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How to Neutralize Red Tones in Hair

How To Neutralize Red Tones in Hair

Getting a fabulous dye job for your hair is a special type of happiness. However, we all know that being in-between sessions can bring out some of the worst looks you’ll ever wear on your hair.

It’s most FRUSTRATING when hair undertones start to appear, and your previously brown or blond hair starts to show unwanted red or orange undertones. Don’t be surprised that this doesn’t just happen to red hair.

This issue plagues whether you’re a redhead, blonde, or brunette who dislikes the red or the brassiness but isn’t quite prepared to head to their next coloring session yet.

Luckily, this guide has all the advice you need to neutralize the red tones in your hair.

Read on to learn the cause behind their initial appearance and how to use toning shampoo, ash hair dye, and food dye to get rid of the red colors.

Table of Contents

How Do You Neutralize Red Tones?

First, we need to understand why red tones appear on hair and how recommended hair care solutions work to get rid of them.

Fact is, all hair colors have red pigment, and they exist in both natural and color-treated hair.

It’s only when red hair color molecules are oxidized, and the orange and red pigments are amplified that they become more visible. The result could appear as red, orange, or brassy tones on the hair after your previous shade has faded slightly.

To get rid of red and orange tones on hair, you need to find a way to decrease the brightness by adjusting your hair shade. You can find more details on how to do this listed below.

How to Neutralize Red Tones in Hair

There are many options to neutralize the red tones in your hair. You can even use color removers to just get rid of the tone altogether!

But if you don’t want to completely waste your dye job, you can try out another option to neutralize the red tones in your hair (that doesn’t involve color removers).

Toning Shampoo

Toning Shampoo

Instead of a color remover, you can use green, blue, or purple toning shampoo to apply the opposite color over your red tones and orange tones.

This is one of the easiest solutions you can try since the process is similar to simply washing hair. It also uses less chemicals, so not only is your red hair cleaner, but you also enjoy healthier a healthier head of hair.

Use the green toning shampoo if you have dark brown hair, blue toning shampoo if you have light brown hair, and purple toning shampoo if you have blonder hair. Just follow the instructions on the bottle, and you’ll be all set!

It definitely beats using a harsh color remover on your hair.

Ammonia-Free Dye

Ammonia-Free Dye

Don’t worry  we’re not asking you to change your hair color. Dye your colored hair in a calm color tone or a shade darker than your own to get rid of the red tones in your hair while still retaining your previous one.

And since we know that the chemicals in hair color tend to damage hair, use an ammonia-free dye to keep your hair and scalp healthy.

Here’s an overview of the step-by-step process of using hair dye without damaging your original color-treated hair.

Step 1

Choose the dye that suits your needs. Look for ones in an ash color, or pick one that’s one shade darker than yours.

If you’re having difficulty determining the color, the shop assistants are usually well-versed in choosing or consult the samples that are displayed nearby.

Step 2

Before you start, study the instructions on the packaging and make sure to follow them well. This will ensure that you get the best results and no dye is wasted.

Step 3

Wash your hair before coloring, so the dye is applied directly to the red tones without any other substances or products hindering the bonding process.

Step 4

Ensure that the dye reaches every nook and cranny of the red-toned strands so that the tone will come out evenly.

Start from the tips since this is where fading is usually most apparent, then gradually work your way toward the roots of each hair shaft.

Step 5

Once you’ve covered your mane completely, tie your hair into a high bun to help the dye be absorbed and wait for the recommended time written on the packaging.

Use large clips or a shower cap to help those with longer hair.

Step 6

Rinse off with cold water since hot water can cause the dye to come off. You can use a conditioner to keep new hair pigment looking shiny and natural.


DIY with Homemade Solutions

DIY with Homemade Solutions

Now, if you’re looking to save up or just don’t have the time to get hair color or toning shampoo and conditioner, you can make use of what you can find in your pantry for a quick fix.

It might seem ridiculous to use, but these cheap home remedies can be a great solution in the long term.

Food Coloring

One of the best home remedies you can do if you don’t have hair toner is to use food dye as an alternative.

Use a green dye for brown hair, blue for orange/red tones, and purple for light brown hair. Do this with your full attention and prepare gloves since food coloring can be difficult to wash off.

  • Add two drops of green or purple food color to your conditioner, depending on what you need. If you’re using blue coloring, only add one drop.
  • After washing your hair with color-friendly shampoo, use the colored conditioner and leave it on for around 10 minutes.
  • Use cool water to rinse.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is best for fixing brassy tones in brunettes since its effects are similar to a gloss treatment.

You can use any type of olive oil, but using a higher quality one can leave a fragrant smell that some might enjoy.

