Home Hair How to Fix a Highlight Bleed: Tips from a Master Colorist

How to Fix a Highlight Bleed: Tips from a Master Colorist

by Sandy Taylor

If you see little splotchy patches on your hair from a highlight service, it means that the highlights weren’t applied meticulously and hair dye products may have “bleed” into other parts of your hair where you don’t want highlights.

Luckily, there are ways to fix a highlight bleed. The process involves analyzing the extent of the bleed and fixing the trouble areas.

Note that it’s highly recommended to have this process done by a trained professional as they will be able to help you locate and fix the bleed easily.

However, if you prefer to do it yourself, you can try the methods below to fix a highlight bleed at home.

In this post, I connected with Jessica Phillips, an award-winning, independent master colorist from Birmingham Michigan
with over 17 years of experience in the beauty industry.

Jessica shares with me that the best way to fix a highlight bleed is to use the Shadow Root and Lowlights methods. Both of these methods can be done at home.

NOTE: For both the shadow root or lowlight methods presented below, be sure to always use a semi or demi-permanent color as opposed to an oxidative permanent color. The semi and demi will be much easier to break through than a permanent deposit. This makes it easier for you to work on your hair again in the near future.

Method 1 – A “Shadow Root” or “Root Tap”

This method involves mixing a semi or demi-permanent color that is at least one shade darker than the problem areas and applying it at the base to create a seamless blend from the root into the highlight. The semi-permanent color will last around 6 weeks.

What You Will Need:

  • Hair Color and Activating Lotion (demi-permanent, 1 shade darker than the problem areas)
  • 1 Mixing Bowl
  • 1 Color Brush
  • 1 Precision Tint Brush
  • 1 Wide Tooth Comb
  • Hair Ties (disposable ones)
  • Hair Clips (disposable ones)
  • Small Mirror

What You Need To Do:

  1. Wash and blow-dry your hair
  2. Mix the hair color with the activating cream according to the instructions on the box
  3.  Stand with your back facing the mirror, then hold a small mirror to help you see the problem areas.
  4. Tie your hair back to expose the roots in the problem areas.
  5. Brush the color mixture into the roots of the problem areas.  Apply as close to the roots as possible. Try not to get the color on your highlights.
  6. Use the tooth comb to spread color from the roots to around 1-2 inches down the hair shaft. This helps the color blend in better.
  7. Repeat steps 5 – 6 on other problem areas.
  8. Leave the color on for the amount of time specified on the product box. (Usually around 20 – 30 mins).
  9. While the color is processing on the roots, apply conditioner on the ends of your hair. Also, apply conditioner to hair that is close to the color. This step helps to minimize the chances that your color will bleed into your ends when you wash it off. This works because hair color does not penetrate through oil-based products.
  10. Wash your hair with cold water and conditioner.

Pro Tip From Jessica (Optional Step): Depending on your desired look, halfway into the processing time you can use a comb to brush the color into the highlights to diffuse any line of demarcation even further!

Method 2 – Lowlights

The lowlights method helps to soften the area of your hair that has bled by darkening the bled areas with a color that matches your natural hair color. This method is great for people who want to fix their highlight bleed but don’t want a rooted look.

The lowlights method involves mixing up a demi-permanent color that matches the natural base color, and then weaving tiny lowlights to create natural dimensions through the troubled areas without compromising the existing highlights!

Note that this is not a “spot” fix. You would want to apply the lowlights to at least 2 levels of your hair for the best results. The steps below show how to do lowlights for 2 layers of your hair. Depending on your situation, you can do more layers to help fade the highlight bleeds.

What You Will Need:

  • Hair Color and Activating Lotion (demi-permanent, matches your natural base color)
  • 1 Mixing Bowl
  • 1 Color Brush
  • 4-5 pieces of Tin Foil (4in x 4in)
  • 1 Tail Comb
  • Change of clothes (optional)

What You Need To Do:

  1. Wash and blow-dry your hair
  2. Mix the hair color with the activating cream according to the instructions on the box.
  3. Assuming your hair is parted (1 on each side of your head), start with one part, use the tail end of the tail comb to isolate out the top layer, and then flip it to the other side. This will expose the middle layer of your hair.
  4. In the middle layer, grab a section of hair using your middle and index fingers. Spread out the strands so they fit the width of your fingers. Comb through this section from root to tip to remove any kinks.
  5. Using the tail end of the tail comb, weave through the section of hair that you are holding. Try to pick up any dark strands and any bleeds you want to fix. To do this, pick the dark stands and the strands you want to fix and push them up so they sit on top of the shaft of the tail comb.
  6. Once you are done picking, simply lift up your comb and all the pieces that you want to darken are visible.
  7. Grab a piece of tin foil and place it under the picked-out pieces of hair.
  8. Brush your color onto the hair on top of the tin foil. Since you are just toning the hair to a darker shade, you don’t need to completely saturate each strand with color. If your tin foil is not long enough, you can fold the strands up so the tin foil can capture it.
  9. Fold the tin foil up.
  10. Using the tail end of the tail comb, flip the top layer (that you isolated in step 3) back to its regular side. Repeat steps 4 -9 on the top layer.
  11. Repeat steps 3 – 10 on the other side of your head. After you are done, you should have 4 layers of tin foil on your head (2 on each side holding the dye and hair strands you want to darken).
  12. Leave the color on for the amount of time specified on the product box. (Usually around 20 – 30 mins).
  13. While the color is processing on the roots, apply conditioner on the ends of your hair. Also, apply conditioner to hair that is close to the foil. This step helps to minimize the chances that your color will bleed into your ends when you wash it off. This works because hair color does not penetrate through oil-based products. Note: You can skip this step if you choose to only rinse the strands of hair in the tin foil. 
  14. Wash your hair with cold water and conditioner.

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