There are 2 main reasons brown hair turns orange.
- Environmental exposure & heat styling
If you have dark hair and you want to go lighter or brighter it’s going to involve bleaching. A standard box dye or hair color with a developer will contain enough bleaching agent to lighten your hair a couple of shades, if you are aiming for a slightly lighter shade of caramel, for example.
But any lighter than that, like say, if you’re planning on going blonde or if you want something a little more daring, like hot pink, you are going to have to bleach it before you color.
The problem with bleaching dark hair is that it tends to go orange. Unfortunately, it’s part of the process. So don’t panic if you’ve ended up with a weird shade of pumpkin.
Though bleaching is the most common cause of unwanted orange showing up in the hair, heat styling and environmental exposure can also bring out your natural copper undertones.
In this article, we will find the best toner for orange hair and give you a few tips on how to try and prevent orange hair in the future.
You are going to get to know your hair and find out why it turns orange. We’ll also show you how to fix it, too!
Best Toner for Orange Hair
Toner and blue shampoo, though these terms are often used interchangeably, are very different products. However, for the sake of this article, we too are calling blue shampoo, toner. If your endgame is neutralizing unwanted orange in your hair, both toner and blue shampoo perform the same function.
The biggest difference between using a toner and a blue shampoo is ease of use.
Toners have a much higher margin of error and should only be used by those who know what they are doing. Toners are professional products, best left to the professionals.
The best toner for orange hair for the 99% of us who are not professional hairstylists is actually a blue toning shampoo.
Here are a few of our favorites:
- Anti Brass Toning Blue Shampoo:...
- Multi-Tasking Properties: Professional...
- Key Benefits: Nourishing shampoo...
- Brass Off Collection: When used as a...
- Suggested Use: Wearing suitable gloves,...
MATRIX Total Results Brass Off Color Depositing Blue Shampoo neutralizes intense orange tones using a blue-violet pigment, with visible results in just one wash. Suitable for both brunettes and blondes, levels 5-7.
It has a pleasant fragrance with notes of rose, vanilla, and nectarine. It can stain surfaces, so mind the drips and you may want to wear gloves to apply. MATRIX Total Results Brass Off Color Depositing
Blue Shampoo contains sulfates, which can leave the hair frizzy, dry, and brittle if used too often, or without conditioner.
- Redken Color Extend Brownlights is a...
- Sulfate-free blue toning conditioner....
- Color-depositing conditioner with pH...
- Professional blue conditioner to keep...
- Professional toning solution for warm...
Ideal for both chemically treated and natural hair, this blue pigmented shampoo neutralizes orange tones and unwanted warmth in brown hair. It’s sulfate-free, so it’s gentle on hair.
This is particularly important if you have curly hair or hair that’s prone to dryness. If so, this toner would be be a good option for you.
- Joico Color Balance Blue Shampoo gently...
- BLUE PIGMENTS directly attach to the...
- GREEN TEA EXTRACT AND UV ABSORBERS help...
- SMART RELEASE TECHNOLOGY, our...
- KERATIN, a protective protein found...
Joico Color Balance Blue Shampoo is especially designed for naturally dark brunette hair with highlights. Formulated with a Multi-Spectrum Defense Complex to help fight fade and preserve your color. It’s ideal for those with color-treated hair.
It tones down orange tones, leaving it cool-toned, soft, and shiny.
It’s also cruelty-free and free of parabens, formaldehyde, and other irritants.
- Indicated on colored hair with dark...
- After the color service or exposure to...
- No Orange Shampoo gently cleanses and...
- After applying the shampoo, the hair...
- Extra Blue Pigment, the No Orange...
Fanola No Orange Shampoo is specially designed for dark and brunette hair with orange undertones. Apply like regular shampoo and leave in 2-3 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
This one is definitely one of the more potent blue toning shampoos. Keep in mind that it contains sulfates which can dry out your hair.
We recommend using it sparingly and only when you really need it. You should see results after one wash.
- Comes with (1) 10.1-ounce shampoo & (1)...
- Eliminates brassy/orange tones on...
- Preserve 89% of haircolor for up to 18...
- Our Multi-Spectrum Defense Complex...
- Bio-Advanced Peptide Complex is our...
It’s effective for all hair types and textures. Silk proteins and Hibiscus Flower extract strengthen hair, improve luster, and increase brightness while neutralizing unwanted orange tones. DPHue Cool Brunette shampoo is color-safe, so it’s ideal for those with color-treated hair.
It’s free of sulfates, silicones and parabens.
Everyone’s hair is different.
And while all of the products listed above had users who tried the products and were disappointed by the results (whether it was because it just didn’t work for their hair or because they were not using the product properly, or even used the wrong product), all of the above products have a far higher rate of satisfied users.
A pigmented shampoo can stain your hair and your environment. So, regardless of which one you try, do it in the tub to avoid staining everything. Rinse everything really well, and wear gloves if you don’t want to end up with stained blue nails.
