Olga Markuse
Updated on September 18, 2023

Whether your last hair appointment didn’t go to plan, or it was a lockdown DIY hair color disaster, you must know that this has happened to most of us at least once.

A shade that is too dark, brassy undertones, color banding, uneven, blotchy color, or overdone highlights – these are just a few examples of catastrophic hair mistakes which require color correction.

What is Corrective Coloring

Color correction is a service that is needed in case of bad color work or if you are willing to make a significant change to your current color level and shade. Corrective color techniques include lightening hair, pre-pigmenting it, and neutralizing undesired shades.

No matter how frustrating your color mistake is, try to calm down and face the problem with a cool head: your main priority is keeping your strands as healthy and undamaged as possible. Let’s look at some common hair color challenges and the ways to solve them so that you can find the best route to tackle the bad dye job.

Hair Is Too Dark

One of the common issues is hair dyed too dark by mistake or a build-up of color that has occurred over the years of dyeing. Unfortunately, chemically processed hair is more difficult to lift and it’s quite likely that some underlying pigments will be exposed, causing a problem of unwanted shades. This can be solved by using a relevant neutralizing hue.

If your hair is naturally dark and you are longing for blonde tresses, the color service you need will also qualify (and cost) as color correction. This might sound confusing: why would you need a correction if there wasn’t a mistake? However, the dramatic change of color will require pre-lightening of the roots, mid-shafts and ends as well as applying a toner to neutralize overly warm shades. This process can take a few hours.

Hair Color Is Too Light

Turning blonde locks darker seems to be an easy job; however, it can’t be done in a single step. Very light hair doesn’t have any warm pigments like yellow and red, therefore applying dark dye straight on blonde hair will result in dull, flat color, often with a prominent green undertone. To achieve a beautiful, reach shade, you need to start with pre-pigmentation: filling your hair with warm pigments prior to applying the actual brown shade. This procedure will also make your new brunette tone last longer.

Uneven, Patchy Tone and Spots from Bleach

This is one of the most challenging color mishaps because often some areas of your hair might get over-processed, porous and fragile. Sometimes hair is so badly damaged that it can hardly be bleached again. This problem certainly must be fixed in a salon, ideally with a stylist who specializes in color correction. You might need to temporarily tone your hair a few shades darker (for example, to match your natural hair color); in the meantime, use a good moisturizing mask to replenish your strands.

Unwanted Tones

Battling unwanted undertones – like orange, yellow and even green, is something that most color specialists do on a daily basis. The color theory is one of the essential topics taught in hairdressing schools but let’s talk about the basics. A color wheel is used to help with choosing the right toner to neutralize different pigments.

Colors, based on the color wheel opposed to each other, cancel one another. For example, bleached blonde hair often has some gold in it; we can see on the color wheel that yellow is located opposite purple, therefore a toner containing purple pigment will neutralize yellow tones and make your locks cooler. Thats why you also use purple shampoo to maintain cool tones and eliminate brassiness for weeks between your salon appointments.

Color Wheel

Color Correction at Home

Often color correction can be an easy fix thanks to color correction products suitable for home use. For example, if the shade comes out darker than expected, you can use a hair color remover like Color Oops. This product is safe and easy to use as it doesn’t contain ammonia, bleach, or peroxide, although it will only work on a dye that is darker than your natural hair.

If you are happy with the depth of your tone (e.g., how dark or light it is), but the only issue is the ugly undertone, you can solve it with a semi-permanent toner. For example, if your brown hair has developed greenish hues after a swimming pool visit, try a red or pink direct dye mask – it will neutralize the unwanted tone. Does this sound scary? Try it on a small strand to make sure it is safe and effective.

At the same time, DIY color correction isn’t the best route for difficult issues like bled highlights, harsh balayage lines, or spotty bleached hair. Instead, put all your efforts into finding a reliable hairdresser who will repair your hair.

12 Common Color Mistakes and How to Correct Them

The best way to describe different color mistakes and challenges, as well as the ways to fix them, is by showing real examples. Look at some outstanding color correction cases and put together a few recommendations on how to deal with each situation.

1. Dark Hair Color Correction to Light

Color correcting brunette hair to blonde can often take up to 2-3 appointments. No matter if your hair is naturally dark or dyed brown, the only way to make such a significant shade shift is by using a bleaching product. Slow processing and using low peroxide volume is safer and gentler for your hair; therefore, you cannot achieve the cool blonde in one sitting. Be patient, relax and trust the process.

2. Bad Blonde Color Correction

It’s not a surprise that blonde is one of the most demanding and expensive hair colors. Essentially, you need to find a good, reliable hairstylist. Please, make sure you have seen their portfolio before you sit in the chair. However, everyone can sometimes make a mistake, just like the one you can see in the picture below.

How to fix the blonde hair that has gone wrong? Well, color correcting blonde hair can be challenging even for an experienced professional. Be ready to spend 3-6 hours in the salon: during this time, your hairdresser will cleanse, bleach, and tone your hair in order to get rid of color banding, uneven tone and brassiness. Undoubtedly, this is not a job you could do at home.

