Bleached Hair Turns Orange

Scott Cornwall explains why bleached hair turns orange and how to fix it.

Unless you were bleaching dark hair to obtain an orange base (to overlay a copper or red hair shade), most people never bleach their hair to achieve orange.   In fact. (And without a doubt), ending up with orange hair is the number two reason people fear bleaching, after the number one reason – damage.

A definitive guide to the Nightmare on Elm Street of hair lightening issues!

Brad Mondo has video after video on his channel of home colourists who have ended up with Halloween like bright orange hair!    But if you are aiming for blonde and achieving orange it means you are failing to understand some key aspects of hair lightening!   

In this article I explain:

Don’t Worry Orange Hair is Fixable!

Whilst obtaining an unwanted orange can be daunting, it’s correctable.  This article will not only explain how to fix, but also help you understand how to bleach dark hair without it turning orange.  Plus, I (myself) have created several products for the unwanted orange issue, I explain in further detail in the article Scott Cornwall Solutions For Orange Hair.

An individual undergoing a hair colour correction after bleaching their hair to orange.  The hair colourists are created a Dark Blonde with Highlights by using foils and will paint through a 7.0 medium blonde base colour.
An individual undergoing a hair colour correction after bleaching their hair to orange. The hair colourists are creating a Dark Blonde with Highlights by using foils and will paint through a 7.0 medium blonde base colour around the foil packets during development.

Why Bleached Hair Turns Orange

You were aiming to get your natural brunette hair to bleach blonde, but what you have achieved is garish tangerine!  What happened?

You Simply Did Not lightening Enough

The process of lightening natural shades requires hair to lift through layers of pigment. This process can take time. During bleaching (or lightening) the first pigments to be oxidized are the large darker melanin pigments.  These tend to be lifted very quickly (usually within 5 minutes of the bleach being applied to the hair).  Once the dark melanin pigments are oxidized, the red and yellow pheomelanin pigments remain in large quantities within the hair.  

Rinsing Out Bleach Whilst Hair was still in Red/Orange Phase

When bleaching dark hair (and at the least lightened levels), the hair will resemble a dark, rusty auburn red.  However, when the hair is bleached further, the level of the pheomelanin pigments begin to oxidize down. And the hair begins to turn evermore orange, as the red pigments begin to vanish leaving behind the yellow.   So, what do you get with a predominance of yellow and some red?  Orange!  And it is during this phase of lightening (the mistake is made) and you choose to rinse the bleach out!

Rinsing the bleach off too soon is the most common reason bleached hair turns orange and not blonde.
Rinsing the bleach off too soon is the most common reason bleached hair turns orange and not blonde.

You Rinsed off the Bleach too Soon! The Number 1 Mistake

Unless you have treated the hair with henna (more on that later), the only reason your intended blonde hair is orange, is because you rinsed the bleach off too soon.  Don’t beat yourself up about this.

It is the Bleaching Cream you are Seeing – Not Blonde!

One of the biggest pitfalls of bleaching is there comes a point (during development) whereby the hair appears to be a clean white blonde!   Do not be fooled by this stage of development.  When dark hair lightens to orange, enough depth has been removed to enable the actual bleach paste (sitting on the hair) to cover any underlying tonal colour. Making the hair appear white.  When this happens, it is very easy to believe you have lovely, creamy blonde hair in front of you.  However, the reality is, all you are seeing is the physical bleach cream and not the actual hair colour.

The key to successful bleaching (and avoidance of orange), is to never rinse that bleach off until you can be sure you have the correct level of lift.   And this is something that can be achieved by correct checking of bleach development.

How to Check Bleach Development to stop hair turning orange.  By Scott Cornwall
Level of lightening being checked during bleaching. The colourist is scraping off the cream bleach to establish if the hair still has underlying gold tones. Notice the deep warmth at the roots (under the bleach cream), indicating more lightening (development) is required.

