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How to fix bleached hair that turned yellow: a comprehensive guide



Did you bleach your hair and find that it is now very yellow?

And what should you do about it?

In this article, we will explain why you get yellow hair after bleaching.

First, we will show you how to bleach correctly so that you get the hair as light as possible.

Then we will guide you as to toner choice.

Finally, we will show you how you can maintain your bleached and toned blonde hair.

Why does my hair turn yellow after bleaching? 

Undercoats and hair levels

Hair levels and undercoats

When hair is lifted with bleach or developer or even color, it gives off a secondary color reflect.

This reflect is known as an undertone.

At level 4, it will look red.

At level 5, it will look very orange.

At level 7 or 8, it will look look yellow-orange.

And at level 9, it will look yellow.

And at level 10, it will look very pale yellow.

This is the way all hair works. 

It's not just your hair that does this. It's everyone's hair.

What should my hair look like after bleaching?

Level 10 hair

Level 10 hair. This is how your client's hair should look like after bleaching.

The picture above shows level 10 hair after bleaching.

When it is at this level, the yellowness almost completely disappears.

This is what your hair should look like after bleaching.

Very very pale yellow. Like the inside of a banana skin.

Get your hair to this level and all your yellowness and brassiness problems will literally vanish.

Of course, you will still have to tone it. We will go through that later on in this article.

But you will be toning it when it is at the correct level.

How do I get the hair all the way up to level 10 blonde?

Hair lightening levels

Hair lightening levels

Compare your client's hair to the chart above.

If your hair is anything other than level 9 or 10, your first step is going to be to bleach your hair one more time.

I bleached the hair but I did not get to level 10. Why?

There are at least 5 reasons why colorists don't get to level 10 very pale yellow.

See if any of these matches your case:

  1. A poor quality of bleach is used with limited lifting power. 
  2. A poor choice of developer strength.
  3. A bleach mix that was too dry and which did not stay wet long enough.
  4. An application technique which did not saturate every part of the client's hair.
  5. The stylist did not wait the time she needed to wait to get the hair to level 10 and rinsed off too soon.

Use these bleaching tips to get to level 10 palest yellow every time.

1. Always use good quality bleach with good lifting power.

Brilliant Blondexx Bleach

Brilliant Blondexx Bleach with Bond Protect

The number one reason for poor results when bleaching is a poor quality of bleach.

Bleaches that don't lift enough, meaning you need to leave them on too long.

Or use extra strong developer for no reason.

We recommend you use Brilliant Blondexx with Bond Protect.

It's gentle and it lifts up to 7 levels quickly and consistently.

It contains Bond Protect, which means it protects as it bleaches and prevents hair breakage.

The Bond Protect also means that the quality of mix that you get is irreproachable - white and creamy and cosmetic.

Meaning that the mix is gentle enough to sit at or near the scalp without causing itching or any scalp irritation.

Most importantly of all, Brilliant Blondexx lifts up to 7 levels using gentle developer strength.

2. Choose the right developer strength

Use only 20 or 30 Vol developer with your bleach.

Use 20 Vol for 1 -2 levels lift and 30 Vol for 3 levels lift and above. 

3. Make a nice wet mix

Make a nice wet mix - 1 part lightener to 2 parts developer is good.

This will help you get good product saturation on the hair and also work fast.

Which is important when you bleach, as it means that you get a consistent level from roots to ends.

4. Saturate every strand of hair

Segment the hair finely and saturate the hair really really well with the bleach mixture.

Remember: your hair needs to be literally drenched in the bleach mix.

And it needs to stay wet. Otherwise it won't lift.

5. Apply on the darkest parts first, then extend gradually

Remember: with bleach, timing is everything.

Apply first on the darkest parts, so that these parts get the most processing time.

Then you gradually extend to those parts which only need a 1 or 2 level tone correction.

Your goal is to produce a nice, clean even canvas.

Doing that will help you get a much nicer, more consistent result when you tone.

6. Keep checking and reapplying fresh mix

After the hair has processed around 15 minutes, peel some back with your tail-comb and check it.

If the hair is still yellow, that means more bleaching is required.

Do not rinse too soon.

7. Make and apply fresh mix as necessary

If you see that some part of your hair is not lifting fast enough, react fast - don't wait.

Grab your color bowl and make some fresh bleach mix.

Always use 20 Vol the second time round.

8. Rinse only when the hair is a consistent level 10 extra pale yellow.

Do not rinse too soon. Do not rinse too soon. Do not rinse too soon.

If you have used Brilliant Blondexx, you can be assured about hair integrity.

Let the bleach process until you get all the way to level 10.

Then rinse.

Watch video on how to mix your Brilliant Blondexx bleach:


How do I tone the hair once I have bleached it?

Level 10 blonde

Level 10 blonde

Let's assume that following the instructions above that you have achieved a really consistent level 10 blonde.

As in the picture above.

But it's still yellow. That's normal.

So now you need to tone it.

Where do you start?

How purple, blue and green toners work to kill yellow & orange

Neutralizing colors

How toners work - violet, blue and green pigments neutralize unwanted yellow and orange and red

The aim of toners is to provide the color neutralization which allow you to get rid of any remaining yellowness and brassiness.

So when choosing your toner the first thing to decide is what sort of reflect you are going to use.

Ugly Duckling toners are very fast acting, and allow you to get ash blonde, platinum blonde, pearl blonde or silver blonde results.

When selecting your toner, consult with the chart above to decide:

Am I going to use a purple based toner, a blue based or a green (ash) based?

If you followed our instructions and got to level 10, that would mean that your hair is very yellow, and you need to use a purple based toner.

