The first time I bleached my hair, I couldn't believe what happened: Instead of the beautiful blonde I was expecting... my hair was neon yellow. Bright, unflattering, yellow blonde hair. It wasn't a good look, but it's to be expected. When you bleach hair up to level 9 or 10 (platinum blonde territory), the resulting lack of pigment makes the hair a bright yellow shade instead of white. If your hair is darker, you will get brassy orange instead of yellow as there are still some red pigments in the hair.
But at that point, I was mainly worried about figuring out how to get yellow out of bleached hair as quickly as possible with minimal damage to my hair. I had access to professional hairdressing products to get yellow out of hair, which made it easier, but I have also figured out some ways to remove yellow from hair at home without using toners.
It is easier to be under the impression that if you just bleach your hair enough, you will see Targaryen-worthy white hair as you rinse the bleach. But sadly, nothing is further away from the truth! The actual color of hair when you have chemically lifted all the pigment is a pale yellow, like the inside of a banana peel.
Hair color comes from two different versions of melanin (the pigment that gives hair and skin color). One gives hair black, brown, and red tones, and the other is yellow. Eumelanin is the first to lift, so the hair will lose those red and brown pigments, speedily moving towards a light orange, then yellow, then light yellow as the last remnants of Pheomelanin are left in the hair.
Learning how to get the yellow out of bleached hair is part of bleaching at home 101; there are many ways to do that. They all, in some way or another, involve depositing a color to cancel the yellow tones and give the hair a more ashy (cool or platinum) appearance.
Violet sits opposite yellow on the color wheel. So if you want to get yellow out of hair, you need to use violet or purple pigments to cancel out the yellow. This is how most blonde toners work, and purple shampoo for blondes also has a healthy amount of violet pigment. However, don't just grab for Manic Panic Ultra Violet unless you want purple hair.
You need to tone on color and intensity (or level) to achieve the perfect platinum blonde with bleach.
Toner is a demi-permanent dye with a very translucid base and the correct pigments to cancel unwanted undertones. In this case, violet and possibly blue pigments if we look at darker blondes with a heavy orange-yellow tinge. For this reason, the best ash toner for yellow hair will depend on your current hair color and which color you want to cancel. However, there are some cult favorites that you can't go wrong with, provided your hair is at the right lightness level.
The different Wella Color Charm toners are frequently recommended for both home and salon toning, and T18 is probably the most popular way to get icy platinum hair. However, they are pretty pigmented, so you need to follow the instructions to the letter and ensure you aren't overtoning your hair. Their only downside is that you can end up with visible violet tones if your hair is very porous or you leave them on for too long, but at the same time, they are the best to cancel very yellow hair after bleaching.
If your hair is baby chicken yellow, neon yellow, or any other unflattering descriptors, it may not be light enough to be toned and still be blonde afterwards. Toning will make your hair about a level darker, so if you start with a dark blonde base, you may become a light brunette. But it will be a beautiful dark blonde after removing yellow from the hair.
Start by looking at the hair color levels chart and compare it with your hair to identify your base color. If your hair is very yellow, it's likely between a level 6 and a level 8. Usually, levels 9 and 10 aren't so visibly yellow because most of the pigment is gone.
Once you have that, you need to decide whether you want to bleach your hair lighter or tone down the yellow to an ashier version.
To get yellow out of bleached hair, you will need a purple toner, which in hair dye terms is often called violet, pearl, or sometimes ash (but ash usually has blue/grey tones to counteract orange, and it's more suitable for darker blondes). You may also find blonde toners under the labels cooling or neutralizing.
The toner should be one level darker than your hair. Any demi-permanent dye will do as long as it's cool and at the right level. Unless you want to bleach your hair further, you should stick with a demi-permanent dye because it will need a lower volume developer and will cause less damage to your hair.
Some people's hair lifts warmer than others, which means you can have hair that is the right level and still looks too yellow after bleaching. For example, this may be the case if you are a redhead going blonde. You don't need to bleach your hair again unless it's too dark.
When bleaching, aim to lift one level higher than your target color, so when you tone it with an ash toner, it results in the exact level you were looking for. If your hair pulls very warm, choose a more pigmented toner or leave it for longer, so it deposits more color.
When toning hair after bleaching, it's important to visually check the development instead of just waiting a set amount of time. You want to cancel yellow tones but not dye your hair purple. So you need to wash it off as soon as it's the right color.
