Should I Cut or Color First?

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

When you’ve decided to get out of a color rut and dye your hair, there’s always the question of whether you should cut your hair 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 at our essential guide:


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 brilliant color. 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 creating less color work.

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 whether you do it at home or have it done by a professional artist. Your hair length and texture are an essential guide for any stylist. 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, and get you out of a color rut.

Adding dramatic layers.

You definitely want to cut your hair first if you’re going from a sleek, blunt, no-frills hairstyle, to adding a ton of layers. Why? Because where your layers lay determines where your hair color or highlights will be applied. After a cut like this, cutting theory tells us that you’ll see all the different angles of your hair, particularly the bottom layers that usually stay tucked in. Professional artists tell us 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 take the time to paint on brilliant color or beautiful highlights just to cut them all off). Not only will a fresh cut give you a better outline, but you can also spend less time processing—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 over time.


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 a professional artist 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 pixie cuts, or styles that are six inches and under, it can be easier to color 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 or keep your eyes peeled here on Color Mastery.