Tuesday, February 12, 2013

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.

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.

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. My root bleaching days are over though, as you may have seen in previous posts here and here. 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 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)

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.

I have much more to share but we'll save it for another post.


  1. hi, this post is very interesting, expecially for me that I have tinted hair, my base color is the third of first line, with some thread most clear, maybe the second of same line (in the second table). unfortunately in italy there are the same brands, but there aren't the same products.
    I use biologic products for my hair, and I produce some of them myself, it's my hobby! now I'm change also my hair tint routine, I'm trying a select henne', this's only the second application and, for now, the hair aren't become green!

  2. Ugh I HATE when my blonde goes brassy!! I love being a blonde but the maintenance is brutal LOL! Purple shampoos and toners are a MUST!
    My online beauty store: http://beautybymissash.blogspot.ca/

  3. Thanks girls! I always love hearing what you're all up to with your hair. Thanks MissAsh for the store link, that's awesome, if you're on YouTube let me know! xoxo

  4. A little tip, use Wella Color Touch instead of color charm, because color Touch is a semi-permanent color and is a real toner, whereas color charm is a regular permanent color with ammonia. Wella Color Touch comes with its own 1.9 volume developer and has amazing shades and is ammonia free. 10 volume peroxide is way too much for toning. When you tone something down no ammonia needed. I think you can find it on Amazon or in beauty supplies. I hope it helps! Love your videos.

  5. thank you so very much for your detailed information. I am a natural blonde and have had dyed black hair for 5 years. I bleached it and it turned yellow and orange. Using the t14 and the 10 developer it is now back to my natural blonde with amazing highlights. You are a life saver!!!

  6. You can make your own toner that doesn't contain harsh chemicals, at least that's what I do then use a purple shampoo like you mentioned, I love that Schwartzkopf shampoo btw! :) not try to be spammy but I wrote a post on how I made the toner. http://chloeshere.blogspot.ie/2013/07/how-to-make-toner-for-blonde-hair.html

  7. Thank you so much for all this wonderful information, great post! x

  8. You are seriously awesome! Thank you so much lifesaver!

  9. I tried to lighten my hair to blonde using ion cream lightener and it turned my a red orange yellow. So will the T-14 with 10 volume developer be strong enough to lift it to a nice light brown blonde shade? My hair was really red before I dyed with a light brown and light ash brown.

  10. I am a dark brown, I have basically the same question as just above. Soo, I should say I was a dark brown. I had virgim hair and purchased loreal hi lift gold brown, it went pretty orangey in my opinion looks nothing like the box of course. My question is, these toners, are they just for blonde issues of brassiness. If I were to use one, would it go blonde or darker? I am having such a hard time with this. Obviously I have no background in this and I read these blogs and have no idea what the volumes and toners and levels mean.

  11. Thank you!!! I had a little bit of a hair emergency when my highlights on my dyed brown hair turned very orange. I just assumed because my natural color is light, that the highlights would be no prob. I was wrong. Too warm/brassy/orangey for me, I tried the purple shampoo with no luck. Then your blog made me realize I need BLUE to fix this! Hello t10 and t14! I wasn't sure which to use, so I did t14 first (perfect for my mid to ends) and left that on damp hair for 7 min. Then rinsed and roots were still orangey so I mixed a little t10 and put that on just roots for another 5-10 min. Rinsed and sooo much better! It's still a bit warm for me, but looks MUCH MUCH better! ThAnk you sooo much!!

  12. You can only tone on level so if you want a blonde close to platinum you have to lift your hair to a yellow or pale yellow before you can achieve the look. Blonding is a process that takes time! Its not healthy for your hair to go from dark to light in one setting. Keep deep conditioning it inbetween lightening and toing. I like its a 10. They have stuff at sallys called miracle 7 that works pretty well too.

  13. Pink So Foxy, I love your hair! I need so serious help, I just used L'oreal Ferai absolute platinum very platinum, and I am also a natural brown number 3 and now my hair is just a weird color, rosy gold almost and my roots and ends are different colors because i had color that dragged and then i died it brown, and well its a mess, would you strip the color or just do some more bleaching to reach an ashy blonde?