To achieve platinum hair, you need to get all the yellow out of the hair without adding pigments that would darken the result. The best way to accomplish this is by using a toner such as Wella T14 or T18 on extremely light bleached hair. You are unlikely to get white hair with a single application of bleach unless you are already pretty light-haired and have never dyed your hair before. Your hair needs to be really, really light to be able to tone to blonde.
If your hair is visibly yellow, it's probably too dark to be toned to white. Remember that ashy colors look darker than their untoned counterparts, so even if your hair looks pretty light, it may not be light enough. Most people who claim Wella T18 doesn't work for them had too dark hair to start with.
Your hair should be about this light:
To make pale yellow hair white, you probably want to make a custom mix of Wella T14 and T18 to achieve the perfect toning mix that is not too grey and not too violet.
The bad news is if your hair has visible orange tones, it's probably too dark to be toned to platinum blonde. Toning your hair makes it one level darker, so if you want platinum blonde hair, you want to go up to a level 10 or 11, so very pale yellow with no hint of orange. So if you dream of platinum hair, expect to bleach your hair at least once more to get there and then tone it to get rid of the yellow after bleaching the second time.
Depending on the current level of your hair, you may get away with a bleach bath instead of full on bleach, but you should strand test and evaluate carefully. Extra bleaching means extra damage, but at the same time applying a toner on hair that is too dark won't be effective.
Meanwhile, if you don't want to walk around with orange hair, you can tone it using a temporary toner or blue shampoo. Blue sits opposite yellow-orange in the color wheel and can be used to bring orange hair down to a lovely neutral brunette. You can read more about how to tone orange hair after bleaching here, but if you intend to bleach your hair again in a relatively short time, choose methods that wash off quickly, such as blue shampoo.
Yes, it does! Purple shampoo is the most popular at-home treatment to get yellow out of hair, but it's not a toner. Purple shampoo counteracts yellow hair by depositing purple pigments, precisely as a toner but more temporary.
But why would you need to use purple shampoo if you used an ash toner after bleaching? Since toner is actually a demi-permanent dye and not permanent, it will eventually wash off as you wash your hair, expose it to the sun and elements and go on with your daily routine. This may happen well before it's time to re-do your roots or refresh your highlights. Most people will choose purple shampoo as a temporary solution. Just replace your regular shampoo with purple shampoo once a week or when your hair starts looking yellow and dull.
If you aren't a fan of purple shampoo (It can be drying), a purple conditioning mask or even conditioner mixed with a demi-permanent dye can have a similar effect. Still, any DIY mixture runs the risk of overtoning. Remember, it's easier to start small and have too much yellow, as you can just make a repeat application with slightly more pigment. Removing purple toner is much more complicated and will dry your hair.
How long you should wait before using purple shampoo depends a lot on your hair, hair porosity, and which toning method you used to remove yellow from hair initially. If you used a blonde toner for yellow hair, you should be good to go for at least a couple of weeks before the first yellow tinge appears. Often it's better to start using purple shampoo when the hair is a tiny bit yellow instead of waiting for overly visible yellow tones to appear.
However, you can also use purple shampoo (or, even better, a purple conditioner) to tone hair right after bleaching. However, your hair will be really porous at that stage, so you risk ending up with greyish purple hair instead of blonde. Toners are preferable because they are easier to control regarding how much pigment is deposited.
If your hair is light yellow, you should use a purple shampoo. But what about toning brassy hair? Brassy hair is a bit orange with a yellow tinge and usually happens when bleaching brunette hair. To tone brassy hair, you may want to use a blue shampoo instead of purple. Blue sits opposite brassy yellow in the color wheel and will fix this problem.
When your hair is yellow, it may be tempting to go for the toner or shampoo with the most intense purple tones you can find. It makes sense, but it may leave you with grey or blueish hair, which tends to wash out most skin tones. If your goal is platinum blonde, you need nuance.
When people say they want to go platinum, they often mean cool to neutral blonde hair, which is white but still looks natural. Silvery and pure white hair have their place, but most people doing their hair at home want a blonde that looks believable with their skin. So after the bleaching process is over and you are level 10, you want to cancel the yellow and add lovely, pearly tones to it to get to beautiful platinum.
