The Things That Are Making Your Hair Brassy—And What to Do About It

Victoria Moorhouse
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Getty Images / Alain Schroder

Getty Images / Alain Schroder

The objective behind dyeing your tresses one color isn’t usually to have your entire head become a chameleon, changing to another color as time goes on, which is why brassy hair is especially aggravating. Those with darker hair who have gone platinum or blonde have probably most likely experienced the unintentional fade (although it can affect others) and have been confused as to why this hue is all of a sudden shining through. It wasn’t the dye mixture applied through your hair in the bathroom or in the salon chair, so what’s up? Turns out, there are plenty of causes behind the unwelcome entrance of brassiness. We consulted with Mirian Lima, a Master Stylist at Dop Dop Salon in New York City, to get to the bottom of it all and even found out a few ways you can prevent it from happening in the first place. Here’s to blonde hair staying that way, eh?

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Your Natural Hair Color Might Have Something to Do With It
If you have naturally darker hair and you go lighter, you’re already more susceptible to getting a brassy tint over time than someone who’s blonde and wants to go lighter. “The darker the hair, the more of a challenge it is to lift the underlying pigment out of the hair, making darker-haired clients more prone to brassy color. For those who have naturally darker hair, Levels 7 and under, tend to fall into the brassy range,” explains stylist Mirian Lima. While blonde hair is more likely to turn brassy, those with brunette locks or even highlighted and ombred hair can experience this change of color. In the end, it comes down to how well the color is lifted, but there are plenty of things (below) that can expedite or even worsen the brassy situation at hand. If your colorist is able to lift the pigment out of your hair well, you’ll have less of an issue in the end.

Your Hair Products
Don’t try to get by with that leftover bottle of red-toned shampoo next time you’re out of your regular product and need to shower. The shampoo you use could turn those strands brassy, especially if it’s a color that’s not meant for your current hue or filled with chemicals and ingredients that hair dye is particularly sensitive to. Lima explains that some shampoos can strip your hair color, as well as products with parabens and silicones and shampoos with sulfates can also play a part in brassiness. If you do have blonde hair, a safe option to give your hair the cleanse it needs is a violet-toned shampoo. Don’t get freaked out by its purple color—it’s not going to do any damage to your look or dye your hair lavender in the end. Lima says that these toned shampoos help “counteract” the brassiness that can develop. “You only need to use the purple shampoo a few times a week. Alternate it with shampoos, conditioners, and masques specifically for color-treated hair but without the violet pigment. They’ll help nourish it and ensure your hair  looks soft, healthy, hydrated, and shiny,” she explains.

Using lemons or lightening sprays on darker hair also have been known to give darker hair more of an orange tint, so be weary of your use of these at-home spritzes.

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Your Summer Swim Habits–Chlorine and the Sun
A dip in the pool might be good for your joints, but if you’re doing it regularly for exercise sake, you might want to put on a swim cap, as chlorine isn’t very kind to hair. Swimming for leisure purposes? Just remember that this chemical often damages hair by drying it out, thus changing the color. “It [chlorine] removes natural oils of the hair, causing loss of hair shine and flexibility, as well as making it more susceptible to damage.  It can alter the integrity of hair shaft. Once the bonds are broken, hair becomes exposed and weak then the ends of the hairs split. It affects the hair cuticle making it rough and likely to damage or breakage. These cuticles reflect light poorly and so the hair fibre looks dull, dry, and may feel rough when touched,” says Lima.

When hair becomes damaged like Lima explained, it’s increasingly difficult for the hair color to remain intact, as she says that the hair becomes more porous with more physical damage. The chlorine-touched colors you’re most used to seeing is blonde hair going green, but Lima says that in this instance, brunettes can go brassy.

Two other common causes are sun exposure and ocean water. It terms of protecting from the sun, Lima says you can use hair care products that block UV rays.

Your Shower
Besides the shampoo you’re using, the water coming out of the shower head could be making your hair brassy, too. That is, if it has a high level of mineral deposits. Lima says that this type of water can cause build-up in your hair, which then dries it out and makes it prone to damage. “Hard water not only leaves mineral deposits in the hair, but it also prevents the penetration and absorption of moisture,” she notes.

Since you have little control of the type of water coming out of the spigot, an easy (but not very cheap) way to decrease getting brassy from just lathering up is buying a water filter, which Lima explains can minimize the minerals that touch your locks.

Pollution and Smoke
It’s not always about the products you’re intentionally putting in your hair. “Blonde Hair that takes a yellow tone can be linked to smoking or to air pollutants. Perhaps someone in your home smokes, or you may have been exposed to elements in the air,” she explains.

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