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Can you fix uneven dye?

Having perfectly dyed hair is the dream for many people who color their hair. However, it’s not uncommon for the dye to turn out uneven, with some sections darker than others. Uneven dye can occur for several reasons – incorrect application, not leaving the dye on long enough, hair that wasn’t properly prepped, etc. The good news is that there are things you can do to try and fix uneven hair dye!

Assessing the Uneven Dye

First things first, you’ll want to thoroughly examine your hair to see how uneven the dye job turned out. Are just a few sections a different shade or is it very patchy overall? Does it look like some pieces didn’t get colored at all? Is it darker/lighter at the roots versus ends? Figuring out exactly what kind of unevenness you’re working with will help determine the best approach to fixing it.

It’s also important to consider when the dye was applied. If it’s been less than 48 hours, you have more options for removal and correction. If it’s been longer, you may have to resort to more gradual approaches like color-correcting shampoos and toners.

Removing Uneven Semi-Permanent and Demi-Permanent Dye

For dye jobs using semi-permanent or demi-permanent color that turned out very uneven, removing the dye entirely can be the best option. Dyes that aren’t permanent can be removed using:

  • Clarifying shampoo – Lather it on and let it sit for 5+ minutes before rinsing. Repeat as needed.
  • Baking soda – Make a paste with water and scrub onto hair. Rinse after 15-30 minutes.
  • Vitamin C powder – Mix with shampoo or water and apply to hair. Rinse after 30-60 minutes.
  • Color remover/color stripper – Follow product directions. Help lift stain without damage.
  • Bleach bath – For stubborn color, mix bleach powder with shampoo. Test first.

These methods allow the cuticle to open and rinse out the dye molecules. It depends on your hair type and color, but the color should fade significantly or be removed completely in 1-3 applications.

Removing Permanent Hair Dye

For permanent hair dye (oxidative color) that is uneven, removal is more difficult. Permanent color alters the hair shaft and can’t simply be washed away. Options include:

  • Color remover – Specifically formulated for permanent color. Follow directions carefully.
  • Bleach – Can remove permanent color but is damaging. Use lower volume developer.
  • Growth – Let roots grow out and gradually cut hair. Process takes months.
  • Professional color correction – Have a stylist re-color your hair evenly.

Because permanent dyes alter the hair, removal is a process. It depends on your hair’s condition and how aggressively you want to strip the color.

Fixing Roots That Didn’t Take Dye

If your issue is the roots being significantly lighter than the rest of your hair, there are a couple of options to even that out:

  • Re-dye just the roots – Apply dye only to the 1-2 inches of roots to match the rest.
  • Toner – Use a toner or glaze on light roots to add color without redyeing all hair.
  • All-over color – Have a professional re-color all your hair to even out roots.

When re-dying the roots at home, use a darker shade than your original color and watch the processing time. Light roots usually mean the dye didn’t deposit fully in those areas.

Correcting Uneven Permanent Dye All-Over

If your permanent hair color came out patchy all over, there are a couple of approaches to evening it out:

  • Toner – A toner deposits color without lightening. It can add warmth, coolness, or vibrancy.
  • Color-correcting shampoo – Gradually balances undertones over multiple washes.
  • All-over color – Have a professional re-color all your hair evenly.
  • Bleach bath – Lighten hair overall to even out the patchiness. Very gradually.

Go gradual with at-home corrections. It’s easy to end up making the unevenness worse. Have a professional evenly re-color your hair for best results.

Fixing Dark Roots/Light Ends

Issue Solution
Dark roots, light ends from grow-out.
  • All-over color to match roots.
  • Highlight or lowlight ends to match roots.
  • Let grow out and cut off light ends.
Dark roots because dye didn’t process fully.
  • Re-dye the roots only.
  • Toner or color-correcting shampoo on roots.
Light ends from over-processing or damage.
  • Dye or glaze ends to match roots.
  • Trim light ends.

Again, proceed gradually with at-home corrections if you have dark roots and light ends. You want to avoid further damage from over-processing. Adding highlights or lowlights can help dark roots blend into light ends.

Using Toners to Fix Uneven Dye

Toners are a great option for correcting uneven permanent dye. Here’s how to use them:

  • Determine undertone – Figure out if hair is warm, cool, or neutral undertone.
  • Pick complementary toner – Green cancels red, purple cancels yellow/brassiness, blue adds coolness.
  • Do a strand test – See how toner reacts with hair color on a few strands first.
  • Mix with developer – Combine toner with volume 10 or 20 developer at a 1:2 ratio.
  • Apply to dry hair – Section hair and saturate each section, overlapping with a tint brush.
  • Process – Time according to toner instructions, usually 5-15 minutes.
  • Rinse and condition – Rinse thoroughly. Use a good conditioner.

Going gradually with toner is best for avoiding damage. You can always do another round after a week or so if it didn’t cancel brassiness or patchiness completely the first time.

Using Color-Correcting Shampoo

Color-correcting shampoos work well for minor fixes over time. Here’s how to use them:

  • Choose a shampoo – Select one for your needs, like blue for brassiness or silver for warmth.
  • Clarify first – Use a clarifying wash before starting shampoo.
  • Switch shampoos – Alternate with your regular shampoo when washing.
  • Lather well – Really work the product into hair and let it sit 1-2 minutes.
  • Repeat often – Use color-correcting shampoo several washes a week.
  • Pre-treat spots – Spot treat extra patchy areas by letting it sit longer.

Color-correcting shampoos work best for minor issues since the effects are subtle. Be patient, as it can take a few weeks of consistent use to see a real difference.

Dyeing Your Hair Again

If all else fails, another option for fixing very uneven permanent dye is to simply re-color your hair. Here are some tips for success:

  • Do an allergy test if using new dye brand.
  • Pick a shade lighter than your target color.
  • Use 10 or 20 volume developer to avoid damage.
  • Section hair carefully and neat sections.
  • Apply dye quickly from roots to ends.
  • Time correctly and don’t exceed time.
  • Rinse dye thoroughly until water runs clear.
  • Deep condition after rinsing dye out.

When re-dyeing hair, being extremely careful with the application is key. Having a professional do it is ideal for an even result.


Getting stuck with uneven hair dye can be frustrating. But in most cases, it is fixable! For semi-permanent or demi-permanent dye, removal and recoloring is straightforward. Permanent hair color presents more challenges, but can be corrected with careful use of toners, color-correcting shampoos, bleaching, and re-dyeing. Consulting a professional hair stylist is always a good idea if you can’t seem to get your color evened out on your own. With some time and patience, you can get your hair looking freshly dyed and flawless again.