  14. PLEASE HELP .... hi, basically i have highlighted hair near enough blonde now all over but have some orangy tints on the end and i have just bought jerome russell platinum toner to try take the orangey tints away but am a little scared of what it will do Any ideas? xxxx

  15. Thank you for going so in-depth with this information. There isn't a whole lot on the internet besides suggestions to go to a professional. That's sound advice (regarding most things probably) but it's good to get some education on how a professional might approach your hair. It's good to hear there are some at-home products that can do what you're looking for too and it really helps that you've laid out the basics of how and why. My dark brown hair turned out more orange than light brown and I was going to just see if it'd fade over time but I think a good purple shampoo could help. Thanks!

  16. Hi my daughter had really red hair and let her friend bleach her hair blonde but has turned really orange at the ends but lighter on top how can she fix this x

    1. She's going to need to re bleach then add toner.

    2. Ur gna need to apply a lil more bleach to her hair from where the darker starts down to end. Cover and use heat. After that then u use a toner

  17. Can i use a toner on my hair without bleaching my hair first?

    1. Not really. A toner is used to tone the hair. It will not lighten you hair it just corrects the colour.

  18. HELP! I recently had the ombre look done to my dark brown hair and am probably a level 2 so my hair has lots of underlying red and orange. It started turning brassy the week after so I went back and she put more toner on it which was like a blue/violet color but now my ombre looks darker and is starting to turn orange again! She said if it turns brassy to come back and she will put more toner on it but I don't want my ombre to be darker I just don't want it to be brassy orange! I wanted it to be a level 8 blond. What should I do?

  19. Thanks for this informative post! I used to get my hair highlighted professionally, but gave it up due to cost when I returned to grad school. My natural color is about a 5/6 and I've been lightening it using Loreal 8A. It always comes out way brassier than I like. Yesterday I colored with the 8A and added some Ardell red/gold corrector, but it didn't seem to help. Today I used the Color Charm T14 with 20 vol developer and it is much better! Still a little more gold than I like toward the roots. The bottom part of my hair, where it has been colored the most, is pretty close to the perfect color, then it very gradually gets a little more gold toward the roots. Thanks again!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Ellen, which Loreal color did you use out of interest ?

  20. Thanks so much for this! My hair was super brassy/orange after 2 bleaching sessions and I wasn't sure what to do!
    Kristel Karisse

  21. That information about choosing what color to go for your toner is really useful. It does make perfect sense to choose a color that directly counteracts the color that you don't want to achieve for your hair. It's so seemingly simple, but not everyone gets it right.

    Sadie Montgomery @ Hoshall's Salon & Spa

  22. I bleached my hair to dye it pink but now there's a orange color in my pink. Can I use a purple toner?

  23. I use purple shampoo to tone down the brassy in my bleached blonde hair. It works pretty good but turns my hair pink in some spots. I only leave it on for less than 2 minutes. Do you know why this happens? im scared to use a toner on my hair. i normally dont have to use a toner because it gets light enough. but on occasion i will get that yellowish brassy tone i cant stand. can you go wrong with wella toners? do they work really good. Im looking for the ashy blonde tone. like Cara Loren's hair color.

  24. if i was to show you a photo oy my hair would you be able to advise me what i need to correct it please x
    thank you caroline from nomorefrizzyhairdays blog

  25. Hi. Could you please help me, I went to saloon "colorist" and ruin my color hair. She changed from level 6 to 3/4 . I did color correction by myself and I use semipermanent color, I got close 6 then I use 8NG/30 vol. and my color went blonde light but brassy-pink. Instead that color don't lift color I did almost 4level. I have been to correct because I want medium blonde but ash not gold I am using wella product this moment I used8N/9N/25 vol. it's nice but brassy and red tones. I like your hair because it's blonde but not gold which it my goal. Can you suggest some to take the warm color with red tones that I have. Also I used wella additive 050 to neutralize the red but it did not works. Maybe I need more? I am thinking to use 9A I want your color just I little dark. Thanks