How to Check Bleach Development

Whilst we understand factors of bleach development times. It is seldom possible to completely go by the hair bleach powder manufacturer’s instructions.   Simply because, everyone’s hair is different and will process under differing environmental factors.  Therefore, always understand how to correctly check hair bleach development. Do this as follows:

  1. Firstly, hair bleach development is always best checked in natural light. 
  2. Take the end of a comb and scrape off the bleach from a thin strand of the hair.
  3. Next, take a piece of slightly damp tissue and run it along the strand to clean said hair strand of bleach cream.
  4. Finally, use a new dry piece of tissue and wipe off the strand again to make said hair strand as dry as possible.  
  5. Now, under good light examine the strand.  If the hair appears to be the colour of the inside of a banana skin, the bleach has taken to a level that would become white with a Platinum Toner.  So, in this case, you can then proceed to rinsing. 
  6. However, if the hair is orange or bright yellow, you will immediately observe this colour on the strand.  In this case, mulch the strand back into the rest of the bleach formula (still on the hair) and continue developing.  Take future strands from different parts of the head and keep checking for the hair to turn light yellow. 

If Hair Just isn’t Lifting Further, Be Prepared to Rinse and Re-Bleach.

Over subsequent checks, if you feel the bleach simply is not lifting the hair depth, rinse it off and be prepared to re-apply.  If natural depths are a dark brunette, it is often not possible to get hair to a pale yellow in one bleach process.  Therefore, do not push the hair to lighten. Instead expect to continue lightening with a second bleach application.

Fixing orange hair with box dye is a quick remedy to covering unwanted orange hair.  Although work with shades such as dark blonde.
Fixing orange hair with box dye is a quick remedy to covering unwanted orange hair. Although work with shades such as dark blonde.

Fixing Orange Hair with Box Dye

OK, so you have attempted to go from dark hair to blonde and got orange.  You are fearful of continuing with your blonde journey and just want it coloured.  Well, you can fix the orange with a box dye and end the lightening journey at this point.  

I should point out, I created Decolour Orange Remover for this very issue.  But I explain more about that product in my article Scott Cornwall Solutions For Orange Hair.  However, in this article, I am referring to the tendency for an individual to panic when they see bright orange bleached hair.  Rush to the store. Purchase a dark brown permanent colourant and hope it will cover up the orange bleaching result. However, don’t react too quickly and attempt to go back to your original brunette shade! Instead..

Think Dark Blonde Hair

Use Dark Blonde Hair Colours to cover up an unwanted orange shade caused by bleaching the hair.
Use Dark Blonde Hair Colours to cover up an unwanted orange shade caused by bleaching the hair.

Many decide to go lighter, bleach the hair to orange and become scared. They immediately rush out to buy a darker permanent colourant. Hoping to just go back to their original shade (or even darker).  The horror of bleached orange being so bad, they’d sooner scrap their blonde ambition. Please think twice about doing this.    In many cases a bleached orange base, can be a great starting point for the creation of a fantastic blonde shade.

Think Twice About Covering Bleached Orange Hair With Dark Brown Dye

You wanted to go from brown to blonde? Well, there’s a fair chance that desire is still in you.  As a creator of hair colour removers, I can tell you (from vast experience) many people end up with stark black hair following a knee-jerk reaction to an orange bleach result.   Sadly, once you begin applying dark permanent colourants to orange par-bleached hair, you can set yourself on a journey of patchy, inconsistent dark shades. These shades can be problematic to remove and create even more issues for your hair health both now and moving forward.   

Think Dark Blonde Hair With Highlights

Therefore, instead of panic buying a dark brunette colourant to cover up bleached orange, consider applying a 7.0 dark blonde colourant (often called 7.0 Medium Blonde) onto the hair.   If you think of that classic dark blonde hair with highlights, well that is actually highlights on top of a 7.0 base shade. Therefore, if you can get an existing (unwanted orange) shade to a 7.0 dark blonde, you have a great foundation to build in more blonde and lighter levels (later on).

Using a 7.0 dark blonde dye on unwanted orange bleached hair can be a quick and effective way to cover a mistake.
This shade has been lightened and a 7.0 Medium Blonde (or dark blonde) hair colourant applied throughout. Some highlights have then been added to lift up the overall shade a little. As you can see from the shade chart, the 7.0 base shade appears as a more neutral biscuit tone compared to other shades.

