Salon highlights gone bad, how to fix it myself?
June 28, 2016 5:32 PM   Subscribe

I got my light brown hair highlighted last week and the stylist did exactly the opposite of what I asked. Now that I've blown my whole hair budget on nothing, I want to try to achieve my original blonde hair wishes at home.

What I wanted was to go a couple shades lighter overall with a "sun-kissed" look, just like my hair used to look naturally when I was getting more sun and was a warm blonde. What I got was highlights throughout that are basically the same color as my hair, with some randomly placed platinum stripes in weird places that look totally unnatural. Aside from the weird stripes, you can't even tell that anything is different. Here are pics of my hair, post-highlights. (It looks much redder than usual in the second pic due to the sun.) This is what I wanted it to look like.

When I brought it up later that night with the stylist, she offered to add more highlights, for a fee. When I balked at paying more for what I thought she had agreed to do for the given price, she said she would put the "finishing touches on my service" complimentary. I don't trust her and decided I'd rather she just leave my hair alone, especially because it would take a lot more than a few more highlights to achieve what I wanted. Obviously I'm really upset that I spent a ton of money for nothing, and that she wasn't willing to make it right for free.

Now that I can't afford to go to another salon, I would like to buy a box of blonde dye and just do my whole head. I have friends telling me I should just go for it, and others telling me that I should really leave it to the professionals, but I think it would have turned out better had I just done it myself in the first place. Would weird things happen due to the fact that it's been dyed recently? Is there a particular shade I should go for, or technique I should use? Any brand that would be better? Have you tried something similar, and had great or disastrous results?
posted by Dilemma to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is it her salon? If not, I would contact the owner and ask if another staff member could correct the problem for free. I dye my own hair all the time but I am also ok with having weird colours etc. I know fixing twice-dyed hair that didn't turn out as expected starts getting pricey - that is why I would see if you can convince the salon to fix it first.
posted by saucysault at 5:53 PM on June 28, 2016 [15 favorites]

"Blonde dye" doesn't really exist when we're talking about lightening hair. You're only option here is bleach, and bleach can make your hair look like ramen if the measurements are off. Bleach comes 2 parts, the bleach powder and the peroxide delevoper, and in order for you do not burn your hair or end up with yellow, you need to know the peroxide strength. Boxed hair bleaches usually do not list this, and believe me you don't want to mess with bleach if it's 40 volume peroxide.

An option to give a more "natural" gradation and fade is doing bleach washes, then toning. Get some 20 volume developer and some purple bleach powder(easily available at sally's beauty), mix bleach, then do 1 part bleach into 2.5 parts shampoo. Lather into the ends and up into the mid length and leave on for 5 minutes. You should transition closer to a bright blonde within 3-6 washes.

You're hair has warm undertones so you will need toner, purple conditioner is good for this, and so is roux fanci-full(this is what grannies use to brighten their grey hair/keep it from going yellow). The use of toner is super easy:just dump it on your hair.

All that being said, this will still cost you money. It will be tempting to just buy a box of blonde hair dye and use it, but it will not do anything. Hair dyes are always meant to be used on a lighter hair colour than the dye.
posted by InkDrinker at 5:56 PM on June 28, 2016 [9 favorites]

Particularly if she had been shown the photo first, and is not the owner, I would be all over the manager. It looks dreadfully amateur -- if you can't get any traction with the salon, I would plaster that all over every internet review site everywhere. You don't look horrible or anything -- it's just not something anybody should have paid money for.
posted by kmennie at 6:27 PM on June 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

It's already been explained, but I just went through something like this (wanted to go from dark brown to light ash brown), so will put it in the words that got through to me - if you're starting from dark brown, you have to first go **way** lighter than you imagine, and then have it "toned" *down* to get the colour you want. (Ie it has to be bleached, then dyed with an actual colour (that also has a bit of bleach in it, so that it gets into the hair). The colour is chosen carefully to cancel out the yellow and red tones. (Its based on colour theory , Have read that violet works well in that it does a good job of getting most of both. Might need more blue if there's lots of red.)

When it's being lightened, dark hair goes through orange before it can get to a paleness that can support the ashy/beigey brown.

If you stop at orange, before it's light enough, the toner that will be intense enough to cancel out the nasty brassiness is going to be too dark to get to the target ashy brown.

I spent $130 on this kind of (salon) mistake for colour last month. Another 60 on a cut. Didn't feel like spending more, was embarrassed to walk around in public. I have short hair now, it was virgin hair underneath, and it was an all over colour, so I took my chances with ok dye at home. (Not quite box dye, though, that has metallic salts or something in it. I used Ice Cream dye, not sure if available in the US)

It turned out ok. Like... just ok. Still too red for my liking. I read guidance to pick a dye colour (toner) as intense/dark as the most disgusting orange in my hair. Has to be to cancel it out. That was level 6 for me. Picked an ashy colour that looked like it was bluish enough on the sample. BIG Risk there! Ash colours can have green, blue, purple, or beige in them. The sample might not make that clear. The colour might react with any number of colours you've already got going in unpredictable ways. It's a colour crap shoot. Ashy colours wash out fast, too, they "stick" better when mixed with a neutral shade (because the neutral is balanced, colour wise). But, there's an art to that too. (I read about neutrals after I dyed my hair, so missed out on that whole thing. Bought a colour depositing shampoo in wait for the inevitable.)

