How to Treat Brassy Blonde Hair

January 27, 2008 by Kristie Leong MD  
Published in Hair

Brassy blonde is a common problem with people who lighten their hair. Here’s what to do about it.

If you’ve lightened your hair in the past, you may have experienced the dreaded “brassy blonde” look where you beautiful blond color takes on an undesirable orange tone. Unless brassy hair happens to be flattering to your skin, you may not be pleased with your new color. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to tone down brassy blonde hair and return it to a more realistic blonde shade. Here are some suggestions:

Reassess The Color

One reason hair can take on a brassy tone when it’s lightened is the product is not left on the hair long enough to lift out the color. When hair is lightened it goes through various stages before reaching the final blonde shade. Orange is one of these intermediate shades that’s part of the natural progression to blonde. If you remove the hair coloring from your hair before it’s passed through the orange stage to blonde, the result can be brassy undertones to the hair.

The other reason you may experience brassy hair after coloring is your hair is too dark for the particular coloring you’re using. Standard permanent dyes only lift the hair two to three shades. If your hair is dark, two to three shades may leave you in the orange range There are high lift tints available that have more lightening power for darker hair and can lift the hair three to four shades. In extreme cases, you may need to use bleach to lift your hair beyond the orange level. The drawback is you’re going to experience more damage to the hair with these products.

Check Your Home Water Supply

In some areas, the water supply may be high in iron deposits. High levels of iron are most frequently found in well water. These iron deposits can add a red, brassy tone to hair when the hair is washed and rinsed. This problem can be resolved by adding a water softener with an iron filter to your shower to filter out the iron deposits. To remove iron deposits already present, a demineralizing shampoo can be used. These are available at some salons and beauty supply stores.

Use a Blue Shampoo

There are specific shampoos available to help counteract unwanted brassiness. These shampoos generally have a blue or purple color which is effective in offsetting shades of orange. Using one of these color shampoos regularly can help to mask hair that has turned brassy. An example would be Shimmer Lights shampoo which is available at beauty supply stores and many drugstores.

Use a Toner

A toner is a semi-permanent dye that deposits color rather than lightens. Since toners have a minimal amount of peroxide, they generally don’t damage the hair. Choosing a toner with a violet or blue base can help to mask any brassy tones that are present in colored hair. Unfortunately, toners tend to wash out of the hair over several weeks so the brassiness may reappear. If you want to do it yourself, you may be able to get assistance in choosing an appropriate toner shade from Sally’s Beauty Supply store if you have one in your area. If not, you may want to consult your hairdresser.

By choosing the right products and taking the appropriate steps, you can prevent brassy blonde hair from occurring as well as treat it if it should appear. Give these tips a try and keep that beautiful blonde shade.

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24 Responses to “How to Treat Brassy Blonde Hair”
  1. begh Says:

    Thankyou!
    This is really useful info.
    I just got my hair dyed really blonde after being dark brown. My hair is now really brassy and orange. I have to wait 4weeks until I can go back for my next appointment which will see me go alot white, but in the meantime I don’t want to be left with orange hair.
    I bought a blue shampoo, designed for toning so I will try that and hope for the best.

  2. Kelsey Says:

    I dyed my hair with Clairol Born Blonde Ultra Blue, which specifically states on the bottle that it has ingredients to combat brassyness. HOWEVER, I followed directions precisely and left the dye in for the max amount of time, and my hair turned out bright orange-yellow. I then proceeded to get hair toner and followed the directions and it did nothing (using a Clairol blonde toner). Showed no difference. Maybe my hair has more red in it than most (I’m a medium brunette naturally). I bought blue based hair conditioner so hopefully that’ll help….
    eesh, what a mess!

  3. Dana Says:

    I used Clariol Lighest Natural blonde on my roots from Sally’s Beauty supply and my hair turned a scary, light brassy orange. I went back to Sally’s and the cashier suggested an ash toner (Second Nature) and now my hair is very dark and dull looking. All it did was make it drab and too dark esp in the bang area. I’m hoping it washes out soon because if I keep messing with it I might end up bald!

  4. Kristen Says:

    I originally had a darker color on my hair like a level 5 with blonde highlights. It faded out to a orangey blonde. I went to lower priced hairdresser and asked for darker lowlights and blonde to cover my roots. She ended up telling me after she processed my hair that she used a variety of levels of colors like a 2, 3 & 7. It turned out to be almost black, DARK ash, totally oppisite from what I was hoping to see. So then went to a professional to cover up her half-assed hair job. She used bleach to lighten the dark strands in my hair. All those dark spots torned a brassy orange. UGH!! Ill try Shimmer Lights purple shampoo and try to avoid messing up my hair again. LESSON TO BE LEARNED… the amout of money spent is actually less when you go to a good salon in the first place.