Colour Bleached Orange Hair to a 7.0 Dark Blonde and Rest It

On bleached orange hair, applying the colourant shade 7.0 (Dark Blonde Medium Blonde) will tend to introduce depth. Yet not so much depth the hair will become heavy, dark and brunette.  Generally, anyone with a bleached orange hair result who uses a 7.0 shade will achieve a lightest warm brown. If you dislike warm shades, use cooling toners to neutralise that warmth. 

And If You Decide You Want To Go Back To Dark

If you are considering abondoning your blonde journey, it is far better to get to a standard lightest brown first. Then wait a few more weeks before committing to any darker permanent shades.  Rest the hair for a few weeks and see if you feel the same. Do you still want to be your original darker brunette? If so, a 7.0 Medium/Dark Blonde shade will darken well if you applied a natural light brown (5.0 or 4.0) colourant to it. However many people still have that hankering for blonde. With a 7.0 dark blonde base, you have a good spring board to go lighter.

An artificial 7.0 Medium Blonde shade is still easier to lift up, than a darker brunette. Therefore, after few weeks hair rest, you will have a good base to add highlights. Alternatively, give a second bleach application if you wish to lighten all over to a pale blonde.

More importantly, 7.0 is one of the most universally used permanent colourants.  Therefore, you will find it in any retail outlet.    For more information on the 7.0 shade, check out my article on the subject here  

Understanding Orange hair is a 'tone' and not a 'depth' can make correcting a hair bleach mistake much easier.
Understanding Orange hair is a ‘tone’ and not a ‘depth’ can make correcting a hair bleach mistake much easier.

Orange is a Tone Not a Depth!

Not surprisingly, most people see orange hair and never equate a lack of lightening. Instead regarding it as an imposed hair shade.   But once again, remember if you were lightening your hair to blonde and achieved orange, that orange shade you see is tone not depth.

See Orange Hair In Black & White

To create blonde, you need to evaluate the level of depth you observe in the hair.   Therefore, think of orange in black and white terms.   Natural auburn or ginger hair is simply either a brunette or dark blonde shade with red and yellow tones.    In short, any redhead shade is a ‘tonal’ shade and not a depth shade.  Let me explain further:

Observe these two shades in black and white: –

Review both Juliane Moore and Angelina Jolie's hair in Black & White.   Void of tone, they appear to have the same hair shade.
Review both Juliane Moore and Angelina Jolie’s hair in Black & White. Void of tone, they appear to have the same hair shade.

In black and white, Julianne Moore’s hair appears to be a medium brown.  Whereas Angelina Jolie’s hair appears a similar brunette, albeit somewhat more multi-tonal.   

Notice also, Julianne Moore’s hair appears shinier than Angelina Jolie’s.

Understanding Auburn Depth

Now, look at the same image in colour.   You can now see the red-copper (0.56) tones in Julianne Moore’s auburn hair and the cool matte green (0.1) ash tonetones in Angelina Jolie’s hair.   The fact that Julianne Moore has copper tones in irrelevant, her hair is a clear brunette depth and it is the tones that cause it to be auburn.  So, if you had attempted to bleach a dark brunette base and achieve a level of warmth akin to this, you simply wouldn’t have lightened the hair sufficiently for it to be perceived as blonde.

How Tones Effect Ability To Shine

Look again at the increased shine in Julianne Moore’s hair compared to Angelina Jolie’s. Warm tones tend to be more vibrant and reflective, emitting a richness. Matte, ash tones tend to be more flat and less reflective, hence causing cool hair to lack shine. This is another reason why orange bleached hair tends to appear garish as the tone is so warm and hence reflective. Colour mistakes that are cool toned, such as ash, silver or matte will tend to make hair look dry or damaged. Because the hair is not reflective, so therefore looks dull and dry.

