How to Fix At-Home Hair Color Mistakes, According to the Experts Salvaging Them

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This article first appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

Google searches for guidance on at-home hair color spiked more than 250 percent in the height of stay-at-home orders, while sales of hair-color products increased by 23 percent in the first quarter compared to last year, according to Nielsen data.

The bottom line: We’re all probably desperate for professional hair help right about now. Here, experts help course-correct our at-home color faux pas, both from home and when we’re ready to head back to the salon.

If blond hair looks yellow…

At-Home Fix
A purple shampoo or violet-tinted hair treatment will help tone oxidized strands resulting from at-home highlighting or bleaching until your next color appointment. But be sure to choose a formula carefully, as certain pigmented options can be very strong and end up depositing too much color into lightened strands. “I’ve had clients come in with gray or violet highlights because of the purple shampoo they used,” says celebrity colorist Stephanie Brown, who suggests mixing a toning shampoo with a regular shampoo to balance it out.

One to try: Garnier Nutrisse Color Reviver in Cool Blonde ($8) instantly reverses yellow tones and busts frizz in minutes.

Salon Solution
Aside from seeing a colorist for a toning gloss, Brown suggests a fresh set of highlights to help correct color. “If you feel yellow every time you leave the salon, talk to your colorist. Sometimes it can be as simple as using a different gloss, and sometimes it may be that your hair will not go any lighter without becoming dry and damaged.”


If the roots don’t match the ends…

At-Home Fix
Celebrity colorist Chad Kenyon says the ends of our hair should always be at least half a shade lighter than the rest, leaving the roots the darkest. If roots are too light, celebrity colorist Rita Hazan suggests using an at-home dye that’s one or two shades darker than the current color, while Brown advises using gloss or semipermanent dye to curb any damage. “If your roots are too dark, pull the color through your ends, using the remaining color in the bottle, and apply throughout wet hair for five to 10 minutes,” adds Hazan. For a temporary fix, at-home root cover-ups, such as sticks and sprays, do a fantastic job of camouflaging lightened roots or grays.

One to try: Double-sided dpHUE Root Touch Up Stick ($28) instantly conceals mismatched roots.

Salon Solution
“Bring your colorist photos for your end goal, but don’t expect it to be perfect,” warns Brown, adding that it will take some time to perfectly match up. Depending on the situation, your colorist will determine which route to take: “For darker roots, your colorist can lighten it up with color, a very mild bleach or add some highlights,” adds Hazan. “For lighter roots, they’ll likely darken it up with color.”


If highlights look more like stripes…

At-Home Fix
When highlights look less like natural, sun-kissed color and more like tiger stripes, it’s usually because the base color and highlight color aren’t close in color, or the highlights themselves are very thick. While the thinning-out step should be left to a professional, Hazan suggests applying a gloss close to the base color to darken it up and allow the highlights to blend better.

One to try: Color-correcting Christophe Robin Shade Variation Masks ($53) work to remedy hair color while amplifying shine.

Salon Solution
“Whenever a new client wants her ‘stripes’ removed, I usually paint in a shadow root, which disguises the highest point of the highlights, making them appear softer,” explains Kenyon. For those who aren’t fans of a darkened root, Brown suggests asking your colorist for babylights, or very fine highlights. “If it’s more of a contrast issue, ask for more natural-looking highlights at your next appointment.”


If hair looks orange and brassy…

At-Home Fix
Just as brassy blonds would reach for a purple-tinted treatment to help tone it down, the same rule applies to other hair colors, too. A blue-hued formula works for light brunettes, and a green one helps medium-to-dark brunettes, explains Kenyon.

One to try: Use Color Therapy by Madison Reed in Café ($20) up to three times a week for vibrant color and luster.

Salon Solution
Many colorists will opt for a gloss, glaze or toner—sometimes all three— to neutralize unwanted warmth in the hair. However, in some cases, such as brunettes with caramel highlights, a lack of dimension might actually be creating the brassy look. “Asking your colorist to add some lowlights in a neutral-to-ashy tone will allow your highlights to pop and prevent any unwanted warmth,” says Brown.


If hair color is patchy…

At-Home Fix
While color correction should be left to a professional, Hazan says applying a demi-permanent or wash-out hair color one shade darker than your hair will help break up patchiness in the short-term.

Salon Solution
Color-correction is not a one-sizefits-all solution and depends on the state of the hair color and desired outcome. But, be warned: Colorcorrection often requires a long—yet necessary—day in the salon chair.


If hair color looks too ashy…

At-Home Fix
Try washing it a few times. For those without too much breakage, Brown suggests using a clarifying shampoo. If there’s still too much ash—Kenyon describes ashy hair as having a blue, green, gray or violet base—try an at-home gloss. “For blonds, go with a light golden-blond gloss; for medium-brown hair, try a dark golden-blond gloss,” suggests Brown.

One to try: Kérastase Paris Blond Absolu Serum Cicanuit ($55) floods hair with moisture overnight and leaves lightened hair looking bright.

Salon Solution
According to Kenyon, this is a common issue that can be fine-tuned: Colorists can remove unwanted semi- and demi-permanent color from the hair, as well as unwanted minerals that may be contributing to the ash.


Clear Cut

If stay-at-home orders left you scissor happy, too, celebrity hairstylist Justine Marjan is here to help.

If your cut makes your hair look flat…
“Use flat metal hair clips to clip a sliver of hair from both sides of the part together so the hair is sticking up.” Then, spray it with a volumizing dry shampoo and blast it with a hairdryer. “Let it cool for a few minutes, then release the pin for an instant lift.”

If you cut your bangs too short…
“A hair scarf is your best friend! Place the scarf over your bangs and front hair line, then tie the scarf at the nape of your neck. It will flatten your bangs so they appear longer, or completely camouflage them.”

If your cut is shorter than expected…
Try hair extensions. “Hidden Crown’s headband style extensions are the easiest to apply and add instant length and fullness with little effort.”

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