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Orange Hair in need of lightening

How To Get Rid of Brassy, Yellow or Orange Hair: 3 Steps You Need to Follow to Lift & Tone Your Hair

Image Supplied by Ugly Duckling Stylist Hon G.

Bullet-Point Summary: Getting Rid of Brassy, Orange or Yellow Hair:

  • Hair that is too brassy needs to be lifted with lightener until all the yellow and orange has been lifted out, then toned with a good quality toner.
  • Follow the 3 Step technique to get rid of brassy hair: (a) Lift with Lightener, (b) Tone with Toner, (c) finish with Purple Shampoo & Mask.

What should I do to get rid of my client's yellow?

  • If your client's hair is level 9 or 10, use Ugly Duckling's no-lift toners with 20 Vol developer. They will neutralize and tone.
  • If your client's hair is level 7 or 8, use Ugly Duckling's intense toners with 20 Vol developer. They will lift as well as neutralize and tone.
  • If your client's hair is darker than level 7, you will need to use lightener first and lift to level 9/10, then tone.
  • If you do not wish to use lightener, you can tone down brassy hair by using Ugly Duckling's blue based ash blonde colors and other ash products.

1.Why does my client's hair turn brassy when I bleach or lift? 

A little bit of color theory:

  • Hair has a natural undercoat, or secondary pigment, which becomes visible when you lighten it or even if you stay in the sun for very long. 
  • When you lighten hair to a dark brown color, you get a red undercoat or tone.
  • When you lighten hair to a medium brown color, you get an orange undercoat or tone.
  • When you light hair to a blonde hair color, you get a yellow undercoat or tone.
  • This table below illustrates the undercoats which occur at every hair level.
  • These undercoats often represent a challenge for colorists and their customers as generally speaking these undercoats are not very attractive nor desired by clients. 

What makes hair brassy

2. How do I get rid of yellow or orange or brassy or orange hair?

First of all, it is important to get an accurate idea of how brassy exactly your client's hair is.

When doing a hair analysis, answer for yourself the following questions:

  1. What level are my client's roots/regrowth?
  2. What level are my client's ends?

Have a look at the pictures below. They show some often encountered cases in the salon.

This hair has been nicely blonded in the past, but the dark roots are now showing. Apply lightener and lift that regrowth right up from level 4 to level 10. Then tone. Extend for a few minutes to the lengths to equalize.

This hair is dark at the regrowth area and brassy on the lengths

This hair has also been blonded in the past, but not so well. Base is level 6. Apply lightener to the regrowth area and lift. Then tone the whole head. Detailed video tutorial below.

Brassy Hair in need of lifting

Ouch! This is difficult! She opted for the racoon look and now she is going to pay for it.

The stylist should probably not be too ambitious here. Settle for a tone down color using a color from Ugly Duckling's blue based ash blonde. Add in some ash blue additive also.

Very Dark and Brassy Hair

Roots are brown level 5, mid lengths & ends are copper level 6. Her stylist never lifted her hair correctly in the past and her base is dark anyway (level 4).

Apply lightener to regrowth and ends both. Once the hair is lifted consistently to level 10, tone.

Base around level 6, highlighted hair level 9. Lift the darker hair with lightener, then tone the whole head.

orange mess

Orange mess. Do not even attempt to tone before lifting the entire head properly. Orange means not lifted enough. Detailed video tutorial below.

How do I Get Rid of Brassy Hair?

STEP ONE: Use a Quality Lightener & Lift the Hair to Level 10 

  • First, you need to lift the brassy parts up to a very pale yellow color (Level 10).
  • Look at the picture below to see what Level 10 looks like.
  • For this, we would advise you to use a quality bleach and developer.
  • We recommend Brilliant Blondexx with Bond Protect. It's gentle and it lifts up to 7 levels, avoiding breakage.
  • Not all bleaches work the same and for this reason we do not recommend that you use any beauty store bleach.
  • Make your mix with 20 Vol Developer for the root area and 20 or 30 Vol for the lengths depending on how brassy it is.
  • Aim to saturate the hair really well and rinse when the hair gets to level 10.
  • When the hair has reached level 10, rinse.

Hair Color Levels

Hair Color Levels

STEP TWO: Tone with the Right Toner

  • Toners provide the color neutralization which allow you to get rid of any remaining yellowness and brassiness.
  • Ugly Duckling toners are very fast acting, and allow you to get ash blonde, platinum blonde, pearl blonde or silver blonde results.
  • If your hair is lifted to a level 9 or 10, use No-Lift Pearl Blonde Toner 10V, No-Lift Silver Blonde Toner 10B.
  • If your hair is lifted to a level 7 or 8, use Intense Pearl Blonde 100V or Intense Silver Blonde 100B 
  • If your hair is level 6 or below, you need to lift with an Ugly Duckling lightener, then tone.
  • You can also color instead of tone for a fuller and more deep color result.
  • For example, you can color grey: Silver Grey or Smoky Blue 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
  • For all of the above results, the better you pre-lighten the hair, the better will be the final result.
  • These colors are all shown below.
  • The recommended mix for toner is 1:2
  • The recommended mix for a color is 1:1
  • Aim for a good product saturation
  • Leave on for 10-20 minutes or more, according to the intensity of color result required.
  • Rinse.

Intense Pearl BlondeIntense Pearl Blonde 100V Intense Silver BlondeIntense Silver Blonde 100B Pearl BlondeNo-Lift Pearl Blonde Toner 10V Silver BlondeNo-Lift Silver Blonde Toner 10B
Silver GreySilver Grey Smoky Blue GreySmoky Blue Grey Extra Cold Ash Blonde (Blue Based)Extra Light Cold Ash Blonde 10.1B Very Light Cold Ash BlondeVery Light Cold Ash Blonde 9.1B

STEP THREE: Finish with Purple Shampoo & Mask

  • Ugly Duckling's Brilliant Blonde Purple Shampoo and Mask are low pH sulfate-free products that will help close the cuticle after coloring.
  • They will also tone and condition the hair.
  • They contain intense purple pigments which will neutralize any remaining yellowness or brassiness in the hair.
  • 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.

