How to Tone Yellow Hair to Perfection

Whether it’s tinged with orange, red, yellow, or a perilous mix of all three, hair that’s overly warm is one of the most common challenges you’ll face in the salon. So how do you balance it out? In this guide, we give you an essential refresher on how to tone yellow hair to an ash blonde, icy blonde, or golden blonde shade. Let’s get down to the details…


Wella Professionals lightening curve

Why Does Hair Turn Yellow?


There are two key reasons why hair might be yellow. First up, you’ll spot those yellow tones when you’ve used a hair lightener on your client’s hair. This is perfectly normal, and acts as a base for the toner you’re going to apply on top. The tone of that yellow can range from an orange-tinged level 7 to a very pale level 10. Refer to the lightening curve (left) to figure out what yellow hue you can expect when doing a lightening service. 


But hair can also appear yellow if your client’s blonde hair has faded or turned brassy. This tends to happen if they’ve skipped their colour care routine or styled their hair without a heat protection spray one too many times. The good news is, in both cases, whatever the cause of yellow hair, it can be easily balanced out with the correct toner. 

Wella Professionals color wheel

How to Understand the Colour Wheel


Colour theory is simpler than it sounds – especially when you refer to the colour wheel (left). Simply put, whichever colours sit opposite one another on this wheel can cancel each other out. For example, blue neutralizes orange, green balances red, and purple tones down yellow hues. That means, in order to target yellow, you need a touch of violet in your formula. 


Wella Professionals shade numbering system

What Colour Toner Should Be Used to Neutralize Yellow Hair?


Now, let’s look at how the colour wheel impacts your chosen shade. In the Wella portfolio, each hue is numbered to show the depth, followed by a digit that denotes the major tone then, often, a minor tone. As seen on the left, colours with a 6 after the dash will have a violet tonal direction. As violet is the complementary colour for yellow, you can decide whether this 6 should be the major or the minor, depending on how yellow strands are. 


Case in point: if you have achieved lightening up to a level 9 and want to turn pale yellow-tinged hair into a light ash blonde, you’d need to pick something like a 9/16 colour. The 1 after dash indicates a major tone of ashy blonde, while the minor tone of 6 means there’s also a little neutralizing violet in there.

Adding hints of green to a toning formula can also help to give your shade a dimension boost and reduce red, while a blue tonal direction (where 8 is the major or minor) will be useful if the hair has hints of orange. 

Before and after showing yellow hair toned to ashy blonde with Wella Professionals.

Image Credit: @danijelailic.wella

Before and after showing yellow hair toned to ashy blonde with Wella Professionals.
Women glancing down, with long blonde hair and grown-out roots.

Image Credit: @wellanordic

Woman glancing down with long, honey blonde, blended hair.
Back of woman’s head with long, brassy hair and grown-out roots.

Image Credit: @shonajadehairstylist

Back of woman’s head with blonde hair and subtle blonde highlights.
Back of woman’s head with long, yellow blonde hair.

Image Credit: @remeccahair

Back of woman’s head with beige blonde, glossy hair.
Back of woman’s head with mid-length, brassy hair and grown-out roots.

Image Credit: @hairbyelisajohanna

Side profile of woman with icy blonde bob haircut.