This can be done with a toner designed for platinum hair, or you can use a permanent dye with the right overtones (pearl, light beige, platinum) to add pigment to the hair. The second option will last longer, and blonde dyes are easily found in supermarkets, but they will damage your hair more as you apply developer again.
Avoid anything tagged as a hi-lift blonde; those are for going blonde without bleach and have very harsh developers and lighteners that may fry your hair. Your hair should be light enough so that you don't need to lift more.
Besides the ways mentioned above to get yellow out of hair, you can also try the following home remedies. However, keep in mind that any DIY solution is more difficult to control. If you make your own yellow neutralizing mixture, you can end up over-toning or under-toning, which can be less than straightforward to fix; however, if you want to try some cheap and homemade ways to tone hair after bleaching,,, consider the following.
Using food coloring to supply the violet and blue tones, you can make a clean and eco-friendly toning vinegar rinse for yellow bleached hair. Just mix two cups of apple cider vinegar on a bottle with about 10 to 15 drops of purple food coloring. If you don't have purple food coloring, a mix of blue and red will also do. The focus should be on the blue, so add more blue than red to achieve a yellow canceling violet.
Use this mixture to soak your hair, and then rinse with water. This method requires no shampoo, and it's no-poo friendly (many no-pooers will already be using apple cider vinegar rinses to seal their cuticles). However, if you do it too often, it may dry your hair.
This method is quite unpredictable, much like other home remedies, and it's worth spending a bit extra time doing a strand test and figuring out the right amount of food coloring to get rid of yellow hair in your particular case. More porous hair will grab more dye and can look purple quite fast.
If your gray hair is turning yellow and you don't want to use a purple shampoo, you can use hydrogen peroxide instead to bring it back to white or cool gray. You can use a mixture of equal parts conditioner and 30vol developer (or hydrogen peroxide) as a mask to remove yellow tones from grey hair.
Let your hair process under a shower cap for about 20 minutes, then shampoo and deep condition as usual.
This will slightly lighten your hair and eliminate the yellow caused by oxidation and mineral deposits, but it shouldn't be done more than once a month, or your hair may suffer damage.
If you have a semi-permanent purple dye (Manic Panic, Directions, and Arctic Fox are popular brands), you can mix your own anti-yellow conditioner. It can't be easier! Just mix enough purple dye with conditioner to match the intensity of the yellow in your hair, apply it to clean, shampooed hair, and leave it to act for a few minutes.
While this can be a bit hit and miss until you get the balance of conditioner/dye right, it will not dry your hair like purple shampoo is known to do.
When your bleached hair is yellow, you may think your only option is to use chemicals, but there is a couple of herbal home remedies that you can use to bring back the cooler tones. This won't work if your hair is intensely yellow or brassy, but it works for mild cases of yellow hair after bleaching.
The key is using flowers from naturally purple plants. In this case, purple betony flowers or hollyhock.
If you want to use herbal tea to fix yellow blonde hair, you must make a tea infused with either of those flowers. You want to match the intensity of the tea color to the intensity of the yellow in your blonde hair. So if your hair is very light yellow, remove the flowers when the tea is pale lavender. If your hair is more strongly lemon-colored, go for a deeper purple tone. Leave it to cool off; you don't want to put hot tea on your head.
Once it has cooled off, you can rinse your hair with this tea after washing and conditioning it. Leave it to act for a couple of minutes and rinse it with cool water. You can use this once a week to help prevent yellow in your hair.
If your hair was toned after bleaching, but it's starting to look yellow, you have several options to fix it:
You can also embrace the warmth and transform yellow hair into beautiful golden strands. To do this, you can use a demi-permanent dye with warm undertones such as gold and copper. You can mix a custom hair color to achieve the perfect balance between lightness and warmth and eliminate yellow hair without becoming an ashy blonde.
The quickest and most effective way to fix bleached yellow hair is using a toner right after you wash off the bleach. This is what you would do at a hair salon, giving you several weeks of bright blonde hair. Provided the toner is carefully mixed to match the unwanted tones and the target result, your hair will look blonde and natural in as little as 15 minutes.
If you are trying to fix your blonde hair and don't have access to a toner, commercially available purple shampoos are a quick fix if you follow the instructions and don't leave them on for too long. It is better to make two applications than to have visible purple tones on your hair. Lastly, you can also use some home remedies and natural herbal teas to keep your bleached hair from going yellow.