I purple shampooed to death my hair and contacted the stylist who recommended continuing this daily and leaving it on my hair for up to 1/2 an hour at a time until it reached the desired level of tone. My scalp was killing me by the end of the week. Raw and irritated. The highlights were starting to tone down, but still much too yellow for my liking. Even I knew in all my experience with bleach the colour hadn't been lifted enough and purple shampoo wasn't going to cut it.

3 weeks later I booked in to see the stylist again who said she could try and lighten the highlights up. She didn’t recommend using a toner as she said this would damage my hair and wouldn’t last anyway. Unbeknown to me, lightening up my existing highlights actually meant 'I can’t relighten the same strands of hair, but I'll add in some more to even it out.' I knew as soon as she started slopping bleach on everywhere that I should have dashed. So really it was my own fault when I looked glumly into the mirror at my new yellow toned bleach blonde bob. I’ve been bleach blonde before and it just about killed my hair, the upkeep was painstaking, and it made me look ill. I wasn’t about to ask her to further fix my hair, and I wasn’t willing to fork out more money for this botched number.

Stupidly, and possibly due to my frazzled state of mind I rushed out to buy a box of Loreal Paris Sublime Mousse Pure in Very Light Blonde 1000. I thought this might tone down the yellow hue. Unfortunately it lightened my locks several more shades so now I was pretty much white blonde all over, with copper toned strands underneath where my virgin medium brown had remained untouched.

I put up with this a few days before I was longing for my old trusty brown shade again. I felt like a fraud with all this blonde. I knew I was going to have to apply a red filler to take me from blonde to brown and avoid turning my hair jet black. So I used a box of Clairol’s Nice and Easy Natural Golden Auburn 108, enjoyed ½ hour of being a red head and then threw on my final colour in Clairol’s Nice and Easy Medium Chestnut Brown 118C. In less than 24 hours I had been blonde, red, and brunette. What fun! The resulting colour was a very dark purple brown. But dark was what I was used to, so it appealed to me more than the blonde.

Within a fortnight the colour had lightened to a natural reddish brown and I happily chopped in some layers and thinned some sections underneath to lighten the whole uneven helmet look I had going on.

In a couple of months the permanent colour had almost completely faded, bringing me back to an orange tone. I wanted to go lighter, but decided to use a darker semi-permanent at this stage to get me through the transition period of the auburn dye fading, which wasn’t a colour I was keen on keeping. I went with Loreal Paris Casting Creme Gloss Brownie 454. There really wasn’t anything residually brownie like about this. This was very dark and very red. I tried everything to fade it over the coming weeks - dishwashing liquid, regular washing, coconut oil (which always seems to unintentionally wash out permanent dyes when used as a conditioning hair treatment). This colour is supposed to last 28 washes, but after 2 months of absolutely no fade I decided to take other measures. This colour is certainly ideal if you are looking for a long lasting dye that doesn’t contain hydrogen peroxide.

I decided to bring my colour back to the lighter shade post salon bleach and had read about the highly recommended JoBaz Hair Colour Remover. I opted for the Max Strength seeing as I had those stubborn red tones and layers of colour upon colour. I followed the instructions set out in the JoBaz leaflet of apply - let it sit for up to an hour - rinse for 15 minutes - buffer for a few minutes - rinse again - buffer - rinse. However, after the second rinsing stage I let my hair almost completely dry using heat before returning to buffer and rinse. I read this helps loosen up trapped colour molecules. Whether there is any truth in that.

When I rinsed my hair the first time my hair was taken right back to a sandy blonde shade. I was surprised to see the water was still clear - don't expect to see any hair dye wash out as this product works to shrink the colour molecules so that you don't see the colour deposited in your hair. These colour molecules are still in your hair, which is why extended rinsing is the most important stage to stop them oxidising and returning to their original size - which would mean a return to the dreaded colour you've just attempted to remove. My hair felt pretty soft during the first rinsing stage, and I made sure to keep the water running throughout the hair for even longer than the recommended time. The buffering and rinsing again stage is when my hair turned that squeaky dishwashing liquid clean, and a tangled mess which made rinsing much harder. But keep that water running through the hair as best you can.

