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How do you fix unwanted hair color?


Getting an unwanted hair color can be disappointing and frustrating. However, there are ways to fix it at home or professionally with a color correction. The most important thing is not to panic. Overtime and with the right techniques, unwanted colors can be removed or corrected to a more desirable shade.

What are some quick fixes I can do at home?

Here are some quick at-home fixes that may help improve an unwanted hair color:

  • Use clarifying shampoo 2-3 times per week. This can help fade the color faster.
  • Try anti-dandruff shampoo. The zinc in these shampoos can help strip away unwanted color.
  • Make a baking soda paste by mixing baking soda with water and apply to damp hair. Leave on for 5 minutes before rinsing. Repeat 1-2 times per week.
  • Use vitamin C tablets. Crush up 5-10 tablets into a fine powder and mix with shampoo. Apply to damp hair and leave on for 20 minutes before rinsing out.
  • Try a bleach bath. Mix 1 part powder lightener with 2 parts shampoo and apply evenly to damp hair for up to 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. Be cautious not to over-lighten.
  • Use clarifying or dandruff shampoo immediately after coloring next time to prevent excessive staining.

When should I see a professional colorist?

It’s best to see a professional colorist if:

  • The unwanted color is more than 2 shades darker than what you wanted.
  • Your hair has orange, brassy, or very uneven tones.
  • You used a permanent dye and the color is too dark.
  • Your hair feels significantly damaged from coloring attempts.
  • You want to go lighter or make a drastic color change.
  • Home remedies have not noticeably improved the color after 2-3 weeks.

A professional can perform a color correction to alter your hair color and tone using techniques like:

  • Color stripping – Removing artificial dye molecules
  • Bleaching – Lightening hair’s natural pigment
  • Toning – Neutralizing brassy/orange tones
  • Re-coloring – Applying a new permanent or semi-permanent color
  • Hair masks & treatments – Improving condition

This provides more predictable, even results.

What methods can a professional use to remove or correct hair color?

Here are some of the top techniques a professional colorist may use:

Color Stripping

Color strippers are chemicals applied to hair to remove artificial dye pigments. Common types include:

  • Sodium hydrosulfite – Bleaches color in a reductive reaction
  • Sodium hydroxide – Swells cuticle for color to escape
  • Ammonium thioglycolate – Penetrates cortex to remove color

Color strippers may be used repeatedly to fully lift artificial dye from hair.


Bleaching lightens hair’s natural melanin pigment. This allows drastic color changes or removal of stubborn dye. Common bleaches include:

  • Hydrogen peroxide – Oxidizes melanin for lightening
  • Ammonium persulfate – Reacts with hydrogen peroxide to accelerate lightening
  • Potassium persulfate – Similar oxidizing agent to persulfate

Bleach strength can be adjusted from 10-40 volume peroxide. Higher volumes lighten more severely. Toner is applied after bleaching to neutralize brassy tones.

Color Removal Treatments

Specialized salon treatments can aid color removal or correction such as:

  • Malic acid treatment – Gentler alternative to bleach for removing artificial dye
  • Vitamin C treatment – Oxidizes and neutralizes color pigments
  • Chelating shampoo – Binds to metals in hair to dissolve color
  • Protein filler – Prepares hair to accept new color evenly

These are gentler than bleaching since they avoid drastic structural damage to hair.


Once unwanted dye has been removed or lightened, the colorist will re-color the hair to the desired shade. Options include:

  • Permanent color – Lasts 4-6 weeks with gray coverage
  • Semi-permanent color – Subtly tints and fades over 6-12 washes
  • Demi-permanent color – Between permanent and semi with some gray coverage
  • Toner – Finalizes color and gets rid of brassiness

The new color choice will depend on the current state of the hair and the client’s goals.

What are the risks of attempting color removal at home?

While at-home color stripping kits are available, they come with risks:

  • Skin/eye irritation from harsh chemicals
  • Inconsistent results with splotchiness
  • Damage from over-processing such as hair breakage
  • Accidental bleaching leading to fried or gummy hair

Attempting advanced corrections at home can ruin the hair’s structure making professional correction more difficult. Always spot test any at-home methods first.

How can you avoid unwanted hair color in the future?

Here are some tips for avoiding unwanted hair dye results:

  • Get a patch/strand test 2-4 days before full application.
  • Pick professional brand colors at a salon versus box dyes.
  • Ask your stylist to do test swatches on your hair.
  • Bring examples of hues/tones you are trying to achieve.
  • Strand test color first if applying yourself at home.
  • Read all instructions thoroughly; follow timing guidelines.
  • Maintain hair health with conditioning treatments.
  • Avoid permanent color if you want to switch up hues often.

Checking reviews of salons and stylists can help prevent coloring mishaps also. It pays to be prudent and patient with major color changes.

How much does professional color correction cost on average?

The average cost of professional color correction in a salon ranges between $65 and $300. However, exact prices vary widely based on factors like:

Factor Cost Impact
Salon’s Location Major metropolitan areas charge more
Stylist’s Experience Level Master colorists cost up to 25% more
Length of Hair Longer hair needs more product
Current vs. Target Color Drastic changes require more work
Type of Color Service Color removal costs more than re-coloring
Salon Branding High-end salons charge premium prices

Getting a quote beforehand allows you to budget and prepare. Some salons also offer payment plans if the cost is prohibitive.


While an unwanted hair color seems like a nightmare, the situation is fixable with some patience. Try at-home remedies first if the issue is minor. However, seek professional help sooner than later for dramatic color changes or damage. With the right techniques and products, a color correction can get your hair back on track. Stay realistic about the time and money the process requires. With a careful consultation and plan, you can achieve the color you really want.