Home Hair Corrective Color

Corrective color after box dye is no joke! If you want to change it later, it will be a big process. Though there appears to be a myriad of color choices, it is a marketing move to make you feel good about the box YOU choose. A colorist formulates color with a customized approach. There are a multitude of options and techniques in professional hair color. There is no human assessing your hair in home color. Most home color has a lacquer like molecular composition that thickly coats the hair and has metallic salts to help embed the color deeper in the hair shaft to ensure coverage. It’s very difficult to remove later. The only way to lift is with color prep and bleach. Strong professional bleach (lightener) has ammonia, which can trigger a chemical reaction to metal.  This process can literally melt the hair. This chemical reaction is called hydrolyzation. 

Box color also dries out hair overtime. It has a thick coating that suffocates hair. Long term home color users eventually notice dry dull hair. Years of color and wax build up means color removal will be a long process to get your hair healthy, let alone blonde. 

Click the link below to see a video of a home hair color disaster. I feel so bad for this lady! You can hear the panic in her voice, but this video was unreal the first time I watched it. I post this because I’ve seen guests with this very situation and unfortunately at this point, there’s little anyone can do but cut the hair off as short as possible. Watch the YouTube video of hair melting from home bleach

before and after

Box Dye & Metals | Chemistry and Color Correction

For a client who is used to box color it can be hard to explain that their hair is not as light as they think it is. Here was a situation where one of my master stylists did an amazing color correction in 2016. You can see the dark middle area. The top (new hair) and bottom were lighter because the middle didn’t lift from an earlier dark color she’d applied. Though this was explained at length prior to her service and said she understood, she didn’t understand why it wasn’t platinum at the end. She said she did a better job at home, though you can see her beautiful seamless balayage in the after. What do you think? 

We have noticed some clients feel they understand color as well as we do but if you use color we don’t judge, just please don’t be this type! It makes us feel uncomfortable because we know there will be high color expectations which aren’t realistic. I only mention it because we have seen this situation many times. When a client who has home coloring starts asking very detailed color questions, it can be a red flag. Don’t get me wrong, we want you to be informed. A normal color consultation may take about 10-15 minutes, a corrective consult is far lengthier because it’s far more work. Check out our Blonde color page for more color correction info.

The Color Correction Consult “High Jack”

If a consult starts with a client listing what they want and don’t want, that makes us go silent and start assessing. The reality is we have to tell you what’s possible, because home color has limited your choices, so we’re assessing whether starting any color is a good idea. The best approach for a guest is have an open mind and tell us everything on the hair. I have trained staff to be direct in communicating the realities of color which decides what is possible. What your end goal is needed information, as long as you realize it’s a goal achieved through multiple visits. In most cases.  

We can fix anything that is possible to fix, but we aren’t necessarily trying to book every color request we get. We book situations that have the best outcome. That takes a potential new client to understand it will be a working relationship. It also takes accepting if what they were doing at home was working for them, they wouldn’t be in our chair to start with. I’m sharing for everyone’s good. I want to help guests understand a highlight is not a quick fix. Often multi process corrective color is what is necessary. This is why most of the time we do consults on all new color guests. Hair color is a combination of chemistry, biology and anatomy specific to hair. It is unrealistic to expect to replicate what can be done in a salon in your bathroom. 

Colorist Challenges

We have seen where some feel they have gotten their hair “almost there” and just needs a little extra salon help. That is not the case because home hair color isn’t made like salon color at all. Another problem with box color is the hair sealer labeled “conditioner” for after color use. It’s basically layering a petrolatum based wax coating on your hair that seals in low quality metallic color. Yikes! Petrolatum is a thick derivative of petroleum. It’s an ingredient often used in beauty products. Vaseline and baby oil are examples. I recommend avoiding this ingredient in general, especially for hair. The tube in the box color is not a conditioner at all. It is an enemy. Though it smells good and makes your hair feel silky for a second, it’s an evil coating you want to avoid. 

All Color Takes Time

Going Blonder

One of our corrective blondes.

