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Using hair extensions to lighten/darken your hair

Do you have a client who is looking to achieve something different with her extensions rather than a simple straight colour match? Do you wear hair extensions and fancy trying something different to change up your look? If so you're in luck, as with the correct colour placement hair extensions can easily be used to either lighten or darken the appearance of your hair without having to subject your natural hair to dyes and bleach which can cause damage.

How can hair extensions be used to change hair colour?

To lighten or darken a clients hair through the use of hair extensions, the process is a lot simpler than you might think, however in order to achieve a seamless effect it is important to bare in mind a few key points first to avoid the hair extensions looking mismatched.

The initial colour match

If you are looking to lighten/darken a clients hair through the use of hair extensions, you will still need to follow the same procedure you usually would in terms of achieving an initial colour match based on their current hair colour. You would simply do this through the use of your colour ring, and for more specific guidance on achieving a perfect colour match, check out our how to colour match effectively guide here.

Additional colours

Now that you have identified your client natural colour, you can start to work in a few additional colours in order to add dimension to the over all look.

Adding additional colours to brunettes

If your client is a natural brunette and is looking to either lighten or darken her hair this is very easy to achieve. Firstly you would need to identify which colours compliment her existing shade without having a too dramatic effect. To do this, we would recommend choosing colours which are no more than 3-4 shades darker or lighter, as too dramatic a shade jump can look very unnatural and obvious.


If we had a brunette client, such as the image on the left who has a #4 natural shade, if she was looking to lighten her hair further we would look at adding colours #6 and #8 as illustrated. This will add some beautiful tones to her natural shade, without looking too dramatic. If by contrast she were looking to deepen her colour, we would look to add colours #2 and #1b, as these would be no more than 2 shades darker than her natural colour.

Adding colour to blondes

Much like our brunette example, a blonde would be treated in the exact same way, adding only a shade or two lighter than the natural colour to lift and lighten, and a shade or two darker to deepen the colour.


In the example to the right, we have a natural blonde with 2 tones in her hair, a very common mix of #16 and #8 found in natural blondes who highlight their hair. As we already have 2 colours here, we would only look to add one additional to add some dimension, therefore we would look to add colour #22 to lift the hair slightly, or colour #6 to darken it for the client.

In practice

So where do we place these additional colours to create a natural look? Regardless of whether your client has blonde or brown hair, and is looking to darken or lighten the hair, the technique outlined below is the same, however selecting the correct colours as detailed above is key to achieving a natural finish.

No extremes

One sure fire way to make hair extensions painfully obvious is when an unnatural finish has been requested, something that would be unlikely to achieve on natural hair. An example of this would be adding colour #60 to a colour #4 to lighten the look, with no additional colours. This would of course lighten the look, but would look incredibly unnatural. By using a combination of #6, #8 and #14 instead, you would still be lightening the look and gaining the same overall outcome, however it will be far softer and is much more likely to go unnoticed which is the desired result.

The technique

It is important to understand how to distribute the colour without it looking “streaky”. The lighter/darker extensions must be distributed unevenly throughout your natural colour. An example of how it should be organised is 1 solid layer of your natural colour, then a row of alternate colours, then a row of the lighter/darker shade, and then back to a row of your natural colour. If the colours are simply placed one after the other in a light – dark – light – dark fashion this will result in “streaky” unnatural looking hair. The lighter/darker colours should also be placed mainly around the back, with the sections above your ears remaining your natural colour only. This will ensure that from every angle your colour looks even, and that when you tie your hair back you cannot see the lighter/darker extensions poking through the front. If you are looking to achieve this but are unsure on what colours to use, email us at hello@simplyhair.co.uk with a description of what you are hoping to achieve, and we will happily guide you on the colours that would be suitable.