Highlights, Well Water & Brassy Hair

Brassy hair with highlights
Photo: Vania Zhukevych/Shutterstock
Q: My hair stylist tells me the reason my hair turns brassy is because I have well water. I think she’s putting me on and she really hasn’t gotten the “formula” right for the highlights she does. Sometimes she’s got my hair “yellow gold/brassy” and the last time she put in caramel color blonde that really wasn’t blonde at all.
My natural hair color is a light brown with blonde streaks in the summer when I’m in the sun. What do you say? Does the well water have anything to do with the highlights? I ask her for “ash color blonde” but she can’t seem to get that color and claims “well water.” Thank you for your reply.

A: Your stylist is actually right in telling you that your well water can cause brassiness in your hair color results. This is a condition common to most well water users. Well water contains higher levels of minerals because the water often passes through layers of rock, which leeches these minerals into the water.
If your water contains high levels of iron, you can find your hair becoming yellowish or reddish, if there happens to be copper in the water you could find yourself with greenish tints in your hair.
At the very least, the minerals in your water (known as hard water) make it difficult for the color processing chemicals to penetrate the hair evenly and thereby cause a variance in the expected color results (apart from the reactions that can occur between the chemicals and the minerals themselves).
What I suggest is the following:
Try using a clarifying shampoo before any color service. In fact, it would probably be helpful to use the clarifying shampoo at least once a week anyway to keep the mineral deposits in your hair to a minimum. You can also get a packaged water conditioner to add to bath water which will help to keep the minerals in the water from getting into your hair and skin as well.
If you can successfully neutralize the hard water effect from your hair, it will make your salon visits more successful. I recommend that you pass these tips on to your stylist and perhaps you can combine a pre-color shampoo service using the clarifying shampoo and hopefully get the hair color results you desire.
However, if you do get the brassy, yellow results again, you can use a "blueing" shampoo and conditioner to neutralize the yellow tones. These blueing shampoos are the types used by many grayhaired women and blondes to avoid dull looking hair and brassy tones.
See also:
Hair and hard well water
Hair problems and damage caused by hard water
Hair turning reddish in color because of well water