What Is Brassy Blonde?

Too-light highlights can turn blond hair brassy.

Photo: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Blondes might have more fun -- but not when hair coloring goes awry. When your blond hair color develops a reddish-orange tint, there's little cause to smile. This is known as having brassy hair -- and it’s definitely not a look you want to rock. To prevent brassiness, resist the urge to go one shade lighter -- a common cause of hair color troubles in blondes. Follow expert advice for blond color that's true to your intended hue.

The Look

Brassy blond is characterized by hair that appears gold, red or orange after you color it. Often this look is concentrated at your roots because that's the area of your hair being touched up the most. Sometimes brassy hair color is the result of your hair’s natural undertones. Even if you don’t think of yourself as an underlying redhead, dying your hair could reveal this brassy base color.

Three Pigments, One Brassy Color

Blond hair has three pigments: blue, yellow and red. The blue pigments are what keep your hair from looking brassy. Unfortunately, they’re also the first to leave your hair shaft when you dye your hair blond. The blue pigments are a lot smaller than your red or orange ones, so they seem to slip through more easily. To keep this from happening to you, your stylist may need to apply an extra dose of blue pigments to your hair. This can be accomplished by using an ash base color. Your hair won’t look like a blueberry, however. The pigments are just enough to neutralize your brassiness.

Sun-baked Blonde

The sun’s rays don’t only turn your skin colors -- they also affect your hair when it’s dyed. An extended vacation spent out in the sun can allow the sun’s ultraviolet rays to penetrate your hair shaft and bleach your hair color pigments, but not in a good way. To keep this from happening, "Allure" consulting hair expert Garren suggests using hair products that have UV filters, specifically the ingredients benzophenone and ethylhexylmethoxycinnamate. Sunscreen should be applied to your part and hairline on days spent outdoors. Wearing a cute sun hat probably wouldn’t hurt either.

Banish the Brass

If your hair looks like you could easily blend in with the trumpet section, you have a few options for repair. The first is to have your stylist apply a toner, or semi-permanent hair color, over your current hair color to put some blue pigments on your hair. Since the toner is semi-permanent, it won’t penetrate your hair shaft and cause more damage. Another option is to use a purple- or blue-based shampoo. These can put some temporary pigments back onto your hair to keep it from looking too brassy. Since they save you a color service and keep your hair clean, color-depositing shampoos can be a win-win.

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