So, the final result? My hair was a birdsnest and there was no way a comb could get through that! I didn't apply my usual shampoo or conditioner as these can affect oxidation of the hair colour - something you want to avoid unless you want to fork out more money to go through the entire process again. I checked out the colour which had gone from a dark reddish brown to dark orange with blonde highlights peeking through. So it appeared to have darkened again somewhere between the final buffer and rinsing stage, but I was thoroughly impressed that the stubborn semi-permanent was gone. The JoBaz instructions leaflet mentioned that "you may notice a warm, brassy or even copper tone to the hair." I certainly noticed this allover, but predominantly near the roots. This was likely caused by the previous hair dyes I'd used to cover the blonde, all of which used hydrogen peroxide to lift and deposit colour. In other words, my hair had already been subjected to several light bleachings which had left me with the dreaded brassy tone. JoBaz recommended applying a temporary ash tone to the hair, or if blonde using a violet shampoo.

Here in NZ we have very little selection of semi-permanent boxed hair dyes. The only range I could find was Loreal's Casting Creme Gloss, but the lightest shade available came in a honey blonde which wasn't ashy enough for my ginger mop. Using a permanent dye was likely to return the old colour molecules to their original size, bringing back the dark colour to my hair. I pulled my hair up into a bun for the next few days and avoided washing it with anything other than natural soap (or anything devoid of sulfates). By day 7 I'd decided my hair could do with another stripping as some of the darker red tones were still apparent in my natural colour which was never highlighted in the original salon visit.

I followed up with another session of JoBaz Colour Remover - Max Strength, this time following their instructions to the T. Again, after the first rinsing my hair appeared to be completely blonde, even when wet, but darkened back to a light orange by the end of the final rinse. I was pretty happy that I'd removed all the red tones and was at the light shade I wanted. The dreadful orange tone was still there. Darn those stubborn reds!

This was when I had the thought to concoct my own blue shampoo using red and blue food colouring, as blue is opposite orange on the colour wheel. I added a few drops of each to quarter of a bottle of what was left of my usual shampoo. Then gave it a good shake and applied generously, leaving it to sit for up to 5 minutes on my hair. This was pretty drying after awhile, so I made the same solution in my conditioner instead. After a couple of weeks I wasn’t noticing a huge change to the ginger hue and decided to try something stronger in Clairol’s Nice and Easy Medium Ash Blonde 106, which would act as my blue ash toner. It did help tone the orange down several notches leaving behind a light golden brown. But after a fortnight this had all but faded back to orange again. I knew there was one way, and one way only, to truly rid myself of this tone - my nemesis, bleach.

A few reviews later and equipped with Schwarzkopf Nordic Blonde Ultimate Lightening L1 and my dependable Clairol Nice and Easy Medium Ash Blonde 106 to follow up with, I set to work bleaching the top layers of my hair only. I sectioned off the darker underneath layer and wrapped it up in clingfilm. It would help to have a mirror behind and in front of you while doing this. Then I tied off the orange layers of hair horizontally and vertically into three even sections. Starting with the bottom layers first I used gloved hands to apply the bleach generously to every section, working my way up. It would have been easier to use a bowl and brush for this. I left 1-2 inches near the roots on my crown free of bleach, to come back to once the orange mid lengths and ends had reached the desired pale yellow stage. This is because virgin hair bleaches faster and heat from your scalp also accelerates the time it takes for bleach to work. I piled my hair up underneath a disposable shower cap and kept blasting this with the hairdryer set on high for 30 seconds every 10 minutes to keep an even temperature all over. After checking the strands regularly, at 45 minutes it was time to apply the remaining bleach to the roots. Another 10 minutes later and my roots were even lighter than the rest of my hair so I washed out the bleach and was left with mainly pale yellow bleached hair with a few strands of orange. I put the toning conditioning treatment from the Schwarzkopf box aside as this would create a barrier to the ash dye I would use next. I dried by hair with the hairdryer, as the Clairol dye is applied to dry hair. This colour solution goes on very light, but don’t be surprised after 25 minutes when the colour turns a dark purple shade. After letting this sit for 40 minutes I washed it out with lukewarm water, applied the Schwarzkopf toning conditioner and styled my hair as per usual.

I was left with an even golden dark blonde colour with multi-tones, and the dreaded orange tones gone forever more.

So, DIY hair colour correction can be achieved at home. It might be easier to have a salon correct another hair stylists’ mistake, but where would the fun in that be?