In colour, it is clear to see that whilst Julianne Moore and Angelina Jolie have the same hair depth.  Julianne Moore has red and copper tones, whilst Angelina Jolie has cool ash tones.  Effectively causing the shades to look totally different.
In colour, it is clear to see that whilst Julianne Moore and Angelina Jolie have the same hair depth. Julianne Moore has red and copper tones, whilst Angelina Jolie has cool ash tones. Effectively causing the shades to look totally different.

Understanding Copper Depth

Now, lets look at a lighter depth.  In the below black and white photos it appears both Nicole Kidman and Amanda Seyfried have the same light brown/dark blonde hair colour.  

Nicole Kidman Hair  and Amanda Seyfried Hair in Mono.  Notice how close their shades appear when presented in black & white.
Nicole Kidman Hair and Amanda Seyfried Hair in Mono. Notice how close their shades appear when presented in black & white.
In colour you can see the Nicole Kidman hair colour has strong copper tones (making her a redhead), whilst the Amanda Seyfried hair colour is a neutral 7.0 medium blonde, void of gold, copper or red tones (making her a dark blonde with highlights).
In colour you can see the Nicole Kidman hair colour has strong copper tones (making her a redhead), whilst the Amanda Seyfried hair colour is a neutral 7.0 medium blonde, void of gold, copper or red tones.

You can now see Nicola Kidman’s hair colour features copper tones. These tones produce the redhead shade. Whereas Amanda Seyfried’s base has a cool undertone which evokes her hair’s dark blonde appearance.     Therefore, if you had achieved a bleached result similar to Nicole Kidman’s copper shade (in the photograph), toning the hair (and neutralising out the copper tones), could only create a lightest brown result and not a standard blonde.   Simply because, such as Copper Shade is still not light enough (in depth) to neutralise to a true blonde.

Notice again, how Nicole Kidman’s copper toned (warm hair) emits more shine, than Amanda Seyfried’s cool toned hair.

Correct Blonde Depth Level

Lastly, lets look at a swatch that has been bleached to the correct ‘inside banana peel yellow shade’.    For those wanting clean, light blonde ‘inside banana peel’ yellow is the level you must reach in the lightening session.

To create a true light blonde hair should always be bleached to a pale yellow the same colour as the inside of a banana skin.

So, above you visably see the shade in both mono (left of image) and colour (right of image).  In black and white and void of all tone, it is clear the left shade swatch has very little depth and would be perceived as either platinum or grey.   Next, observe the same swatch (on the right side) in colour. Detect the yellow (brassy) tone.  This brassy tone is not in anyway influencing the depth. The depth will tone to a pure, light blonde (or white) without any requirement for further lightening. As per the colour wheel, violet neutralising yellow and creates neutral/white.

If You Are Aiming For True Blonde – Think Inside a Banana Peel!

Remember, medium and light brown hair must be lightened to a pale or clear yellow to tone to any lightest blonde shade.    If you are seeing deep yellow, orange, auburn or copper tones, the hair is still residing within the brunette family. And will never tone to any blonde shade other than dark blonde/light brown.  When bases are darker than yellow, the only option to blonde is to lighten the hair further.   

For Darker Blonde and Lighter Brunette Results – Work With Your Orange!

Now, of course many people just want to lighten natural dark brown or black hair to a light brown. Rather than a standard blonde.  In these instances, you can tone out the warmth (orange) to create a light brown shade. The key is to use subsequent colourants and toners that will balance out the red and orange tones. And enable the lighter depth to remain. Using a shade such as Colour Restore Super Cool Ash is particularly suited in this situation. I explain more about this product in my article Scott Cornwall Solutions For Orange Hair.

Why using Purple Shampoo to correct orange tones in bleached hair is just not viable.
Why using Purple Shampoo to correct orange tones in bleached hair is just not viable.

Purple Shampoo on Orange Hair

Purple Shampoo seems to be hailed as the saviour of all lightened hair colour issues today. In fact, I am waiting for people to recommend using it on cuts, bruises and stubborn oven grease!  In reality, Purple Shampoo is a great item, but it is very limited in its abilities as a true toner and is certainly not designed for curing bleached orange hair!

