Whether you’re a full-on blonde, or just have some lightened strands in the form of highlights, you’ve likely experienced brassy tones. Those unwanted warm orange and yellow tones that creep up in blonde hair are a common beauty woe. But what causes brassy hair? Can you prevent your blonde from turning brassy? And how do you get rid of brassy hair once it appears? We’re breaking down brassiness ahead.
Brassiness is a term used to describe the unwanted yellow and orange tones that show up in blonde hair. Brassy hair happens as a result of oxidation. Oxidation is the result of the loss of green pigment in the hair shafts. Oxidation causes the hair cuticle to open, releasing green color pigments and leaving behind red pigments, producing brassy undertones — and in the worst cases, it can unintentionally look like you have orange hair.
Any of the following can cause your blonde to go brassy. If you’re experiencing unwanted brassiness, it could be from doing something on this list.
photo by @hihoneysalon
Here's what you need to do to nix those orangey tones once and for all.
Sulfates are a major factor when it comes to sucking the life out of your blonde. Shampoos that use sulfates to cleanse strip your strands of their natural oils, leaving them more susceptible to brassiness. Blonde hair needs a lot of moisture. To keep the dreaded brass away, you need a sulfate-free shampoo. They’re inherently more moisturizing and are gentler on your hair.
The sun is another major culprit when it comes to brassy hair. Just the way you’d never leave the house in the morning without sunscreen (at least we hope!) remember to protect your strands! Shield them from the elements by using hair products with SPF. Re-apply them to your hair a few times while out in the sun even if you plan to wear a hat.
Since you have little control of the type of water coming out of your pipes, an easy way to avoid brassy hair is with a filter. The best shower head filters effectively remove the hard minerals and gunk that leads to brassiness. And they’re easy to change on your own. They don't require a plumbing license or a kit of plumbers tools to install.
Time for some toning! Using a hair toner can control brassiness and make your existing color more vibrant. Demi-permanent hair colors, glosses, and tinted shampoos and conditioners are all considered toners, because they contain pigments to adjust hair tone. Typically, the pigment delivered with toning lasts around three to four weeks. You can try toning your hair at home or see your stylist for an in-salon treatment and a little bit of pampering!
A majority of your hair color is lost just by rinsing your hair with water. Using cool water when you wash your hair is better for preserving its color. If you absolutely can’t give up the hot showers, finish with a blast of cool as the final rinse. This will close your hair’s cuticles, making your strands appear glossier and brassiness-free.
If you’re a bleached blonde, a purple shampoo (sometimes called a shampoo for silver hair) is your number one weapon against going brassy. Purple shampoo contains crushed purple pigments to neutralize the yellow tones. Because yellow and purple are on opposite ends of the color wheel, the purple pigment is able to cancel out the brassiness. If you're adding a purple shampoo to your regimen, start by alternating it in weekly with your sulfate free shampoo. Build up as needed.
How to use a purple shampoo
Pools are notoriously known for making blondes turn brassy. Chlorine strips the hair of its natural oils and leaves it dry, brittle and damaged. The more damaged the hair, the more susceptible it is to brassiness. The next time you hit the pool, douse your hair with bottled water before jumping in. This will saturate it with non-chemically altered water so it absorbs less chlorine. When you’re finished in the pool, shampoo and condition your hair immediately to undo any potential damage.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but hydrated hair is healthy hair. And the healthier your hair is the less less likely your color will fade. At least weekly, deep condition your strands with a hair repair mask.
If you have naturally darker hair and want to go lighter, you’re already more susceptible to brassiness than a natural blonde who wants to go lighter. The darker the hair, the more of a challenge it is to lift the underlying pigment out of the hair. To minimize your chances of going brassy, don’t lighten your hair beyond two shades from your natural color. Or ask your colorist to work in highlights and lowlights, instead of going with a single-process all-over blonde. This will minimize your chances of ending up with a full head of brassy hair.
Whether you’re a full-on ash blonde, or just have some lightened strands in the form of highlights, you’ve likely experienced brassy hair. Those unwanted warm tones like red, yellow and orange, that show up in blonde hair can be a real bummer. And what’s worse, you could be unknowingly contributing to the brassiness. Evaluate your routine and tweak it where you need to. With our product recommendations, easy hair hacks and tips, you’ll be rid of those orange and yellow tones and brassy hair in no time.
by Jaclyn LaBadia, featured contributor
cover photo by @kennakunijo