If you did not get the hair quite up there and the hair is closer to yellow-orange (level 7-8), then a blue-based toner would be best.

If the hair is even darker than that, orange or red, that means that you would need to cover over and you would need a green toner.

Toners that lift versus toners that don't

When choosing a toner, you need to choose not just the reflect but also the lifting level of your toner.

Ugly Duckling has 3 types of toner: toners with extra lift, toners with regular lift, and level on level toners.

We will go through each type now.

Toners with extra lift.

These will lift the hair by around 2 levels and tone at the same time.

You should use these toners either if your hair is still not as light as it should be (you didn't quite make it to level 10, in other words).

Or if you are going for an ultra pearl or ultra silver white blonde result.

The toners that do this are: Intense Pearl Blonde 100V or Intense Silver Blonde 100B 

Watch example of an intense pearl blonde transformation:

Hair by Elona Taki

Toners with regular lift

Toners still have lift, only less lift than the intense toners.

But they make up for this with very strong purple and blue pigments for color neutralization.

If you are going for a rich grey blonde, or silver blonde, or a very white platinum blonde, you should use these toners.

They will give you the most vivid color results.

You can, for example use Pearl Blonde Toner 10V, or Silver Blonde Toner 10B.

You can also use Silver Grey 

You can also go for a blue-based ash blonde color result: either Extra Light Cold Ash Blonde 10.1B or Very Light Cold Ash Blonde 9.1B

Lastly, you can also use our best selling platinum white blonde toner Extra Light Cool Blonde 10.2

Watch a platinum white blonde result using platinum white blonde toner 10.2:

Hair by Elona Taki

Level on level toners

If you want a more natural blonde result, you can opt instead for Ugly Duckling's new liquid ammonia free toners.

They have incredibly fast neutralization technology. Just 10 minutes is all it takes.

They're ammonia-free, PPD-free and they also contain Bond Protect.

If you're looking for a level 10 blonde, use one of these toners: Blondify Natural Ash BlondeBlondify Natural Violet Blonde.

And if you're more at a level 9, then use one of these toners: Blondify Blue Ash Blonde 9B or Blondify Violet Blonde Toner 9V

You can mix any of these toners with this one to vary the result and get it more purple: Purple Grey

And you can mix any of them with Clear to make the result more glossy and shiny.

Leave on until you see that the hair has change color.

Generally, around 10 minutes would be about right.

Then rinse.

Watch Natural Ash Blonde toner in action:

Finish with Purple based shampoo & mask

Purple Mask

Brilliant Blonde Purple Mask

After toning, you can use purple shampoo and mask to get rid of any remaining yellow.

Ugly Duckling's Brilliant Blonde Purple Shampoo and Mask are low pH sulfate-free products that will help close the cuticle after coloring.

Thanks to their intense purple pigments they will help neutralize any remaining yellowness or brassiness.

For best results, use plenty of product and massage in very thoroughly.

The more these products are in contact with your hair, the more they will transfer those pigments.

With the purple mask, leave on for 10 minutes under a plastic cap and, if possible, some gentle heat.

You can use both products regularly after coloring to keep the hair from turning yellow or brassy again.

Watch example of Purple Shampoo and Mask applied to tone hair:

I want to tone down my orange to a medium blonde level. What is the best toner for me to use?

If you are looking to tone down we would suggest you use blue based ash blonde colors.

Blue based colors and toners are good at killing yellow-orange and will tone down hair very well.

Use Ugly Duckling's blue based ash blonde colors (anything ending in "1b").

Aim for level 6 to 8 if you are looking to down down brassy hair.

Use Light Cold Ash Blonde 8.1bCold Ash Blonde 7.1b or Dark Cold Ash Blonde 6.1b 

For extra strong "orange killing", you can squeeze in some Ash Blue Additive.

Just mix these colors with 20 Vol developer and apply to tone down orange and brassy hair.

7.1b Cold Ash Blonde 8.1b Light Cold Ash Blonde 7.1b Cold Ash Blonde 7.1b Cold Ash Blonde Dark Cold Ash Blonde 6.1b 6.1b Dark Cold Ash Blonde ash blue additive Ash Blue Additive

I want to tone down my orange to a dark blonde level. What is the best toner for me to use? 

Use any of Ugly Duckling's ash toners.

Use Ugly Duckling's regular ash blonde colors are anything ending in .1

These ash colors are green based, and green cancels out orange on the color wheel.

These colors are particularly effective at neutralizing dark orange in the hair.

Ash Blonde 7.1and Dark Blonde 6.1 and Light Deep Ash Brown 5.11 are the ideal go-to colors for toning down orange hair.

For extra strong "orange killing", squeeze in some Ash Grey Additive.

7.1 Ash Blonde 7.1 Ash Blonde 6.1 Dark Ash Blonde 6.1 Dark Ash Blonde 5.11 Light Ash Brown 5.11 Light Deep Ash Brown Ash Grey Additive Ash Grey Additive

I don't want to use lightener but I still want to tone my brassy and go blonde! What should I use?

If you are dead against using a bleach, there is a work-around.

It will work when the hair is not too dark - at least level 7 and above.

You can use either of Ugly Duckling's high lift toners, either Intense Pearl Blonde 100V or Intense Silver Blonde 100B.

These our Ugly Duckling's fastest acting toners and they are the strongest toners in the market.

They contain special boosters which get rid of extra yellow and lift up the hair.

Use them with 30 Vol if the hair is really really brassy and process them for 10 minutes extra (40 minutes).

This should allow you to achieve an acceptable or even good ash blonde hair color result - provided your hair is not too dark or brassy.

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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