How to Rebound From a Big Hair-Color Regret

It was 23-year-old Emely Grullon’s idea to go from “brassy” blonde to gray, a change that she’d been considering for a long time and just recently got the guts to try. She’d been dying her hair the same color for six years (she’s naturally brunette) and she wanted something new.

She hated it.

“I had a consultation first. I said I wanted gray, [this story was originally about “going gray at 23″] but the photo I brought in was ash-y blonde, so my colorist suggested we add gray toner for a more dramatic effect. I said go for it. It took a lot of bleach, which I’d never used before. When I looked in the mirror once the stylist finished, I had a panic attack. I thought I had ruined my hair forever.”

But of course, she didn’t. Emely’s so-called “disaster” was fixed in a single return salon trip. “I called my hairstylist and said it was too extreme for me. I asked if there was any way to take the gray out and fix this. She said no problem, and after a day spent in her chair, I’m blonde again, and I’ve been getting so many compliments on the new color.”

After hearing Emely’s tale, I called up celebrity colorist Carlina Ortega of NYC’s Rita Hazan Salon. She’s the woman who took Emely from blonde to gray and back again, and good news: she says these kinds of hair freak outs don’t have to be a big deal. So you went too hard on the unicorn trend and decided you hated it? Here’s how to rebound.

…First, build in time for a consultation.

If you want a major color change, or even a minor one, Ortega encourages clients to come in for a consultation separate from the dye job. This way there’s time to ask lots of questions without feeling pressured. It also ensures they’re 100% on the same page about the final results. “Sometimes clients will say ‘ashy blonde’ but show me a photo of golden blonde. We have to communicate about what you want, what will look good, and how much time it will take to achieve your desired results.” If you’re going from dyed-red hair to platinum blonde, for example, the right process — one that allows for the least amount of damage to your hair — could take a month and mean multiple visits.

Yeah, but CELEBRITIES always seem like they go from black to blonde overnight…

“A lot of celebrities are wearing extensions,” says Ortega. “They have the new color on top and extensions under so that their hair doesn’t look damaged.”

Okay. You have the consultation. You go in for your appointment. You like the new color but your hair has lost its life and feels like straw.

Curly hair like Emely’s is fragile. When you get something done to your hair that it’s not used to, it takes about a week to go ‘back to normal.’ I gave her a protein treatment when she came back to strengthen her curls.” You don’t have to wait a whole week for it to “settle,” however. Be proactive and ask for a protein treatment immediately following a color process. It’s good for all hair types. You can also ask your colorist to suggest hair masks to use at home.

You hate your hair and want it dyed back IMMEDIATELY!  Possible?

Kinda. Ortega was able to strip the gray toner from Emely’s hair in one day and replenish what she took out with the protein treatment, but that’s not always the case — it depends on the color you dyed your hair. If you went from blonde to black or red, or used henna, your hair colorist can take it down a notch right away, but will likely suggest you come back in two weeks to a month for round two. (If you’ve been dying your hair dark for a while, it can take even longer to strip the color down.) “You need to give your hair a chance to breathe.”

Don’t feel awkward about saying, “This isn’t what I wanted.”

“It’s better for me to fix your hair right away and make you happy rather than have you live with it and not say anything,” says Ortega. “The people who keep it inside start to hate it even more, then they hate life and then they hate me. If you don’t like your hair, let me know. You’re not going to offend me at all. The best thing about color, the reason I love it, is because you can always fix it, always tweak it, and it’s often a subtle change that makes all the difference.”

You won’t have to pay extra to have it fixed

“Most salons’ policy is that they will fix your hair within a week, free of charge,” Ortega says.

Good luck out there, hairy friends, and take the risk your Pinterest board is always encouraging you to try.

Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond

Amelia Diamond is a writer, creative consultant, and Man Repeller alumnus living in New York City.

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