  5. Nicola Says:

    Advice for people who find the toner or ash shampoo to dull, you can lift it out by using a anti-dandruff shampoo on dry hair and then rinse off. Totally random suggestion at my drug store but it worked for me!

  6. AnaBanana Says:

    I know what everyone is going through…When having already dark hair & then going blonde it really is worth spending the extra money to have a professional do it…Because by the time ou actaully have your hair fixed & done correctly you have already spent a fortune…You think I would learn by now…I hate my hair right now…I feel like I am from the future with this bright ass glow…Maybe I’ll e a flashlight for halloween! lol…I’m just going to color my hair a Golden Brown and forget about this blonde gold crap and soon in a few months when my hair has time to adjust to all the chemicals I have abusing with then I will pay a pro to make me look fabulous again…Girls…When will we learn?! lolololol

  7. Tina K Says:

    Im a natural Dirty Blonde, but I dye, my hair pale blonde(and my roots, turn like a dark yellow & the rest of my hair is a pale blonde, like i want it..i tried everything to get it out & nothing worked…so i asked my grandmom what to do & she told me to use Dish Soap( the kind you wsh your dishes with) just a nickle size..and i could def see a diffrence..Hope it helps…theres also this stufff in the AVON catologs called..Anti-Fade hair mask & its like a purple conditner and it aslo removes that yucky yellow color we all hate

  8. Audra Harrison Says:

    Wow, I have been coloring my hair for about 20 years now. I am strawberry blonde naturally, and have always used Champagne Beige Clarol, well, no one had it in stock , and I had roots bad! So,I tried born blonde, and OMG, it ruined my hair! It looked streaked like a cat. I got online and searched for some possible relief, and I found the wonder of hari color! Its natural instincts, no brass. It is absolutely wonderful, i used it same day, it comes with a great conditioner, and it took not some, BUT ALL of the brassiness out of my hair. I wish I had a before and after, to show you. It comes in several colors, and all provide no brass color, it does not lighten, just colors and it saved me! THANKS NATURAL INSTINCTS< NO BRASS.

    Blueeyes with no more brass….. lol

  9. Hollyann Says:

    Had great results with the Natural Instincts Brass-Free product. Have only used once, said to last 28 shampoos. My base color is dark brown, too-light professional highlights had turned brassy orange and yellow. USE ONE SHADE LIGHTER than you think you want: light brown left on 10 mins turned my hair very close to it’s natural dark brown base color. I have never colored my hair at home, and the results were GREAT. Will reuse this product until my harsh highlights grow out.

  10. Sylvia Bird Says:

    My hair is naturally dark brown ,I usually use dark blonde dye & my hair usually turns light brown but the last time I dyed my hair it turned punkin orange.I have tried Born Blond , Crystal Light drink mix , lemon juice , vinegar , Dawn dish liquid. My hair is still orange ! HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Babbs48 Says:

    Well I tried to do my own hair at home instead of spending the money to have it done. I went to sallys and bought the bleach that I have used before with the blue packet to put in the bleach to help make less brassy..That did not happen it is orange and yellow looking.. So I back to sallys spend more money and ask what i could use to take the yellow and orange out..So I bought more toners ect!! No luck..Now my hair looks horrible and had to cut an 1inch off of my hair…I should of paid the money!!

  12. Linda Says:

    I agree with the article reason for brassy results. I normal highlight my light brown hair myself with garnier lightest natural blonde, which is a high lift. I don’t go by any set time I just leave it on till it lifts to the shade I want. This time, I went to a professional to have my root done to get the areas I had missed and she turn my hair a brassy orange and blistered my scalp. So, I went to another professional to tone my hair. She toned it with a violet toner and washed it with a purple shampoo. The results now left my hair brassy orange at the roots and an ashy looking purple on the blonde portion. At this point, I throughout the purple shampoo samples I was given to use and bought a box of garnier lightest natural blonde. It lifted out most of the orange brassy tones with not too much more damage. I now am planning to eventually wash out the purple toning in the blonde portion of my hair. So far it has cost me over a hundred dollars for a lighting job I could have done for 7 dollars.

  13. benita Says:

    wella colour mix tone 30gr 8/81+30gr 9.03+1.5% developer leave it for 15 min.wonderfull colour against brassy blonde

  14. Sophie Says:

    I was using shades of the Clairol Professional in a light cool blonde and a very light cool blonde with a 20 developer on my naturally dark, dirty blonde (bordering on a light ash-brown) with some gray creeping in. I have very thick hair and really do not use color all over but mainly on roots now, and I have alternated the shades each time I color so that there is some dimension. I use one ounce of color each time – usually a four-five week period. In the past few months I have noticed that since Clairol Professional changed to the Soy formula that my color is turning brassy. I don’t understand this at all. At the recommendation of a professional I know, I left the color on much longer so it would “lift” better. Ummm….an hour plus still turns it is still a brassy shade.

