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Did you just have your locks lightened to a Barbie-blonde color? Or are you transitioning to gray hair?
Either way, you may be experiencing something frustrating: yellowing hair.
When you have blonde or gray locks, you may be irritated by how often they go from looking cool and light to sporting a pesky yellow tinge.
So you might be wondering, “Why is my hair turning yellow?”
If you want to know the answer to this, keep reading!
We’ll also show you how to prevent the yellowing of hair and what you can do to get rid of those unsightly tones once you have them.
Why Does Naturally Blonde Hair Turn Yellow?
All hair colors contain underlying yellow tones that become more pronounced over time. However, these tones are more noticeable on lighter hair colors like blonde.
To understand why, we first need to talk about the science behind this issue and discuss the natural pigments found in hair.
Melanin is a natural pigment that gives our skin, hair, and eyes their color. They come from skin cells called melanocytes.
Now there are two types of melanin that are responsible for hair color, namely the following:
- Eumelanin — brown and black pigments
- Pheomelanin — red and yellow pigments
The color of your hair depends on the abundance and lack of these natural pigments produced by melanocytes.
Look at the chart below to understand this better.
|Hair Color||Melanin Content|
|Black||Large amount of eumelanin|
|Brown||Moderate amount of eumelanin|
|Blonde||Very little eumelanin and pheomelanin|
|Red||Large amount of pheomelanin with little eumelanin|
As we can see from the chart, the more pigment your melanocytes produce, the darker your hair will be.
So if your strands only have a small amount of either type of melanin, they’ll likely be blonde in color.
This is the reason why light-colored hair is more prone to yellowing.
Because blonde hair has fewer pigments, it may absorb yellow pigments from different products and pollutants more easily, which can affect its overall color.
It’s also more susceptible to hair discoloration caused by different environmental factors.
Why Does Gray Hair Turn Yellow?
While you may want to embrace your gray or white locks, unwanted yellow tones can prevent you from showing off your beautiful hair.
But why does the problem of yellowing gray hair occur in the first place?
Similar to blonde hair, gray or white strands also lack melanin.
The reason is that as people age, the melanocytes in their bodies start to die. As a result, less melanin is produced, giving their hair a light gray or a completely white color.
Just like blonde locks, the fact that there is little to no pigment in gray strands makes them more prone to turning yellow when they get exposed to environmental elements or pick up yellow pigments from different sources.
Why Does Bleached Hair Turn Yellow?
What happens when you bleach your hair?
When you use hydrogen peroxide and bleach, your hair becomes lighter. That’s because this mixture is designed to remove your hair’s natural pigments from your strands by dissolving or oxidizing them.
Now if you don’t lift your hair to the right level, it will become yellowish or orangeish in color or show brassy yellow tones.
Dyeing your bleached hair can cover these tones.
Unfortunately, the beautiful color of your dyed hair won’t last forever. Once it starts to fade, the underlying yellow tones in your hair covered by the dye will become more pronounced.
Common Causes of Yellowing Hair
Now we know that the absence of melanin makes it easier for natural blonde, bleached blonde, and gray hair to turn yellow due to exposure to different products or environmental elements.
But which products or elements cause discoloration? Find the most common causes of yellowing hair below:
Prolonged Sun Exposure
Have you ever wondered why we use the term “sun-kissed hair?”
Well, it’s because human hair can change color after spending some time under the sun. This is due to photodamage caused by overexposure to the sun’s UV rays.
According to clinical studies, the UVA rays of the sun have oxidizing properties that work similarly to bleach in that they remove melanin from your hair.
Now melanin acts as a sunscreen and protects your strands from the damage brought about by UV rays.
But as these pigments do their job, the radiation dissolves them. This lightens your hair color and causes your strands to show more yellow tones.
Dark brown or black hair turning yellow may not be as much of an issue because it has more melanin, which means it will only begin to lighten in color after repeated sun exposure.
On the flip side, lighter hair colors, such as blonde and gray, are more vulnerable to yellowing caused by photodamage since they contain very little melanin.
Aside from losing the dark pigments, photodamage can also happen in the strand’s keratin protein structure and oxidize the hair’s amino acids. This can also give your hair a yellowish appearance.
Chlorine in Pool Water
Pool water typically contains a small amount of chlorine because this element acts as a disinfectant.
When you swim in chlorinated water, the chlorine gets absorbed by your hair. Once it penetrates the hair shaft, it bonds with the pigments in your hair and causes them to oxidize and change in color.
Chlorine can also bond with the keratin in your hair, which can cause dryness and yellowish tones.
No matter how hard we try, we just can’t seem to avoid using our styling tools. After all, they’re essential to creating gorgeous hairstyles.
