What Will Prevent My Blonde Highlights From Turning Red?

Stylist with customer

Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Many women have rinsed out their hair at home or in the salon and looked in the mirror expecting to see glowing, blonde highlights. Instead, they often see orange-red streaks. Even when highlights come out the right shade of blonde, they can turn orange over time. However, you can prevent off-color highlights and keep them blonde longer by planning ahead.

Proper Highlighting Techniques

Be sure to use the right strength of hair dye and leave it on your hair for the right amount of time. Weak dye and premature rinsing are the most common causes of off-color highlights. Your natural hair color is made up of different pigments: brown, red and blonde. Red is the last pigment to come out of hair during the bleaching process. If you do not get all the red out, some of it will remain behind, tainting your blonde color. This is especially true for women who have very dark hair. Few lighteners are strong enough to get all the color out without severely damaging hair. An experienced colorist is the best person to handle these kinds of highlight jobs.

Highlighting Formulas

Drabbers, which have a blue tone, help offset red or orange tones in hair. Blue and orange are opposite colors on the color wheel, so they cancel out. In hair coloring, adding a drabber to hair dye brings the color closer to a neutral shade. An ash blonde shade mellows highlighted hair to a shade that is more neutral. This can help prevent red and orange tones if you are only going a couple of shades away from your natural color.


Minerals and chemicals in water can turn blonde highlights a different color. Lightening hair opens the hair cuticle, making it more porous. When hair is more porous, it is more likely to absorb minerals and chemicals. Iron in particular can wreak havoc. Iron, which is found in high amounts in well water, attaches itself to hair, turning it reddish or brassy. A water softener reduces the amount of minerals and chemicals in tap water. Using distilled water or a demineralizing shampoo can prevent and even remove iron deposits.

Color Correcting Products

Exposure to other elements can change the color of your highlights, making them look brassy or reddish. A blue shampoos and conditioners like Clairol’s Shimmer Lights can counteract this tonal shift and neutralize it. John Frieda Blonde Ambition Color Correcting shampoo, conditioner and mousse are some other products worth trying, as well as Frederic Fekkai’s Color Correcting shampoo. You can also buy small tubes of drabber at beauty supply stores and add them to your regular shampoo for the same effect.