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How do I Fix a Bad Hair Dye?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 21, 2024
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One of the least pleasant beauty experiences in the world is washing and drying newly-dyed hair and discovering, instead of a fresh new look, a hair disaster. Whether dye has created a patchwork out of hair or the luscious red shade has turned locks a shocking maroon by mistake, there are several ways to help fix a bad hair dye job. When a bad hair dye occurs, it is important to proceed with caution and avoid panic; hasty attempts at fixing a bad hair dye may result in an aggravated problem.

Many beauty experts recommend seeking professional help or advice immediately. Bad hair dyes can usually be fixed by professionals immediately, but may be expensive. Typically, hairdressers fix a nightmare dye by stripping the color from the hair before it can truly take permanent hold. In many cases, a professional can then redye the hair, either to the desired new color, or back to the original shade. Although this may be the least risky way to fix a bad hair dye, it can be quite pricey.

For those who choose to try and fix the hair at home, there are several options. First, if the dye used was temporary or semi-permanent, it may be possible to strip it out of the hair using a clarifying shampoo. Look for shampoos made for oily hair, or those used to remove dandruff. Shampoo hair thoroughly a few times, then dry to see if the color has toned down or vanished. For best results, try this treatment within two days of the original dye.

It may also be possible to dye hair back to its normal color. If trying this method, it is important to use a very natural looking shade that will help reduce the appearance of a bad dye. Some experts recommend using strawberry blond if hair has gone green, neutral brown to wash out brassy red colors, or ash blonde to remove pink or maroon. Follow manufacturer's instructions for a normal dye job. It is important to note that this method can end in slightly random results; it may work flawlessly and rid hair of bizarre colors, but it can also backfire. If the original dye was not applied evenly, attempting to re-dye strands may result in a patchwork or streaky appearance.

One way to avoid a bad hair dye is to strand-test any box of dye before applying to hair. Snip a small section of hair and apply the dye, then allow to saturate according to regular dye instructions. Rinse the sample and dry it to see how the finished color appears. Since color may vary slightly with every different box of dye, even people that regularly dye hair at home may be able to avoid disasters with this method.

Another major cause of bad hair dyes is improper application. To avoid streaks and patches, be sure that hair is saturated from root to tip, working in small sections and pinning dyed strands down to ensure that all layers are accessible. For those with curly or long hair, consider buying and mixing two containers to ensure that dye does not run out. Taking simple steps to ensure even application can prevent a bad hair dye from ever ruining a makeover.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for BeautyAnswered. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon274518 — On Jun 12, 2012

I had no dandruff shampoo but washed it within an hour with washing up liquid! I had used a pre treatment for first time and ended up with brownish hair with blocks of the old blonde. I'm going to have to get a blonde dye now, but at least the washing up liquid definitely lightened the brown so the lighter blocks are not quite as noticeable! I followed up with a good conditioner.

By Valencia — On May 19, 2011

It is very important to strand test your hair to check the color and to be sure you have no allergic reactions to the chemicals.

One problem I have found though is that some brands tell you the hair color solution must be used as soon as it is mixed. In that case it's impossible to leave the test long enough for accurate results.

Because of this I always look for the type that provide an open mixing tray with the package.

By Bakersdozen — On May 17, 2011

I used a permanent pink hair dye once as a teenager. My poor mother was horrified as I was due to be an attendant at a family wedding the following weekend!

After dragging me to the local hair salon she nearly fainted at the fee they wanted to try to fix it. I spent the rest of that summer, wearing bandanas, and the pictures of me as a bridesmaid are best forgotten.

By CaithnessCC — On May 16, 2011

I followed the advice here to fix a home hair dye disaster and it really worked, thanks a million Wisegeek!

Luckily for me my father has bad dandruff, so I was able to get straight onto the problem. He, on the other hand is not so impressed.

I can see his point, as if that shampoo can strip the red hair dye from my hair it doesn't sound like a great product for healthy hair!

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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