Even if you start with the best intentions and follow the directions on the box to a T, sometimes, hair color mishaps can happen to even the most skilled DIY colorist. "The most common issue with dyeing your hair at home is understanding the process you are putting your hair through," says Duffy, Vidal Sassoon Global Ambassador. "The more you know about how your hair behaves, the better you will be able to work with it." Before even picking up a box, consider the history of your hair—if you color it frequently, it's likely to be more porous, and the thickness and texture of your strands will also have an impact on the result. Still, we know the pain of following every direction on the box to a T, only to end up with a less-than-stellar finish, so we asked Duffy for his pro advice on how to fix a botched dye job without having to beg for your hairstylist's mercy, and how to tell if the color is beyond repair at your own hands.
How to Fix a Too-Dark Color
If a box of dye left you looking more like Morticia Addams than Megan Fox, have no fear—darker colors can be faded to a more natural result with a little shampoo and elbow grease. "Try rinsing hair as soon as possible with a clarifying shampoo to try and strip the color away, and make sure to use a deep conditioner after shampooing to replace all of the oils you removed," says Duffy, who recommends the Vidal Sassoon ColorFinity Shade Precision Treatment ($5; walgreens.com). In our experience, a bottle of Pert ($6; drugstore.com) or Head and Shoulders ($5; walmart.com) will remove unwanted tones after two or three washes, but if you're really in a pinch, even a few drops of dish soap mixed with your regular shampoo can help to fade the color. Just keep in mind that this can be drying on your hair, so we recommend layering the deep conditioner on immeditately after, and letting it sit while you watch an episode of Mad Men—commercial breaks included.
How to Fix a Brassy Color
Going from deep brunette to platinum blonde doesn't come without the expected hints of yellow and orange, but often, it's the water that causes your color to turn. "Water is the biggest factor in color fade, due to the oxidative minerals that can cause free radicals and affect hair quality," Duffy says. "To prevent brassy color from happening in the first palce, go for a cool or ashy tone." We recommend using purple or blue-tinted shampoos and conditioners to fade brassiness, as well as a color-neutralizing gloss. Shielding your strands from heat damage afterwards will also prevent the tones from reappearing. "Try using a lower temperature when styling, and always use a heat protecting product," he adds.
When to Consult a Professional
If the health of your hair is severely compromised, or you end up with a color that is too light, completely bleached-out, or uneven, you'll need to suck up your pride, call your stylist, and go into the salon. "Your best bet is to head to the salon for any major color corrections. It is much easier to fix a solid color at home, versus hair color that is patchy and uneven," says Duffy. "When hair is stripped too light, it loses its natural pigment, and this needs to be put back in before the desired color is reapplied—not a job for at home."
Afterwards, you'll want to incorporate ultra-hydrating conditioners and deep conditioning masks rich in proteins into your routine to help restore your strands to a healthier state. Give your hair a rest from the color changes, and if you do decide to try your hand at an at-home shade shift again, make sure to veer no more than two hues lighter or darker than your natural tone to avoid repeating the cycle.