How to: Non-Brassy Hair Lightening at Home

Jenny McCarthy's platinum locks shine without a hint of brass.

Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

A lot of home highlighting jobs end up in a brassy, orange mess. If you don't want to be counted among the casualties, you have to be on your A game. Brass, orange and gold hair will always be caused by operator error. You're the operator, so don't make any errors. If you do, you could end up with fiery locks -- not the good-looking kind. If the deed is already done, don't worry. You can lighten it again and get rid of the brass. Just do it right this time.


Buy lightener and color developer at a beauty supply store if you can. Not only will you get stronger stuff, the quality will be much better. If you've ever done anything with sub-quality materials, you know it doesn't always go so well. The same is true when you try to lighten with store-bought bleach. It's just not as good. The downside? You usually have to have a license or be in beauty school to buy professional products at a beauty supply store, so this might not be an option.


Match the developer to the job. You can't strip paint with water, and you can't lighten hair any further than your developer allows. When hair doesn't lighten enough, you get brass. To go all the way, you have to get the developer right. Use 20-volume developer to lighten two shades, 30-volume for three shades and 40-volume for four or more shades.


Choose a lightener that counteracts brass or tones as it lightens. Blue, violet and beige-based lighteners will help you pull the brass right out of your hair.


Leave it on until you don't see any more brass. Pale-yellow is the goal. If you're not the palest yellow, don't take the lightener off until you get there.


Lightener only works for so long. If you leave it on for hours and expect a miracle, your time would be better spent flipping quarters into a fountain and wishing for blond hair. Lightener stops working an hour after being mixed with developer. If an hour has passed, rinse off the old, mix up some new and put it on to keep lightening your hair.


Add heat to the formula if your hair's particularly stubborn. Cover your hair with a plastic cap and heat the surface up with a blow dryer.

Tips & Tricks


Ever wish you had a crystal ball that could tell you exactly how your color will turn out? Well, you do. Snip a strand of hair and color it. It may be one strand, but it will tell you what all your hair will look like after you lighten it.


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"Milady's Standard Textbook of Cosmetology"; Milady, et al.; 2008

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