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Remove Brassy Orange-Yellow Tones From Your hair

What Is Brassy Hair? 

It’s a term used to describe unwanted warmth in hair, those dreaded yellow-orange tones that typically occur after hair has been chemically processed, dyed, highlighted, etc. 

What Causes Brassy Hair?

Brassiness occurs as your color begins to fade. To better understand what’s happening let’s take a look at the molecular level. Your hair color is a combination of molecules, when balanced they work in perfect harmony to create a beautifully toned head of hair. However, as color fades, an imbalance of color molecules are left in the hair’s cortex. Ash or violet-blue molecules are lifted exposing the underlying pigment. Those warm tones are your underlying pigment shining through. Without the ashy violet-blue molecules to counteract the yellow-orange molecules, the warm hues become the dominant tone and color.

The causes are basically any element that has the ability to lift or fade hair color.

  • Shampoos with sulfates
  • Ocean water
  • Sun exposure
  • Products containing silicone or parabens
  • Mineral deposits from the shower or swimming pool
  • Multiple layers of dye
  • Chemical processes exposing underlying pigment

Generally, the darker the hair, the more challenging it is to lift the underlying pigment, making it more prone to brassiness. Find your underlying pigment on the color charts below. I’m a natural level 3 but highlighted to dark blonde, my underlying pigment is red through orange-gold, so I’ve had lots of practice fending off the brassy orange tones.

hair color levels
natural levels

How To Fix Brassy Hair

Purple Shampoo 
Deposits surface color to counteract unwanted warmth and brassiness, there are several brands on the market. Here are few I’ve used; Clairol Shimmerlights, John Frieda Sheer blonde Color Renew, Matrix So Silver (so far my favorite)… Next I plan to try Schwarzkopf Bonacure Color Save Silver Shampoo.

schwarzkopf bc colorsave

Hair toner is a low peroxide deposit only color used to neutralize unwanted tones, such as orange and yellow in the hair. They work by canceling out colors opposite to them on the color wheel. (See color wheel below). The toner is mixed with either a 10 or 20 volume developer. The hydrogen peroxide is the activator in the developer, it allows the toner to penetrate and deposit dye molecules under the cuticle layer of your hair. It’s not everlasting color though, in my experience they typically last as long as a semi-permanent color, demi-permanent if I’m lucky.

How To Choose A Toner
Examine the color wheel, the colors opposite each other, counteract each other. Know the underlying pigments you want to correct and then choose a toner with the base that will best counter that color.

Green neutralizes Red
Blue neutralizes Orange
Violet neutralizes Yellow


The Best Time To Apply Toner
The best time to apply toner is directly after bleaching. Simply rinse the bleach out of your hair, shampoo and towel dry until your hair is slightly damp. Then you’re ready to tone, be sure to follow the directions for your brand of toner. It’s important to watch the color and processing time, if left on too long, a toner can deposit too much color (especially on porous hair) leaving you with gray or lavender tinged hair.

Wella Color Charm Toners

Currently I use Wella Color Charm Toners in T14 or T18. I tone promptly after bleaching. But on occasion if it washes out too soon or fades entirely and purple shampoo just isn’t cutting the warmth enough, I’ll tone again to refresh the coolness. . These days nothing touches my roots, I’m letting my virgin hair grow out and into a subtle low maintenance ombre effect. So as it stands now, I only have to fuss over the ends.

Wella Color Charm Toners
The Best Time To Apply Toner

Wella offers 5 different toning shades in 3 color families, silver, ash and beige.

T10 Pale Blonde (Violet-Blue Base)

T14 Pale Ash Blonde  (Violet-Blue Base)
T18 Lightest Ash Blonde (Violet Base)

T11 Lightest Beige Blonde (Gold-Violet Base)
T35 Beige Blonde (Gold-Violet Base)

Pure White 10

I mix 1 part Wella Color Charm Toner with 2 parts 10 volume creme developer. Wella recommends using their 20 volume developer but I don’t want the lift, I want deposit-only color. A friend who use to be a color correction specialist recommended I get a 0 volume and cut the 10 down to a 5 or even just use the 0 for deposit-only. But other sources mention going that low weakens the ability of the formula to penetrate the cuticle, making the color even more vulnerable to washing out faster. If you have any experiences, please share in the comments.

Author: Christine Kobzeff, sharing life and style blog to inspire us all to never stop exploring, learning, seeking adventure and sharing ideas with each other for creating lives we love.

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