Dark-haired girls always seem to look at blondes with envy. Guys turn their heads at blondes like they’re mythical unicorns. And hey, maybe they do have more fun… right?
I’ve done the blonde thing before, and yeah, it was fun. But here’s the thing…you need to know what you’re doing, or else, well, you’re going to wind up with the kind of color that screams Great Aunt Gladys.
If you just buy a box of blonde hair dye to try to wing at home when your hair is dark rather than fork up the money to visit a colorist, you’re going to be sorry. Unless you WANT your hair to turn orange.
I’m not talking a flattering hip shade of auburn or reddish tones here. I’m talking Bozo the Clown orange. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I tried and tried with one of my friends, and she wouldn’t listen. A few hours later, I received a series of photos, followed by a phone call filled with intense sobbing.
But as I told her and I’ll tell you now, you CAN fix it. You just have to know how.
Orange isn’t for everybody. Few people can or want to pull it off. And it’s deeply upsetting when you wanted to be a bombshell blonde, but you now look like you should be wearing a red clown nose and performing at kids’ birthday parties.
If your hair has wound up a shade of orange after attempting to bleach it yourself, you are in good company. Most women with dark hair that attempt this feat by themselves at home (3/4 of them actually) wind up with brassy hair.
So, let’s tackle the brassy mess you’ve made; Dry those tears as I’m going to tell you exactly how to fix orange hair after bleaching?
In order to fix orange hair after a bad bleaching job you should use a toner to get rid of the brassiness, then you can attempt a second bleach to achieve the blonde you want, or you can simply go back to your original color by dying your hair dark.
But first, let’s get into why dark hair turns orange, and then you’ll see just how to mellow out your shade for the better!
Why does hair turn orange when bleached?
It’s funny that we all have to check certain boxes for our driver’s licenses and such to indicate hair color. Hair is not just one unified color. But what you see in the mirror is really a bunch of different pigments that combine to make one color.
For you dark-haired gals, what you don’t see hidden underneath is a red pigment. It’s what makes your brown or black hair look so deep and rich. So, when you use bleach to lighten it, you suddenly expose this basic red, and that’s when things go downhill.
The problem is that you didn’t get enough of the red pigments out of your hair. If you’ve ever experimented with spray-on lighteners like Sun-In at the pool or beach, you likely noticed your hair looked more red than blonde. That’s precisely why. You didn’t give it enough lightening to transition it all the way to blonde.
If you want blonde hair, you have to get the pigment to yellow and get rid of the red pigment. When you don’t get to that yellow though, you can’t just dye it blonde, but you can tone the base down. So, basically, you don’t have to stick with the orange, but you can’t get it blonde. It can become a light brown though, which is far better than orange!
– Taking bleach out too early
Bleaching hair is a bit intimidating of a process. It’s why I urge you, especially if you have dark hair, to get it done professionally. You may soon see the costs of upkeep are too great, but hey, at least your hair won’t be fried.
When you take the bleach out of your hair too soon though, you wind up with that orange. You can try again with blonde dye, but it’s like Gretchen trying to make “fetch” happen in Mean Girls. It’s not happening because there’s not enough color in there to make it work as it should.
When you lighten hair’s natural color with bleach, you expose it to oxidizing agents that break up the melanin in the cortex of your hair shaft. Extreme bleaching takes away the melanin, turning the hair white. Bleaching needs to happen to make dark hair light, and if you expect it to go blonde, you have to do this to get two shades or more lighter.
Arriving at this point, your hair will have a low melanin content, and the artificial pigment in a lighter shade can be applied. But if it’s still brassy, you need to know that the pigment beneath isn’t completely ridded by the bleach.
Pigments in your hair are what makes your hair the shade that it is. These pigments in darker hair colors are why you wind up orange. If you have a deeper pigment, bleach needs to work harder to lift it out of there. For hair that has been colored before that, you’re trying to lift dye away from or purely natural hair that is brown or black that has never been dyed, it’s very common to make it orange.
If you’re not leaving that bleach on the right amount of time, you will surely have a head of orange. This is why I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… if you’re going from dark hair, you should take it slow and lighten in several steps to achieve your desired lighter shade. This prevents orange situations, and it also keeps you from damaging your hair.
Using an international color chart can help you match the underlying pigment in your hair to your hair type. You can see that opposite colors provide a neutralized effect. So, if you want to counteract warm tones, the dyes you use should contain the opposite to neutralize your hair pigment. Blue and purple tones work against orange, which is why they are put into hair dyes to keep brassiness from turning up.
So, if your hair is brassy, there’s an imbalance of the remaining tones in your hair, and you didn’t lighten it enough to hit blonde status. You have to get to that yellow stage where warm undertones have been removed.
Are you orange and wondering, “Now what?” Hang in there, girl. I’ve got the tips you need on how to color correct and feel better about removing that hat, so keep reading!
How to fix orange hair after bleaching
While this orange hue isn’t what you wanted, you can fix it. Below, you’ll find a few ways to change your hair to a shade that doesn’t make you cry!
