Nobody tells you when you are about to bleach your hair that your hair will turn a pretty terrible shade of orange most of the time. It can be a shock, particularly if you have dark hair and were hoping for golden tresses, but it's fixable. Learning how to fix orange hair after bleaching (and other basic color corrections) is an essential part of learning to bleach your hair at home.
To understand how to fix orange hair after bleaching, you first need to know why your hair turned orange. And that begins with understanding hair and what gives hair its color.
Human hair color comes from dark (eumelanin) and light (phaeomelanin) pigments, which also give color to your skin and eyes. They blend to create different hair colors, from the darkest brown to the lightest platinum blonde, which has a naturally very pale yellow base. When the hair follicle pigment cells, called melanocytes, stop producing pigment, you end up with grey hairs.
If you ignore the overlying hair color and only look at the base color, you can see the different pigments in this image. Notice how they are all warm? Your orange hair after bleaching is probably around a level 5 to 7. If you are a natural redhead, your hair will have even more red.
When you bleach or lighten your hair, visible pigment is stripped, but not all simultaneously. Cool-toned pigments are the first to go, leaving behind the warm red, orange, and golden yellow. Your hair will slowly go through various red and orange tones as it lifts until it reaches the stage for the raw banana peel platinum blonde base.
If your hair has turned orange after bleaching, you didn't lift enough levels to get rid of all those warm red and orange pigments. You are seeing the natural base tones of hair that are just not light enough for the desired result, which is probably a level 9 or 10 on the hair color scale.
Knowing why you got brassy hair is good, but at this point, you are probably more interested in figuring out what colors cover orange hair and whether you can still go blonde. There are three ways to fix orange hair, four if you include dying your hair neon orange with Manic Panic and saying it was all on purpose.
The best one depends on what sort of hair color you want to achieve.
If you want to go lighter, you will need to bleach again. It is possible that you can get away with dying brown hair blonde with a box dye instead of bleaching again. However, if the problem (as it happens often) is that you have bits of hair that are more orange than others, a carefully applied pin-point bleach will be necessary. The idea is to lift all your hair evenly to the same pale yellow color. You will still need to tone afterward to avoid yellow hair after bleaching and achieve the tone of blonde you wanted.
If you don't think your hair can take another round of bleach, and you aren't keen on toning, you can fix orange hair with box dye by dying it a darker shade of brown. Choose one with ashy undertones as the green/purple tones in the dye will cancel the orange and yellow in your hair. This will achieve a more natural result if you stay within one or two levels darker than your current hair color.
If you dye your hair with permanent or demi-permanent dye, you will need to bleach it again to go back to blonde.
If your hair is as light as you wanted, you will need to tone it to the right end color. A toner is a semi-permanent or demi-permanent deposit-only hair dye that will cancel unwanted overtones.
If your hair is orange, you want to cancel out the too-warm orange tones and get to a neutral blonde or light brown shade. Depending on whether your hair is orange, brassy, or yellow, you should be using a toner between blue and purple. Blue cancels orange, whereas purple neutralizes yellow tones.
A toner is a demi-permanent color depositing hair dye with a translucent base and pigments that add color to the hair without changing its color. Think of it as fine nail polish instead of a more opaque hair dye. They are mainly used to tone blonde hair without lightening or darkening it and can be applied right after bleaching to get your hair looking as you wanted it to.
A more temporary solution if you have orange hair after bleaching but don't want to dye your hair again is a hair gloss, a color depositing hair treatment that doesn't use a developer. A blue hair gloss will cancel orange tones, whereas a purple one will cancel brassy, yellow tones. However, this won't be enough if your hair is very patchy or intensely orange.
Gloss and toner wash off as you wash your hair, so your bright ashy blonde hair becomes warmer and duller after a few weeks. You can keep your hair bright by regularly using a purple shampoo or at-home glossing treatment.
The following are our top choices as the best toner for orange bleached hair. Those toners are blue-based to cancel orange on darker blondes and light brunette hair. If you are looking for the best toner for brassy hair, you will need a purple-based toner. We have written an entire article about the best hair toner for brassiness here.
