Brassy Hair Color After Lightening

Hair color swatches
Q: I've used hydrogen peroxide to lighten my roots, (I'm naturally brown haired) and now they seem to be a brassy, a little orange even. How do I get the orange out?
A: This is a common complaint among women with brown hair who lighten their hair at home. Many women with naturally brown hair discover that their hair has a reddish or orange base once the contributing pigments have been dispersed by the peroxide. There are two methods to correct this problem - one permanent and one temporary.
The permanent solution is to apply a toning color to the hair to neutralize the orange color. The basics of color-correcting theory can be found among the articles we have here at Hairfinder. In short, the objective is to neutralize the overabundant color by adding a color that is complementary (appears directly opposite to it on the color wheel). In your case, you need to add a toner with a blue base color. When blue is combined with orange, the result is a neutralized brown color.
You want to make sure, though, that you don't darken the hair again. You need to select a haircolor with a blue base color, but that is a level 9 or 10. The haircolor should be mixed with a 10-volume peroxide developer to prevent further lift, but allow the color to deposit. Apply the mixture to the new growth where the hair is orange, and leave for 10 minutes, then pull it through the rest of the hair and leave for an additional 5 minutes.
Hair color correction with toners is actually more of an art, as the colorist in a salon relies more on his or her expertise and understanding of color to generate the looks desired and remove the unwanted color results from previous color mistakes. With the process here, you may need an additional toning process depending on just how orange your color is.
The temporary solution is to use a shampoo and conditioner combination that is designed to help remove the brassiness from lightened hair. There are a number of companies that make shampoos for "brightening" and "debrassing" blonde hair. These shampoos use a blue-dye base which counteracts the orange results commonly found in lightened hair.
Because these shampoos don't permanently alter the color of the hair, they are usually very safe to use, but may be less effective in some cases where the orange color results are very bright.
Photo: Buritora/Shutterstock
See also:
How to color hair
The hair color wheel
The 10 levels of hair color
Color correction for hair with a blondish orange color