▪ Use a toner to fix orange hair
Ah, toner! You can use it on orange hair just as you would for blonde. There’s a key difference though, in that you need to use a blue-based dye rather than purple-based to crush that orange. Your toner also has to be stronger than what you’d use for toning blonde hair to cover that orange.
But know this… you can’t tone dark orange hair into blonde. You’re going to get a light brown color, and believe me; you’ll be thrilled with the result over that orange. This will also keep you from further stressing out your tresses and going full scarecrow-hair.
Here are my handy tips on how to make this happen.
Stuff you’ll need:
- Hair dye in either dark ash-blonde or light ash-brown
- Bowl and brush for tinting
- Developer volume 10
- Clips to section with
Once you have everything ready, follow these steps to fixing the orange by way of toner:
- Mix the color with the developer using the brush and bowl.
- Section your hair into 4 quadrants with the clips. You’ll do this by parting it in the center of your forehead all the way to the back of your neck and also from ear to ear.
- Apply the dye to each quadrant.
- Leave it on until you see the orange neutralize, and your hair appears a normal, natural shade.
- It’s ok to leave the dye in for the full cycle of development as specified on the box for an ashier appearance though if you find it hits a shade of brown you like before then, go ahead and rinse.
- Your hair will look ashier while it’s covered with the dye, so, expect a warmer result than what you see.
- Condition after rinsing to soothe dry hair and style away!
A second bleach to fix orange hair
▪ A second bleach to fix orange hair
Ok, so maybe you’re just a hair away, pardon the pun, from the desired shade of blonde you wanted. If so, you didn’t lighten it enough, or you took the bleach out before that yellow point. At this stage, you can continue lightening by adding more bleach.
Big pro tip here: you should wait a minimum of one week after first bleaching to let the natural moisture of your hair balance out.
After that waiting period, you can correct orange hair with dye. Here’s how!
- Start with mixing and applying more bleach.
- Now, let it sit in your hair until it gets to the yellow stage. This should take around 20 to 30 minutes.
- Rinse it out as soon as you see the yellow tones.
- When it’s lemony, you’ll need to tone it out with blonde dye. For beige-blonde, you need a cool-toned dye to balance that yellow tone. This will result in a more natural appearance.
Side-bar: Here’s how not to fumble selecting the right blonde dye for your hair!
Bleached hair is very porous, so you need to be gentle in toning to keep from going overly ash and winding up with yet another problem to color-correct. Choosing a blonde dye that is pearl or ash, or a level lighter at the minimum of your desired shade.
So, for medium natural blonde, choose light ash blonde. This allows you more control when toning. You can let it process the full time or remove it once you get to blonde. From there, it’s up to you to maintain it. Purple-toned shampoos will help keep you from getting all yellowy again and will really make your hair care routine so much easier, not to mention, give you the hair you had originally hoped for.
▪ Going back to dark hair to fix the orange color
Some of you will decide that marching right back down the path to darkness is a better approach. My friend I mentioned earlier decided all the toning and correcting was just not for her and chose this route.
It’s one of the simplest ways to correct it too. You can just dye over it with a darker dye and go back to your color, or even a new color. However, you must use a dye that is darker than the orange on your head now to cover that up.
If you ever do choose to try blonde again after this, definitely see a colorist.
How to prevent orange hair after correction
Now that you’ve gotten to a lightened look that you love, you want to keep it just like that. So, you’ll want to keep it from going brassy or revealing that vile orange again once you’ve corrected things.
To start, let’s cover brassy hair. This is when the tones that are deep golden develop in blonde-dyed hair or even light shades of brown when the dye starts fading. You’ll want to watch out for this because it’s much like your initial orange hair problem. Why is it happening? Because your cooler tones from your dye fade more easily and reveal that warm tone once more.
FYI, for lighter hair, brassy and orange tones could be from mineral buildup, which comes from hard water. You should know this going in because a clarifying shampoo can help get rid of those minerals, but with dyed hair, you really should avoid that.
So, how do you prevent those warm tones, and why is it happening?
There are 2 reasons you’ll be seeing this. One of them is from a loss of color because it’s fading and the other is that mineral buildup. Here’s what NOT to do:
- Stop washing your hair so often
- Heavy shampoos are also problematic
- Don’t expose yourself to sun excessively (it’s bad for your skin anyway)
- Saltwater or chlorine can also be a factor so keep your hair out of the pool and ocean
- Get a water softener to keep the hard water from depositing minerals on your hair
- Ship for a blue or purple tone shampoo
- Minimize your heat styling habits
- Never buy any shampoo or conditioner with sulfates
- Ditto for products with silicone or parabens (or both!)
You don’t have to suffer with a head of orange hair. Hopefully, you’ve learned what not to do if you want to go from extremely dark hair to extremely light. If you haven’t yet tried bleaching your hair and it’s a dark shade yet you desperately want to be blonde, please go to a colorist.
And if you simply must do it yourself, follow my tips to keep from going orange. It takes time to lighten things up so be patient and do it right to avoid damage, and avoid having orange hair.