This is a blue toner for orange hair, but they also have cool violets for brassy hair and a variety of other pigments to give you the exact shade of bronde you are looking for. Pravana are experts in professional bright hair colors, and it shows. This toner is designed to restore the radiance of the hair while canceling unwanted orange tones and has very good grey coverage.
If you are happy with a natural medium blonde, this toner will get rid of the orange on darker blondes and very light brunettes. It has a proprietary integrated Bond Enforcing HydroLock Technology that improves hair moisture retention and reduces damage. This makes it a very user-friendly toner to tone orange hair at home, but you will have to source your hair developer purchased separately. The toning mixture has a very nice gel-like consistency which is great for precise application.
It is often not possible to bleach your hair twice in a row to get blonde hair, and it's a wise idea to give it time to recover. However, nobody wants to go around with orange hair and this is why a temporary color depositing treatment is the answer.
Blue shampoo is for brunettes what purple shampoo is for blondes. It deposits blue pigments on the hair surface without damaging the hair, visually canceling that orange-yellow hair after bleaching. But it goes away with your next wash, which means when the time comes to bleach again you won't need to remove an extra layer of dye.
Blue shampoo is also great if you like your brunette hair ashy and glossy, instead of warm. Follow up with a blue conditioner to refresh the pigments until it's time to dye your hair again.
This shampoo cleanses hair without stripping moisture and color, and at the same time effectively fixes yellow and orange hair. Just let it act on your hair for a few minutes before rinsing and your orange hair will be no more.
A hairdresser's favorite, this blue shampoo has vitamin E to nourish and condition and packs a punch in terms of orange color correction. Every other wash, you can use it to keep your hair from going too warm, and it won't dry your strands. If your hair is dry, this is a top choice.
Both the color depositing shampoo and the conditioner are great and will fix orange hair in the shower while keeping your hair healthy. As an additional benefit, it's a color-protecting shampoo, which will help your hair color stay bright for longer and prevent fading.
A common problem with bleaching your hair at home is that even if you used the best bleach for dark hair and choose the right developer you can still just not be able to lift enough in one go to avoid the dreaded orange-yellow stage.
Basically, after bleaching your hair may be blonde in terms of intensity but it probably looks like egg yolk, which is not a look many people go for. Even if your hair is a level 8 or 9, it may still have too much orange and look raw and unfinished instead of a glossy blonde. So how to fix orange-yellow hair after bleaching?
Toner is your best bet, as it won't darken your hair and the slight amount of peroxide on the developer will help lift the last remnants of orange pigments. But to fix yellow-orange hair after bleaching you want a toner that has violet and purple pigments.
This toner is a classic if you want to achieve a cool, icy blonde but your hair naturally has a lot of red and orange pigments. It has a true violet color and smells strongly of chemicals, but don't worry, your hair won't turn purple! The entire Wella Charm range of toners is worth keeping handy for when your hair color goes wrong, as without a fail they are some of the best toners for orange-yellow hair.
Wella Color Charm toners work better on hair that has been lightened to at least a gold color, so if your hair hasn't lifted enough you may want to use a blue shampoo and wait a few days before bleaching again.
This is not actually a demi-permanent toner, but a semi-permanent one. This means it doesn't need developer and can be used on very damaged hair to correct unwanted yellow-orange tones. It will actually condition your hair as you use it, and can be used as often as brassy tones are visible again. Vegan, not tested on animals and will last for several weeks before noticeably fading, this is a great option if you aren't keen on dying your hair again.
This is actually a gloss, and not a toner, but it will last for 6 to 8 washes keeping orange and yellow tones at bay while giving the hair a lovely shine. It helps repair the hair cuticle that gets damaged after bleaching.
This no-ammonia hair toner will last up to three or four weeks, which is probably all you need to get your hair healthy enough to bleach away the last bits of orange. You can apply it at home in as little as 5 minutes, but it's worth a longer controlled application for very stubborn orange hair after bleaching.
