How to Color Correct Hair


woman having hair colored

If you’re a pro stylist, we’re willing to bet you’ve had to do some form of color correction at some point during your career. The reality is that rush jobs, box dyes and inexperienced stylists can leave color totally out of whack. But even disastrous dye jobs are no problem for savvy stylists to fix!

Since color corrections range from minor to catastrophic, correction approaches can vary widely. Whether you’re brushing up on color corrections or you haven’t performed many and want to learn more, we will be sharing some of the many common types of color corrections that you may encounter as a stylist.

What Is a Color Correction, Exactly?

Let’s start with the basics. Because color correcting is done during many professional hair color sessions, it’s important to understand what the process involves and why it’s used. Anytime there is an extreme change being made to a client’s hair, this could be considered a color correction. In practice, this typically means either making hair really light or really dark in order to correct a specific problem.

This technique usually happens when a client wants to take their dark hair to platinum or another shade that requires bleaching. Color correction can also be used if a client is dissatisfied with their hair color because they used box dye or they recently got a dye job they are unhappy with.

How to Color Correct Hair

There are many ways to color correct hair. The approach you take should depend on the circumstance and state of the client’s hair. Let’s talk about some of the techniques used by stylists.

  • Balayage — If a client comes in with dyed hair that isn’t blended well or isn’t the shade they wished for, a stylist can make the hair look more blended and natural with balayage. Balayage is a highlighting technique that is performed without foils. The end result of a balayage is a style that looks “lived-in,” natural and blended. Stylists can mix in different colors and low lights to make the balayage look more natural and two-dimensional as well.
back of womans head of long hair
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  • Filling Hair or Going Darker — If a client’s hair is badly bleached and damaged, going a few shades darker will benefit the health of the hair in the long-term while also giving them a more polished look. Filling the hair with color will completely transform the client’s hair and cover up a bad dye job that isn’t salvageable through balayage or other forms of color correction. The client can nurse their hair back to health and maintain their new, darker color by using professional hair care products that are color-safe and replenishing. As a stylist, you will want to talk with your client about the darker shades they would be willing to wear and style. If you’re dying bleached hair, you may want to advise the client to come in for a routine gloss to maintain the darker color as time goes on. As the client washes their hair or gets sun exposure, the color may fade, and since the base color was blonde, color may become dull.
  • Achieving the Right Tone of Blonde with Toner or Purple Shampoo — When a client is receiving highlights or a balayage and doesn’t achieve the blonde they had in mind, a stylist can use a purple or blue shampoo treatment and toner to correct the blonde. Clients can also use blue and purple shampoos at home to keep their blonde on the ash or gray side and prevent it from turning brassy.

woman with long grey hair

  • Double Processing — If a client is going from a really dark shade like red, brown or black to blonde, gray or platinum, chances are they will need to undergo a double process. This is when the hair gets bleached and then bleached again. This process is carefully controlled and monitored by stylists, as bleach can be extremely damaging to hair, especially if it has been colored before. Double processing can help stylists remove stubborn color from hair or it can help stylists prime the hair to take on a different or vivid color. Double processing can also be used to help take a client into a very ashy blonde or gray.

Setting Up Your Client for Hair Success

After any kind of color correcting service, a client is going to need a deep conditioning treatment, and they will also need to keep up a healthy hair routine after they leave the salon. Hair can be significantly damaged from the prior dye job so expect to be extra careful as you perform the color correction service. Clients can expect to be charged around $100 an hour for a color correcting service, which is pretty standard across the industry. While this service may be costly, it’s the only way to ensure a client gets the hair they have always wanted.


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