Orange Hair: Misadventures in Going Natural from Dark Brown (Part I)

Bleached hair often turns out orange, like this doll's.
I think I’m better looking than this doll, but right now her hair looks better than mine.

No, this site hasn’t been taken over by some cheap commercial interest.  I’m the usual author (Vicki), and as I’ve had such unexpected upheaval in my life over trying to go natural–that is, altering my hair from darkly dyed so as to eventually have my natural grey hair back–that I decided to write about it.  My experience has been that hair products do not have honest descriptions, and trying to figure it out yourself can be very difficult, time consuming, and stressful (or disastrous, more like).  If you thought you couldn’t afford a salon when making the transition from dyed hair to natural, you may want to think again.  But then again, I’ve read of salon-based horror stories too.   In any case, I wrote this to help anyone in my situation, in hopes of saving you some time and a great deal of stress.

My Hair History

My hair greyed early, just like my mom’s; my son is only 17 and has a grey hair or two, even.  So, I found myself dying my naturally brown hair starting in my late 20s.  My hair was naturally almost black underneath and easily faded to brown with golden highlights from sunlight.  My mom’s hair was black, my dad’s a light brown.  After my first dye job, which instead of coming out brown was very very orangish, I knew I had to use cool or ash tone dyes.  I’m sure many of you have had this experience.

After having my son, I decided to let my hair grow out.  But then, I didn’t like it and worried that my son would be embarrassed over having what looked like a grandmother instead of a mom, so I started dying again.  This time I went darker, to a very dark brown (like my natural hair color underneath).  I colored it this way for many years.  Recently I finally got the nerve to call it quits with the dying, since I had been very tired of doing it for quite a while.  As my roots grew out more I could see that my hair was less grey-white than I expected, with the salt to pepper ratio being from 50 to 90% (that is, mostly grey-white, or silver, but with black strands), depending where one looked on my head.

So I figured I’d dye my hair a very light, platinum or Norwegian type of blonde, to most closely match my silver as it grew out.  And today, while grey hair dye is no longer available (yes, youngsters, one or more of the major brands sold version of it for a while 10-20 years ago), grey or silver hair is actually popular with a certain crowd and adding blue to the lightest ash blonde dye can make hair silver.  From what I’ve read, it’s not easy to do, but I thought I could at least get close to a grey-white look without too much effort.  But boy, was I wrong, at least in getting my hair ready to dye silver.

I Found that Color Removers Don’t Work on Long-dyed Hair

I never bleached or dyed my hair light before, so I didn’t have a clue as to how to proceed with getting my hair from almost black to almost white.  I started to read information online, of course, about products and their reviews.  What I found is that although there are many voices online, they are not consistent.  Because some said that color removers actually worked to remove hair dye, as opposed to bleaching and damaging hair, I gave two of them a try.  The color removers out there are:  Color Oops, L’Oreal Colorist Secrets Hair Color Remover, and One N Only Colorfix.  At this stage I decided against the L’Oreal since it has bleach in it and many people complained about this.

Based on all the reviews, I bought the most expensive One N Only Colorfix.  I had to order it and wait to start my hair (mis)adventure.  After the first application of Colorfix, my hair was somewhat lighter, and looking red.  After my second application, my hair was a bit lighter, with various stages of orange and red from root areas (lighter) to tips (darker).  Because the ends of hair have the most dye in them and tend to be dry, they are the least receptive to color removal or bleach.  So before I started this process, I cut off about 3 inches of hair.  This seemed to make no difference.  The bottom half of my hair was still very dark.

After my experience I can tell you that I definitely believe there are fake reviews about these products out there, like:  “Love this.  I have grey hair and after two applications my hair is beautifully naturally grey!”  There is no way that can be true, and I wasted my time and money believing it (and my hair came out damaged).   And just by way of note, Color Oops and Colorfix seem to be the same thing–they both have a grosser-the-longer you smell it odor akin to rotting onions.

Being quite alarmed at the color(s) my hair now was, I went and spent some more money on Color Oops.  I applied that and it did nothing, or virtually nothing.  I found out later that applying Color Oops so soon (or at all) after the other applications was probably useless anyway.   For one thing, bleaches need to have some time between applications.  But Color Oops is not a bleach.  It is a hair dye remover that is actually for recent dye jobs only.  I realized later that there’s probably no reason why it would have gotten my hair any lighter, anyway.

The name “Color Oops” is suggestive, of course; if your hair is darker than expected after coloring, Color Oops will take that dye out.  Otherwise, what happened to my hair is to be expected, apparently.  This information should be made clear on the outside of the box of any of these color removers.  After dying your hair a long time the pigment changes, and removing the dye exposes the current pigment of your hair, which is normally orange or orange yellow.  According to some people, bleaching your hair over and over again will get rid of the orange eventually, but I, like so many others, am not willing to subject my hair to that (and who has the time to do that, to wait 1 – 2 weeks between however many bleach applications?).  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  What did I try next?

Going the Bleach Route.  Happy day, right?  Wrong.