    Currently using a blue shampoo/conditioner and washing numerous times with an inexpensive shampoo that is known to strip color. I had to use it once before after a professional managed to tone down the brassiness with an ashy brown and my hair looked like moss! That was the reason I started doing it myself, and for a while it did look a lot better.

  15. Bernice Palm Says:

    Yesterday I highlighted my hair, doing it myself for the first time! It was a Loreal product & fairly cheap. Well, I got orange/goldish results mostly at the top & crown, where the roots were 2 inches long & dishwater blonde, my natural shade. I was so upset! It took me an hour to put the highlights on, using their highlighting tool, which was a gadget which looks like a tiny flat iron with a spongy covering on the inside of the flat part. Since it took me an hour to do it, I thought I best only wait for 30 mins., rather than 45. Anyhow, whether it was too little time or that the product didn’t lighten my 2 inch long dark roots, I don’t know. So I bought a temp rinse that, Fanci-full, bashful blonde, that comes in a bottle with many applications. It said it could help brassiness as well as other reasons for usage. It really didn’t help & counter the orange brassiness. I do have Shimmer Lights shampoo here, so I will try that today. I have an appt. at my hairdresser iso they can fix it, in a couple of days, so I can either keep it or cancel. Currently I have very limited funds – that is the reason I did it myself to begin with! I advise women that if possible, do not highlight your hair yourself unless you really know what you are doing! Live & learn, they say. I will repost when I know the results of the Shimmer Lights shampoo treatment, later today. Thanks. Bernice

  16. Bernice Palm Says:

    Yesterday I highlighted my hair, doing it myself for the first time! It was a Loreal product & fairly cheap. Well, I got orange/goldish results mostly at the top & crown, where the roots were 2 inches long & dishwater blonde, my natural shade. I was so upset! It took me an hour to put the highlights on, using their highlighting tool, which was a gadget which looks like a tiny flat iron with a spongy covering on the inside of the flat part. Since it took me an hour to do it, I thought I best only wait for 30 mins., rather than 45. Anyhow, whether it was too little time or that the product didn\’t lighten my 2 inch long dark roots, I don\’t know. So I bought a temp rinse that, Fanci-full, bashful blonde, that comes in a bottle with many applications. It said it could help brassiness as well as other reasons for usage. It really didn\’t help & counter the orange brassiness. I do have Shimmer Lights shampoo here, so I will try that today. I have an appt. at my hairdresser iso they can fix it, in a couple of days, so I can either keep it or cancel. Currently I have very limited funds – that is the reason I did it myself to begin with! I advise women that if possible, do not highlight your hair yourself unless you really know what you are doing! Live & learn, they say. I will repost when I know the results of the Shimmer Lights shampoo treatment, later today. Thanks. Bernice

  17. Bernice Palm Says:

    Yesterday I highlighted my hair, doing it myself for the first time! It was a Loreal product & fairly cheap. Well, I got orange/goldish results mostly at the top & crown, where the roots were 2 inches long & dishwater blonde, my natural shade. I was so upset! It took me an hour to put the highlights on, using their highlighting tool, which was a gadget which looks like a tiny flat iron with a spongy covering on the inside of the flat part. Since it took me an hour to do it, I thought I best only wait for 30 mins., rather than 45. Anyhow, whether it was too little time or that the product didn\\\’t lighten my 2 inch long dark roots, I don\\\’t know. So I bought a temp rinse that, Fanci-full, bashful blonde, that comes in a bottle with many applications. It said it could help brassiness as well as other reasons for usage. It really didn\\\’t help & counter the orange brassiness. I do have Shimmer Lights shampoo here, so I will try that today. I have an appt. at my hairdresser iso they can fix it, in a couple of days, so I can either keep it or cancel. Currently I have very limited funds – that is the reason I did it myself to begin with! I advise women that if possible, do not highlight your hair yourself unless you really know what you are doing! Live & learn, they say. I will repost when I know the results of the Shimmer Lights shampoo treatment, later today. Thanks. Bernice

  18. Bernice Palm Says:

    Yesterday I highlighted my hair, doing it myself for the first time! It was a Loreal product & fairly cheap. Well, I got orange/goldish results mostly at the top & crown, where the roots were 2 inches long & dishwater blonde, my natural shade. It took me an hour to put the highlights on, using their highlighting tool, which was a gadget which looks like a tiny flat iron with a spongy covering on the inside of the flat part. Since it took me an hour to do it, I thought I best only wait for 30 mins., rather than 45. Anyhow, whether it was too little time or that this product did not lighten my 2 inch long dark roots, I don’t know. So I bought a temp rinse that, Fanci-full, bashful blonde, that comes in a bottle but it did not help. I do have Shimmer Lights shampoo here, so I will try that today & repost when I know the results. Thanks. Bernice