3. Too Ashy Tone Correction

Even though many blonde girls give preference to cool shades, ash and platinum blonde doesn’t look flattering on those with warmer skin tones. Excessively ashy toner is a very common issue – it’s often hard to see the actual color while hair is wet, so rinsing the toner can be a matter of seconds. Dry and porous hair is particularly prone to quick absorption of the toner.

The good news is it will fade after a few washes. If you can bear it, just be patient and wash your hair with a deep cleansing shampoo. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to put a warm toner on top of the cool one without making your hair color look dull and unflattering. If you completely hate it, reach out to your colorist, and ask them to use a gentle color remover and reapply a more subtle toner.

4. Fixing Yellow Blonde

Yellow undertones inevitably appear on blonde hair a few weeks after a salon appointment. This happens especially quickly if the hair wasn’t lifted light enough or when the natural color is very dark. Luckily, this is something that you can partly fix at home. Just use a color correcting shampoo – also called silver or purple shampoo. This product will cancel unwanted warmth and help to maintain cool shades between your color sessions.

5. Fixing Spotty Bleached Hair

Experiencing a bad dye job can be very frustrating, regardless of whether it was a DIY hair color failure or an underskilled hairdresser’s mistake. Beyond question, a spotty bleached hair conundrum must be solved by a professional; it would be worth looking for a salon specializing in color correction services. An experienced and knowledgeable stylist will be able to carry out the color repair without compromising the condition of your hair. However, bleaching will be a part of the process, so you need to be prepared to invest in a proper hair care routine.

6. Highlights Gone Wrong

Chunky, stripy, yellow – it seems like everything possible has gone wrong with the highlights on the picture on the left. However, if you don’t want to run the risk of further damaging your already fragile hair, root melt is an easy and safe option. Being brave enough, you can try to fix it at home with a semi-permanent dye, however, going to a salon is a no-brainer.

7. Fixing Uneven Hair Color

Color banding from previous bleaching, uneven, patchy areas – are all very common hair coloring problems. Annoyingly, there’s not much you can do at home to fix blotchy hair color besides neutralizing dull hues with a semi-permanent dye (choose one with purple pigments). Though, finding a skilled hairdresser, who specializes in blonde, will help you to avoid this issue in the future.

8. Bad Red Hair Dye Job Correction

Using the same red dye for years creates a build-up of pigment and your hair color can go too red and too dark. A color remover will help to reduce the intensity but won’t erase the color completely. As it’s incredibly difficult to get rid of red pigment, why not try a strawberry blonde balayage?

9. Orange Roots After Dyeing Hair

Rinsing the hair color too early or using a too weak peroxide developer can lead to underprocessed, orange color. Sometimes hair is so dry and damaged that applying a lightening product will make it break. In this case, the most reasonable solution is to tone the hair color down with ash demi-permanent dye. It will give you some time to revive your hair structure whilst looking good and feeling comfortable until your next coloring appointment.

10. How to Fix a Bad Ombre

Brassy and harsh, this ‘ombre’ won’t let you out of your house without wearing a hat. Meanwhile, use a correcting silver shampoo and curl the ends to disguise the problem until your get to see your hairdresser. Let us warn you: color correcting ombre will always be more expensive than having a new service on undamaged hair, mainly because of the extra time and effort required to tackle a bad dye job, so cutting the ends off might be an option to consider too.

11. How to Fix Purple Hair

Bright and bold, vivid colors are a great way to demonstrate your creative personality, however, at some point, you might get bored and think about going back to more conventional hues. If the product that you used to dye your hair purple was semi-permanent, it will be relatively easy to strip off. However, your hairstylist will definitely need to use a lightener if you are thinking about going blonde.

12. How to Fix Green Hair Color Mistake

As we all know, mixing blue color with yellow makes green. This is exactly what happens if you try to neutralize golden hues with blue pigment (you should use purple instead – see the color wheel).

Another reason why your hair can turn green is dyeing natural blonde hair blue – after a few washes it will fade into green. Unfortunately, green pigment can be quite stubborn and difficult to correct, so it’s worth carefully considering the possible consequences (and costs) of getting this shade.

We hope you found some useful information in this article and if you do need a color correction, it goes well!

Featured Image via Freepik

Color Correction of a Too Dark Hark Color Brunette to Blonde Color Correction Going Darker Before and After Color Wheel Dark to Light Hair Color Correction Fixing Blonde Hair that Gone Wrong Ashy vs Warmer Blonde Shade Fighting Yellow Tones in Blonde Hair Fixing Overdone Highlights Before and After Recoloring Uneven Hair Color Correcting Red Hair to Strawberry Blonde Fixing Orange Roots After Dyeing Hair Fixing Hash Brassy Ombre Without Cutting Hair Off Recoloring Purple Hair Using Blue Hair Dye Mistake Using Grren Hair Dye Mistake