But if you’ve just gotten your hair bleached and colored, your curlers or straighteners may do your hair more harm than good.
That’s because the heat from these tools can damage your hair cuticles and keratin fibers. As a result, your strands will become more porous, causing the color to fade easily.
Hard Water From the Shower
Shower water is typically high in minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium.
Every time you wash your hair, mineral deposits may cling to and build up on your strands, leaving them with a yellowish tinge.
This may result in your blonde or silver hair yellowing.
The air around us affects not only our lungs but also affects our hair. How? It’s similar to hard water.
Polluted air contains an assortment of minerals from particles like dirt and fossil fuels.
It’s important to note that these minerals are positively charged, and our hair is negatively charged. This means your hair will attract these minerals like a magnet.
Over time, this will result in a buildup that can dull and discolor your bleached or silver locks.
The same goes for smoking. Exposure to tobacco by-products can result in hair yellowing or discoloration.
Did you know that some of your hair care products contain artificial dye with yellow pigments?
Examples of these products include the following:
- Hair spray
- Wax and clay
Remember what we said about light hair picking up pigments more easily? That applies here.
Using these products can cause your blonde, silver, or white hair to absorb the pigments in its formula and sport a yellow tint.
How to Fix Hair Yellowing
You can still remove yellow from white hair or bleached hair.
Here are some of our effective solutions.
The best way to combat unwanted yellow tones is by using purple shampoo. This product may be a blonde’s best friend, but those with gray hair can use this too.
Purple shampoo is a toning shampoo that contains violet pigments and deposits them onto the hair to get rid of yellow tones.
How does it work?
If you look at a color wheel, you’ll see that purple and yellow are direct opposites. This makes the two colors complementary.
As stated by the color theory, complementary colors cancel each other out, resulting in a neutral tone like gray or silver.
So when you use purple shampoo like the Fanola No Yellow Shampoo, it will neutralize the yellow tint in your hair.
How to Use Purple Shampoo
- Wear gloves to prevent the product from staining your hands.
- Place a small amount of the product onto your palms and massage it onto your wet hair, starting from the roots down to the tips.
- Leave the shampoo in for two to three minutes, then rinse.
- Follow it up with a conditioner.
As we’ve explained above, mineral and product buildup can contribute greatly to yellowing hair. You can remove this buildup by using a clarifying shampoo.
Remember to use a clarifying shampoo only once or twice a month because this product can strip natural oils off your hair and scalp.
How to Use Clarifying Shampoo
- Rub a small amount of clarifying shampoo like Neutrogena Shampoo Anti-Residue Formula on your hands and apply it to your wet hair and scalp.
- Lather it into your hair, then leave the product in for 30 seconds.
- Rinse the shampoo out and follow up with a conditioner.
If you think a purple shampoo is too drying, go for a gentler all-natural option: apple cider vinegar.
The acidic elements of apple cider vinegar can make the yellow tones in your locks lighter, which is why it’s so effective at removing yellow from gray hair or blonde hair.
How to Do the ACV Rinse
- Fill up a large basin or bottle with 1 gallon (3.8L) of water.
- Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, then mix.
- Rinse your hair with the mixture.
- Leave it in for a few minutes, then wash it out of your hair.
If the methods above don’t work, you can talk to your stylist about how to address your problem and get rid of the yellow tones in your hair.
They may suggest the following options:
- Using hair gloss or toner to mask or neutralize the yellow tint
- Applying highlights and lowlights to mask the yellow areas
- Giving you an all-over color treatment
How to Prevent Yellowing Hair
After fixing the yellow tones in your hair, you may be wondering how to prevent the issue from occurring again in the future.
Here are a few effective ways to prevent your hair from turning yellow:
Avoid Sun Exposure
As much as possible, try to avoid being out in the sun for too long. When you do have to spend a significant amount of time outdoors on a sunny day, always wear a hat to protect your hair.
You can also apply a UV protectant like the Sun Bum 3in1 Leave-In Hair Treatment before leaving your home, which can shield your hair against sun damage.
Avoid Hair Discoloration from Chlorine
We know summer is coming, and you’d really love to enjoy a refreshing swim in the pool. Well, you still can, but make sure to take extra steps to protect your hair from chlorine.
To do so, you can soak your hair with tap water before getting in the pool, so your hair will be less likely to absorb the chlorinated water.
After that, apply a pre-swim hair product. We recommend the Aqua Guard Pre-Swim Hair Defense.
Another thing you can do is wear a swim cap to prevent the chlorinated water from saturating your hair.
