Why Your Hair is Turning Brassy—and How to Make It Stop

Rachel Krause
Photo: ImaxTree

She definitely wears a hat in the sun. (ImaxTree)

Virgin hair is kind of overrated these days—most women know they weren’t necessarily born with the exact shade that looks best on them—but colored hair definitely comes with its own set of challenges. Particularly: Brassy tones which rank up there with the most frustrating beauty problems ever. Spending our free time and hard-earned money getting our color just right, only for it to get that telltale orangey fade after a few washes? Actual nightmare.

The good news? You can absolutely fend off brassiness, but it’s going to take some work. The first step is to identify the culprits behind it—and, unsurprisingly, sun exposure is a major contributing factor. “A chemist once told me that 50 hours of sun exposure is the equivalent of 30 minutes of bleach,” says Kyle White, lead colorist at Oscar Blandi Salon. That means your glorious week in St. Barth’s is doing its part to eff up the gorgeous color you spent so many hours getting before the trip.

Don’t cancel that flight just yet, though. “You should use a sunblock for your hair every time you wash, even in the winter,” White advises. “If you’re going to be in direct sunlight, like at the beach, also cover your hair with a hat or scarf.” Basically, a beach trip is a serious color killer: “Salt water and chlorine will not only fry your hair, but it’ll also turn your blonde locks into orange straw.” Ouch. Try drenching your strands with a hydrating oil that contains SPF, like Phyto Phytoplage Protective Sun Oil ($30), to fill the cuticle and stop your hair from absorbing the water.

its a 10 Why Your Hair is Turning Brassy—and How to Make It Stop

Also not your color’s friend: heat styling. “In exactly the same way that your black or bright-colored clothes fade in the hot dryer, heat styling fades your hair color,” says White. Always be sure to use a thermal protector—White recommends It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Product ($18), which also contains proteins and vitamins to strengthen hair. He also advises against metal brushes, which heat up from your blowdryer and become as hot as a flat iron. “Sure, your hair will dry in a flash, but you sacrifice the brightness of your color and risk tons of breakage.” Probably not worth it.

t3 showerhead filter Why Your Hair is Turning Brassy—and How to Make It StopWhite’s number one tip to battle brass, however, involves not switching up your products, but rather altering the state of water in your shower. “Well water, rusty pipes, and impurities can change our hair color, and in cases of the very blonde, the changes are sometimes dramatic,” he warns. A solution? Changing your shower head. It’s not as out there as it seems—T3 Source Showered Filter ($130) removes 95 percent of chlorine plus other impurities, improving your hair’s body, shine, and color. It’s easy to install (just screw it on!) and when you consider the money you’ll save getting your color touched up, that $130 starts to seem like a bargain.

Squeaky-clean scalps also take a toll on your color; after all, you’re fading it and washing it out every time you shampoo. Skip frequent shampooing—embrace your scalp’s natural oils, which White enthusiastically refers to as “Mother Nature’s deep conditioner”—and opt for a dry shampoo instead, like the classic Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo Invisible Spray ($25).

When all else fails, it will be time to head to the salon … but not for a total redo. L’Oreal Professionnel Celebrity Hairstylist Jennifer MacDougall is an adamant believer in getting regular glosses, about every 4-6 weeks, to keep brassiness at bay. Don’t be scared to DIY them, either: a conditioning color correct like L’Oréal Professionnel Vitamino Color AOX CC Cream or a quick in-shower savior like Rita Hazan Ultimate Shine Gloss ($26) may be all you need to nip brassiness in the bud.

MORE: The Purple Shampoo That Saved My Gray Hair from Brassiness