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How to tone yellow and orange hair ash blonde



Yellow hair and orange hair can be a common issue for hairdressers to deal with.

And a source of great frustration.

In this article, we will try to help you find some quick and easy solutions for dealing with yellow hair.

And toning it to ash.

But before we do that, let’s try to understand why hair becomes yellow in the first place.

Why does hair turn yellow?

By far the most common reason for yellow hair occurs in hair that has been bleached or colored or lightened in the past.

Because when hair gets colored, its natural pigments get lifted out from the cortex.

And when over time that color fades, the result is yellow hair and brassy tones. 

This, incidentally, is completely normal. It's to do with the way all hair works.

It's not just your hair or your client's hair that's special. It's all hair.

Why do some toners work and some toners not work on my hair?

A big mistake that many stylists make is to ignore the underlying level of the hair.

You absolutely do need to take this into account when making your toner choice.

If you ignore that, you may end up with a toner that's too sheer. Or too pigmented.

So today, we are not going to make that mistake.

We are going to do a level analysis of your client's hair.

Assessing the underlying level of your client's hair

Hair color levels - what color is your hair?

Yellow hair from level 7 to level 10. What color is your client's hair?

The first thing you need to do with your hair is to look closely at it.

Look at it very carefully in natural light, so that you are able to see any undertones in the hair.

Do that now, and compare it against the picture above.

What level is your hair?

If the hair is like the hair on the right side of the picture that means that it is level 9 or level 10.

That's great news, because it means that your hair has been fairly well lightened.

It means you can tone the hair with a level 10 toner and you can expect to get a true ash blonde result.

We will now suggest some toners that you can use for that.

Use a violet based level 10 toner for pale yellow hair 

We have determined that your hair is more like the hair on the right side of the picture. Level 9-10.

But let's now try and get an ever finer analysis in order to make the right toner choice.

Let's try and figure out: is it closer to level 9 or level 10?

Does your hair, for example, have only pale yellow showing?

Then in that case, it is a true level 10.

And for that a level 10 violet (purple, in other words) toner will work well.

In that case we would suggest Blondify Natural Violet Blonde 010V.

This is a level 10 toner that contains violet pigments.

It will counteract the pale yellow undertones and and you will get platinum blonde hair inside 10 minutes.

Problem solved!

Use an Ash Blonde level 10 toner for bright yellow hair

However, what if the hair is pale yellow but with some brighter yellow undertones mixed in?

That would mean that the hair is still like the hair on the right side of the picture.

However it is not level 10, but more like level 9.

In that case we would suggest you use Natural Ash Blonde 010A.

This toner will neutralize those bright yellow tones and give you an ash blonde tone, as you can see in the picture above.

In other words, use the violet based level 10 toner when hair is more like level 10, with only pale yellow showing.

And use the ash blonde level 10 toner when the hair is more like level 9, with bright and pale yellow showing.

Blondify level 10 toners

Hair toned with Blondify 010A. Hair by Elona Taki.

Use a level 9 toner for yellow orange hair

Level 7-8 hair

Hair which has orange in it in addition to yellow.

Now, what about hair which has orange in it in addition to yellow?

That would mean that the hair is like the hair on the left side of the first picture we showed you.

And like the hair in the picture above here.

That would mean that the hair is in the region of level 7 to level 8. 

If that is the case, level 10 toners will not work.

Even if such toners do contain blue or purple or ash, they will be too sheer.

We need more heavily pigmented toners at a lower level.

So that we can deal with the orange hair.

That's where level 9 toners come in.

This would mean that you would need to aim for a slightly darker end result.

Medium ash blonde rather than a light ash blonde.

Violet Blonde 9V and Blue Ash Blonde 9B

So in this case we would suggest you use either Violet Blonde 9V or Blue Ash Blonde 9B.

These toners are one level down from the level 10 toners.

Being level 9 toners, they are very strongly pigmented.

