Being a redhead is a lot of fun—your hair is fierce and eye-popping, and everyone knows you as that girl with incandescent hair.
Your friends know you as the redhead of the bunch, and you probably even earned the nickname “Red” growing up.
But there comes a time when you might start wondering what life could be like if you experimented with your color. Life is short, so why stay a redhead forever?
When your only identity has been all about red hair, you might be tempted for an adventurous hair color makeover.
A light blonde is different enough. It’s light, girly, and a lot softer than fiery red. It’s a far cry from the rich and intense red locks you’re used to, which is why it makes for an exciting experiment.
But going from red hair to blonde locks isn’t that simple. One wrong move, and you can be stuck with carrot-colored locks.
Here’s how to avoid turning your luscious red hair orange on the way to becoming a bombshell blonde.
Why does your red hair turn orange when you color it blonde?
Whether you are a natural redhead or got your deep color from a bottle, red hair can be tough to work with.
It has its fair share of quirks, like staining your bathroom tiles when you’ve had a fresh touch-up on your roots or washing out too fast as soon as it comes in contact with shampoo.
The important thing to remember is that red hair is too deep a shade for the blonde dye to do anything on it.
The dye’s pigment will be too light and have no effect on your locks unless you lift them first to an appropriate light shade.
Red hair contains deep and rich tones in its underlying pigment. That means that when you bleach your hair, it lifts the red and reveals an orange hue underneath instead of yellow, which is reserved for lighter hair colors.
This brassy, coppery color tends to be super unflattering and overly warm, making your hair look unnatural. That’s why many women with red hair—processed or natural—tend to stay away from bleach.
In short, red is too insanely rich and deep. You need to lift all the colors first before even attempting to go blonde.
That means stripping all of your underlying orange pigment if you’re a natural and completely washing out your previous dye job if you’re a bottle redhead. And you know what that means—bleach.
Bleaching your hair help keeps the orange away
So because you have to strip out all the pigments currently in your red hair to get to a lighter starting shade, bleaching is non-negotiable.
It’s the only process that can efficiently get rid of all your red and orange tones to get your hair light enough to be compatible with blonde dye.
If you have super light red hair, you might be lucky enough to have high-lift dye work on your hair.
That means you don’t have to go through the bleaching process since high-lift colors already contain lightener in the formula.
But for the majority of red-heads, bleach is the only way to go. If your hair is super stubborn, you might even have to go two rounds of bleach before all the orange disappears.
Bleach is known for causing a lot of hair damage. The chemicals in bleach lift your hair cuticle to let pigment out, and in turn, breaks down the hair shaft.
This leaves your once shiny and bouncy locks dull, dry, and prone to breakage.
If you’re worried about how unhealthy your hair will be after your bleaching sesh, you can always look for a more nourishing formula and strengthening.
Some at-home bleaching kits are formulated with rich oils to moisturize your hair, minimizing the damage from bleach.
But regardless, you need to make sure you’re keeping your hair healthy right before you go through the bleaching process.
A couple of days before coloring day, use a moisture-rich deep conditioner or reparative protein treatment. This will prep your locks for the damage they’re about to face.
You can also slather your favorite hair oil in your tresses the day before you plan on bleaching and coloring your hair blonde.
You can use sweet almond or argan oil for this if you have natural hair and the more heavy-duty coconut oil if you have already-damaged hair that needs extra help.
These oils will help maintain your hair’s integrity during the chemical process of bleaching.
Coloring your hair blonde without passing through that dreadful orange stage
When you have your bleach and developer mixed in a plastic bowl and have your gloves and cape on, you’re ready to get this show on the road.
First, you need to part your hair in sections. This makes applying the bleach more manageable and less confusing.
It’s best to start applying with a soft brush in the middle of your hair, working your way to the bottom, and then brushing across the top near your roots.
Remember that your roots will probably lighten faster than the rest of your hair, so you don’t have to dwell in that area too much.
Saturate every section of hair and use foil and metal clips to separate the sections if it makes it easier for you.
When you’re all done applying it, check the mirror every five or so minutes to see how much your hair has lightened.
If you’re lucky, your hair will go from red to a light, pale yellow in about half an hour or so. But if your red hair is stubborn, you might end up with a peachy orange tone coming up to the hour.
Jump in the shower and wash your hair with shampoo. Make sure to rinse out every trace of bleach in your hair to avoid irritation and burning.
If your hair is still orange, that means it isn’t light enough. You’ll have to do the bleaching process again until it’s a pale yellow shade.
But hold up, you can’t just do it right then and there. You need to wait it out for a couple of weeks until your hair is restored to health before going at it again.
You can speed up that process with protein treatments and constantly moisturizing your hair throughout the day.
When you finally get that light, pale hue in your hair after several bleaching sessions, you can start toning your hair.
This is where the magic happens—when you see your overly warm and brassy hair turn into glimmering, Rapunzel-blonde locks.
Toning solutions are dyes that neutralize the undesirable warm tones in your hair.
A purple toner does wonders in canceling out yellow streaks in the hair, so at this point in the process, it’s what you need to get that cool, ashy blonde locks you’ve been dreaming of.
Once your hair is toned, you’re done! You’ve successfully gone from red-hot hair to sweet, light blonde without going through a dreadful orange phase—or at least not for a long time.
You can now sashay across the sidewalk while declaring that you are a certified blondie.
What to do if brassiness is peeking out of your newly blonde hair
But the battle isn’t quite over yet. Because your underlying natural pigment has copper tones, you can still get brassiness in the weeks after you color your hair blonde.
Brassiness often peeks through when semi-permanent dye starts fading. This is usually due to sulfates in your shampoo stripping your blonde dye, revealing the overly warm pigment underneath.
It could also be worsened by exposure to the sun and even swimming in chlorinated pools.
That’s why toning shampoo is a crucial part of maintaining your newly blonde hair. Purple shampoo helps get rid of yellow streaks, while blue shampoo eliminates orangey patches.
Make sure you have both on your bathroom shelf to ensure you can beat any shade of brassiness.
Using them is pretty easy. Wash your hair with your choice of purple or blue shampoo (depending on what color your brassiness is) as you would with your regular shampoo.
Except for this time, leave it in your hair for about 10 minutes before rinsing it out with warm water. This gives your shampoo time to deposit the special pigments in its formula that help neutralize brassiness.
You should use a purple shampoo at least once a week to maintain your blonde hair’s vibrancy and keep brassiness at bay.
But on the off-chance that you start seeing a bit of orange peeking through again, bring out the big guns, a.k.a. blue shampoo.
To keep your hair from getting brassy and unflattering, always spray on some heat protectant before going out for the day.
Yes, even if you’re not planning on using hot tools. This helps keep your color intact and minimizes fading from the sun’s UV rays.
Red hair looks fierce and captivating, but when you’re switching it up to a lighter blonde, it can be a pain to work with. The risk of turning your hair orange is always there, breathing down your neck.
Bleach is a definite yes when it comes to going blonde the right way. It ensures that you’ll get the most vibrant blonde color payoff in your tresses while allowing you to skip out on ridiculous and distracting orange hair.
And remember, toning is key to finishing off your coloring job. It’s the part of the process that transforms your hair from warm and unflattering to radiant, light-reflective blonde.
Keep these tips and tricks in mind so that you can beat orange hair and hit your coloring job out of the park. No overly brassy tones here. Blonde hair, here I come!