Why Does My Blonde Turn Brassy?
We’ve all been there...after setting the appointment, making the drive, and sitting in the stylist’s chair for hours, you step out of the salon with pure adoration for the sassy, sexy, gorgeously-cool and ever-classy platinum blonde result - only to cycle back to loathingly tolerating those very same locks halfway to your next salon sesh as they slip slowly back into a brassy, dull, dimensionless oblivion. Frustrating doesn’t even BEGIN to cover it!!!
So what went wrong?
Turns out, any number of things! There are some factors that are simply out of your control (thanks, Mother Nature) - while there are other considerations that you never in a million years would have thought to be the issue.
From the obvious to the obscure, we’ve researched the 6 most common causes of brass in your blonde. Read on for simple solutions to evade their ill effects, and tips and tricks for keeping your blonde as bodacious as the day you achieved it - and keeping the love for your locks alive!
Your Natural Hair Color
It only makes sense…what you start out with plays a part in what you end up with.
Some locks are simply more stubborn and tend to process on the warmer sider things, while others just seem to magically process to a cooler hue.
If your hair lightens (“pulls” in salon-speak) to an orange, brassy, or yellow finish, your stylist will likely apply a toner after they wash the color out to reach the desired final shade; but keep in mind, toner is also a color - and while most salon hair colors are permanent, toners generally are not, which means that you’ll need to pay special attention to keeping the brass at bay between salon visits.
Luckily, there are a wide array of in-salon and at-home blonde care options available, making it easier than ever to maintain your ideal shade and extend the life of your salon color!
Your Chosen Hair Color
Considering the “Before” that you walked in with, it’s safe to assume that the “After” you’re trying to achieve may not look exactly like the previously colorless, died-from-a-pure-white-base swatch sample you selected it from. The color may turn out slightly lighter or darker than the swatch, or tonally warmer or cooler than expected, based on factors like starting color, hair health, and your hair’s tonal tendencies.
Choosing a color isn’t as simple as “I want to go blonde”...first and foremost, it’s important to select a shade that’s a reasonable change given your starting position. In the salon, this is referred to as “Level”. (For reference, think of Level 1 as a Black as dark as the darkest night, and Level 12 as the whitest, iciest blonde you can imagine.) If you level 2 have jet black hair, a level 12 blonde is probably just not possible. Beyond the “can I” is the “should I”...when deciding on your desired level, it’s important to take the cost, time, and process effects on your scalp and hair health into consideration. Jumping 4 levels may be doable, but is it going to turn your hair into straw in the process?!
Shade choice is also about far more than level. If you’re starting with Level 5 brown hair, it may be perfectly reasonable to try to achieve a Level 8 blonde - BUT, do you want the finished shade to be a warm, sunny blonde, or are you looking for icy cool perfection? Making the right choice here has a lot to do with your skin tone, and achieving the desired result has everything to do with selecting the right Tone within your chosen Level.
For instance, if your naturally chestnut brown locks have a subtle red undertone and you’re going for a cool blonde finish, selecting a Blonde within the “Ash” family is ideal - not because you want the finished product itself to be ashy, but because the green undertone in the Ash Blonde color will directly offset the red undertone in your natural shade. Make sense?
Your Fun in the Sun Habits
Who doesn’t love spending a scorcher in the sun, sand and surf, or cooling off in the pool on a warm summer’s evening?!
YOUR BLONDE - that’s who!
Hair that’s been treated with a deposit color is generally a bit more resistant to the damage often caused by salt water, chlorine and excessive UV exposure - however it’s by no means immune to dehydration and premature fading. Meanwhile, hair that’s been lightened, no matter how healthy, is extremely porous - which means moisture is more readily lost, tone-altering salt, minerals and chemicals are more easily deposited, and sun damage is a beyond credible threat to overall condition, tone, and texture.
When taking a dip in the pool or the ocean, the best way to protect strands and maintain the integrity of your color is to wear a swim cap...no contact, no damage - right?!
Here in the real world, even the most expert stylist understands that wearing a swim cap in the hundred-degree heat may not be your cup of tea - and that, no matter how confident you are, it’s just not a fashion choice many will choose to make, regardless of the consequences.
So what’s a fashion-forward girl to do? It’s as simple as saturating your locks with clean, fresh water before diving in, and rinsing them thoroughly as soon as possible after you exit the water. All hair is porous, but dry hair - especially strands that have been lightened - will immediately suck up the first bit of moisture it contacts. So, it stands to reason that, if strands have already retained their fill of fresh water, they won’t have any more room to soak up dehydrating seawater or the chlorinated pool water that tinges hair a perfectly putrid shade of green.
When considering the sun, your hair is just like your skin...UV protection is vital! Contrary to what was quite possibly the first thought that came to mind upon reading that (I know it was for me), it’s not at all necessary to slather your hair in sunscreen. Simply selecting hair care and styling products that guard against UV damage will do wonders for protecting your locks from the likes of the beating sun. (FYI, we’ll talk more about product selection later!)