Purple Shampoos Are Blonde Tuners Not Blonde Toners

Unlike colourants and toners, Purple Shampoos are not designed to create colour results within the hair.   The purpose of a Purple Shampoo is to fine tune existing blonde or colour treated hair.  Preventing blondes from displaying brassy nuances.  Or in the case of a Blue Shampoo & Brunettes, stopping the hair displaying a rusty hue.

However, you simply cannot reach for a Purple Shampoo if you have bleached the hair to orange and expect to get a consistent, even, neutralised blonde shade.  Below are the reasons why:

Purple Shampoo Can Only Deposit a Degree of Colour – Not Colour the Hair

A Purple Shampoo is predominantly a cleanser.  Meaning, its primary function is to pull from the hair shaft – thus clean. Shampoos contain detergents and other agents designed to clean the hair.  They pull out (dirt, build-up etc) and only have capability to put a small amount back into the hair (conditioning polymers and colour molecules).  

Therefore, whilst a Purple Shampoo might appear to be a very deep, strong purple colour (poured from the bottle), it may only achieve perhaps 10% of that colour deposit on the hair.    This is perfect for colour tuning existing blonde, as you want just enough violet tone to neutralise yellow, but not so much the hair turns purple.  But sadly, this means that (generally) Purple Shampoos would be ineffective at toning bleached orange or deep yellow hair.

Purple Shampoos Contain Violet Pigment

On the colour wheel, violet sits opposite yellow and is the colour needed to neutralise yellow.  However, if your hair is deep (canary) yellow or has any orange nuance, violet will not be capable of neutralising the unwanted shade.  In this instance, you require blue, which can neutralise orange. 

Whilst blue shampoos such are good at neutralising orange hues in the hair, they would not be sufficient to tone bleached orange hair. Simply because they cannot deposit or evoke tonal depth.  Generally, if a Blue Shampoo was used on very raw bleached orange hair, it would evoke a green hue rather than correct that orange shade to a true blonde. Remember, (again) a neutralising shampoo can only deposit around 10% of colour into the hair.

Create Your Blonde Shade, Maintain With A Purple Shampoo

Purple and Blue Shampoos have been created as colour enhancing or colour tuning support for existing blonde and brunette bases.    These shampoos are not intended to act as colourants or toners for bleaching and lightening mistakes.   

Purple Shampoos is incredibly important for maintaining cool, clean blonde results, whilst also enabling washing of the hair without fear of colour unbalancing.   Just do not reach for these products if you find yourself with a bleached orange hair result.   

When seeking a true blonde, the solution to orange hair comes via further lightening. Remove those unwanted orange pigments and then undertake subsequent toning or tonal colouring.

If you bleach orange hair it will lift to a pale yellow, which is able to be toned or coloured to a true, purple blonde.
If you bleach orange hair it will lift to a pale yellow, which is able to be toned or coloured to a true, purple blonde.

Will Bleaching Orange Hair Make it Blonde?

In short yes.    Orange hair is caused by a level of red and yellow pheomelanin pigment remaining present within the hair after the bleach cream was rinsed off.    Therefore, the true path to blonde comes after you have successfully lifted out these pesky golden pigments. However, before you reach for the hair bleach powder, you must consider the hair health.

The initial bleaching can be quite aggressive and cause the hair fibre to swell.  Therefore, if you go in and attempt to rebleach the hair again (with an ammonia-based bleach), the hair could snap and break unless you normalise it first.    

Hair Bleaches Much Faster the Second Time!

Remember, the hair will lift much faster with the second application than with the first.  You might have (initially) developed bleach on a natural dark brown base for 50 minutes, but only achieved an auburn copper.  However, development time could be dramatically reduced with a second application. You will be applying fresh bleach to processed hair of effectively a dark blonde level.  Therefore, you might discover the hair only requires 15 minutes with a second bleach application to get the shade to a light depth that will successfully tone.   

The Key is Checking Development Every 5 minutes.

The key with a second bleach application is continued development checking. Every five minutes, wipe off the bleach and observe the level of lift. When you see that clean, pale-yellow rinse off.   For further help, just refer to my section on How To Check Bleach Development

Scott Cornwall gives tips on how to bleach orange hair to create blonde.