A three-hour visit is what we book for our regular salon client with medium length/thickness of hair, not mega color correction. Knowing this up front is important. As colorists we must focus on the hair that has bands in the first color session, but it will yield the lowest amount of overall visible lightening. Therefore, it can be difficult to explain because the client comes to us to get the results they cannot. 

 Both colorists and salon visitors alike reading this can see why corrective color a whole other ball game in the world of salon hair color. By the way, there were 8 bowls of color/bleach used on the corrective color shown and a total of 4 color processes in one 5-hour visit. It was needed to obtain the natural caramel and wheat-colored melted highlights the client asked for. 


Color Correction of Box Dye is Expensive

Though it is an expensive first session with multiple color applications, this corrective blending must happen for future   highlights. You build blonde over time but to do so you must lay the groundwork. We explain this but sometimes clients just want blonde, and they want it now. During the consultation we say things like “it will probably take 2-3 visits to get THAT blonde but we will get it as blonde as possible today” or “we will get it as close to the picture as possible” because these are both true. Knowing that is a color goal and not a same day guarantee, will help home hair color users to keep expectations realistic.  

Again, it’s why we don’t like box color. It takes options away from us as colorists by inhibiting your hair from lightening and our ability to show you our true artistic skills. If you have only had occasional salon color or your hair is mostly its natural color, it’s easier to get blonde. Please don’t confuse these statements with we will get it platinum today because we won’t. We don’t tell people that this will not happen because VERY rarely sometimes it does. 

Color Correction Expectations

If the color is old or light enough, the hair may release color and lighten beyond our expectation. We call that a unicorn color because if you see that as a colorist, you want to grab the stylist next to you and share this mystical experience with her. In that moment something happened, and you defied the law of color! I have only experienced this a few of times in 20 years of doing hair. It is one of those moments that makes you believe that you have arrived in your career as a color master. If this occurs it usually has more to do with a litany of biological factors rather than a reflection of the colorist’s skill. 

 In fact, it can mess with a less experienced colorist’s head. The next time you have the same situation you may expect the same result and when it doesn’t happen you get disappointed. Even when you use the strongest lightener you think “well great, now she’s going to be upset she’s not platinum!” I use the word platinum because we often hear “I don’t want to be platinum; I want it this color”. Then they show us a Pinterest picture on their phone of packed balayage highlights, with a mix of light blondes. Usually, the pic is level 9 or 10 blonde, and they are a dark brown natural level 2. Then I die a little inside because that is platinum, especially on darker hair! 

Corrective Color Specialists

A double-booking stylist/colorist can see 4-5 clients at an average ticket of $300 in the time it takes to do an all-day color. Most stylists would rather do that with regular clients who already have a relationship with them.  Because we LOVE hair so much (this is what we chose to do in life) we want all people to love their hair. This makes a corrective color specialist a truly a special type of salon personality. It’s rare, so it is expensive. 

 Not really when you consider you are undoing what has been done and gaining ground for new color that normally takes months. Factor in a ton of color, conditioners, hair protectors, bleach, foils, other salon resources PLUS 1-2 assistants, finding that that level of attention is rare. When you do find it, it isn’t cheap. 

Corrective Color Variables

If you’ve been coloring at home repeatedly for months you need corrective work. We will often “rest” the hair after an intense lightening session, the same way how you would rest your muscles after an intense workout. Patience is key when deciding to embark on corrective color. Sometimes it takes two visits, sometimes it takes regular visits for six months. Going blonder can be compared to diet and exercise. You don’t see instant results when you start working out. You will see improvement each visit and like working towards a better body, good hair takes time.  

People with the best hair go to the salon regularly. They have consistent good-looking hair because they are consistent people. They don’t salon hop seeing different stylists and they don’t home color. They stick to one colorist with a clear color plan. Going blonde can be a transforming experience that can change how you feel about yourself which can in turn change your life! Know the details up front and do your due diligence by being an informed salon visitor by reading the info we provide, so you can help us help you love your hair.
* The informative content of this blog is from experiences I felt both stylists and customers alike could learn from. We strive to make everyone happy with excellent customer service and we believe education is key for both the service provider and the salon customer.