.
  • Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes. You can check on your hair occasionally to make sure the color is changing in the way you want it to. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water and wash with a color-safe shampoo.

The procedure is similar to normal coloring, but there are some differences. You’ll leave the dye to process for 20 minutes, instead of letting it sit for 30 + minutes. Another difference from regular coloring is that you apply dye to damp hair instead of applying it to dry hair. 

Pro Tips

One thing to avoid when darkening your blonde highlights at home is buying dark brown or black and covering over very light, blonde highlights. There are many things that can go wrong on a chemical level, but just know that without a filler, your hair can turn a murky, dark greenish brown. Then you’ll be left with getting a color correction by a professional and it’s very expensive.

Another tip for darkening your highlights at home is to make sure the color you put on your hair is distributed evenly. Saturate each section of hair to the fullest, then very gently comb everything through and re-saturate. If your ends are damaged or brittle, do the roots and mid-section first, let it process, then pull the color down and saturate your ends for the last 10 minutes.

Cute lady with blonde highlights

About the author

Website | + posts

Gaga is a blogger and founder of the Softer Hair website. She often says that insomnia is to blame for her first blogging attempts. Being the night owl, she hated the morning alarm. She left her office job and returned to what she loved most - writing.


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