Hate your new hair color? Here’s how to fix it at home

Let’s say you went to the salon, asked for a light chocolate brown hair color, and what you got was a bit closer to espresso. Typically, this will fade a few shades within three or four weeks, but if you hate it, there are ways to harmlessly speed up the process.

This technique can be employed in a number of situations, such as accidental violet (even though we love it) blonde, swimmer’s green, too-dark reds, and even sometimes will remove the harsh blue tones from some black hair dye.

What you need:

  • Baking soda
  • Clarifying shampoo
  • Deep conditioner
  • Crossed fingers

The gist of this technique is very simple: Re-open the cuticle with alkaline ingredients, and physically scrub out some of the extra hair color.

You don’t want to do this the same night as any other color service, trust me. Give your hair a chance to normalize in pH before you rough it up again. If performed on the same night, it might work “too well” and remove more color molecules than you intend. By all means, if your intention is to get it out now, you can do it; just be sure to use extra deep conditioner afterward, and preferably dual-acting moisture and protein.

The process

Take a non-metal bowl, and place two heaping tablespoons of baking soda, three if you have nipple curtains. Squirt about ¼ cup of a clarifying shampoo into the bowl, and use a whisk to blend thoroughly. I like Shampoo Three by Paul Mitchell—this stuff is powerful! Get a towel handy because you do not want this in your eyes.

I recommend doing this in the shower, but if you think you will need to shampoo, rinse, repeat, for really stubborn color, use the sink instead. Wet hair with very hot water, and apply mixture evenly over hair. About five minutes should be perfect for this, but again, serious problems might require up to 15 minutes and a second application.

After rinsing thoroughly, blow-dry a small section and examine the color in good lighting. If you see the change you want, go ahead and apply a deep conditioner for about 15 minutes to replace the oils you stripped in this process.

If you still need to see more change, mix another batch, and this time you will be adding more power! Make another batch of shampoo/baking soda. You will need gloves this time.

Add one tablespoon of bleach powder to control warmth, I like Kaleidocolors in Blue and 1-oz. 20 volume developer. There are a few color choices available for Kaleidocolors—when in doubt, choose the violet.

Repeat this application on damp hair, not soaking wet and definitely not dry—this can cause spotting or uneven color removal. You must work quickly, applying the mixture and physically scrubbing it in, gently but thoroughly. Do this for five to 15 minutes and immediately rinse if anything begins to lighten too fast. Light hair colors need no more than five minutes.

Rinse with lukewarm water, make sure all traces of shampoo have left the hair, and deep condition. After rinsing the deep conditioner, do a final cool water rinse to further seal the cuticle layer.

Avoiding heat styling that day might make your hair feel softer in the morning, so take a break; you put your hair through more than you think.

This process can be used for small color changes. If you have major problems with your color, you should really talk to a professional. It is okay to throw in the towel (literally) and ask for help if you made a boo-boo.

Most things can be fixed with some highlights and a little toner no matter what the starting point, but this method should help anyone who needs to shift their color to get it just right when it is slightly darker or lighter than intended.

This article originally appeared on xoJane.

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