Why Does My Blonde Hair Turn Red or Orange When I Color It?

Ignore the model: Read the color chart to see what a dye will do to your hair.

Photo: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

It’s any beauty diva’s nightmare to find the perfect shade for your hair, apply it masterfully at home and wind up with a clownish mess. You might be surprised to know it’s actually pretty common to end up with orange or red tresses after a botched dye job. Whether it’s the result of misreading the dye label or simply forgetting to keep an eye on the clock, you don’t have to relive your dye disaster over and over: With a little information and patience, you can still get the hair color of your dreams without having to leave home.

Color Spectrum

All shades from blond to raven-black change color along the same spectrum. If you’re bleaching your hair from black to platinum, for example, your hair won’t just snap from one color to the other. Instead, it moves in stages: black, brown, red, orange, yellow-blond, light blond and white (platinum). So, when you’re darkening your blond tresses, you can expect your hair to pass through those awkward orange and red phases as it changes. When it does, don’t panic! It usually just means your hair needs more time to process.

Dealing With Orange and Red

The best way to adjust a botched hair color is to leave it to your stylist. But if you insist on fixing it up at home, try using a toner -- a pastel hair dye designed to balance unwanted colors — to lift the orange or red hues from your hair. For orange, choose a blue toner. For red, use green. Apply toner the way you would apply hair dye (always do a strand test first). Keep a close eye on your tresses as they change colors. Toner doesn’t take long to process, so avoid another color mishap by dyeing only half your hair or less at a time.

How to Avoid a Bad Shade

Usually, when your hair dye takes a turn for the worse, you simply didn’t leave the dye in long enough -- or left it in too long. The best way to avoid this mishap is to start with a strand test; it’ll help you see how long the dye needs to sit before it reaches the shade you want. If you were going for a lustrous shade of red or brown but wound up with orange, next time you dye, ensure against another coppery disaster by picking a shade of red that looks two levels darker than the one you want. If you only wanted to slightly darken your blond tresses and you wound up with Bozo’s mane, pick a color one or two shades lighter than the one you want.

Coping With a Bad Color

If you can’t make it to the salon for a fix-up, there are ways to tame down the wattage of your orange or red hair color. First, wash your mane to rid it of excess oils: Shiny hair intensifies color, so you’ll want your hair to look as dull as possible. Next, style in curls. Curls keep the hair shaft bent so your hair doesn’t reflect as much light, resulting in a less intense color. Finally, dress down your hair with the right clothing colors. Wear gray or a brighter version of your hair color to neutralize your hair’s shade. Avoid complementary colors, because these will only make your hair look brighter.

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