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…
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 color 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.
How to Understand the Color Wheel
Color theory is simpler than it sounds – especially when you refer to the color wheel (left). Simply put, whichever colors 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.
What Color Toner Should Be Used to Neutralize Yellow Hair?
Now, let’s look at how the color 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, colors with a 6 after the dash will have a violet tonal direction. As violet is the complementary color 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 color. 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.