Real Life Examples


  • Mag Sam came in with a very brassy regrowth, as you can see below.
  • However, her ends, which had been colored many times before, were pretty light (although still brassy).
  • This is a very very common case.

Brassy Hair Before Bleaching


  • We applied Ugly Duckling Brilliant Blonde Lightener with 20 Vol developer just to the regrowth area.
  • In just 10 minutes we succeeded in lifting this area all the way up to a level 10 blonde.
  • We rinsed.

Pre-Lightened Hair - Level 10


  • Next, we applied Intense Pearl Blonde 100V with 20 Vol to the whole head
  • We processed around 15 minutes.
  • We rinsed.
  • We applied Brilliant Blonde Purple Shampoo.
  • We rinsed again.
  • You can see that we got her hair to an ultra white blonde result - no brassiness whatsoever!
  • We really recommend that you follow this technique if you wish to deal with your brassiness.

After Bleaching & Toning - No Brassiness Whatsoever


Products Used:

  • Brilliant Blonde Lightener on Regrowth
  • 100V Intense Pearl Blonde Toner 
  • Developer 
  • Purple Shampoo


  • Randa has dark hair (level 4) but she always colors her hair blonde.
  • Elona had to apply Brilliant Blonde and lift her roots right up.
  • Thanks to Brilliant Blonde, which is made for dark bases, she got the regrowth right up to a very pale yellow 
  • Elona then used Pearl Blonde Toner 10V
  • The result was a stunning Pearl Blonde result - with zero brassiness!

Hair Toned with Pearl Blonde Toner 10V. Hair Color by Elona Taki

Pearl Blonde Toner - Fights Brass


Products Used:

  • Brilliant Blonde Lightener 
  • 10V Intense Pearl Blonde Toner
  • Developer 


How do I tone down yellow hair? Will dark ash blonde cover yellow and brassy hair?

  • Yes you can do that. Especially if you are not looking to lighten and are happy to settle for a slightly darker hair color result.
  • If you want to tone down yellow hair without using lightener or toner, you should use Ugly Duckling's blue based ash blonde colors (anything ending in "1b").
  • Blue cancels out yellow on the color wheel.
  • Because they are blue based, they are particularly effective at neutralizing any yellowness in the hair.
  • Cold Ash Blonde 7.1b and Dark Cold Ash Blonde 6.1b are the colors we recommend for this.
  • For extra strong "yellow killing", squeeze in some Ash Blue Additive.
  • Just mix these colors with 20 Vol developer and apply to tone down yellow hair.
  • The shades are shown below. Click on them to learn more!
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

How do I tone down orange hair? Will dark ash blonde cover orange and brassy hair? 

  • If the hair is orange, and you don't want to lift the orange out with a lightener, then you can consider going for Ugly Duckling ash colors, which are some of the strongest ashes on the market.
  • Use Ugly Duckling's regular ash blonde colors (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 any 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.
  • Once again, please note you will not be able to go lighter. You will need to go down a tone with this technique to cover up your yellow without lifting.
  • Just mix these colors with 20 Vol developer and apply to tone down orange hair.
  • The shades are shown below. Click on them to learn more!
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

How do you take orange hair to blonde?

An example of orange hair:

Orange mess

If the hair is orange, it basically means one of the following:

  • You rinsed too soon
  • You did not apply bleach sufficiently well (you did not saturate the hair)
  • You used an inferior quality of bleach 
  • Some combination of the above!

Basically, if you have orange hair like this, you need to do the 3 step process as explained above: Lift, Tone and Finish.

I tried bleaching my client's hair and it came out orange. Why?

Not all bleaches work the same way. If you bought an inferior quality bleach, you may find that the lifting property is inadequate.

We would suggest you use one of Ugly Duckling's bleaches. They do work better than most & will give you the lift you require - without compromising hair integrity.

  • Make sure that you saturate really well, and do NOT RINSE the hair too soon.
  • Use 30 Vol for very dark hair, 20 hair for medium blonde hair and the root area.
  • Don't be afraid of adding in fresh mix during the processing time if you can see that parts are not lifting.
  • If after 30 minutes the hair is still orange, rinse and re-apply, with 20 Vol instead of 30 Vol.
  • All hair lifts through orange, through yellow and all the way to pale yellow level 10. Be patient!


Hair color by @hairfactorynyc

I'm really scared about bleaching & I don't want to use lightener! How do I get rid of brassy hair without lightener?

  • If you use a good quality bleach, such as an Ugly Duckling bleach and you follow the steps indicated, you should not damage your hair!
  • However, 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.
  • Look at the chart above on hair color levels to remind yourself what level 7 looks like.
  • 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 20 or 30 Vol if the hair is really really brassy.
  • Apply to the brassy areas.
  • Let it process until it gets as light as possible.
  • Ideally, it should be at least level 9 (see picture of hair color levels above)
  • Rinse.
  • 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!

I don't want to use toner! How do I get rid of brassy hair without toner?

  • Just use our bleach, then purple shampoo and mask.
  • Lift with Brilliant Blondexx. Make sure you get it all the way to level 10 - see the picture at the top of the page to see what level 10 looks like.
  • Then use our purple shampoo and purple mask. It will give a good toning result.
  • Note that in general we prefer to recommend these products as maintenance products rather than as toners.
  • But they do contain a lot of purple pigments and they will do the job well if you don't have our regular toners handy.