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How to Fix Highlights at Home

by Madison Reed June 30, 2021

woman with straight face and long balayage hair

Image by Madison Reed

You wanted subtle, natural-looking highlights. But what you see in the mirror, well, it’s kind of a hair disaster. 

Even if your highlights make you cringe, take a deep breath. With a bit of patience and the right approach, fixing your highlights without a salon is possible. 

How to Fix Highlights: Color Correction Ground Rules

How to fix overdone highlights? You have to remember a few rules. For the first two weeks after highlighting your hair, hold off on using more bleach or dye on your hair. Why? Because bleaching or color treating your hair can change its porosity, which is the ability to absorb and retain moisture and color. Immediately jumping into another intense color treatment could spell even more trouble (not to mention, it could damage your hair). 

Instead, try conservative color corrections on your hair first, including toners and color depositing hair masks. These easy treatments may give you the results you want, in which case there’s no need to try another permanent hair color or bleach treatment.  

If you’ve already tried a conservative fix and still don’t love your results, call or chat with our Color Crew. Color correction can be tricky, and that’s why you shouldn’t do it alone. Our Color Crew stylists can account for previous color treatments (and anything else that may affect your color outcomes) and recommend a product and shade that will get you the results you want.

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How to tone down highlights that are too light?

You wanted noticeably lighter hair, but this has gone too far. What to do with highlights that are too light? First things first, try a toner. While your highlights may seem too bright, it could be that you’re actually seeing undesired tones in them, and a toner can help level things out. Our Light WorksⓇ Toning Glaze enhances highlights, reduces brassiness, and conditions and locks in shine. 

toning glaze before and after

You can also try Color Reviving Gloss, a semi-permanent color that will dial down unwanted tone and add back color, warmth, and dimension. Choose from an array of semi-permanent shades.


If you want to consult a pro before you try to fix your highlights on your own,chat with a Madison Reed licensed colorist to determine the next best step for your hair. You can even book a complimentary virtual Video Color Consultation with a licensed colorist.

Brassy highlights? No, thank you. 

You’ve got orange hair…and you definitely care. Brassiness can happen right after you highlight your hair, or it can creep in gradually in the weeks and months after bleaching. And it doesn’t just happen to blondes—dark hair can be brassy, too. Whatever the case is with your brassy highlights, it’s possible to fix them without a trip to the salon. 


Here's how to fix brassy highlights:

Try replacing your conditioner with a cool-toned shade of Color Therapy, a color-depositing hair mask, to add cool tones and balance out brassiness. Choose the Perla shade if you have blonde hair with overly yellow tones, or try the Caffé shade to neutralize orange tones in dark brown hair. 

How to fix highlights - Color Therapy


If you plan to lighten your hair with an at-home highlight kit again in the future, don’t skip the toning step. A toner can cut out those brassy tones before they even appear and helps blend newly lightened areas for natural-looking highlights. 

My highlights are too ashy to blend with the rest of my hair.

On the opposite end of the spectrum from brassy tones, sometimes highlights can feel too cool-toned, silvery, or ashy compared to the rest of your hair. In this case, you’ll want to add warm tones to your highlighted areas. For lighter blonde highlights, Color Therapy in Dorato can add golden honey tones. If you’re a brunette, Color Therapy in Castagna is an easy way to add subtle chestnut tones to your highlights and counteract color that’s too ashy.

When applying a color depositing mask to correct ashy tones, focus the product only on your highlighted areas. There’s no need to apply it to the rest of your hair, and in fact, spreading it all over may bring out unwanted undertones.


How to fix too dark highlights?

Highlight? Not so much…this dark color looks more like a lowlight. If your highlights are too dark, the toner you used may have darkened them past your desired color. Don’t panic—just reach for clarifying shampoo to help fade some of the darkness from the toner. These shampoos are meant to strip product (and in this case, color) out of your hair, and they can be drying. So, be sure to use a moisturizing conditioner after clarifying to prevent frizz or dullness in your bleached hair. 

You can also try a primer, like our Prime for Perfection, which removes excess buildup that causes color to look dull or too dark. Prime for Perfection penetrates the hair cuticle, then it dissolves previous artificial color build-up. 

If you suspect that your highlights are too dark because the color didn’t process long enough, you may need to try bleaching again. BUT—and yes, this is a big BUT—don’t let that bleach anywhere near your hair until you’ve consulted with a color pro. Bleaching again too soon could damage your hair, or choosing the wrong shade could give you a color that’s even further from your desired result.

At-Home Highlights Made Easy

Now you know how to fix bad highlights at home. But Maybe you’ve decided to try highlights for the first time. Or, perhaps you’ve finally put that bleached hair disaster from five years ago behind you, and you’re ready to try again. If a sun-kissed look is what you’re after, skip the salon and find your perfect shade of Light Works instead. This two-step, salon-style kit includes a lightener and a toner so you can get natural-looking balayage highlights from home. 

a woman fixing bad highlights at home

Ask a colorist to see which shade is right for your hair, then see for yourself how easy it is to lighten your hair with at-home color kits from Madison Reed. We’re here to help you color with confidence.

On our blog you can also find recommendations on how to fix bad hair color at home.