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Bash Brassy Hair: Why Your Hair Is Yellow Or Brassy And What To Do About It.

Jackie Summers

March 07, 2017
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Oh you devoted colorista, you! There will never be basic color for you, nuh uh! You’re always the one sporting a magnificent, cool, head-turning hue--say a “Frozen”-worthy platinum blonde or trendy steel grey or glossy brunette with creamy ombré highlights. Yes, cool hair color shades are cool…until they’re not. Until suddenly you notice your pale blonde has turned pale gold, your highlights have gone a peculiar shade of blorange, your icy silver is more melty yellow.
gray hair

Brassy hair happens to everyone, but the good news is, there are ways to bash brass when it appears, and to avoid unwanted warmth in the first place.  Here’s a lesson in how to keep your cool, from the pros at Matrix.

Why Brassy Hair Happens

To explain this, we’re going to get a little technical. Just a little. First it’s important to understand that everyone’s hair has warmth lurking within. You may not see it, but it’s there. So whenever you lighten your hair—whether it’s to go blonde, lift your dark brown to a lighter brown, highlight your brunette hair or create a silvery or grey color—the dye will remove some of your natural color, and then deposit the new color. When your natural color is removed, the underlying gold or red tones become more visible. If you want your color to stay cool—cool blonde, cool brunette—the color formula your hair stylist chooses will contain tones to cancel out that unwanted warmth.

To understand how, consider the color wheel.

color wheel

Colors directly opposite one another on the color wheel neutralize each other. So find yellow, look directly across and you’ll see violet. Find orange and its opposite is blue. Therefore, to create a cool, light blonde without yellow, your formula will probably contain some form of violet; to produce cool highlights in darker hair that don’t appear orange, your formula will contain a form of blue.

But even if your hair colorist dials in your cool hue perfectly, over time, color fades. That’s when the unwelcome warmth creeps back in—like that annoying cousin who insists on visiting every summer. Bleh. But unlike Cousin Brian, your brassy toned hair is due to chemistry, plain and simple.

Now that you understand the reason for brassy yellow, gold, orange and red tones, here’s what you can do about them.

5 Brass-Bashing Strategies


blonde highlights

1. Consider your hair color application and placement

If your hair is dark and you want to be blonde, one method is to lighten your overall color to a medium or dark blonde and then add light highlights. It works, but all that color lifting exposes the underlying warmth in all of your hair. Another option is to keep your base color as is, and get to blonde by adding highlights. The more highlights your stylist applies, the lighter your overall color will appear. But there will be less colored hair overall and therefore, fewer areas that can turn brassy. Another important tip—ask your hair stylist about using a bond-restoring system during your color service. Added to the formulas, these amazing new products prevent damage during the coloring process and keep your hair strong and supple. This results in less fading (and less chance of brassiness) over time.
brunette highlights

2. Stay out of the sun

Oxidizing is defined simply as “the addition of oxygen.” And when hair color is exposed to oxygen, from the sun or even the air, it begins to fade. As we learned, when color fades it tends to reveal the underlying warm pigment in your hair. So…when you head outdoors, protect your color from UV exposure and oxidation by wearing a hat or scarf, or using a sunscreen on your hair.

blonde sun

3. Stay out of the pool

Pools are infused with chlorine because it’s a powerful way to kill bacteria. It’s also a form of bleach. Bleach lightens stuff. Like your white towels in the laundry. And your hair. And when your hair lightens…yup, that’s right—warmth. If you color your hair, and you can’t live without your laps, cover your locks with a thick hair mask, followed by a snug bathing cap, before you dive in.

platinum hair

4. Pop into the salon for a color-adjusting treatment

Many salons now offer professional treatment masks that contain high concentrations of blue-violet pigments. These masks are customizable, meaning the stylist can dial the intensity of the pigment deposit up or down, depending on your level of brass.  What’s more, these formulas pull double duty—restoring and repairing your hair as they rebalance your color. Another brass-busting salon option is a quick toner, especially if your color has gone off between your regular salon color appointment. Toners are low-ammonia color glosses that are custom blended by your colorist to restore cool tones in a totally low-impact way for your hair.

man hair

5. Bring the color balance home with purple shampoo (or blue shampoo).

To keep your cool at the optimum level, many stylists recommend regular use of a blue shampoo brand (for brunettes) or a purple shampoo (for blonde, silver and grey tones.) These warmth-reversing formulas deposit a small amount of cool pigments in your shower to keep your color clear and free of brass. Lay these formulas carefully onto the midlengths and ends of your hair to distribute the pigment evenly. Lather and rinse. If needed, apply for a second time and let the shampoo sit for 3 to 5 minutes before rinsing. Use it for the first shampoo after your color appointment to lock in the cool tone, then once or twice a week thereafter between salon visits.

And here’s another bit of advice—share these formulas with your man! Salt and pepper, or just plain salt, looks so manly when it’s icy cool rather than yellowed!



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