And they are specifically formulated to counteract yellow-orange hair. 

You will find that if your client has really strong yellow or orange hair, these are the toners that you should use.

Blue-based or violet-based level 9 toner?

Use the violet based level 9 toner if the hair is more yellow rather than orange: if it is more like level 8, in other words.

And use the blue based toner level 9 toner if the hair is more orange than yellow: if it is more like level 7.

You can also mix the two toners and use them together in cases where there is both orange and yellow present in the hair.

Are there any other toners that I should be using?

Purple Grey toner

Result using Blondify 09V and Purple Grey mixed together.

Yes, there are two other toners in particular that you can consider using.

Especially if there is a lot of orange mixed in with the yellow in your client's hair.

Both are designed to be mixed in with your level 9 toners.

The first is Clear. This will give the hair half to one level of lift to orange hair and add gloss and shine.

The second is Purple Grey. This toner will provide extra purple toning which wil help cover very, very orange-yellow hair

What happens if my hair is darker than any of the hair in the picture above?

Truly brassy hair

Hair which is level 6 and below.

If that is the case, your hair is not even at level 7. It is level 6 (dark blonde) and maybe even darker - for example at the root area.

In such situations, the level 9 and level 10 toners we recommended will not work.

You will need to tone down the hair and cover over the orange.

For that we would suggest the two colors below mixed together.

Blue based permanent colors to tone down orange hair

Light Cold Ash Blonde 8.1b

Result using Light Cold Ash Blonde 8.1b

If you really have a lot of orange in the hair and it is level 6 or darker, it would be better to use permanent colors.

This will allow you to tone down and cover over orange, and produce a beautiful consistent dark blonde result.

For that we would recommend either Light Cold Ash Blonde 8.1b or Cold Ash Blonde 7.1b.

For extra blue pigmentation, please mix in (just an inch, because it is very strong) of Ash Blue Additive in with either of the above colors.

That should cover over the orange hair quite easily.

And get you a nice dark blonde hair result which would even out the difference in level between the regrowth and the ends.

Preparing your hair for toning

Hair toner is best applied on dry, unwashed hair. The reason for this is that the oils in the hair will help protect it during the toning process.

And you don't want too much wetness in the hair, otherwise you will be diluting your hair toner mix.

So if for some reason the hair is already wet, just towel dry it to get rid of water.

Then comb it through and you are ready for toning.

Mixing the toner with developer

Mixing Blondify toners is really very simple.

Just mix with 20 Vol developer (you can use a 7 Vol or a 10 Vol if you wish and the hair is already really really light) in a 1: 1 ratio.

You can mix in a plastic applicator bottle or in a coloring bowl, whichever is more convenient.

The advantage of the bottle, however, is that you can then simply pour onto the hair.

If on the other hand you are using permanent colors (the blue based ash blonde colors that we recommended) then in that case you should mix them in a plastic bowl.

Mix them with 20 Vol developer in a 1 :2 ratio. That is to say, 1 part color to 2 parts developer.

Step-by-step guide to applying your toner

If you are using a bottle, start pouring at the back of the hair. That is where it is thickest.

Then pour everywhere else, doing the finer hair around the temples at the end.

Then rub the formula into the hair. This will help you get good color saturation and a bright attractive end color result.

Wait 10 minutes, then rinse with water.

You should see an immediate difference in the color of the hair, with the yellow gone, replaced by light ash or dark ash blonde toners, depending on which level of toner you used.

If you are using a bowl, apply the mix with a brush, segmenting the hair finely.

Rub through some extra mix onto the hair directly using plastic gloves.

It will help saturate the color into the hair.

How to look after toned and colored hair

It's always a good idea for colored hair to use sulfate -ree products as well as products which are acid-based.

Some stylists don't understand why so let's go into the reasons in a little detail.

Sulfate-free products don't strip color out of the hair and make the hair color will longer.

Acidic products will help close your hair cuticles and this will make the hair less frizzy and in better condition.

