Is It Possible to Fix Brassy or Ashy Hair?

brassy hair fixed in salon

One day, you love your new hair color. A few weeks later, you hate it. Somehow your beautiful locks have taken on an orange or yellow hue, or turned a strange grayish blue. How did that happen, and what can you do about it? Whether you’re dealing with brassy blonde hair or ashy hair that’s lost its luster, there are ways to bring it back to beautiful.  

What Causes Hair to Become Brassy or Ashy?

To understand how hair turns brassy or ashy, it helps to understand the warm and cool color palettes. Warm colors are in the red, orange, and yellow family. Cool colors are green, blue, and violet. 

In order to lighten darker hair, a stylist has to lift the hair to the desired level of lightness desired, then apply a toner to achieve the perfect neutral, cool or warm tone. Brassy blonde hair usually happens when those red, orange, or yellow tones weren’t completely removed. Natural brunettes experience brassiness when red tones creep up, while blondes turn brassy when too much yellow or orange is left in the hair. 

Hair can also look brassy after it’s been exposed to UV rays. The sun naturally lightens hair, but because darker hair has those warm undertones, it can turn orange or gold after being outdoors for many hours. Think Sun-In, but without the spray bottle. 

Ashy hair results when there is an absence of those warm tones, so it has a blue, violet, or greenish cast. This can happen after adding blonde highlights without the right kind of toner. Blonde hair can also fade to an ashy gray after swimming in a chlorine pool or showering in hard water. In general, chemicals and minerals don’t mix well with hair color. 

Sometimes when people color their hair at home, they can get brassy or ashy results. Putting blonde dye on top of dark hair without bleaching it first can turn out orange. Adding a toner that does not consider the underlying tone in the hair, or leaving toner in for too long might turn hair blue-gray or even green. 

Will a Stylist Know How to Get Rid of Brassy Hair? 

In their professional training, stylists learn to abide by the science of Color Theory when dyeing hair or correcting color. They use a color wheel, with cool colors on one side and warm on the other, to understand which hues complement one another. These colors also neutralize or “cross-cancel” each other in a dye job gone wrong.

In order to fix brassy blonde hair, stylists must remove the unwanted color by adding the pigment directly opposite on the color wheel. Here’s how adding toner for brassy hair works:

  • Adding purple or violet toner gets rid of yellow. 
  • Adding blue toners cancels out orange.
  • Adding green gets rid of red.

It sounds pretty simple, but because there are so many shades of blonde, it’s not always easy to determine which toner will cancel out the unwanted color. For instance, orange-yellow hair needs to be toned with blue-violet, but an untrained eye might identify the orange-yellow just as orange. In that case, trying to fix brassy blonde hair with basic blue toner won’t work. Adding too much of a color on one side of the wheel and too little on the other side will also end with bad results.

Luckily, color specialists like the ones at Vakkar will know exactly how to get rid of brassy hair. They have gone through extensive training to recognize what causes color mishaps, and can correct them using professional products and techniques. 

color wheel that stylist references when fixing brassy hair
Image by ghollinger by

Is it Possible to Warm Up Ashy Hair?

In a nutshell, ashy brown hair just needs a little warm love. Ashy hair usually results after too much cool or blue toner has been left in. Sometimes washing multiple times with clarifying shampoo can remove the excess toner. But if that doesn’t work, a color specialist will know how to warm up ashy hair using that scientific color wheel. Blues and greens are directly across from reds and oranges, so adding the appropriate color will get rid of that ashy look. 

Can I Get Rid of Brassy Hair or Fix Ashy Hair at Home? And Is It Possible to Prevent it From Happening Altogether?

Whether your hair turned out brassy after using the wrong boxed color or your stylist didn’t lift the pigment out of your hair, you can try to fix it at home. Color correcting shampoos are available in salons and some big box stores. For blonde hair, use purple shampoo to neutralize brassy yellow and orange undertones. If you’re a brunette, use blue shampoo to get rid of red hues.

For ashy hair, try a clarifying shampoo that gets rid of cool tones.

Since your tresses can take a turn for the worse even when colored professionally, there are some things you can do to keep brassy or ashy tones from setting in. 

  • Wear a hat. Especially on sunny days, protecting your hair from UV rays can keep those golden hues from popping through.
  • Use sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. Sulfate strips color from the hair, leaving it dull and ashy. Sulfate-free products can help you maintain lustrous color longer.  
  • Avoid swimming in saltwater or chlorine. Both salt and chlorine will cause bleached hair to dry out and fade, and can make yellow pigment turn green. Skipping the pool or wearing a swim cap is your best bet for keeping blonde hair beautiful.

For a Permanent, Professional Fix, Head to the Salon

When toning shampoos won’t do the trick, the best way to fix brassy or ashy hair is to visit the experts. During a color-corrective consultation at Vakkar Salon, our stylists will take plenty of time to address what went wrong so it won’t happen again, and then fix your hair during a multi-step process. Perfecting your color by pulling out pigments and using the right toners may take time, but it will be well worth it to walk away loving the way you look. 
If you’re not happy with your hair, you don’t have to keep living with it. Our master colorists believe you deserve the color of your dreams and will help you achieve it. Book a consultation today by calling or texting us at (314) 648-3121, or book online by clicking here.

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