Tips For Bleaching Orange Hair

So, you understand the orange hair will only tone to blonde with a second bleaching.  The below tips should help further

Always Normalise the Hair Folloing the Rinsing of the Bleach

Always use a more acidic PH shampoo when rinsing bleach from hair.   Hair has a slightly acidic PH of 4.5 to 5.5. However, ammonia based bleach has a very alkaline PH in the region on 9. Hair PH needs to be raised to an alkaline state to open up and evoke permanent change. However, when rinsing off bleaching you should use an acidic shampoo to bring that PH back down. Reducing the PH after chemical treatment normalises the hair.

If you leave hair in a high alkaline PH state and re-apply an ammonia based bleach, the chemicals will pull into the hair very fast. The hair will then swell further and whilst the hair will lighten fast, you also run a higher risk of damage.

Many shampoos designed for colour treated hair or post colour treatment are low acidic PH. Rinsing off bleach with these shampoos, will balance the hair. Therefore, the next lightening will occur in a more controlled (safe) manner.

Do Not Use Traditional Conditioners on the Hair Following Bleaching

Only use conditioning products designed to be used in conjunction with hair colouring processes.   Standard everyday conditioners often contain high amounts of silicone which can form barriers on the hair and prevent a subsequent bleach application from entering the hair evenly.   For this reason, colourant manufacturers always include a specific conditioner in box kits.

Only Use 6% Peroxide Developer With A Second Application

Orange hair does not require strong peroxide developers.  6% (20 volume) will be more than sufficient to lift hair those last few levels.  In general, the use of 6% peroxide in any lightening process reduces the risk of unwanted red and orange tone, because the hair tends to lift in a more controlled and even pattern.

Don’t Be Afraid to Sleep On It!

If you are able, leave the hair orange and go back to lift further the following day. Air drying and atmospheric influences will naturally normalise freshly bleached hair. When you return to re-bleach the following day, the hair is rested and will behave more consistantly.

Always Check You Are Happy With the Condition Before You Bleach Again

It is important to fully establish you are happy with the condition and quality of the hair before you apply a second application of bleach. 

If you are concerned the hair feels dry or vulnerable, never proceed with a second bleaching.  Instead, use a true semi-permanent (no peroxide, PPD) colourant such as Colour Restore in a darker shade. 

Using A Semi-permanent Shade For A Short-term Cover

Bleached orange hair will take a true ‘wash out’ semi-permanent colourant quite well.  So, select a light brown product such as Wella Colour Fresh 6.0 and create a short-term light warm brown shade in the hair. 

True Semi-permanent Colourants Can Be Applied As Much As Desired Without Fear Of Damage!

The benefit of true semi-permanent colourants is they can be applied as much as you require and they will not damage your hair. 

Therefore, if you are concerned your bleached orange hair might need some repair, it is OK to use a true semi-permanent colourant to cover the hair for several months.  Then, when you have revived the condition of the hair (with treatments and conditioners), you can return and give the hair that second bleach treatment. Reaching your desired level of blonde.  

True Semi-Permanent Hair Colour Is Just One Element With no Intermixing

True semi-permanent hair colour features only one bottle, tube, or element. A true semi-permanent colourant does not feature (or require) a second developer bottle.   True semi-permanent hair colourants will require re-application every eight washes.  But these products will camouflage an (orange) lightened base, until you are ready to go back and lighten further.  When you go back to lift again, the hair will quickly lighten up and there will be no permanent colourant molecules preventing the bleach from lifting.

Be sure you are selecting products such as Colour Restore or Wella Colour Fresh that are 100% semi-permanent and not box dye brands which claim to be semi-permanent but feature peroxide developers.   Products that claim to be a semi permanent hair colourant, but feature a part 2 developers are technically capable of evoking a permanent result in pre-bleached hair and could cause a barrier that makes subsequent re-bleaching problematic.

Wanting to go from black hair to blonde hair is a common desire.  But it should be done carefully and over time.
Wanting to go from black hair to blonde hair is a common desire. But it should be done carefully and over time.