And they will help return the hair to its normal condition, which is in fact (like human skin) slightly acidic.

All Ugly Duckling haircare products are sulfate-free and acidic. 

There are in particular 2 ranges of hair care products that we would recommend for toned and colored hair.

We will go through them now.

Using Brilliant Blondexx Shampoo & Mask

Brilliant Blondexx

Brilliant Blondexx shampoo and mask will help make hair stronger after bleaching.

Hair which has been bleached, colored, toned or lifted to ash blonde may be thinner and more fragile.

That is why it is a good idea to use a hair care range with Bond Protect, or Plex Technology.

This totally new ingredient in haircare makes hair thicker, less fragile and less prone to breakage.

Ugly Duckling's Brilliant Blondexx contains highly concentrated amounts of Bond Protect.

We suggest you use both the shampoo and the mask at least once a week.

You will see an immediate difference on your hair.

Using Brilliant Blonde Purple Shampoo & Mask

Purple mask

Brilliant Blonde Purple Mask contains purple pigments to help tone away yellow.

Over time, your toned hair will inevitably get more yellow.

That's where using Ugly Duckling's Purple Shampoo and Mask comes in.

It contains purple pigments which will re-tone the hair and make it less yellow.

Of course, unlike regular hair toners tt won't act on the inside of the hair cortex and it won't lift.

But you will find it will tone away yellow.

Use these products also about once a week once you see your ash blonde hair color getting more yellow.

When should you use bleach?

Brilliant Blondexx Bleach

Brilliant Blondexx bleach contains Bond Protect and will help prevent hair breakage

Up to now, we have been talking about which toners to assume, assuming your client's hair is level 8/9 or lighter.

But if the hair is level 8 or darker, it is really a good idea to bleach the hair first. Then tone it.

We would suggest you use Brilliant Blondexx bleach with 20 Vol developer when you need to do that.

Brilliant Blondexx bleach contains Bond Protect built into its formula. It's one of the only bleaches that does this.

The bleach is very effective and also very gentle, and will help you protect the hair against hair breakage.

And because you are only lifting the hair by 2-3 levels, 20 Vol developer will be quite enough.

Make a nice wet mix (1 part bleach to 2 parts developer is good) and apply to the hair, segmenting as you go.

Really make sure that the hair is really saturated with the bleach mixture - otherwise it won’t lift well.

Give it around 10 or 15 minutes and you should be seeing a very pale yellow.

It should ideally be looking like the picture above, and be as consistent as possible from roots to ends.

Rinse in tepid water.

Once you have done this, you are ready to tone the hair ash blonde.

When to Retone Your Hair

Over time, ash-toned hair may start to fade or develop unwanted tones. 

More importantly, your roots will grow out. After 6 or 8 weeks you will get quite a noticeable regrowth, and that will be your natural hair color.

You can fix this in 2 ways.

You can apply bleach and developer just to that area and lift it up so it is in line with the rest of the hair.

You may even do a quick extension of the bleach onto the rest of the hair to lift out that hair.

Then once this is done, and you have a consistent base of level 9/10 hair, apply toner to the whole head as we showed above.

The other way is to put in a shadow root or a smudge root. For that, use a darker color.

Not too dark, but dark enough to set off the rest of the toned hair. Around level 6 is about right.

You may like to use Ugly Duckling's 6.1b.

It's a blue based ash blonde color which will produce a dark blonde smudge root.


Turning yellow hair to ash is not a difficult procedure. 

Just remember to check the level correct, and use a level 10 toner if the hair is pale yellow.

And a level 9 toner if there is some orange in it.

If it is darker than level 8, bleach first where possible, then tone.

And always use sulfate-free and acidic products afterwards to keep your toned hair in a good condition.

About the author

Sally has been a hair colorist and trainer for many years in both the US & Europe. She currently does hair color training for Ugly Duckling. She also helps develop new & awesome products for the brand.

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