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Show Brassy Hair Who's Boss

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Whether you're a bright blonde, dark brunette, or a raven-haired beauty, brass happens. Brassy hair is typically defined as excess warm tones that show up in colored hair. Brass isn’t always a bad thing, especially if you’re looking to add warmth. But when it shows up uninvited, that’s when you need a plan.

before photo of brassy hair, after photo of non brassy hair

What Causes Brassy Hair?

So what causes brassy hair? Virtually every hair dye is a blend of red, yellow, and blue pigment. The smallest pigments, which happen to be in the blue spectrum, fade the fastest. Combine that normal fading process with a handful of environmental aggressors, and you're left with too many warm pigments in your hair. Platinum blonde becomes too yellow, golden highlights turn orange, and black fades to red. 

But not to worry—those brassy tones can be beat. Here are our top five color-correcting tips.

How to Fix Brassy Hair Color

Use Color Reviving Gloss

A glaze or a gloss, like our Color Reviving Gloss, is like icing on a cake.It is a semi-permanent color that adds mega shine, helps close the hair cuticle, and revives faded color. Crema is a cool violet color that neutralizes brassiness in blonde or gray hair. Espresso is a cool brunette color that also reduces brass in brunette hair. To prevent brassiness, it’s recommended to use a gloss every two to four weeks on color-treated hair. 

Espresso-Allure- Interim Package

Turn to Toner

A hair color toner is a demi-permanent glaze that refines color, enhances shine, and improves the overall condition of your hair—all without interfering with your base color. Depending on the shade of toner used, it can cancel out yellow, orange, or red tones to counteract unwanted brassiness. Our Light Works Toning Glaze is the second step of our Light Works Balayage Highlighting Kit and is also available separately. Choose from five shades to perfect your tone. 

To counteract brassiness in blonde highlights, try Toning Glaze in Sorrento Cool Vanilla. For brunettes, Toning Glaze in Cool Toffee will reduce unwanted red or orange tones in highlighted light brown to medium brown hair. Merano Cool Mocha will do the trick in highlighted dark brown to black hair. 

meet salon secret lightening weapon toner

Go One Shade Darker

The darker the natural color, the more warmth is exposed when lightening the hair. If unwanted brassy undertones show through, consider going one shade darker to help control the underlying warmth in your hair. 

Wondering how to decode the numbers and letters on hair color boxes? The number-letter combinations refer to the levels and undertones of the specific hair colors. The number is measured on a scale from 1-10 (1 being black, 10 being lightest blonde). The letter refers to the tone and base pigment of the color. So, let’s take the golden-toned Tuscany Brown - 6NGV, for example. Tuscany Brown is the shade name, the number indicates the level, and the letters indicate the tone—NGV stands for Neutral Gold Violet. 

Madison Reed hair color box and activator with level and tone information

Avoid Salt Water, Chlorine & UV Rays

Environmental aggressors like salt water, chlorine, and UV rays hurt the integrity of your color by drying out your hair and stripping it of natural oils, causing the hair shaft to become parched, brittle, and dull. As hair becomes compromised, it becomes more difficult for color to stay rich and true. To combat these culprits, wear a swim cap when you’re taking a dip and rinse your hair with fresh water before and after swimming in chlorinated water. In addition, rain or shine, use hair products with UV protection, if possible, to help shield hair from sun damage. For example, our smoothing cream, Tame, is infused with mongongo oil to protect against UV rays. These habits will help protect your hue.

pdp tame bottle cosmetics

Filter Your Water

Your water, shampoo, and how often you wash your hair can all affect the purity of your hair color. Let’s start at the tap. Tap water can contain metals and minerals that build up on hair, preventing it from soaking in moisture. Dryness = damage = brassiness. Consider installing a shower filter to minimize buildup and maximize moisture absorption. (It will have great results for your skin, too!)

Shake Up Your Shampoo Routine

Many shampoos contain sulfates, which create a luxe-feeling lather but are harsh on colored hair, stripping out pigment over time. Opt for a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner such as our Color Protecting Set, which also contains UV protection.

We also recommend not shampooing too frequently. Maybe try replacing one of your regular washes with a dry shampoo. The less you suds up, the less risk for brass.

Madison Reed Shampoo and Conditioner

Mask the Brass

You may have heard of using a purple shampoo to help combat brassiness, but what about a purple conditioner or hair mask? Our Color Therapy color depositing hair mask can neutralize unwanted warm tones and revive your shade as youc ondition your hair. Use this effortless, in-shower treatment in place of conditioner to refresh your hair’s tone in just five minutes. Use every second or third time you shampoo to minimize your color from fading too quickly. 

BLOG.11.10_Real Life Review_Color Therapy Color Depositing Mask

Color Therapy in Perla adds violet tones to neutralize brassiness in blonde or highlighted hair, depositing color where your hair needs it most. (On the color wheel, purple is the opposite of yellow, which is why purple pigments cancel them out.) The more often you use Color Therapy, the more color is deposited—along with hair-loving nutrients like keratin, argan oil, and ginseng root extract to protect and pamper hair. 

And that’s it! With these simple tips, you can win the battle of the brass. Consider your color corrected. 

We’re Here to Answer Your Questions

Need a little more guidance? Coloring your hair at home doesn’t have to mean going it alone. We’re ready to answer your questions about coloring, maintenance, color-treated hair care, and more. Consult with a licensed colorist via email, phone, or video chat. If you need an extra hand, let our licensed colorists do it all for you at a Madison Reed Hair Color Bar.

Originally published: 10/6/2016

Updated: 6/28/2021

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