Experienced colourists know different products well and have tons of experience using them on different hair situations.

Also there's more damage, inevitably, with the extra bleach (10% for a toner, but still, if you get the colour wrong, might need a do over)

With long hair, lots of colours, etc, I would not take this risk. (Because there is also the "hot roots" phenomenon, which you're more vulnerable to. Read about that a bit :/)

Tl;DR don't do it yourself, shit's complicated.

(FYI the shampoo is Joico's Colour Balance, and there is a blue formula for more brunette-orange types. Also a violet for brassy blondes. Could try both)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:25 PM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

What I got was highlights throughout that are basically the same color as my hair, with some randomly placed platinum stripes in weird places that look totally unnatural.

What I'm thinking from reading this is that she didn't know how to correctly mix/time/process her bleach. Did she use two pots of bleach? The one that should have given the middle shades did not lighten enough. If you had a larger percentage of that middle shade, then the blondest highlights would integrate better. Now you have what is effectively two shades of hair - your natural, unbleached color and a very bright blonde. (This assumes that she understood what you wanted.)

I don't think it looks terrible, but it's not what you agreed to with colorist. I don't think you should try to fix this on your own. If you try to fix it on your own, it simply becomes more complex and expensive to fix. I also don't think your should let someone try to fix it who 1. can't get bleach correct, and 2. doesn't recognize that and fix it.

Either speak to the manager and get someone else at the salon to redo it or post photos on review sites and seek a refund/partial refund to take to another salon.
posted by 26.2 at 8:16 PM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Nthing speak to the owner/manager about a complimentary redo.

Color is as much an art as a science and even very experienced colorists can make mistakes, as it's not always possible to account for everything that might affect the results. The subtle balayage/color melt type color you were aiming for is a tricky thing to nail.

I would not recommend trying to fix or patch over it yourself, because if it ends up worse, which is highly likely, a corrective color process will eat up an entire day of your life and more money than you probably want to spend. Box dye and pro dye don't play well together, and even if you go to a beauty supply store to buy professional products, you're not going to know the exact right way to get a result you can live with. A pro already screwed up! You're safest arranging for a different pro to solve this problem.

To give the stylist some credit--she may not have ultimate control over comping services.
posted by padraigin at 8:57 PM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

The look you want comes from the belayage technique. Honestly, I would look up the best belayage colorist you can find and eat the cost to get it right before you do serious damage to your hair.
posted by jessca84 at 9:00 PM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

L'Oreal. I've used Excellence for years and I've been very happy with it. A couple of years ago I had my hair done at a salon and did not see a bit of difference. (Do a test strand first to ensure you like the color.)

I googled L'Oreal Preference vs Excellence and found this old Ask that may be useful.
posted by she's not there at 10:28 PM on June 28, 2016

The stylist is the salon owner, so there will be no re-do or refund.
posted by Dilemma at 10:40 PM on June 28, 2016

Bummer. She's not very good at being either a colorist or a salon owner.

The thing is she should have spotted this before you left the chair. There are certainly times when the formula doesn't work as planned. A good colorist deals with that by checking the processing and making adjustments. A good salon owner deals with (reasonable) dissatisfied customers. She's a bomb out on both fronts.

Review with photos to prevent others from the same path.
posted by 26.2 at 10:48 PM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh wow. Yes, please review like crazy, with the photos.

To put it in some sort of context, I once got a cut from my stylist, also the owner, that was somehow just not the usual cut. It would not hang right, it did not style like it usually did; it was like I'd gone to somebody else. I rang a little less than a week later and asked if I could come in for a little tidy-up because it wasn't working.

Him: Did you come all the way back here just for this? [I live in the sticks] I...oh, my god, I feel so bad, I'm so sorry. Okay, so tell me exactly where and how it's going wrong... Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Okay. Let's fix this!

He completely re-did it, it came out great as usual, and he apologised really extensively and gave me half off the next time I came in. Apart from that I've never asked for so much as a bang tweak in the decade I've been seeing him, but, still, even if he'd never seen me before in my life, I'd have expected him to do something towards getting it to where it should be, gratis. Only a real shitbag of a stylist would've acted as yours did; that really stinks. I too would be irate about the "platinum stripes" and can see exactly what you mean by that. Boo.
posted by kmennie at 1:57 AM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is potentially not helpful, but if there is an Aveda teaching school in your city, their prices are excellent and their work is heavily monitored. I just got a cut and color for $50, total. That price might be a little easier to swallow than going to another regular salon.
posted by Flamingo at 8:27 AM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

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