Weeks after coloring your hair blonde, you start to notice something strange: the shade you left the salon with is no more, and now your hair has taken on an undesired yellow, orange or red tone. What gives? Brassy hair, that’s what.
Brassiness refers to the unwanted warm tones that show up in colored hair. It typically happens in dark hair that gets dyed platinum or blonde, but it can also occur in hair that’s been highlighted or in hair that’s been lightened to brown.
Brassy hair color becomes a problem when bleaching or lifting doesn’t get rid of all the underlying pigment in your hair, giving the warm tones an opportunity to reveal themselves. For lightened blonde hair, the underlying pigment is yellow, and for lightened brown to black hair, the underlying pigments are orange to red. When the brassiness starts creeping up, think of it as your natural hair telling you, “Hey, remember us?”
When brassiness occurs, that also means that among the red, yellow and blue color molecules your hair dye contains, the blue ones have made a faster departure, leaving—you guessed it—just the warm tones. Since the blue color molecules are smaller, they’re broken down easily and fade quicker with every wash. Unfair.
Fortunately, you have several options when it comes dealing with brassy hair, in terms of both preventing it and fixing it after it happens.
START OFF BY CHOOSING THE RIGHT PERMANENT HAIRCOLOR
Select a cool hair color, like one with the word “ash” in the name, since it’s less likely to turn brassy than one that’s warm. If you gravitate toward warmer shades, don’t worry; there are plenty of lighter hair colors you can pull off that have a good balance of cool tones.
HEAD TO THE SALON AND GET A TONER FOR BRASSY HAIR
A hair mask can help to soften and moisturize your hair. Toner, a translucent deposit of hair color that fades in a few weeks, isn’t just great for altering your hair color without the commitment. It can be a great brassy hair fix, too. Also known as demi-permanent color, glaze or gloss, toning can correct the unwanted yellow, orange or even red tones lingering on your hair since it contains just enough pigment to improve your hair color. Plus, the service will enhance the shine levels of your strands in the process, so you’ll be doing your hair multiple favors in just one sitting.
GET A BOND-PROTECTING SERVICE
Since healthy hair is less likely to turn brassy, add in a bond-protecting service during the bleaching or haircoloring process, to protect your hair from damage and strengthen your strands.
WASH YOUR HAIR WITH A PURPLE SHAMPOO TO NEUTRALIZE UNWANTED WARM TONES
Need an at-home brassy hair fix? If you’re blonde, go for a purple shampoo and if you’re brunette, go for a blue-tinted one, since yellow is opposite to purple and orange is opposite to blue on the color wheel.
AVOID THE SUN AND THE POOL
We know, we know: how can you say no to the pool and soaking up some rays? But if you want your hair color to stay put, it’s best to stay away.
The chlorine commonly found in swimming pools can strip your hair dry, leaving your locks dull and damage-prone. And when hair becomes damaged, your hair color will have a harder time staying in place, meaning more opportunities for brassy hair color to show up.
Sun exposure can also do a number on your hair color by making it fade faster and making brassiness more visible. So, the next time you go outside, make sure you cover up or use a hair sunscreen.
USE A SHAMPOO FOR COLOR-TREATED HAIR THE REST OF THE TIME
Since overusing a color-depositing hair product may end up turning your hair blue or purple, only use it once a week. The rest of the time, apply color-protecting hair products since they’re gentler than regular shampoo and tend to not include sulfate, which can fade hair color.
INVEST IN A SHOWER FILTER
Washing your hair with water that leaves a large amount of mineral deposits, including chlorine and iron, is bad news for colored hair since the buildup is drying and the chemicals could end up fading your hair color, leading to another opportunity for brassy hair to reveal itself. A shower filter can help cut down on the mineral deposits, so your hair color stays around for longer.