What Color Cancels Out Red? How To Neutralize Red Tones in Hair

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Did you recently go for a gorgeous honey blonde or nutty brown, only to end up with glaring red undertones? Or perhaps your hair naturally has a high level of red pigment in it, and you want to tone it down a notch.

All hair colors have red pigments in them, yes, even blonde! It’s just the intensity of the tone that differs. If your hair is rich in red pigment, you will have more orange/brassy tones than other people.

If you’ve been trying to remove the red color from your hair and rock a different color, the answer is simple – you need to neutralize the red tones!

What color cancels out red? It depends on the shade, but most likely green! However, it could be blue if the red you’re trying to remove is orangey.

Let’s explain how to neutralize red tones in hair.


Cancel Hair Tones To Balance Hair Color

Sunrise Redhead

Before we get down to the process, it is important to understand what neutralizing your hair means.

Unwanted pigments and tones in the hair are often a result of excessive sun exposure, previous dye jobs that faded poorly, not waiting long enough to dye after bleaching, cheap hair oils, chlorine reactions, and pollution.

And of course, the natural undertones of our hair!

All of these factors work to enhance the red pigment in our tresses.

Sometimes they get enhanced a bit too much.

How Red Are We Talking, Here?

Take a close look at the color in your hair that you want to remove. Is it really red, or is it more orange? The reality is that most redheads have coppery/orange hair, as opposed to deep red.

Is the color you want to remove really a red, or is it orange?

This matters, because the way toning shampoo works is by color neutralization. The opposite color on the hair color wheel is used to cancel out unwanted color tones.

What Color Cancels Out Red Tones In Hair?

Let’s dive into a bit of color theory. Look at the color wheel below. Opposite colors are called complementary colors. Notice that green is the complementary color to red, and blue is the complementary color to orange.

As we mentioned above, if you want to cancel out true red tones, you should use a green toning shampoo. But if you want to cancel out orange tones, you’ll want a blue shampoo.

If the tones are more brassy yellow tones, grab a purple shampoo.

Once you’ve determined the color you want to get rid of, it’s time to neutralize those tones!

How to Neutralize Red Tones in Hair

If you don’t plan to go to a hair salon, the best way to neutralize red tones in your hair is to use a toning shampoo. There are other home-solutions, which we’ll discuss below, but toning shampoo is by far the best way.

Use a Toning Shampoo

Red Hair Neutralizing Toning Shampoo

Toning shampoos and color-depositing washes, like this Matrix Total Results  are designed to soften certain tones in the hair. Depending on the color you want to get rid of, you choose the opposite color of toning shampoo.

Using a Color Depositing Shampoo

As mentioned above, you want to use a color toning shampoo that is the opposite color of the one you’re trying to remove. If you’ve got excess red pigment in your hair, you’ll want to choose a green toning shampoo.

A green color depositing shampoo cancels out the red tones, and they disappear from your hair.

If you’ve got more orange tones, you’ll want to use a blue shampoo. For those brassy yellows, a purple shampoo will be your savior!

On the other side, if the hair is more on the lighter brown side with orange undertones, you should opt for a blue toning shampoo instead!

Dark Envy Blue Shampoo

How Often Do You Use a Toning Shampoo?

It’s always best to use color-depositing shampoo only once or twice per week. Any more than that dries hair out and makes it brittle.

Use a toner every 6-8 weeks, or more frequently if it’s a shampoo.

The nice thing about these color-depositing shampoos is that it’s pretty hard to screw up with them. As long as you understand the color wheel, and which color you want to remove, the shampoo is pretty simple.

It goes on like regular shampoo: no dying, tin foil, rubber gloves, etc.

And if you don’t like the results, they will disappear in a few days with regular washing.

You can see why these are so popular!

Other Ways to Soften Red Tones in Your Hair

1. Apply an Ash Colored Hair Dye

Clairol Ash Hair Dye

Yes, you can color your hair ash even if you’re a redhead or brunette. The goal here isn’t to get ash-colored hair but to tone down the red pigments. Since it’s known as a calm tone, ash works perfectly as a hair neutralizer. 

