Should I Cut or Color First?

Should I cut or color my hair first? In this “Ask a Colorist” article, we give you tips on when to cut or color your hair first.

When you’ve decided to dye your hair, there’s always the question of whether you should cut before you color. In most cases, you should get a haircut before you color. There are, however, some situations when it makes sense to color first. Take a look:


Going for a totally different haircut.

After a dramatic cut, your color options may change, so it’s a good idea to decide on a hairstyle before you color; that way, your colorist will know exactly what to do with your new hue. Removing length from your hair also makes for a smoother color application, since healthy ends will ultimately help your follicles ‘soak in’ color more easily than untrimmed hair.

Your hair feels a little damaged.

If your strands are stressed, you spend a lot of time in the sun, or it’s been a while since your last cut, get a little trim before you color. Too much exposure to the sun can cause your hair color to oxidize, making it look dull; sun and heat styling can also make your hair look super dry and create split ends. Just have your stylist do a dusting of the ends to refresh your hairstyle, so you’re applying color to the healthiest parts of your hair.

Adding dramatic layers.

You definitely want to cut your hair first if you’re going from a sleek, blunt, and no-frills hairstyle, to adding a ton of layers. Why? Because where your layers are determine where your hair color or highlights will be applied. After a cut like this, you’ll see all the different angles of your hair, particularly the bottom layers that usually stay tucked in. Plus, this style will even help bring out the dimension in your hair color as it moves.

You’re ready for subtle highlights.

For the best results, trim your hair before you highlight, especially if you’re thinking of trying balayage. A fresh trim will help you and your colorist decide where to place your highlights (you definitely don’t want to paint on beautiful highlights just to cut them all off). Not only will a fresh cut give you a better outline for painting on highlights, but you won’t have to process as long—which is always a bonus for your hair health. Our Light Set gives strands a painted-on dimension in all the right places that grows out nicely.


You want to lighten up your shade.

Frequently lightening your hair can stress out your strands and lead to damage. Because of this, we recommend that you lighten first and trim away the unhealthy ends afterward. After processing, your stylist can decide how much hair needs to be taken off based on the condition of your ends. Our hair color can only take you up or down two levels from your current shade, which helps to avoid over-processing.

Transitioning to a super-short hairstyle.

For shorter hairstyles like the trending pixie, or cuts that are six inches and under, it can be easier to dye your hair first. Removing length means there’s a lot less to work with; and while that can be a good thing for mid-length hairstyles, sectioning is challenging for super-short cuts. Applying your color before you cut makes it so much easier to section while coloring, and it prevents color overlapping from one section to another just below it.

Now when you order your next box of our custom hair color or schedule a salon appointment, you’ll know exactly what to do. This question can feel like the chicken or the egg paradox, but the decision is much clearer once you know what you want. Have a question for our colorists? Join the conversation on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.