Bleaching your hair at home can be a great way to achieve a bold new look, but it can also come with some unexpected challenges. Even if you are used to dying your hair, bleaching is an entirely different type of technique and one that can be pretty challenging to master. One of the most common issues after bleaching is hair that turns a distinct yellow color instead of the golden or ashy blonde you were expecting. In fact, your hair can go properly canary yellow after bleaching! This can be frustrating and make it difficult to achieve the perfect blonde shade. Not to mention how scary it is to discover your hair looks like a baby chicken, and you don't dare to bleach it again! However, it's essential to know that how to fix bleached hair that turns yellow is not difficult at all, and hairdressers do it every time they bleach somebody's hair.
This article will explore the most effective methods for correcting yellow hair after bleaching and why each technique works. We'll delve into the science of hair color and bleaching, explaining why hair turns yellow after bleaching and what you can do to prevent it (as much as possible). We'll also provide a step-by-step guide to correcting yellow hair at home, including the best toning products and techniques. And finally, we'll talk a bit about how to stop blonde hair from becoming brassy after a few washes without using more bleach or harming your hair.
We'll also offer tips for preventing yellow hair after bleaching in the first place and maintaining healthy, vibrant blonde locks. Whether you're a seasoned bleacher or a first-timer, this guide will give you the tools and knowledge you need to fix yellow hair after bleaching and achieve the blonde of your dreams. So, let's dive in and learn how to rehab your bleached hair to say goodbye to yellow tones for good!
Bleaching hair at home is an attractive option for many people, especially those who want to save money or have more control over their hair color. If you have been coloring your hair at home, lightening and bleaching your hair sounds like a logical next step. However, several challenges come with bleaching hair at home, including:
Damage to the Hair: Compared with hair dye, bleaching is a much harsher process, and if not done correctly, it can lead to severe hair damage. At-home bleaching can be particularly risky, as most people lack the expertise to accurately evaluate their hair history and condition and choose bleach, developer strength, and processing time accordingly.
Uneven Color: Achieving an even and consistent color can be difficult when bleaching hair at home, especially if you have multiple shades or tones in your hair. This can lead to a patchy or uneven look that may require professional correction. Applying bleach at the correct times to the different sections of your hair (mid-lengths first, roots after, you may or not need to bleach the tips, for example) takes practice and often a second pair of hands when there is a lot of hair involved.
Overprocessing: Overprocessing the hair can lead to severe damage and breakage, and at-home bleaching can increase the risk of this happening. If you leave the bleach on for too long or use a product that is too strong, you may end up with severely damaged hair that is difficult to repair. If you leave the bleach for too little time, your hair won't lighten enough, and you won't get the blonde you wanted, even after using a toner.
Unpredictable Results: Bleaching hair can be unpredictable, and at-home bleaching can be especially risky as you don't necessarily have the professional tools or products to fix the problem. This can be particularly bad if your hair has been processed before, even if it has been a while since the last time you dyed it.
It's essential to carefully consider these factors before attempting to bleach your hair at home and to seek professional guidance if necessary. At the very least, be prepared for the unexpected and ready to fix the issues if they happen.
Hair bleach (nothing to do with household bleach) is a chemical mixture that breaks down the hair's natural pigment or color. The lightening bleach solution removes (or oxidizes) the melanin molecules in the hair, which are responsible for giving hair its natural color. The longer the bleach is on the hair, the more pigment it will remove. Bleach will work on natural and artificial pigments such as previous hair dye or henna. This oxidizing reaction causes heat, which is why bleaching your hair can be uncomfortable.
For the bleach to do its job, the hair cuticle, the outermost layer of the hair shaft, needs to be opened, which is what the developer does in that mixture. While the cuticle will close afterwards, it will never return to being as tightly closed as it used to be. But don't panic: daily exposure to the environment, heat damage, and any hair dye which uses a developer all damage your cuticle, and you can still have fabulous hair afterwards, with proper aftercare.
The two main things you need to take from this bit are:
As you can see, there is no color remover option for bleach: bleaching your hair is permanent. You aren't depositing pigment as you do with regular hair dye. You are removing your natural pigment.
Two primary types of melanin molecules are responsible for hair color: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Melanocytes produce those melanin molecules at the root of your hair. Your hair color is defined by genetics, but grey hair happens when those melanocytes stop working.
Eumelanin is the pigment responsible for darker colors such as brown and black. It comprises two types of melanin molecules: brown-black and brown-red. These two molecules' ratios determine the exact shade of brown or black hair.
On the other hand, Pheomelanin is responsible for red and blonde hair colors. It's also produced by melanocytes but is composed of different types of melanin molecules than eumelanin. Pheomelanin primarily contains red and yellow pigments and very little brown or black ones.
The amount and ratio of these two types of melanin in the hair follicle determine the hair's natural color. Grey hair is hair with less pigment than your regular hair (but it often will have a bit of pigment, which is why few people have pure white hair). Blonde people and redheads have more pheomelanin, and people with dark hair have more Eumelanin.
