Salon Etiquette 101: What to Do if You Hate Your New Hair Color

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There’s nothing better than the joy and excitement you feel leaving the salon with freshly colored tresses, knowing the hours (and dollars) you spent in the process were all worth it. But not every color appointment has a happy ending. Sometimes, as your hair’s being dried, you catch a glimpse of your new color in the mirror, and (gasp!) what you feel is the opposite of joy.

Then the panic sets in—you’ve got a good 15 to 20 minutes until the blow-dryer stops, and you’ll be forced to speak. You know your colorist will be expecting gratitude and enthusiasm, but you hate what you’re looking at. What do you do? Celebrity colorists have the answer.

Meet the Expert

  • Rita Hazan is a celebrity colorist and the founder of Rita Hazan Salon in New York City.
  • Richy Kandasamy is a professional colorist and co-founder of Rokoko Beauty.

Keep reading for the best course of action when your dye job turns out all wrong.

Speak Up

Woman sitting in chair at hair salon

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Step one is to say something. Well, the real step one is probably more like "breathe," but after you’ve taken a deep breath, speak up.

Easier said than done? Sure, but the alternative of living with a hair color you hate isn’t much better. “Tell your colorist in a calm way that you are unhappy with how the look turned out, and he or she will be understanding,” Hazan says.

Try to explain exactly what you don’t like about the color. Is it too dark all over? Is the tone of the color too warm or too cool? Are the highlights too chunky? Is there not enough variation in the highlights? Be specific and be polite.

Go Back

Woman in salon chair

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Let’s say you couldn’t muster up the strength to express your disappointment while you were still in the chair. Don’t worry—you can still turn the situation around.

“If you end up leaving the salon unhappy with your color, but have been seeing the colorists for many years with only one upsetting experience, go back to get it fixed,” Hazan says. Your colorist wants you to be happy with the final result.

Plus, the person who started the job will be better equipped to make the adjustments needed, compared to someone coming into the situation without any background. Usually, the problem that’s bothering you only requires a quick fix, and most salons won’t charge you for color correction.

Go Elsewhere

Salon hair dye

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“However, if it’s your first time with someone and you really don’t like how it turned out, I would suggest doing some research and finding a new person,” Hazan says.

When you go elsewhere, be prepared to pay. A new stylist will treat the appointment as a new color, not a color correction. If it’s a complete redo, Hazan says it’ll be worth it to get the issue fixed properly. “Or, if you want to switch stylists at the same salon, that’s fine too—it’s your hair and your money,” Hazan says. “You should never feel bad about making that decision.”

Choose a Color That's Close to Your Own

Woman speaking to hair stylist at salon

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Whether you opt for a new colorist, or go back to the original colorist for a re-do, opt for a color that's not too far off from your own. "Using your roots as a guide, select a color shade that is as close as possible to your natural color," says Kandasamy.

Once your colorist nails that shade, you can go lighter (or darker, depending on preference), over the course of repeat visits to the salon.

Try Washing

woman washing her hair

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If you’re not ready to spend another afternoon in the salon, there are some other options to try. First, go home and wash your hair a few times. Most brunette and red shades will fade a bit right after washing.

A mix of dandruff shampoo and baking soda will help remove stubborn dye.

Style it Yourself

Woman looking at hair in mirror

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Next, try some DIY styling. Sometimes there may be a stray lowlight or too intense highlight that’s bothering you that can be taken care of just by switching your part.

Or maybe your highlights don’t look as naturally sun-kissed as you would want them to in the sleek, blown-out style you got at the salon, but once you style your hair into your usual beach waves, you’ll feel differently.

Try an At-Home Gloss

Hair dye

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If you wish your red was just a little richer, your brunette a little deeper, or your blonde ever so slightly warmer, try an at-home gloss. The difference will be minor, but if you’re looking for a small tweak, a $10, three-minute, in-shower treatment may be all you need.

Do note, however, that an at-home DIY likely won't give you the results as a salon professional. "A professional colorist can match your color more precisely than home products," says Kandasamy.

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