Protect Your Hair from Air Pollutants
When you go outside, use a hair serum or leave-in conditioner like the Olaplex No. 9 Nourishing Hair Serum to protect your hair against pollutants. This will prevent the air-borne particles from clinging onto your strands.
In addition, use a scarf to cover your head when you go outside.
Combat Hard Water Effects on Your Hair
The most effective way to make fix a hard water problem is to soften your water by installing a water softener or a shower filter.
But if you can’t do that, you can opt to use a chelating shampoo such as Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Shampoo, which can remove mineral buildup.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to get yellow out of gray hair naturally?
To remove the yellow tint from your gray hair, you can try natural products like apple cider vinegar. It’s an easy rinse that won’t take up too much of your time.
What medications cause hair to turn yellow?
Medicated shampoos for dandruff or hair loss that contain selenium sulfide, tar, and minoxidil primarily cause yellow hair discoloration.
In addition, drugs that are used to treat malaria can also change your hair color.
How often can I use purple shampoo to combat yellowing hair?
Since purple shampoo isn’t the same as regular shampoo, we recommend using it only once a week to avoid drying out your hair.
Say Goodbye to Yellow-Tinted Hair
When you start seeing an unsightly yellowish tinge on your blonde, gray, or white hair, it’s important to act as quickly as possible to remove it.
Try any of the solutions we’ve listed above to help you get rid of those unwanted tones right away.
But remember: prevention is better than cure. Now that you’re familiar with the common causes of yellowing hair, you can take preventive measures to keep it from happening again.
This way, you can flaunt your beautiful, light-colored locks fearlessly.
Need Other Hair Care Tips?
Check out these related articles:
- What Are the Benefits of Seaweed for Hair?
- 9 Essential Oils for Curly Hair You Need to Try
- How to Tame Frizzy Curly Hair: Your Complete Guide
How to Fix Yellowing Hair Problems for Blonde and Gray Hair? ›
The best way to combat unwanted yellow tones is by using purple shampoo. This product may be a blonde's best friend, but those with gray hair can use this too. Purple shampoo is a toning shampoo that contains violet pigments and deposits them onto the hair to get rid of yellow tones.Why is my gray hair turning yellow? ›
Gray or white hair, which contains little or no pigment, sometimes gets yellow because it picks up pigments from the environment; for example, if you use a yellowish shampoo or conditioner, rather than a clear one, a trace of the color might be deposited on your hair.What is the best home remedy to remove yellow from gray hair? ›
If your hair is blond, grey, or white, use an apple cider vinegar rinse or a baking soda-hydrogen peroxide paste. Once you get the yellow out, you can prevent it from returning with a few changes to your personal care routine.Does apple cider vinegar remove yellow from gray hair? ›
Apple Cider Vinegar: I make a diluted rinse using about 1 to 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to 1 quart of water. An ACV helps remove the residue in the hair that can cause yellowing. Since gray hair tends to be dryer, this recipe is more dilute. A simple ACV rinse is easy to make.Why is my hair turning gold instead of gray? ›
Golden strands of hair are typically caused by sun-exposure, and can show up in any hair color. Sunlight is composed of a variety of different wavelengths, some of which can cause the reflection or absorption of light off individual strands within the hair shaft.What shampoo takes the yellow out of GREY hair? ›
Purple shampoo! Purple shampoo is a toning shampoo that deposits purple pigments onto hair to counteract brassiness. While it's typically used on blonde hair, it can also get rid of yellow or orange undertones in gray, white, or silver hair.What color cancels out yellow hair? ›
Purple shampoo is purple colored shampoo that distributes purple pigment to neutralize brassy, yellow tones. Purple is used because, if you take a look at the color wheel, it is the direct opposite color of yellow. This means purple and yellow cancels one another out.Will toner take yellow out of gray hair? ›
Hair Toners Turn Yellowing Grey Hair Silver.
Ask your stylist about a hair toner or hair gloss to remove the yellow in your hair. As these will last approximately six weeks depending of course upon how often you wash your hair.
Rinse your hair with vinegar.
Then, take a shower and shampoo and conditioner your hair as you usually do. Keep rinsing your hair off in the shower until it no longer smells of vinegar. The acidic elements of the vinegar will help to strip your hair of any yellow tints.
The peroxide winds up blocking the normal synthesis of melanin, our hair's natural pigment.
Will baking soda remove yellow from gray hair? ›
Baking soda against the yellow effect
Just a packet of baking soda is enough to counteract the yellow effect. Put the baking soda in a cup and add water little by little until you get a creamy consistency. Wash the hair with a neutral pH shampoo and then apply the paste to the hair.
