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Color Correction: How to Fix Orange Hair

Maffew is a hairdresser, marketer, and dabbler in many things who enjoys sharing knowledge about the science of hair coloring and hair care.

Tried to bleach or lighten your hair and ended up orange instead? Here are your three options.

Tried to bleach or lighten your hair and ended up orange instead? Here are your three options.

I Dyed My Hair and It Turned Orange. How Do I Fix It?

Have you tried to lighten your hair only to end up with a disastrous shade of orange instead? Orange is certainly not the most appealing color, and unless your stylistic muse is an orangutan, it stands to reason that you might want to know how to fix orange hair and regain your confidence so you can once again leave the house.

Luckily, it's easy to fix orange hair and achieve the color you really want. Read on to find out how!

Why Does Hair Turn Orange?

Your hair isn't one solid color. In fact, the color you see when you look in the mirror is a combination of many different pigments blending together to create a natural hair color. If your hair is dark, there is already an abundance of red pigment that is hidden underneath, giving depth to your brown or black hair. When you lighten it with dye or bleach, you may inadvertently reveal this base tone, and this is where things can start to go awry.

Not Enough Red Pigment Was Bleached Out

Hair turns orange for one key reason: It wasn't lightened enough to reach blonde. In order to dye hair blonde, you first need to reach the yellow stage where the majority of red pigment has already been bleached out. This result is then toned with a violet-based color to neutralize the yellow and dye your hair a natural shade of blonde.

In most cases, if you haven't reached the yellow stage, you can't dye your hair blonde because it simply isn't light enough. You can tone out the base tones, but your hair won't tone to blonde. Orange hair can be toned to light brown, however, and this is one choice of correction available.

You Removed the Bleach Too Soon

People who are intimidated by the use of bleach or have fairly dark hair and remove the bleach too soon often end up with orange hair. When they try to tone it with a blonde dye, the dye doesn't cover it or have much of an effect because there's just not enough color in it to work as intended.

Luckily, there are three simple ways to correct orange hair. Each of these is outlined in detail in the sections that follow.

3 Ways to Get Rid of Orange Hair

  1. Tone the orange out of your hair.
  2. Dye your orange hair blonde.
  3. Dye your orange hair a darker color.
This infographic provides a brief overview of the three main ways to fix orange hair. Each is discussed in detail in the sections that follow.

This infographic provides a brief overview of the three main ways to fix orange hair. Each is discussed in detail in the sections that follow.

1. Tone the Orange Out of Your Hair

You can tone orange hair just like you can tone blonde hair. The only real difference is that orange needs to be toned with a blue-based dye instead of purple-based dye, and the toner needs to be stronger than a typical blonde toner in order to cover the darker orange hair.

What Neutralizing Tone Do I Need?

Unwanted ToneNeutralizing Tone

Yellow

Violet

Orange

Blue

Red

Green

No amount of toning will correct dark orange hair to blonde because the overall pigment is still too dark. Should you wish to tone your hair to correct the orange, you'll end up with a light brown color as a result.

While this might not give you the blonde hair of your dreams, it can be worth it to avoid any further damage to your hair if it's already at its limit. Settling for a darker color with toning is a choice you'll need to make based on the condition of your hair and the amount of time and effort you have available to fix the problem.

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Supplies Needed to Tone Out Orange Color

  • Dark ash-blonde dye or light ash-brown dye to tone out the orange color
  • A tinting bowl and brush
  • 10 vol developer
  • Sectioning clips and a comb

Preparation

  1. To prepare the dye, use a tinting brush to mix the chosen color with 10 vol developer in a bowl.
  2. For ease of application, your hair should be sectioned into four quadrants, which can be achieved by parting the hair down the middle from forehead to neck, then again from ear to ear, clipping each section away. This allows you to work quickly and ensures even color coverage as you apply the hair dye systematically to each quadrant.

Application

  1. Once the dye is in, leave it until the orange is effectively neutralized and your hair reaches a natural shade. You can leave the dye to process for the full development time if you want an ashier color, but it's perfectly fine to wash it out at any point earlier during development if you reach a shade of brown you particularly like. Just keep in mind that your hair looks ashier when wet with the dye, so the result will be slightly warmer than what you initially see.
  2. After rinsing, condition your hair thoroughly to correct any dryness your bleaching escapade has caused, and you'll be ready to style your hair and head out into broad daylight once more.
When fixing color mistakes, it's important to give your hair time to recover before hitting it with more bleach and dye.