  • Estimate how much olive oil you will need to cover your strands and pour it into a microwaveable bowl.
  • Heat it for 20-30 seconds.
  • Massage the warmed oil into your hair, then leave it for 1 – 1.5 hours.
  • Wash the oil off with shampoo. It’s better to use sulfate-free or color-friendly ones to preserve the color.

Apple Cider Vinegar

The acidity in organic apple cider vinegar is best for fixing orange or red tones.

  • Measure four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and two tablespoons of water. Then mix them all into a jug with a watertight lid.
  • Shake well, then lean your head over a sink and pour the contents of the jug over your hair.
  • Massage it through your hair, then leave it in for 15-20 minutes.
  • Rinse it off with cool water.

More Tips on Preventing Unwanted Red Tones

More Tips

After you’ve chosen your preferred solution to neutralize red tones in your hair, you need to maintain your fixed hair color. Here are some more advice to prevent red tones from reappearing:

Follow Indicated Directions

When you use home dyeing kits, following the indications and the application directions will make sure that the color does not fade too quickly.

One reason why unwanted tones appear is that the target color has started to fade, so simply following the directions and the advice of your colorist can prevent them.

Color-Friendly Hair Products

Since red tones appear as your original hair color fades, using special color shampoo and conditioner is an effective and easy way to prevent them from reappearing.

You can find many kinds of shampoo and conditioner to choose from in groceries and health and beauty stores. A good option is often labeled as sulfate-free. There are also special shampoo and conditioners made for redheads since red hair tends to behave differently from other hair colors.

Reduce Heat Styling

Heat is another enemy of color. Though it’ll make you look like you walked straight out of the hair salon, it’ll still cause damage. 

Heat styling such as curling and straightening should be avoided. However, it’s alright to heat style for a few times but don’t make it an everyday activity.

Protect From the Elements

Your biggest hurdle in protecting your hair color is the environment. Specifically, UV rays from the sun and pollution are the main culprits, so it pays to wear a hat or hood when you go outdoors.

Saltwater and chlorine-infused pools also bring out unwanted tones. It can be difficult to avoid getting wet but washing your hair properly after taking a dip can mitigate the effects.



#1 What Makes Red Tones Appear?

There are many reasons for red tones to appear. Exposing your hair to too much sun, pollutants, and chemicals like chlorine are the most common reasons. Even heat styling and using tanning beds can also bring out red tones.

The incidence is more likely when your hair color, whether artificial or natural, contains warm tones. This is most apparent when you use cheap dyes or don’t follow the directions when you color your hair with a do-it-yourself kit.

Mainly, what happens is the blue pigments that are present in the dye are washed away, so the warmer ones, like red, are left in the form of streaks or patches.

#2 How Do the Dye and the Hair's Tone Affect Each Other?

To understand why certain colors can mute others, you need to learn more about the hair color wheel. This can also help you adjust the colors if you’re looking to control the result.

Whatever color is in the opposite side of the color wheel, then that color will “cancel out” the opposite color.

Here’s a color wheel to help you visualize it:

color wheel

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Green tones down the red found in brown or chestnut shades.
  • Blue cancels out orange or light-red tones found in strawberry or dark blonde locks.
  • Purple tones down brassy or light-orange hair in lighter blonde hair.

#3 Is It All the Same Between Blonde Hair and Brown Hair Color?

It’s mostly the same between blonde and brown hair color. Keep in mind that the darker the color, the redder the tone. So for lighter shades like blonde, you’re more likely to get orange tones or brass tones.

The reason for the appearance of unwanted red and orange undertones is the same, but the products that deal with them vary in terms of color.

Like in the advice mentioned earlier in the article, you use different products such as a specific shampoo type depending on what color you want to tone down.



There is a science to hair coloring, but you don’t have to complicate things. What matters is you know what color you want, and you have to know how to extend your dye job and make the most out of it.

The best way to get rid of red tones in hair can range from a special toning shampoo to easy, unconventional DIY products. For a more detailed guide, you can also read our article on how to quickly get rid of brassy hair by using home remedies.

Whichever you prefer, they are all effective ways to get rid of the red without damaging your strands. They entice you to experiment with your hair color in a different sense.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right at first. Hair coloring is meant to be a fun experience filled with discovery. If you’re feeling brave, the whole ordeal can become a unique opportunity to color your hair differently.


August 24, 2021 – Improved article formatting, reviewed and updated overall content

July 16, 2021 Reviewed and updated article links

Paola Diaz
Paola Diaz

Hi, I'm Paola! A skin care enthusiast and nature lover. Creating content that promotes proper skin treatment and keeping a healthy glow is my way of sharing with the world how healthy skin can go a long way. I’m a firm believer of natural beauty that radiates inside all of us. All we need is the right kind of nourishment that inspires our wellness from inside out. So it’s really not about physical beauty alone – it’s the beautiful life we can create for ourselves when we connect with our own nature and see there is beauty that shines from every one of us.