Hair Turns Yellow from the Heat

Gray hair that turns yellow
Photo: T-Design/Shutterstock
Q: I am in the middle of changing my hairstyle from short to shoulder. My hair is salt and pepper and I have recently begun using a flat iron. But my hair turns yellow from the heat.
I have turned the heat way down, but it still happens. Is there any solution to this problem? My husband calls it nicotine hair, and I don't even smoke! I use shimmer lights shampoo and conditioner on a regular basis.

A: The first thing I would suspect as a cause of the yellowing is that some hair product you are using in conjunction with the flat iron is causing this yellowing that has become troublesome. Some products, when exposed to heat can become yellow. If the hair is naturally pigmented, this is usually unnoticeable. However, in silver or salt-and-pepper hair colors, it becomes problematic.
If you are not using any styling product while you flat iron your hair (no styling gel in the blow drying stage, or hairspray to smooth the hair during ironing) then this is obviously not the case. However, if you are using a styling product (apart from shampoo and conditioner) then try blow-drying the hair and ironing it without product to see if this helps to resolve the issue.
The second thing to check is for residues on your flat iron. Using a cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol on a cool iron, or a water-dampened cloth on a hot iron should remove any residue left behind by products that were used before which could transfer to the hair and cause yellowing.
The final possibility is that your hair is simply sensitive to the heat of a flat iron. (It would react the same way to a curling iron.) This happens among fine to medium hair types as the last vestiges of pigment in the hair are oxidized by the heat of the flat iron, breaking down the melanin and leaving the underlying pigment (pale yellow).
You might try continuing to lower the heat of your iron, but it may not be enough and will probably not get you the straight results you want. If your hair is heat-sensitive, then you will probably be best served by giving up the use of the flat iron altogether.
Once you've identified and eliminated the cause of the problem, continued use of the Shimmer Lights shampoo and conditioner should restore your hair to its silvery, shiny luster.
See also:
Gray hair Q&A
Flat iron styling
What can I use to get the yellow out of my gray hair?