In an ideal world, we wouldn't need to worry about how to fix orange-yellow hair after bleaching because we wouldn't get there in the first place. In reality, this is actually pretty difficult and requires a lot of practice, skill and monitoring. But it can be done!
The goal is to reach a very pale blonde hair base level to avoid the orange stage, which is a level 9 or 10. Don't worry if this is too light, as you will tone it to the desired intensity and warmth or coolness level afterwards. Bleach will start working as soon as you apply it to the hair, and if you use transparent wrap to keep it wet it will keep working and removing pigment from your hair for as long as it says on the package.
You must avoid washing off the bleach too early, because if you do then your hair won't have lifted enough and you'll have orange hair instead of blonde. But you don't want to take too long, because your roots will process quicker than the ends of your hair due to the scalp heat. This means you can end up with bright yellow roots and orange ends unless you are very careful with the timings, do a strand test first and apply bleach to the roots last.
If your hair has been colored before, you live in an area with hard water or you have hair that doesn't take to bleach well, you will end up with hair that has orange patches but it's overall blonde. In that case, you can try to re-apply bleach for a quick application to the orange pieces. Get help from a friend, it makes things much easier, particularly when trying to apply bleach to the back of your head.
Brassy, orange hair is cancelled by blue pigments. Purple shampoo is the opposite in the color wheel to yellow, and will cancel unwanted chicken-yellow pigments which you get once you have bleached hair to level 8 or so.
But if your hair is yellow-orange purple shampoo such as Fanola No Yellow will mitigate the brassiness and can give you enough color correction for a nice blonde shade. You may need to apply it several times so the very intense yellow and orange tones are cancelled.
If you got orange roots after bleaching or dying your hair lighter, that is known as hot roots and it won't fade on its own. The reason for this is that what you are seeing are the actual underlying pigments on your hair, which are warm and orange. They are not dye, and so they won't fade naturally. You will need to either dye your hair darker, or tone away the orange to a more natural hair color using a blue toner.
You can actually tone orange and yellow bleached hair to a nicer shade of blonde using a box dye, but the developer used in box dyes can be harsh on your hair. However, if your hair is in good condition, it's a very accessible way to fix unwanted undertones at home.
The secret is again to look for a shade that is the same lightness as your current hair (refer to the hair color scale and if in doubt, go one shade lighter). Choose an ashy shade, as green and blue will cancel the warm tones and give you a nice neutral blonde. If your underlying color is not too orange this may be just enough to get you back to nice, intentional hair.
It may not be enough, at which point you will most likely need to bleach to remove the dye, and lift the hair enough to be able to tone it back to a nice shade of cool blonde.
It depends on how brassy your hair is, how light and the shade of orange we are talking about. Most commercial dark ash blonde box dyes will cover a pumpkin orange shade by cancelling the red undertones that makes it bright orange. However, ash pigments are green, not blue, so technically they won't outright cancel orange.
If you are looking for a dye to cancel orange tones look for blue undertones. In most hair dye systems that means looking for a number one in the tonal variation. This is usually what comes after the dot.
For example, Igora Vibrance Cendre 7-1 is a blue based dark blonde that will neutralise very orange tones. This is a demi-permanent dye, so will wash off after about 20 washes. It uses low volume developer and won't damage your hair after bleaching it.
If your hair was orange after bleaching, chances are it will become brassy again after a few weeks. Unless you did another round of bleach or a bleach bath, you never removed the orange pigments, you just cancelled them using toner.
Toner adds extra pigments that visually cancel the unwanted orange and yellow hair pigments, but it doesn't remove them. As toner is usually a demi-permanent dye, as it washes off the unwanted pigments become visible again. This process is even quicker if you used a deposit-only gloss or color mask treatment, instead of a toner.
Your options at this point are:
Meanwhile you can add a blue shampoo to your routine to top up those blue and purple pigments and cancel the brassiness. Just remember not to use it so often that the blue pigment becomes visible.
Learning how to fix orange hair after bleaching is part of the bleaching journey as most people will have to at some point. Thankfully, it's not difficult once you identify the best toners for orange hair or choose the right blue shampoo for a temporary fix.