Getting to Know Your Hair
First things first – in order to fix your orange hair, you need to understand your hair structure and what makes up your natural color so you know why it turned orange in the first place.
Natural hair has a colorless cuticle. The pigments (hair color) are in the cortex.
Your natural hair color is made up of melanin. All-natural hair color is made up of four pigments of two types of melanin. These two types of melanin consist of:
- Black and brown pigments called eumelanin.
- Red and yellow pigments called pheomelanin.
The shade or depth of hair color is determined by the concentration of melanin. As in the skin, the more melanin produced in the hair, the darker it is.
The tone of the hair is dictated by the ratio of black and brown eumelanin to yellow and red pheomelanin. More black and brown pigments create a cool-toned hair color, while a predominance of red and yellow pigments creates a warm-toned hair color.
Blondes and those with light-colored hair tend to produce yellow undertones. Those with very dark hair have red undertones. Brown hair typically produces warmer orange undertones.
Why Does Hair Turn Orange When Bleached?
Bleaching breaks down the color pigment molecules in your hair. If all of the warmer pigments are not lifted during the lightening process, then you will be left with… orange hair.
Cool-toned color pigments are the first to be lifted out of your hair during the bleaching process. There are more warm color (red & orange) molecules than cool color molecules. The warmer molecules are also larger, so they are the last to be lifted out of hair.
The darker your hair, the more pigment it contains and the harder it is to lift. This means that more orange pigment you will have remaining.
So that orange isn’t a result of bleach “turning your hair orange”. Orange is your natural undertone. The bleach is simply revealing it.
- How Bad Is Bleaching Your Hair, Really?
- Color Remover vs Bleach: Which Should You Use?
- How Long Does Hair Bleach Last After It’s Mixed?
Why Did My Hair Turn Orange If I Didn’t Bleach It?
Orange hair tones can happen due to sun exposure and heat styling. But there are also other things, like chlorine, hair care products containing alcohol, certain medications and even natural aging that can cause your hair to turn orange.
Heat styling, alcohol, chlorine, and sun exposure all break down the melanin (the pigments we were talking about earlier) in your hair.
And if you remember the cooler color pigments are always the first to go because they are smaller molecules and easier to break down. The larger, harder to lift warm color molecules (a.k.a. the red and orange pigments) are the last to break down so that’s why you are left with orange tones.
How To Fix Orange Hair
The trick is not “fix” or “get rid of” of the orange undertones, it’s figuring out how to neutralize them. Yes, you can fix it with hair dye. But the fastest, easiest way to do that is to use a blue toning shampoo.
What Does Blue Toner Do To Orange Hair?
Take a look at the color wheel below. The colors opposite each other on the color wheel will cancel each other out.
Blue is opposite orange on the color wheel, so if your hair is orange, blue is your neutralizing color.
Blue shampoo on lighter, bleached hair and orange tones:
Blue shampoo on darker hair with copper tones
Should I Use Blue Toner Or Blue Shampoo?
Toners should only be used by those who know what they’re doing (i.e. have had training). Color depositing shampoos, on the other hand, are super user-friendly.
If you know how to shampoo your hair, you can use a color depositing shampoo!
If you are looking to neutralize unwanted orange tones in your hair at home and you are not familiar with using a toner, use a color depositing shampoo instead. You can achieve the same end result with much less difficulty (just read your instructions, though!).
Blue shampoo is not meant to replace your regular shampoo. It should only be used once (max. twice) a week.
Misuse of color depositing shampoo can result in drying out your hair or possibly getting pigment staining from the shampoo. You probably don’t want to be walking around with blue stained hair.
How to Help Prevent Hair From Turning Orange
Spoiler alert: when it comes to bleaching, if you have darker brown hair, it will probably turn some sort of orange.
That’s just the chemistry of your hair – nothing to do with what you did, what you used, or how you did it.
Unfortunately it’s hard to prevent that from happening when you bleach dark brown hair.
If you are trying to get a really light color, you are more than likely going to have to bleach it more than once if your hair is really dark.
PRO TIP: If you need to bleach hair again, wait until you’ve achieved your desired lightness before you tone. Toner will not lighten your hair, just remove unwanted warm copper tones. Do not tone in between bleaching sessions.
If your orange has nothing to do with bleaching, there are a few things you can do to help prevent those unwanted orange undertones from showing through.
- Avoid sun overexposure by wearing a hat, using a UV protection spray, or avoiding direct sun exposure altogether.
- Avoid hair care products that contain alcohol
- Use a chlorine protective hair mask before swimming
- Always wet hair with non-chlorinated water before jumping into the pool
- Try to avoid heat styling with irons, and use the lower heat setting if you must blow dry
Whether you just have unwanted orange highlights showing up or you ended up with orange hair because you bleached it, blue shampoo should do the trick to neutralize those unwanted copper tones.
Just remember: toner will not lighten your hair. So if you’ve bleached it and it’s darker than you wanted and you need to bleach again, don’t tone it yet.
Wait until you’ve achieved your desired lightness before you use blue toning shampoo.