To get silver hair, you have to bleach your hair until your strands are almost white. The darker your natural color is, the more bleach sessions you'll have to go through to lighten your hair enough to achieve that ethereal silver hue. The bleaching process can be very damaging to your delicate mane.What takes yellow out of white hair? ›
Purple shampoos are the best shampoos for gray hair turning yellow, as purple is the opposite of yellow on the color wheel. A great purple option is BTWCo's purple shampoo & conditioner. It's very gentle, has a light fragrance, and really makes silver hair shine.
If you leave purple shampoo on for too long, you may find yourself with a little lilac hue. This color is not permanent and is more likely to happen if you have very light blonde hair or if your hair is dry and damaged. To remove the purple hue, switch to regular shampoo for your next few washes.Will hydrogen peroxide take yellow out of gray hair? ›
How to Whiten Gray Hair With Hydrogen Peroxide Mix. Mix equal parts of 30 volume hydrogen peroxide (three percent) and conditioner. Apply this mixture to your hair and comb it through. Place a plastic cap over your hair and let your hair process for about 20 minutes.How can I make my GREY hair whiter? ›
- Use a hydrating shampoo regularly. ...
- Swap in a clarifying shampoo. ...
- Use a purple shampoo and conditioner. ...
- Use a serum for shine. ...
- Use hairspray the right way. ...
- See a hair stylist for a keratin treatment. ...
- Do weekly deep conditioning masks. ...
- Get a gloss treatment.
Using baking soda on your hair is essentially gently bleaching it, removing any natural color and leaving your hair looking faded or ashen. This kind of lightening can be really damaging to grey hair, especially if it's already dry or fragile.Should grey hair wear gold or silver? ›
Regardless of if you have silver-colored hair or white hair, or primarily grey hair, you should not accompany your outfit with gold jewelry. Instead, you can wear silver jewelry pieces of pewter jewelry. Opting for such jewelry shades and materials, you will automatically look great with your grey hair.Why is my grey hair turning blonde? ›
Silver hair turns blonde after washing due to the fact that silver pigmentation similar to the pigments found in the pastel dyes for hair, are surprisingly weak. Therefore the silver hair tends to fade to blonde, regardless of whether you apply permanent or semi-permanent silver hair colour.What makes gray hair silver? ›
As we get older, the pigment cells in our hair follicles gradually die. When there are fewer pigment cells in a hair follicle, that strand of hair will no longer contain as much melanin and will become a more transparent color — like gray, silver, or white — as it grows.
What happens if you use purple shampoo on gray hair? ›
Using a purple shampoo on grey hair can help to remove brassy yellow shades, leaving you with a flattering silver undertone.Does purple shampoo reverse yellowing? ›
Purple shampoo is a toning shampoo specially designed for blonde hair. It features crushed violet pigments that neutralize style-ruining brassy and yellow tones. On the color wheel, purple is the opposite of yellow, which is why purple pigments cancel out brassy, yellow tones.How often should you use purple shampoo on gray hair? ›
In gray hair care, the only time you need to use purple shampoo is if your hair has permanent yellowing. It won't remove the permanent yellowing but will reduce its appearance. What Happens If You Use It Too Often? You don't want to use it more than once a week, as it can give your hair a lilac tinge.What toner will cancel out yellow? ›
Purple formulas help cancel unwanted yellow or brassy tones, as purple and yellow are opposite on the color wheel and neutralize each other. Blue formulas are best for orange undertones and brassiness, and perform that same function.Why is my hair still yellow after using purple shampoo? ›
“Purple shampoo does not cancel out orange so if the hair has any orange or yellow orange tones in it, the purple shampoo would actually make them warmer depositing red into the hair.”Why is my hair still yellow after toner? ›
There's two reasons why your hair is still brassy after toning or colouring. Either the undertone of the toner/colour is wrong, or the product is too light for you.What toner is best for yellow GREY hair? ›
Silver hair toner is a popular option when it comes to showcasing your grey. Instead, a blue pigment is used to neutralise yellow undertones. Gradually, your hair stylist can reduce the colour pigment at each application, smoothly easing you into an all-grey look thanks to a silver toner for hair.What colors should you avoid with gray hair? ›
You want to avoid shades that are too similar to your natural coloring; beiges, creams, off-whites, stone grays, taupes, etc. These colors will only wash you out and emphasize your gray tones.Can you rinse with apple cider vinegar for GREY hair? ›
We recommend one tablespoon in a liter of water as a periodic rinse. Another option is to mix a bit of apple cider vinegar into a dollop of shampoo. This clears build up from environmental toxins and hair products. It also seals the hair cuticle, making your grays silky, shiny and frizz-free.How do you get yellow out of your hair at home? ›
Blue based colors and toners are good at killing yellow and they should be your first choice in such situations. Use Ugly Duckling's blue based ash blonde colors (anything ending in "1b"). Blue cancels out yellow on the color wheel.