Going back to the “drawing board,” I read that I needed to bleach my hair.  “Lifting” my hair wouldn’t be good enough, since the high degree of lightness I wanted for my hair couldn’t be achieved with dyes that lift hair, even by a lot.  Frankly, however, there are many opinions out there and many of them are not actually addressing hair that is not natural nor no longer “dyed” but left in an orange pigmented state.  Still, the consensus seems to definitely be that your hair–if it’s not naturally very blond to begin with–needs to be bleached to a very light yellow, a white-yellow color, before it can be died the lightest of ash blonds.  Ash blond is a cool blond, so think:  no more orange.

So after researching the possibilities for my next step, I chose to use L’Oreal’s “Super Blonde 205.”  The reviews for this seemed better than for the “200” version.  The box says that the product is “effective even on dark hair.”  I thought that since my hair was lightened somewhat, it was more like “medium” and would be fine.  I thought it should take the orange to a yellow, anyway.  But no, it didn’t work.  My hair just came out brighter orange and hideously blotchy, and even though I did my roots later in the process, they came out white (if only the whole head of hair was like that, it’s really quite cool looking!).  I look horrific, or at least my hair does.  Was I wrong to think it would work based on what the box said?

On the side of the box where it shows colored hair images, in smaller writing, it says:  “Results shown on natural, non-color treated hair.  Bleaching results on color-treated hair may be less visible.  Naturally darker hair will yield warmer results . . .”  My hair wasn’t “natural,” but neither was it dyed any longer.  L’Oreal could easily have added that hair that was orange due to color removal or an earlier bleaching, which is a common condition, would not have the results shown.   Basically, I had virtually no results.  I don’t think I should’ve suspected that my dark orange hair would only turn a lighter orange based on the information provided on the box (and interior instructions aren’t any more informative).

L’Oreal, I’m positive, knows that there are many people like myself looking for a corrective product and they should be clear as to what their bleach will and will not do with orange hair.  You wouldn’t believe how many females are out there trying to figure this exact issue out.  If L’Oreal knows that their product will remove orange hair after five applications, say (this is just my example), then why not simply say it?  Or, they could tell the customer with such hair to call their hair experts or to go to a salon for advice.  This would be the ethical and responsible thing to do, but it seems they care more about selling their product (this applies to all hair care product companies, it seems).

Color removed & bleached hair, from dark brown
My left side hair, with the color as close as I could get it using a mirror photo, after three applications of color remover and one bleach application. Wow, so bleached . . . 😉

So now I’m left with very ugly, dry, damaged, multi-color hair.  My hair is apparently very hardy, though, since it isn’t breaking or falling out.  I’ve been using Aveeno Nourish + Condition Leave-In Treatment; nice stuff.   After my first experience with the orange, too, I wanted to buy some conditioning “blue” shampoo, and the closest thing to that that is readily available is Jhirmack Distinctions: Silver Plus.  The shampoo is purple, and purple counters yellow in hair.  It may be helping, I’m not sure, but weirdly enough one of the blotches in my hair is a natural looking brown after letting the Jhirmack sit in my hair for 5 minutes.  How that is, is a deep mystery.  How could one area be so different after four applications of remover and bleach?  Deep mystery.

I have read more than I care to about using a blue toner, like Wella Color  Charm T-14 or T-18.  These toners are used on dyed hair, much like a dye itself, to alter dye color or tone.  I may use these in the future, but toners can be quite temporary.  Instead, I ordered Wella’s cooling violet additive 050.  This is a more permanent solution that is added into the hair dye mixture.  I also wish I had Dessange Paris California Blonde Brass Color Correcting Crème right now.  I’d try it and let you know what it did.  However, I plan on getting that tomorrow.

How Will I Get Rid of the Orange?

Since my hair roots are electric white, I don’t think I can just simply use the California Blonde Brass Color Corrector.  While that product may be good, I doubt it’s going to make my hair turn light white-yellow!  What I plan on doing, and what is recommended by many apparently educated and experienced people, is to dye my hair ash blonde, and work my way more slowly to silver hair (using lighter and lighter ash blondes).  The degree to dye it right now is the scary part.  What level?  Light, medium, or dark?  The color remover and bleach box instructions say to pick a color that is lighter than you desire since treated hair becomes very porous.  Porous hair will absorb dye quickly,  leaving your hair darker than the color indicated.

How I was going to dye my hair if it was bleached properly is not relevant right now, but I’ll discuss it in Part II.  For right now, I decided on a medium ash blonde.  Mose brands of this color look quite dark, but the one I have looks very light.  So I have no idea what will happen.  I plan on adding 2 capfuls of the cooling violet to it (the instructions say to use 2 – 4 capfuls, but I’m concerned that my white hair will turn blue if I use too much).  Hopefully, the hair will at least be a lot more even in tone and not so bizarrely bright orange.  Hopefully.  I’m guessing that I may still need to use the brass color corrector on it right afterwards, but I’ll let you know (Orange Hair: Misadventures in Going Natural from Dark Brown [Part II]).

Thanks for reading, and if you are not sure if you can believe me, you might want to watch the video below (along with the second part).  That is not me, but she went through much the same experience as I have.  Her hair isn’t grey, but naturally blonde, and she still had a bad orange problem after trying to get red dye out of her hair.

 

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