Updated: Jul 27, 2022
As anyone with platinum blonde hair or cool mocha brown hair color can confirm, identifying and then attaining your ideal hair color requires a fair amount of time and money in the salon. And once you and your stylist have nailed it, there’s nothing like sailing by a mirror and seeing yourself with the hair color of your dreams. Until…it isn’t. Until you catch a glimpse of dingy yellow in your icy blonde balayage highlights or brassy orange in your beautiful, cool “bronde” hair color or clownish red in your raven-black hair color. But there’s no need to panic. A hair color shift is normal, and once you understand why it happens, you can easily remedy the situation and restore your dreamy hair color. Because basically, it’s all about toning hair. Here’s everything you need to know.
This Is Why Your Hair Color Tone Changes In order to understand how toning hair works, you must first learn a bit about the concept of undertones. Undertones literally lurk beneath the surface of your natural hair color. If you have light blonde hair or silver or grey hair, your undertones are yellow or gold. If you have medium brown hair, your undertones are orange. If you have very dark brown hair or black hair, your undertones are red. When you apply bleach or lightener or other chemicals like straighteners or perms to your hair, or when your hair is exposed to elements like sunlight, chlorine or hard water, your surface hair color is altered, and those undertones become exposed. That’s why light hair color may appear yellowed, brown hair color becomes brassy and dark hair color turns red. This Is How You Can Fix Your Hair Color If You Don’t Like The Tone The solution to any unwanted hair color tone is called neutralization. The concept of neutralization is based on the color wheel. The color wheel is just that—a big circle that displays every color. The laws of color say that any color that sits directly opposite a color on the color wheel neutralizes or cancels out that color. So, if you look at a color wheel, you will see violet sits directly across from yellow, blue-violet sits directly across from gold, blue sits opposite orange and green sits opposite red. Taking the next step in the laws of neutralization, you can conclude that a violet or blue violet color formula will cancel out the unwanted yellow or gold tones in your blonde hair color; blue will cancel out the unwanted orange or brassy tones in your brown hair color and green will cancel out the unwanted red tones in your dark brown or black hair color.
There are a couple of ways to neutralize or tone your hair color. In the salon, your stylist can apply a low-ammonia toner formula to your hair after it is lightened. For example, if the goal is a pearly blonde shade, your stylist will use a lightener first, then apply a violet toner to cancel out the yellow tones that are exposed when your hair color is lifted. She may also treat your strands to a violet colored professional toning mask that deposits a neutralizing hue for your cool blonde hair color. You can also keep unwanted tones under control at home. Matrix experts direct their blonde clients to Total Results So Silver—a system of violet purple shampoo, conditioner and mask--to keep their blonde, silver and platinum blonde free and clear of yellow tones. For clients with cool brown hair color, balayage and “bronde” hair color, Matrix pros recommend Total Results Brass Off—a blue shampoo, conditioner and mask collection that bans unwanted brassy tones on lightened brown hair. And now there’s an innovative solution for eliminating undesirable red tones in dark brown hair or black hair that has been lightened or exposed to sun or hard water. Total Results Dark Envy is a system that includes a rich, emerald-green shampoo formula that neutralizes red undertones and adds deep cool tones to dark hair; a companion conditioner that hydrates and softens hair; and a highly pigmented, in-salon treatment mask that can also be used at home. Toning shampoo and toning mask can be used once or twice a week to maintain optimum neutralization.
Tone With Care When neutralizing unwanted hair color tones at home, remember to proceed carefully. Wear gloves to avoid staining your hands and keep highly pigmented masks off of your scalp. Apply the formulas section by section to ensure all your hair is covered evenly. And remember these formulas deposit dye, so don’t use blue or green shampoos or masks if you have very light hair, as they will visibly change your hair color. Cool, glossy black hair is awesome. Greenish blonde hair? Not so much!