When hair is bleached, the bleach solution breaks down the melanin molecules in the hair, which leads to the loss of color and lightening of the hair. The first type of melanin to go is Eumelanin, and then Pheomelanin. This is why hair goes from brown to red, to orange, and then yellow as the bleach processes. Technically you could end up with white hair after bleaching, but the natural keratin in the hair shaft is yellowish, so you usually end up with a very, very light yellow color.
Three things will affect how a bleaching process works:
All hair will go yellow at some point right after bleaching because yellow is a base color of hair, and natural hair has yellow pigments. Here, I said it. You will get yellow hair after bleaching, which doesn't mean you are doing anything wrong. But no hairdresser would leave a client with yellow hair (which can range from a yellow tinge for level 10 hair to a good egg yolk yellow on level 6 hair), and that's why bleach is a double-process service.
However, your hair may become more or less yellow and more or less evenly yellow, depending on the following:
While doing a strand test with bleaching is not only recommended but almost mandatory to be able to bleach your hair successfully, chances are some parts of your head will look different. The goal is to make all your hair even enough that it can be toned to the right shade of blonde in the next step. That may require reapplying a weaker bleach mixture on some sections of your hair or using foils to remove stubborn pigment.
For your hair to become blonde and not yellow, you must tone away the unwanted yellow undertones. This is usually accomplished with a gloss (for darker hair) or a toner for actual light blondes. Both are demi-permanent dyes used with a low-volume developer to deposit pigment on your hair. Toners, in particular, are very translucent, as they need to work on hair that is already very light and only deposit enough pigment to give hair the right tonal direction.
Toners can be applied right after bleaching, as long as you use the recommended 10vol developer and your hair is not too damaged. If your hair is significantly damaged, you may be better off skipping the toner in favor of other, less damaging options.
If this is the case, play it safe and use a yellow-neutralizing purple shampoo or a color-depositing mask. One well-known is Manic Panic Virgin Snow, a light violet that will cancel yellow on hair level 9 and above.
Here are some signs that your hair may be too damaged to use a toner:
Breakage: If your hair is breaking off or snapping easily, this is a sign that it is significantly damaged, and further use of anything with a developer is just not a good idea.
Weird Texture: Healthy hair should have a certain amount of elasticity, which allows it to stretch without breaking. If your hair is too damaged, it may snap or break when stretched. But sometimes bleached hair that has been overprocessed gets a gummy texture and feels like noodles. Stop bleaching if you are at this stage, and reach for the intensive conditioning and protein treatments your hair needs.
Porosity: Bleached hair is often more porous, which means it can absorb products more efficiently. However, if your hair is highly porous, it may not be able to hold on to toner properly, and the color may fade or wash out quickly. Or it may absorb too much toner, so your hair may go grey instead of platinum.
Dryness: Bleaching can cause the hair to become very dry and brittle. If your hair feels straw-like or crunchy, it's a sign that it's too damaged to use a toner.
If you are dying brown hair blonde with box dye instead of bleach, the dye mixture will have enough lightener to bring you to your target hair level and the pigments required to deposit a toned blonde color. However, each head of hair is unique, and what works for some may go yellow for others.
If your hair just went a bit more yellow than expected (you wanted platinum but got a bit of a yellow tinge on your hair), the first thing to do would be to reach for the purple shampoo. The purple shampoo will effectively remove yellow from your hair without damaging it further, but it will wash off quickly, so you will need to use it every few washes to keep up the bright blonde tones.
If your hair is noticeably yellow and darker than your desired blonde, it's a totally different situation, and purple shampoo may not be enough to bring you to the right shade of blonde. This usually happens when the hi-lift dye is not strong enough to lift your hair to the desired level or if you tried to use it on hair that had been previously dyed.
If that's the case, you have two options:
A bond builder treatment such as Olaplex or Living Proof Triple Bond Complex will help rebuild the damaged protein bonds and get you back to a point where you can bleach again quicker. Another great option is K18 which works differently but to the same effect. If you don't want yellow hair while you restore your hair, purple shampoo can be a temporary fix.
As you can see, unless your hair is significantly damaged, hair toner is critical to achieving a natural blonde instead of yellow hair. Toners are formulated for a specific hair level (darkness) and a target shade.
Always choose a toner designed to work with your hair level after bleaching, as otherwise, it won't have any effect. If you use a toner for darker hair on light hair, you may have the opposite problem: green hair after bleaching.
This can be a bit scary the first time because your hair will look positively grey or purple as the toner works, but it's supposed to be like that. Toner oxidizes as it works, its pigment depositing magic on your hair, and once you wash it off, your hair will be blonde and not grey. Each brand of toner has different instructions, so you should follow them.
Toner washes off like any other semi-permanent hair dye, so if you think your blonde is too ashy or too bright, you can use a clarifying shampoo a couple of times to reduce its intensity.
Let's talk about ash blonde, for example. This is a common target when people bleach their hair at home.