What medications cause hair to turn yellow? ›
Shampoos and topical creams that contain selenium sulfide, tar, and minoxidil are also known to cause hair discoloration (Crowley and Cohen, 2016). These medications primarily cause yellow or green hair discoloration.What will apple cider vinegar do to yellow hair? ›
Apple cider vinegar is a natural way to get the brassy color out of your hair. Not only does it have other added benefits for your hair, but it will also bring back that blonde shine you love! Leave it in for 10 minutes and rinse without using shampoo.What happens when you spray hydrogen peroxide on your hair? ›
Hydrogen peroxide is a type of oxidative hair dye. This means it causes a chemical reaction in the hair cortex that leads to the new hair color. While oxidative dyes are more permanent than other dyes, this also means they cause oxidative stress for your hair. This stress ages your hair and can cause hair loss.What percentage peroxide to bleach grey hair? ›
30 volume developer (9% peroxide)
Suitable for coloring grey hair. The most often it is mixed with permanent color and lightening cream or powder.
If you want to bleach your entire head, mix equal parts of hydrogen peroxide and water in a spray bottle. Spray it on your hair and cover the neck and back with a towel. Leave it on for 30-40 minutes to get bleached hair.Will lemon juice take yellow out of gray hair? ›
If you've noticed your hair changing to a yellow hue, you can also try herbal remedies to prevent or remove the discoloration. You can use lemon juice and water or chamomile tea to brighten your hair tone after you shampoo.How long to leave baking soda on hair to remove color? ›
Baking Soda Paste
Baking soda can be an effective way to remove permanent hair dye naturally because of its lightening properties. Try mixing baking soda with lemon juice, which is acidic, to create a paste. Then, work the paste through your hair, allow it to sit for five minutes, and rinse thoroughly.
When deciding how to tone yellow hair to ash, try using a violet shampoo first. As purple is the opposite of yellow on the colour spectrum, the shampoo's purple pigment draws out the yellow brassiness from your blonde, neutralises those unwanted tones, and makes your colour look cooler, healthier and more vibrant.Can I tone yellow hair to silver? ›
The toning process is what will kill those yellow hues and killing those hues is a must for this silver/grey look. You can use toner, dye, or both depending on your taste. Let's talk about toner first. You'll want to go with a purple or violet based toner, like the Wella T18 Lightest Ash Blonde toner.How do you get yellow out of your hair without toner? ›
Try A Blue/Purple Shampoo Instead
These products are just like regular shampoo but with the addition of blue/purple tint that helps neutralize the orange or yellow undertones in blonde hair. It has an edge over hair toners because you can simply use them instead of your regular shampoos.
What is the best thing to get yellow out of hair? ›
If your bad bleach job has come out more yellow, you'll need a purple toner. Purple shampoo can help neutralize the yellow. If your hair is orange, you'll need a blue toner. Try a blue shampoo to tone the brassiness and get rid of the orange.How long do you leave purple shampoo on GREY hair? ›
If you have platinum, gray, or silver hair, you can leave the purple shampoo on for up to 30 minutes, depending on how brassy or discolored your hair is.Why is purple shampoo not working? ›
Purple counteracts yellow, blue counteracts orange. They are opposites on the color wheel, so that's why. So if your hair has an orangey hue, the reality is, purple shampoo won't work.Can I leave purple shampoo in my hair for 10 minutes? ›
Used on highlighted hair and color-treated hair, it's designed to neutralize warmth without altering the color. The only way it could turn your hair purple is if you leave it on for too long, so make sure you rinse it out after no more than five minutes.How long do you leave purple shampoo on grey hair? ›
If you have platinum, gray, or silver hair, you can leave the purple shampoo on for up to 30 minutes, depending on how brassy or discolored your hair is.What color shampoo cancels out yellow? ›
You know why to use blue or purple shampoo, but how do you know which one to use? The answer lies in the color wheel. Shades of yellow and even light orange sit directly across from purple and violet hues on the color wheel. This means purple cancels out yellow.What does putting baking soda on gray hair do? ›
Since baking soda is a scrubbing agent, washing your hair with it can gradually strip the dye from your locks. Baking soda can lighten all hair colors, but it might take a few washes to get your hair to the desired color.How do you make GREY hair look blonder? ›
All you need to do is apply a demi-permanent colour all over your head. Say for example you're naturally a brunette, go with a golden blonde shade. It will only deposit the blonde colour on the grey hairs, turning them into golden highlights.