How to handle color corrections

When a new client books a consultation or color appointment, you don’t know what head of hair will be walking in. Will it be as easy as a toner? Or will you have to spend 7 hours foiling, tinting, teasing, and rooting? Let’s break it down!


The first and most important step is the consultation. You can prepare for the consultation by asking the client to send you photos in advance of the appointment. Ask for a picture of their hair, and a few inspiration pics of the look they want to achieve. This can help you determine where to start, what services will need to be done, and a rough estimate of the price.

If the client can’t send you photos, see if they can still come in for a consultation before booking the service. You can’t feel their hair through a photo, so this is the best way to game plan. During the consultation you can get an idea of the condition of their hair and speak with them about their hair history. The longer the hair, the longer the history.

Questions to ask:

Do they have any color or chemicals on their hair or is it all natural? Have they ever used box dye? Have they previously highlighted, and then colored over the highlights? These are super important questions to discuss when determining what can be done and helps to manage the client’s expectations.

Analyze the hair:

Take a look at the lengths of hair starting at the new growth. What do you see? Do they have grays? Are there any hot spots from leaking foils that need fixing? Is there any banding from a base bump or past root retouches?

Now go through the mids. Any grown out highlights? Streaky balayage? How much regrowth are you dealing with? Any bands of color through the mids?

Now look at the ends. Do they look fried? Would the client be ok with having a haircut or trim if necessary? Are there any areas of hair missing from over processing or breakage?

Plan and pricing:

Start by listing the things that need fixing and think of what services are needed to correct those imperfections. Does the client need a full head of highlights, toning, a complete bleach out, lowlights, or maybe a combination of services? Do they want to have everything done in one sitting, or do they prefer to break it up into sessions? These answers determine the price and timing. Some salons charge hourly for color corrections, some do everything a la carte, meaning each service is priced separately, and some bundle services which can include a little discount when the client needs a few things done at once.

Here is an example of a color correction experience I had this year:


What do you see?

Starting at the new growth I can see about an inch and a half of her natural hair before there is any color present. No grays to worry about here, and I would say she is around a level 4. There is a clear line where the color begins. It looks to me like permanent color was previously used to lift her natural base (this could create an issue when lightening). Now the highlights begin. Because of how grown out they are I would estimate that she had highlights done about 5 months ago. I can also see a pinkish red color mixed in with the highlights which tells me she had a fashion color over some of her blonde. As I take a look at the back of her head, I notice that it’s a lot darker and the highlights don’t begin until we get close to the ends of her hair. This tells me that she has been getting partial highlights and it has been quite a while since she has had a full highlight. Her hair felt a little dry towards the ends but strong so I wasn’t concerned with doing a color service. She has coarse hair and high density which means whatever service is needed will take a bit longer than normal.

Discuss goals:

We browsed some blonde inspiration photos and determined that she wanted to go lighter all over but still wanted to keep a little dimension. Because she has had highlights in the past and is able to lift to a light blonde I felt comfortable moving forward with her goal.

Make a plan:

There is not only one correct way to tackle this project, but this is the plan I chose to put into action based on what I needed to correct and her goal. My main concern was getting her hair brighter overall. There was a ton of darkness in the back of the head and a large area of regrowth and permanent color to get through. I knew that I would have to do a super packed full highlight and also brighten some of the ends that didn’t make it into foils. Toning would also be a key player in this process to get rid of warmth and create a nice blend. I would also have to be cautious when applying lightener because she has highlights and some areas were already very light (meaning they might have experienced bleach more than once).

Budget and time:

A breakdown of the services:

  • Full highlight (with extra foils and some teased ends)

  • Toner/root shadow

  • Conditioning treatment

  • Blowdry/style

Each salon has their own pricing system but we typically charge $200 for a full foil, which includes toning and styling, and $60 for a conditioning treatment. However, in this case I am placing so many extra foils and extra work so I would charge $300 for this full foil and since I am combining a few services I would add the conditioning treatment at $30 for a total of $330.

Depending on their time and budget you could break this into multiple smaller highlight sessions but she wanted to do it in one go for the most impact. For a big project like this, and since I don’t have an assistant to help me, I like to focus all of my attention on this one client. You don’t know what could happen during the lightening process and it could really throw you off track if something doesn’t go to plan. I blocked off 8 hours for this processes since I am not the fastest foiler and because she has a ton of dark coarse hair.


Here you can see the final result of our marathon session. She is nice and bright with dimensional blonde. No brass or dark pockets to be found.

Let’s discuss maintenance! Aftercare is so important to keep the color looking like it did when it left the salon. High quality salon products are the first step in staying blonde. A purple shampoo like Fanola can help fight brass, but sometimes I find them to be drying. So for clients with a dry hair concern, I recommend a purple conditioner like Evo Fabuloso platinum blonde conditioner.

Toner services are recommended every 4-6 weeks, or at the clients discretion, to keep hair on the cool spectrum.

Since she has a very dark natural hair color I would recommend highlight appointments every 2-3 months to avoid a high contrast area at the base.

At home treatments like Olaplex #3 are great for blondes because it works to strengthen hair and rebuild the bonds lost during the lightening process. It’s also helps to repair hair for those who use a lot of heat styling.

What tips do you have for color corrections? Leave your questions and comments below!
Krista VarnumComment