Why Those Blonde Highlights Look “Brassy” (And How to Prevent It)
Blonde hair has always been a very “in” look. And, if I had to guess, it probably always will be. Of course, with natural blondes making up only about 6% of the global population, those of us not genetically blessed with golden tresses have to come by them via a trip to the salon.
From simple highlights to full-platinum dye jobs, stylists like myself spend a lot of time giving our clients the right amount of blonde for their buck. That’s why it upsets us so much to see one of our client’s new dos turn from solid gold into solid brass.
Of course, anyone who’s ever had their hair dyed knows what I’m talking about. It might take months, weeks, or even just days, but sometimes those blonde highlights simply end up looking “brassy” or reddish. Though it’s a common problem, it doesn’t have to be. As you’ll see in the article below, there are a number of reasons why your highlights might betray you, as well as many steps you can take to avoid it.
What Causes “Brassy” Hair?
Every effect has a cause, and brassy hair is no different. Below, I’ll outline some of the most common reasons that blonde hair becomes brassy, then discuss some things you can do to prevent it from happing to you. Keep in mind, however, that every person’s hair is unique. Before attempting to define or solve the problem, be sure to consider all the possibilities carefully.
If you’re the type of girl who loves to hit the pool, it’s a good chance that your highlights are going brassy thanks to the chemicals in the water, particularly chlorine. Though we consider it quite common, chlorine is actually an extremely powerful chemical. When exposed to porous blonde hair, it tends to leave a residue that breaks down the hair shaft, causing the color to change. That said, you can do a lot worse than brass, excessive chlorine exposure can also turn blonde hair green!
Chances are you’ve heard the term “hard water” at some point or another. This is essentially water that’s particularly rich in mineral content. It’s common all over the world and varies drastically on a house by house basis. If your unlucky enough to live in a home that has hard water, you might be bombarding your blonde locks with damaging mineral deposits every time you take a shower. Luckily, there are tests that you can buy in order to check your water’s mineral content as well as filters that can be installed to fix the issue.
There’s nothing quite like a gorgeous blonde balayage to tackle the summer with confidence. However, all that time outside might actually be a big contributor to your brassy hair problem. You see, the chemicals present in many hair dyes are highly susceptible to UV damage. Enough sun exposure, and they might break down and cause your hair to change color. So, while we might associate natural blonde hair with being “kissed by the sun,” it’s actually the sworn enemy of chemically-dyed hair.
Your Hair’s Natural Color
Though nobody likes to hear it, not everyone’s hair is suited to blonde highlights. You see, the process of dying hair involves a lot more science than your stylist usually gets into. For example, any time that you lighten, dye, or bleach hair, you’re essentially saturating your hair with oxidizing agents designed to dilute the melanin in your hair. As with skin, melanin is what gives your hair its natural dark color. When dark hair is dyed this way, the undertone tends to eventually turn an orangish red.
An Improper Dye Job
Of course, it’s possible for various mistakes made during the dyeing process to cause your blonde hair to turn brassy. In many cases, this will be dye that isn’t left in long enough, but it can also result from using low-cost, at-home hair dyeing kits. It’s also worth noting that many stylists (including myself) will warn their clients that their hair might not be suitable for blonde highlights or that certain precautions or steps would be needed to do the job right. If you’ve received such a warning and didn’t heed it, it’s not quite fair to blame the stylish for a brassy result, is it?
How to Prevent Your Blonde from Turning Brassy
Luckily, there are a number of strategies you can use to help prevent your blonde hair from turning brassy. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve likely come up with a few already. However, in the interest of preserving healthy hair for all, I’m going to list my full arsenal of pro-level anti-brassy tips below.
1. Avoid Products with Parabens or Silicone
I mentioned above that the dyeing process tends to make one’s hair more porous. This means that all manner of chemicals, minerals, etc. can enter the roots of your hair more easily. When these damaging elements aren’t washed away, they build up in your hair, weakening it from the inside out. When you use products that contain parabens and silicon, you can drastically exacerbate this buildup, causing your hair to, quite literally, choke to death.
2. Avoid At-Home Dye Jobs
At-home hair dyeing kits largely rely on chemical bleaches to lighten your hair. In many cases,
these types of chemicals are specifically formulated to enhance brassiness, not fight it. Add in the potential for first-timers to leave coloring in far too long, and you have a recipe for disaster. Trust me, leave hair coloring to the professionals. We not only have the right tools for the job, but the experience as well.
3. Go Sulfate-Free
Sulfates tend to be a big problem for blonde hair, be it natural or dyed. Though included in most shampoos to help clean and scrub the hair strands, sulfates actually strip away many of the oils that protect and insulate your follicles. Without these oils to provide defense against minerals, UV rays, and chemicals, you can go from blonde to brassy in no time.
4. Try Purple Shampoo (Yes Really)
Though this might sound like Third-Grade logic, it’s actually backed up by science. You see, shampoos with blue or purple tints to them actually impart a little bit of pigment into your hair with each wash. If you remember the “color wheel,” you’ll note that these tones tend to cancel out reddish and orangish hues. This will keep brassiness at bay and help keep your blonde highlights as fresh as possible.
5. Protect Against UV Rays
Obviously, I’d never suggest you skip that trip to the beach or day at the lake just because of your hair. However, just as you do with your skin, it’s important to take proper precautions to keep your hair safe from harmful UV rays. I highly suggest using a UV protectant spray both before and during your time in the sun. Be sure to apply quite liberally if you want to maximize its effectiveness.
6. Rinse Before Swimming
If you’re planning on taking a dip in a chlorinated pool, do yourself a favor and get your hair nice and wet before you dive in. The logic behind this is that your hair follicles can only absorb so much water at once. If you soak them in healthy water first, they won’t bother sponging up the chlorinated water later.
7. Buy Shampoo for Colored Hair
With tens of thousands of hair care products out there, it should come as no surprise that there are formulas specifically designed for blonde dyes and highlights. From shampoos and conditioners to sprays, toners, and more, these products are designed to keep your hair looking great as long as possible. Use them whenever possible!
8. Use Only Clear Oils
It’s true that moisturizing oils can be extremely beneficial for your hair. However, many popular oils (Moroccan oil specifically) have an orange or yellow hue to them. While they might aid in protecting your follicles, they won’t do you any favors when it comes to preventing brassiness. Instead, opt for pure argan oil or even coconut oil.
As you can see, your bright blonde highlights and beautiful balayage are constantly under threat from chemicals, UV rays, and even the water in your shower. Moreover, your hair’s chemical makeup might prevent it from accepting or retaining that golden hue you crave.
However, if you take note of the tips listed above, consult with your stylist, and – most importantly – listen to and follow their advice, you can benefit your blonde highlights in a number of important ways. In the end, if you put in the time to really care for your hair, you should be able to keep brassiness at bay for good.
As always, feel free to hit me up with questions or comments, and be sure to take great care of your hair. Cheers!