Black to Blonde Hair

If you are reading this piece with artificially coloured black hair and contemplating bleaching to blonde, please close this page, leave your device or PC and stop thinking about this subject!

Attempting to Go from Black To Blonde In One Session is a No No!

Nobody should ever try to go from artificial dark brown/black to blonde in one bleaching session!   This is a recipe for disaster.    Not only does dyed black hair bleach to a horrible bright blood-orange, that is almost impossible to lift any further.  But it is also problematic to tone properly.    Not to mention, the stress the process places on the hair.       

Artificial Black Hair Colour Won’t Bleach Well!

Black hair colour achieved through permanent colourants will never bleach successfully because permanent black colourants contain an abundance of synthetic PPD colour molecules.   Unlike natural black hair, synthetic black colour molecules are very resistant to oxidization and embed deeply within the hair.  In addition, permanent black colourants also feature underlying red molecules which are also incredibly stubborn to remove.  Many people who attempt to bleach out black dye often find themselves with a bright red tone that simply won’t budge.

Always Use A Hair Colour Remover On Black Dye Before Bleaching

If you currently have black hair achieved with a permanent colourant and want to go lighter, your first step must be using a reduction agent product such as Decolour Remover to eradicate all those synthetic artificial colour molecules.    It may be necessary to undertake several Decolour Remover applications over a few weeks before the black is completely gone.  As explained, permanent black dye features an abundance of synthetic pigment.

Wait a good few weeks after your last removal application before you go in to bleach the hair.  If you use a reduction agent remover and flush out all the synthetic black colour molecules, the hair will bleach successfully at a later date.  

A way to remove henna orange is to neutralise the shade with a semi-permanent lilac or lavender pastel colourant.
A way to remove henna orange is to neutralise the shade with a semi-permenant Lilac or Lavender Pastel colourant.

Henna Orange Hair

I am asked a great deal how to remove henna orange from hair.  I am sorry, but henna orange is almost impossible to get out.  Or certaintly in one hit! However, there are ways you can work with henna orange, until it finally leaves the hair.

Henna Is A Stain Not A Dye

Plant henna functions by staining the cuticle layer of the hair, which is transparent. If you use henna on naturally brunette hair, it will create a lovely, rich sheen. However, if you then attempt to bleach this (brunette) hair, the natural pigments within said hair will indeed oxidize and lighten away. Unfortunately, the lightened hair is encased by the henna-stained cuticle – which is orange. Therefore, the lighter the hair becomes, the brighter orange the hair appears. Remember, there is no longer (brunette) depth within the hair to counteract balance the orange (stained) cuticle layer.

Similarly, on natural grey and white hair, henna will display as a bright orange. Ultimately, henna (alone) needs a varient of different plant colours (such as indigo) to display depth. If you are seeing orange with any henna or plant application, it means a traditional henna stain is on the hair shaft.

You May Have Henna On Your Hair And Not Even Know!

There are some brands of colourant (on the market today) who claim to be ‘natural’ or feature ‘natural ingredients’ and feature plant henna in formulations.  Even with black or brown shades.    This does not cause a problem until you attempt to remove or bleach the hair colour.  Here, you will discover the hair turns a fluorescent orange, which becomes even brighter the further the hair lifts.    

Hairdressers tell stories of clients with standard brown hair undergoing highlights or blonde lightening. Hours into the appointment the colourist was perplexed why the hair would not lift past orange. Finally, the client mentions a natural plant product they used months prior!

If You Bleach And Discover Henna Orange – DO NOT Bleach Further!

If you are in a position, where you have bleached and are seeing bright henna orange, please do not attempt to bleach any further.  You will not be able to bleach henna orange from the hair. In fact, matters can be made much worse if you try to bleach again.

Sadly, bleaching has no effect on a henna-stained cuticle. It is very harmful to hair to keep on bleaching in the hope of removing henna. Plus this approach will rarely work. Instead, work with the underlying orange.