When picking out a dye, be sure to get an ammonia-free product, like this Clairol ash shade. It will prevent any chemical damage to your curls and can even be used by people with sensitive skin or respiratory issues. 

Step 1

Head to your local superstore and pick out a semi-permanent ash shade; it helps make the process much more straightforward.

The final color will appear similar to your current hair color, minus the red tones, of course.

Moreover, this is an excellent first step if you wish to try out a new shade that is lighter or even darker than your natural hair.

Step 2

Read the instructions on the box and follow them seriously. Make sure to blend the ingredients with the developer well.

Step 3

Was out your hair and let them semi-dry in the air. Don’t use any hair styling tools such as a flat iron before the dye application.

Step 4

Apply the dye all over your hair and spread it out. It should cover every inch of your locks. If you don’t hit everything, you will end up with awkward red streaks here and there.

We recommend starting from the tips and making your way up to the roots. Try to get a friend to help you with the application, so they reach the spots you cant see at the back of your head.

Step 5

Tie your hair up in a high bun and let it absorb the dye well for the amount of time mentioned on the box. You can use strong clips or even a shower cap to hold them in place. 

Step 6

It’s finally time to wash off the dye! Rinse your hair with cold water to keep it beautiful and glossy, and follow it up with your favorite conditioner. Enjoy your new, red-free locks!

2. Try Out Green Food Coloring

This may sound a little absurd, but you can actually use food coloring to neutralize the red tones in your hair too!

Since green stands counter to red on the color wheel, it is the perfect shade to block out all orangey red pigments. Here is how it’s done.

Step 1

Pour two to three drops of green food color in your shampoo and conditioner. Shake it vigorously to mix it well into the formula.

Step 2

Use this shampoo and conditioner for 2 to 3 weeks and document your hair after every wash by taking pictures. You might not notice an immediate change, but the gradual change will be more noticeable in the images.

Step 3

If the trick seems to be working and you start to notice lesser red in your hair by week three, it’ll be time to speed things up a little. Add in a few more drops of green dye to your shampoo and conditioner. This will ensure all of the red is eliminated by the next few weeks.

3. Raid Your Pantry

Did you know you can use some things lying around in your pantry to tone down those red pigments? So, what are you waiting for? Grab the following and head straight to the shower for some serious hair care hours.

  • Olive Oil Conditioning 

Not only does olive oil make an excellent deep conditioner, but the fats in the oil can also help neutralize your brassy tones. Just pour out some olive ol in a microwave-safe glass bowl and heat it for 30 seconds. Then, massage the warm oil well over your locks and leave it for over an hour. Rinse with a sulfate-free shampoo for best results.

  • Rinse with Apple Cider Vinegar

Another great pantry ingredient is apple cider vinegar. It is mildly acidic and works great against the red in your hair. It will even improve your hair’s overall health by restoring the natural pH balance and removing any build-up from your scalp.

Step 1

Use ACV by adding two to four tablespoons of it to a jug of water. Mix well and head over to your sink.

Step 2

Pour the ACV-water mixture over your head, massaging it well into your roots and the lengths of your hair. 

Step 3

Leave it to work it’s magic for 15 to 20 minutes before washing it off with cool water.

Be careful not to use this treatment more than twice a month as the acid can weaken hair if applied too often.

What is Causing an Increase in the Redness of My Hair?

Have you recently noticed your hair appearing redder than usual? This could be a result of a variety of factors like:

  • Increased exposure to the sun, tanning beds, UV rays. If you’re using a tanning bed, consider switching to a spray tan.
  • A recent trip to the beach. Salty seawater increases the redness in your hair.
  • Regular heat styling using a straightener or curling iron.

Final Thoughts

By far the best way to counteract those red tones in your hair is to use a toning shampoo, probably a green one. Make sure you know what color you want to cancel and get the toning shampoo that is the opposite color.

If it feels like it’s between the two colors, you can mix two different colors of toning shampoo (alternate them)

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).