To bring dark hair, which could be, for example, a level 4, to natural-looking ash blonde hair, you need to bleach and tone it with the right color. The target level will be a level 8 ash blonde, which means you need to lift to level 9 because toning invariably makes hair about a level darker. So it all starts with getting your hair to level 9, which may need different techniques depending on your natural hair color and whether it's virgin or not.
Since we are talking about a 5-level lift, we should choose as low a developer as we can go, which in this case is probably level 20 for virgin hair. Do a test strand that will tell you how long you need that bleach to stay on the hair. After the bleach has done its job, your hair will be yellow. Not pretty blonde yellow, but most likely a mix of orange and primary paint pot yellow. Not ideal.
You will need to use a toner to fix that bleached hair that turned yellow. Since you want an ashy blonde, the toner should have ash tones (that's blue tones for regular people) and a bit of purple to cancel that yellow and make it more neutral. You could manually mix your own toner, but that's usually beyond the scope of home bleaching and most hairdressers, and for a good reason.
You can also buy a mixed blonde ash toner from Amazon to give you the perfect ash blonde. You would, for example, choose a brand (I rather like Wella Color Charm) and look at their color chart. You can scroll down on this page and see the different colors.
In this particular case, I would choose T27 (medium beige blonde) as it will look natural, but for a more ashy result, I would go for T18. If I know the hair pulls very warm, I will choose a very ashy shade to compensate.
As the toner fades, your blonde hair may become more and more yellow. Once it developed a noticeable yellow tinge and provided you are not due a color refresh to bleach your roots, purple shampoo is your best maintenance option.
The purple shampoo will tone yellow out of hair but not orange. So if you want to use purple shampoo, your hair should be a level 9 or higher which is a pretty platinum blonde. If your hair has any orange or red on it, the purple shampoo will make it warmer.
If your hair is light blonde, you can use the purple shampoo once a week indefinitely to remove the brass and refresh it. However, you may also benefit from a color-depositing mask or at-home gloss treatment that will condition your hair and last a bit longer.
If your hair is under level 8, you want to use a blue shampoo that will tone away orange shades, like purple, for lighter blondes.
A gloss is a color-depositing treatment that you can do at home to temporarily change your hair's color direction or eliminate unwanted brassy yellow hair. They are a color-depositing product, meaning you don't need to mix developer with pigment; they only act on the hair's surface. Most gloss treatments can be done in the shower, but they need a few minutes to work, and unlike your regular conditioner, they should be used once a week.
An in-salon gloss treatment is often a semi-permanent hair dye with a translucent base which will use a low-volume developer. The in-salon gloss lasts longer and can achieve more drastic color changes, resulting in glossy and healthy hair.
Are you bored of your platinum blonde but don't want to do anything drastic? You can use a color depositing mask to, for example, achieve lavender, rose gold, or light blue hair instead. Or you can use a color-depositing hair conditioning mask to switch your blonde from silvery to golden for a few washes. The advantage of doing this versus using an actual toner is that you won't damage your hair, and the change is temporary, as the pigments will wash off after a few days.
That said, choose a mask designed for very light blonde. Demi-permanent vegetal dyes such as Manic Panic or Directions can stain the cuticle of your hair, and you would need to bleach your hair again to get rid of them eventually. Pastel colors are usually fine because they are designed to give a pearlized effect instead of a full-intensity bright pink or purple.
I would avoid anything red because, for some reason, red will both wash out faster than anything else and stain the cuticle of your hair with unwanted warm tones forever at the same time.
Bleaching your hair always ends up with a bit of unavoidable damage. So if you want to keep your hair healthy after bleaching, and delay the appearance of yellow hair, try the following:
As the toner washes off, your hair will become more and more yellow. So if you want to prevent yellow hair after bleaching, the best thing to do is help the longevity of the toner.
Nobody wants to visit a hairdresser more often than necessary, but a botched bleach job may be one of those times. Remember, bleaching your hair too many times or for too long can cause permanent and irreversible damage to your hair. Unless you are OK with an impromptu haircut, sometimes you need the help of a professional.
Most hairdressers will address each case of yellow hair on its own as a color correction. But here are some of the things a hairdresser may do when fixing yellow hair:
As you can see, this can be a bit of work and a few hours at the salon, but the result will be worth it.
Correcting yellow hair after bleaching can be challenging, but armed with the proper knowledge and tools, it's definitely doable. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this guide, you'll be able to achieve the vibrant, healthy blonde hair of your dreams.
Remember to approach the process patiently and take the time to properly nourish and care for your hair before and after chemical treatments. This means using high-quality hair products designed for bleached hair, incorporating regular deep conditioning treatments and hair masks, and avoiding further chemical processes that can damage your hair even more.
And, of course, remember to have fun and experiment with different shades and tones of blonde to find the one that suits you best. Whether you prefer a warm, honey-colored blonde or a cool, ashy shade, there's a perfect hue for everyone.