Below are some tips for covering and muting orange henna hair:

Neutralise the Orange

If you apply a Pastel Lavender semi-permanent fashion colour to henna orange hair and leave it for a full development, you will likely achieve a more tawny or fawn toned shade (as seen in the above before and after photograph).  A purple lavender shade will combine with a henna orange shade and counterbalance well.    Just remember, the hair will not look blonde, rather a very light brown.

However, using a no peroxide Lavender or Lilac Pastel Semi-permanent colourant, will create a presentable dark blonde that serves as a good base shade.

For Permanent Coverage use 7.1 Dark Ash Blonde

Also the permanent shade 7.1 dark ash blonde will cover a bright henna orange and create a lightest brown or dark blonde. Sometimes this shade can appear a little ‘muddy’ when applied (alone) to bright orange.

So, if you want a permanent result, apply the 7.1 dark ash blonde but still buy a Pastel Lavender or Lilac semi-permanent fashion colour. Use the 7.1 dark ash blonde colourant to create that permanent base. Then (moving forward), use a small amount of the Lilac/Lavender fashion semi-permaennt colour for two minutes after you shampoo. Doing this will counteract any heavy tones (in the permanent base) and maintain a rich true dark blonde shade.

Get the Hair Professionally Highlighted Using Highlift Tint

Firstly, when Henna is involved, any professional colourist may refuse to colour the hair. If a professional does agree to colour, they may ask you to sign a waiver.   

However, highlighting orange henna-stained hair with a violet-ash toned high lifting blonde (permanent) colourant can achieve some success in lifting and toning the orange henna by a couple of shades. 

A Violet-Ash Highlift Tint Can Lighten & Tone Henna Orange by A Level or So

Highlift colourants featuring a violet/ash tone have an ability to lift the hair a shade or so and deposit that violet-ash tone that counteracts the orange henna tone.  Whilst the results will not be a pure blonde highlight, you will achieve a more muted multi-tonal soft copper blonde that will look less garish.  

Just remember, the Highlift tint approach should only be deployed with highlighting and using a tint that is violet/ash toned.  Never attempt to apply the Highlift tint throughout the hair, as it will not develop evenly on a henna base.  The key point about the highlights, is they break up the block henna shade and transform the orange into a more natural, multi-tonal copper. This shade in turn, can be toned out using the semi-permanent lilac/lavender pastel shade approach, as outlined above.

Add A Pastel Pink Fashion Colour To Create Rose Gold

If you add a strawberry milkshake Pastel Pink semi-permanent colour mask onto orange henna hair, you will achieve a very pleasing rose gold.     Rose gold is achieved with Pastel Pink on henna orange hair, because you are combing a vibrant gold (the orange henna base) with a clear pink.

Always give the pastel pink shade a full development and remember it will fade over washes, so reapplying the Pastel Pink shade every five or six washes will retain that rose gold shade.  However, converting an unwanted henna orange to a sharp rose gold can create an impressive hair colour, which becomes peachy as the shade grows out.

Henna Does Fade – But Over Time!

Whilst Henna is effectively permanent, it does tend to fade over time. However, this can be over the course of a year to 18 months. Obviously based on hair length. Shorter lengths will likely see the henna grow out and then cut off.

Whilst the above recommendations should help you maintain a presentable shade. You must understand, henna cannot be bleached out of the hair. Therefore, hopes for pale blonde will not be possible all the time the heavy henna staining remains in the hair.

If you keep attempting to bleach away the henna, you will destroy the hair entirely. Please work with unwanted henna, via muting down and neutralising and never use bleach as a tool to remove.

How to fix orange hair with box dye.  Scott Cornwall products.

Scott Cornwall Solutions to Unwanted Orange Hair

I have created several products for the Scott Cornwall range, designed to assist in the issue of unwanted orange.   These products are Decolour Orange Remover, Colour Restore Cool Ash, Colour Restore Super Cool Ash and Decolour Stripper. To learn more, I have written about these products in my article Scott Cornwall Solutions to Unwanted Orange Hair

Got a Question for Me About this Article?

If you have bleached your hair and are currently battling unwanted orange, or if you have any questions in relation to this article, please drop me a line below.   I try to answer all questions with detailed responses. 


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