Bleach Gone Wrong? How To Fix Orange Hair

Salon Client with Orange Hair

So you were ready to go from dark hair to blonde hair, and it went all wrong?

Grabbed that color off the Target shelf thinking that there is no time for the salon, or I can’t afford it right now. OMG, now how do I fix orange hair?

Now is the part where we sit in the corner sobbing asking the killer question:

What now?!

Don’t stress. I will tell you how to fix your orange hair in a jiffy.

There are many different ways to fix orange hair, and it just depends on how serious it is and what route you want to take with it.

Haley Williams Paramore Photo

I suppose you could always say you were channeling your inner Haley Williams from Paramore…

So let’s take a minute to answer the age-old question first.

Why does your hair turn orange when you bleach it?

Everyone’s hair is made up of keratin protein and pigment. Each of us has our unique mixture of the pigments, but there are a few factors that are always the same:

The darker your hair, the more pigment it contains.

When lightening your hair, the cool pigments are smaller molecules so they will be the first to go, while the warmer(gold and orange) tones are larger molecules, and there are many more of them so they always remain the longest.

Drawing of hair strand exposing color molecules.

As an example, you can see there are more gold molecules and some are larger.

What it boils down to is that bleaching your hair is the process of breaking down those molecules. The smaller molecules will break down first, leaving broken pieces of the larger warm toned molecules.

There you have it; your hair turns orange when you bleach it because the large gold molecules are the hardest to break down enough to get rid of them without breaking down your hair in the process.

How do I get the orange out of my hair?

So- the trick is not necessarily getting rid of the orange or yellow. It’s figuring out how to neutralize the unwanted tones.

Let’s say that you did the box bleach on your black hair because the picture showed a beautiful blonde right?

WRONG.

The things that those boxes don’t show or tell you is that it does not work that way. Many different factors contribute to the results when you lighten your hair.

  • Natural color
  • Underlying pigments
  • Product Buildup
  • Previous Colors
  • The PH of your hair
  • Etc….

If you don’t know how these things factor in, you won’t get your desired results.

Chart of underlying pigments that are exposed when you lighten hair

This chart shows the underlying pigments that get exposed when you lighten your hair. Note- This shows natural hair, not previously colored hair.

The thing about box colors is that they are made for the general public and not highly regulated. They just throw in the strongest mix and away you go. It’s a dangerous combination because it can leave you with the dreaded orange, or hair so damaged you lose your shit and have to cut it all off.

The top 3 options on how to fix orange.

Find someone who specializes in corrective color.

In college, stylists get taught how to handle these situations. Not only how to combat the orange, but how to maintain your hair in the process. The box colors don’t mention much about hydralization and turning your hair into over-processed mush…

The stylist will be able to tell you exactly what needs to be done to fix it, and know how they are going to do it.

It may not be what you want to hear but trust the process. If you find a good stylist, they will be able to tell you each step and why it needs to be this way.

Before and After Photos of Orange Hair that has been toned.

Here is an example of a color correction first visit.

Not only that, but a stylist can save you from irreversible damage. As a stylist, I can attest to the crazy amount of education we go through to learn how to handle hair while maintaining its integrity properly.

Just remember, find a stylist that specializes in corrective color. Someone who specializes in a specific area is going to have the most knowledge and experience on how to fix that situation.

Going to a stylist is the option I highly recommend. While it may seem expensive, it is worth it. It will save the integrity of your hair and a lot of heartaches.

Hair client that got a color correction that is now medium blonde.

The same client after the second visit for color correction.

Apply a toner.

If you have your mind made up that you are going to fix it yourself, use a toner on your hair.

Toning gets a little bit more complicated and in-depth, so please make sure you understand what you need before you dive in and throw something else on your hair.

The first thing I want you to do is to take a look at the color wheel and determine how orange or yellow your hair truly is.

Image of a Color Wheel

Find the color you see in your hair and whatever color is directly opposite of it, is the tone you need to neutralize your hair.

Ok. Got it. So now look at the opposite side of the color wheel, whatever you see there is the tone that you need to neutralize your hair color.

For example, the opposite of red is green, so you need a green undertone, so you need a straight ash color.

Red – Green

Orange – Blue

Yellow – Purple

Let’s say that your hair is SUPER red-orange looking, I mean like a pumpkin that is ready for Halloween, you want an Ash/Green toner. You may look at it and think, “Gross, I don’t want that color on my hair!” But I will tell you, it won’t end up that way, it will neutralize the red-orange, and you will end up with a neutral color.

When you are looking at this, you also need to consider how light or dark your hair is. If you are entirely red-orange, your hair is likely not light blonde and will not turn platinum with just a toner.

Remember when I said to trust the process before? It applies here too.

Even if you don’t get that perfectly white platinum the first time, don’t just throw more bleach on your hair right away because you will regret it. Your hair will hate you, and you will probably be crying in the shower as clumps of mushy hair go down the drain.

Harry Potter Hair Meme, If you have hair like Hagrid, but you want hair like Lucious Malfoy, you must first have yellow hair like Draco Malfoy, or you will be bald like Voldemort

I cannot express enough, Trust the process!

Platinum takes time.

As you figure out how orange or yellow your hair is, it will give you a hint about what level of lightness your hair is. If your hair is red-orange, you are probably around a level 6 which is considered a light brown/dark blonde. If your hair is more on the pale yellow side, you are probably a level 9 or 10 light blonde.

Now we pick out the toner that will work best. Next question:

How long do you leave a toner on your hair?

The amount of time you leave the toner on your hair varies according to the brand.

The max time for toners is typically about 20 minutes.

I recommend timing by visual. Get the toner on as fast as possible, and watch it. It may take all 20 minutes, but it could tone after 5 minutes. You will see your hair change, so once you notice the orange or yellow disappearing, rinse it out.

Use a toning shampoo.

Maybe you are one of the lucky ones, and your hair has a minimal yellow or orange tint to it. Awesome! Barely there warm tones are where toning shampoo comes in.

Purple and blue toning shampoos are for minimal discoloration. They are not going to be a miracle fix, but they will get rid of a slight yellow or brassy tone.

What does purple shampoo do?

Snapchat photo of Paulina with purple shampoo on her hair

I use toning shampoo on my hair once a week.

Purple shampoo will maintain blondes and cancel out some yellow tones. It goes back to the color wheel once again. Purple is the opposite of yellow so that it will neutralize it.

Blue shampoo is the next level up from purple. It’s a little bit stronger, so it will help neutralize slightly darker yellows or light oranges.

Using purple or blue shampoo once or twice a week will help eliminate yellow tones and maintain blondes. Add it to your routine but not daily.

Purple Shampoo Tip:

To get the maximum benefits, apply the shampoo to dry hair 15 minutes before you plan to wash your hair. Once time is up, wet your hair, lather and continue as usual.

Looking for a toning shampoo to maintain your color? Click here to find recommendations for toning shampoos.

Paulina’s Final Thoughts

Now that you have a few ways to combat orange, yellow, or brassy hair, pick out a solution that works for you.

I will recommend a stylist over anything else. Remember, we are trained to fix color and deal with these issues while protecting your hair.

For more information check out my YouTube video!