How to Remove Brassy Tones from Brown Hair

I was probably 15 when I first got my hair colored. I wanted highlights but wasn’t sure what the right color was for me. My mom – unsupportive of my mission – left it up to me to pick my poison.

I chose a caramel brown (hello 2005!), but it wasn’t long before the wrong brown turned into the wrong blonde. I realized that my color-treated hair got lighter with the sun and not in a good way. A few weeks went by and I was so traumatized by the color that I threw in the towel and dyed my hair black. That’s ‘almost black brown’ for those of you playing along at home. Which was way too dark for me and not natural for my skin. #fail

After a series of unfortunately box dyes, I quit the hair game. I realized that if I was ever going to color my hair again it would be with a professional team at a reputable salon.

You won't believe how east it is to remove brassy tones from brown hair (take it from me)

A few years later, I tried again and I wish the story had a happy ending.

My trip to an expensive salon left me $200 poor-er and with an ombre balayage turned out too light and borderline blonde. My hair was a terrible shade of brassy brunette which didn’t look cute on anyone.

With the upcoming summer sun, I was terrified of what was to come. My hair always gets lighter in the summer and since I wasn’t particularly happy with the way it turned out to begin with I knew that I needed to do something.

The issue wasn’t that my color was wrong – it was just the wrong tone. I didn’t trust my stylist to go back (and pay more money) to have her tone my hair again.

I knew what I needed: I needed the color to be deeper and more vibrant, but I wasn’t crazy. Trying to “at-home box tone” was probably going to be as bad as “at-home box dying” and I was old enough to know that was a bad idea.

Here are solutions I’ve found to fix orange tones in brown hair.

After spending more time than I care to admit on Google searches, YouTube videos, and Amazon reviews *All hail MakeupAlley.com* I finally came across a drugstore product that looked promising to fix brassy brunette hair by John Frieda.

I had tried John Frieda back in high school and swore by the glaze making your color stay super shiny and new, but the last thing I needed was a glossier blond. Enter: The deepening system.

Of course, there was a shampoo and conditioner that was part of this “deepening” system, but the real magic was in this “deepening color treatment” and guys, it worked to cure my brassy brunette hair.

I’ve been using the product for over three years and it works.

The whole system honestly takes a while to complete. I shampoo & condition pretty quickly, and then put the color treatment in hair which has to stay about 5-10 mins. I usually only keep it for 5.

On days when I feel like taking a super long shower, I’ll do the glaze too – because now I love my color & no more brassy brunette hair! That usually tacks on another 3-5 mins so it’s a special occasion treatment.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Adding More Volume In Hair

Blue or Purple Shampoo on Brown Hair

These may not be colors you think you want in your hair. But blue or purple might just be the answer you are looking for, like I was when my hair color was not deep enough. You may wonder why these colors work to solve the misery of brassy hair. For this, we need to turn to color theory + the color wheel.

color wheel

Traditionally, purple shampoo has been used to help blonde hair stay cool-toned and therefore away from brassy tone. Depending on how your hair is colored, purple may work for brown hair as well.

Blue is more commonly used by brunettes because it is the direct opposite of orange the more common (and hated) enemy that the brunettes face. Choosing a good blue toned shampoo, conditioner or treatment could save your entire look. However, using these toners will only deepen your hair color. You will not be able to add any warmth since you are cancelling out the “warmer” tones.

To get warm toned hair after lifting the pigment off your dark hair you’ll have to visit a (good, experience and knowledgeable) colorist. I cannot emphasize the importance of choosing the right professional enough.

Purple shampoos to try even you are a brunette – not a blonde

If you start looking like you are a Weasley, but if you are not freckled and you are a muggle –  okay maybe just try a spell one last time to fix your hair – if that didn’t work you need some bottled magic.

Unite Blonda Toning Shampoo

I’ve tried it and had great results as well. I usually do it about 3 weeks after my hair color appointment to keep my color fresh for another 3 weeks.

L’Oréal EverPure Brass Toning Purple Sulfate Free Line

The shampoo, conditioner and treatment in this line of products are alternative option to keep your highlights or color looking fresh.

Products to remove orange tones in brown hair

When you lighten brown hair to will find orange, there is no escaping it but learning to hide it is the key to fabulous hair and your happiness.

Redken Color Extend Brownlights

Redken is an authority in the hair space and the Color Extend Brownlights deposits a blue tone that neutralizes the orange that is showing in your hair.

Aveda Blue Malva Color Shampoo

This shampoo claims to even add a boost to your grays but let’s deal with one struggle at a time. It is great to keep your hair from looking brassy. Plus, if you like clean beauty and natural products this should be your go to.

Fanola No Orange Shampoo

People have been talking about Fanola for ages & for good reason. This is product works great for either bleached and processed hair or natural brunette hair looking for a less orange tones in their hair.

Related: But Really, How Often Should I Wash My Hair?

Removing red tones in brown hair or “Brassiness”

Okay listen- the brassy tones in brown hair can range from oranges to reds. If you are looking like an adult female version of Chucky, it may be time to try a green toner.

Matrix Dark Envy Green Toning Shampoo

This product will work better to counteract the redder tones. Green is directly opposite red and you should just let them fight it out while you take a relaxing shower.

See Also

How To Prevent Brassiness In Brown Hair

In the future, to protect your hair color from getting brassy, there are a few things that you can do.

Switch to products for color treated hair

Color treated hair products will generally be sulfate-free and gentler on your hair. They are best to use when extending the shelf life of your hair color since less color will be stripped away during each wash.

Use Heat Protectant before Using Heat Tools

When your hair gets exposed to oxidation like sunlight or a heat tool, you will lose some of your new pigment and your “lifted” hair (orange/red) will now start to show through.

Keep your hair shaft protected anytime you style it, but starting heat styling about 1/3 of the way down your head. Bonus, you’ll have healthier hair too.

Limit Sun Exposure

Like your skin, your hair needs protection from the sun. UV rays can affect hair color by drying out and fading color treated hair. Like skincare, UV damage can cause loss of elasticity and distress to the bonds that keep your hair strong and healthy.

You can try a sunblock for hair that has UV protection if you are going to be in the sun for an extended period of time.

Why Does My Brown Hair Turn Brassy?

Oh! We can choke this up to basic color chemistry. When you lighten brown or black hair you are bleaching it and essentially stripping the color. That will expose the red and orange undertones that you are seeing.

With a little work and time, you will reach a shade of yellow (it is yellow first then maybe blonde- if you are lucky- just kidding, find a good colorist), but the orange tones are the first colors you see when you lift the pigment.

TLDR; Brown hair lifts orange. It just does.

To get the color you want, you are then depositing additional color on top of your natural stripped hair.

When your deposited hair color starts to fade, the red and orange tones become more exposed which makes your hair color appear brassy. It is inevitable, your hair colorist can have the divine touch, but you won’t escape the science.

Related: The 6 Biggest Dry Shampoo Mistakes You’re Making

Final Thoughts on How To Fix Brassy Tones From Brown Hair At Home

I want to mention that these not permanent solutions for brassy hair. At home toner can make it more difficult for proper processing at a salon, simply because a good hair colorist will use a customized toner and the bottled solutions might interfere with those results. It’s a great option if you’re in a pinch, but as always – I recommend finding a salon that you trust for your hair.

I’m so glad to have found an at home solution to my issue. I’ll likely keep using it even if my next hair process isn’t a botch job. With sun, comes faded and less vibrant hair. My quest to be blonde is still pretty far away, so for now these should work.