When fixing color mistakes, it's important to give your hair time to recover before hitting it with more bleach and dye.

2. Dye Your Orange Hair Blonde

You've come this far, and you're only a level or two away from reaching the blonde you desired. If your hair is orange, it either didn't lighten enough, or you removed the bleach before it reached yellow. You can resume this lightening process by applying more bleach.

Note: This should be performed at least a week after you first bleached your hair in order to allow the hair's natural moisture balance to be restored.

How to Fix Orange Hair With Dye

If your hair has been properly rested and you've managed to survive the waiting period and anticipation, you can dye it blonde now using the following procedure.

  1. Apply More Bleach: Mix and apply more bleach, and this time, let it remain in your hair until it reaches the yellow stage. From your current color, this will typically take about 20–30 minutes, and you can rinse out the bleach as soon as it happens.
  2. Tone Out the Yellow: Now that you're showcasing a dazzling lemon yellow, you will need to tone this color out with a blonde dye. In most cases, this will be either an ash, a pearl, or a natural shade. If you want a beige-blonde hair color, you will still need to use a cool-toned dye to counteract some of that yellow tone first in order to reach it. Even beige and golden blondes need cool tones to balance out the color and make it look natural.

How to Choose the Right Blonde Dye

Your bleached hair is porous, and you need to tone it gently to avoid ending up with an overly intense ash (and potentially another color-correction problem). The blonde dye you use should preferably be a pearl or ash shade and at least one level lighter than the color you want.

If you want medium natural blonde, use a light ash blonde to tone it. A lighter tone gives you more control over the toning process, and you won't have to rush to rinse it out two minutes after applying it. You can leave this dye in to process for the full development time if you want an ashier blonde hair color, or you can remove it at any time once you've reached your desired shade of blonde.

How to Maintain Your Blonde Hair

After that, it's just a matter of maintaining your new blonde hair. You'll want to buy a decent purple toning shampoo to keep it from becoming yellow again. If you choose a good purple shampoo, it will be the only form of toner you need. This will greatly simplify your hair-care routine.

3. Dye Your Orange Hair a Darker Color

If your orange hair ordeal has turned you away from any further pursuit of blonde, and you simply want to rinse your hair of the problem, the easiest way to fix orange hair is to dye over it with a darker color.

You can choose to return to your previous hair color or switch to a new color entirely. The only stipulation is that the hair dye needs to be darker than your orange hair in order to cover it. Ideally, you should use a neutral or slightly ashy tone for good results.

Accidental orange hair isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you like it, go with it!

Accidental orange hair isn't necessarily a bad thing. If you like it, go with it!

How to Prevent Orange Hair When Bleaching or Lightening

Once you've achieved your perfect, lightened look, you'll want to make sure it stays that way. Luckily, there are easy ways to keep your hair from turning brassy or showing orange tones again after correction.

What Is Brassy Hair?

Brassy hair refers to tones of a deep golden hue that develop in dyed blonde or lighter shades of brown hair as the dye color begins to fade. This is in essence a very similar situation to the original problem of orange hair and happens because the cooler tones in dye fade more readily and reveal the warm base tone again.

Note: In lighter hair, brassy or orange tones can also be the result of mineral buildups from hard water, and it's important to know the difference because the fix for this is to use clarifying or chelating shampoo to strip the minerals, whereas you'd typically want to actively avoid these kinds of shampoos in dyed hair.

What Causes Warm Tones in Hair and How Do You Prevent Them?

Warmth has two primary causes—loss of color from fading and mineral buildup. Luckily, it's easy to prevent orange hair from reappearing by avoiding the following:

  • Washing your hair too often or with heavy shampoos
  • Excess sunlight
  • Saltwater
  • Chlorine
  • Mineral deposits in water (e.g., from the shower)

Other Ways to Prevent Orange Hair

  • Shampooing less often
  • Using blue or purple shampoo
  • Installing a water softener or water filter in your shower
  • Reducing how often you use heated tools like blow dryers, straighteners, and curling irons

If your hair is already brassy, check out my article about how to get rid of brassiness in hair for more tailored fixes and tips.