But be warned, pool and sea water aren’t the only culprits...
Your Shower Water
You know that thick, grimey film that hard water leaves behind on your tub, grout, and shower curtain? Well, guess what buttercup - it’s doing the same exact thing to your HAIR!
Not only can the minerals present in well water and the chemicals used to treat public water supplies wreak absolute havoc on every aspect of hair health - causing everything from altered color and undesirable tone to dry, unmanageable, dull hair that’s stripped of all it’s shine - the gradual buildup of them on strands over time effectively reduces hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. Luckily, there’s a fairly simple solution:
Enter: The shower head filter.
Just like the on-demand filters that make stinky, dirty-tasting water from your kitchen tap somewhat drinkable, you can install a shower filter to remove minerals, chemicals, heavy metals and sediments detrimental to hair health in just a few minutes and a handful of simple steps.
In true filter fashion, it’ll need to be changed regularly to maintain efficacy - but overall the process is fairly simple, and - depending on which brand you select - the cost is pretty reasonable. Experts agree, this is one of the simplest, most efficient things you can do to give your blonde a boost!
Your Shampoo Schedule
All of this talk about how deposited minerals and chemical buildup are bullying your blonde probably has you convinced that washing more frequently is the logical solution…
But I promise you, it’s NOT.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, shampooing less is the golden rule when it comes to blonde hair care. Regular scalp and strand cleansing are certainly an integral part of health and appearance, however it’s important to note that cleansing is a non-discriminatory process - meaning it washes away the good with the bad. Yes, shampoo removes product build-up and biological debris like oil, sweat, and dead skin cells that weigh hair down and impede scalp health...but it also strips strands of the much-needed moisture necessary for a healthful sheen and optimal texture - and protection from color and condition-altering chemicals, minerals, and environmental hazards like UV rays and air pollutants.
If you’re an every-day shampooer, try skipping a day between washes and seeing how it goes...while it’ll surely seem odd and may cause some styling hiccups at first, it’s likely to help improve hair health over time (and be far less of an inconvenience once you’ve gotten the hang of taming second-day hair). Eventually, you may even find that your body naturally compensates for the change by producing less oil daily - which may allow you to go even longer between washes!
While the frequency with which you ‘poo your ‘do has a lot to do with your blonde’s stamina, the quality of the Shampoo you’re using - and what you’re using AFTER your shower - is just as vital a consideration.
Which brings us nicely to our last (but definitely not least) common culprit...
Your Hair Care Product Selections
I know, I know...price point, delicious scents, and flashy facades are the most obvious factors in selecting hair care products. Just make sure you remember…
The old adage “You get what you pay for” has really stood the test of time - and it rings particularly true when it comes to caring for your blonde.
When selecting a shampoo, opt for products that are composed of mostly natural ingredients - and avoid “sulfates” whenever possible. If “Sulfates” were named intuitively, they’d be called “bubble-inducing detergents” instead...you know, like the stuff you wash your clothes in? Great for getting your favorite sweater clean - but not so great for your hair, I assure you.
When choosing a conditioner, the as-natural-as-possible guideline still applies - and, ideally, your conditioner of choice will have no artificial preservatives or pigments (unless there’s a specific reason for such coloration). Chemical compounds commonly used to make cheaper conditioners, masques, and treatments can build-up on strands, weighing them down and necessitating more frequent washing - which, as we know, contradicts our intentions.
If your personal style is more accurately described as “basic” than “diva”, you may be under the impression that your hair care routine ends when the towel comes out...but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
While Shampoo and Conditioner are largely responsible for cleansing and nourishing the hair and scalp, the products you choose to complete your look should be regarded as not only helping to create and hold your desired style, but also as the bodyguards of your blonde - protecting it from damage throughout the day. As styling products stay in much longer and arguably do the lion’s share of the work, opting for safe, natural, high-quality products here is genuinely every bit, if not more, important as selecting a good shampoo and conditioner.
Really try to streamline your routine by using the minimum number of products required to achieve the desired result - and strive to select products that offer full benefits and maximum effectiveness with only minimal application. Quality will help to ensure that your blonde doesn’t turn dingey and grey from environmental and chemical exposure, while reducing the quantity of product required to obtain the look you want is one of the best things you can do to evade bothersome product buildup and adhere to your newfound shampoo routine.
And, of course, it goes without saying - you should ALWAYS choose products that are responsibly and sustainably sourced and made via cruelty-free methods.
While it may seem cheaper to spend $5 on shampoo and conditioner rather than $40 and skip the blowout serum altogether, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not all about the short game...a $35 savings today doesn’t negate the additional costs of more frequent trips to the salon tomorrow!