  19. Bernice Palm Says:

    Yesterday I highlighted my hair, doing it myself for the first time! It was a Loreal product & fairly cheap. Well, I got orange/goldish results mostly at the top & crown, where the roots were 2 inches long & dishwater blonde, my natural shade. It took me an hour to put the highlights on, using their highlighting tool, which was a gadget which looks like a tiny flat iron with a spongy covering on the inside of the flat part. Since it took me an hour to do it, I thought I best only wait for 30 mins., rather than 45. Anyhow, whether it was too little time or that this product did not lighten my 2 inch long dark roots, I don\’t know. So I bought a temp rinse that, Fanci-full, bashful blonde, that comes in a bottle but it did not help. I do have Shimmer Lights shampoo here, so I will try that today & repost when I know the results. Thanks. Bernice

  20. Bernice Palm Says:

    Yesterday I highlighted my hair, doing it myself for the first time! It was a Loreal product & fairly cheap. Well, I got orange/goldish results mostly at the top & crown, where the roots were 2 inches long & dishwater blonde, my natural shade. It took me an hour to put the highlights on, using their highlighting tool, which was a gadget which looks like a tiny flat iron with a spongy covering on the inside of the flat part. Since it took me an hour to do it, I thought I best only wait for 30 mins., rather than 45. Anyhow, whether it was too little time or that this product did not lighten my 2 inch long dark roots, I don\\\’t know. So I bought a temp rinse that, Fanci-full, bashful blonde, that comes in a bottle but it did not help. I do have Shimmer Lights shampoo here, so I will try that today & repost when I know the results. Thanks. Bernice

  21. Bernice Palm Says:

    Yesterday I highlighted my hair, doing it myself for the first time! It was a Loreal product & fairly cheap. Well, I got orange/goldish results mostly at the top & crown, where the roots were 2 inches long & dishwater blonde, my natural shade. It took me an hour to put the highlights on, using their highlighting tool, which was a gadget which looks like a tiny flat iron with a spongy covering on the inside of the flat part. Since it took me an hour to do it, I thought I best only wait for 30 mins., rather than 45. Anyhow, whether it was too little time or that this product did not lighten my 2 inch long dark roots, I don\\\\\\\’t know. So I bought a temp rinse that, Fanci-full, bashful blonde, that comes in a bottle but it did not help. I do have Shimmer Lights shampoo here, so I will try that today & repost when I know the results. Thanks. Bernice

  22. Bernice Palm Says:

    Yesterday I highlighted my hair, doing it myself for the first time! It was a Loreal product & fairly cheap. Well, I got orange/goldish results mostly at the top & crown, where the roots were 2 inches long & dishwater blonde, my natural shade. It took me an hour to put the highlights on, using their highlighting tool, which was a gadget which looks like a tiny flat iron with a spongy covering on the inside of the flat part. Since it took me an hour to do it, I thought I best only wait for 30 mins., rather than 45. Anyhow, whether it was too little time or that this product did not lighten my 2 inch long dark roots, I don\\\\\\\’t know. So I bought a temp rinse that, Fanci-full, bashful blonde, that comes in a bottle but it did not help. I do have Shimmer Lights shampoo here, so I will try that today & repost when I know the results. Thanks. Bernice

  23. Berni1950 Says:

    Yesterday I highlighted my hair, doing it myself for the first time! It was a Loreal product & fairly cheap. Well, I got orange/goldish results mostly at the top & crown, where the roots were 2 inches long & dishwater blonde, my natural shade. It took me an hour to put the highlights on, using their highlighting tool, which was a gadget which looks like a tiny flat iron with a spongy covering on the inside of the flat part. Since it took me an hour to do it, I thought I best only wait for 30 mins., rather than 45. Anyhow, whether it was too little time or that this product did not lighten my 2 inch long dark roots, I don\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’t know. So I bought a temp rinse that, Fanci-full, bashful blonde, that comes in a bottle but it did not help. I do have Shimmer Lights shampoo here, so I will try that today & repost when I know the results. Thanks. Bernice

  24. Kelli Says:

    I decided to make medium blonde hair platinum in just the bangs. I used a box of feria and was instantly BRASSY to the extreme. Following the advice here I purchased a wella toner that was more ashy in color and it was perfect. I left it on for 20 minutes, mushing it around every 5 minutes. I then rinsed and shampooed with purple shampoo mentioned above. I conditioned the heck out of it and am thrilled with the results. Not the ‘platinum’ I wanted but so much better than the brassy mess I had going on.


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