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How to Cover Orange Hair - Ugly Duckling Color


Why is my client’s hair turning orange when I dye it?

We sometimes hear stylists say:

"My client's hair turned orange because of the well water."

"My clients hair veers orange when you dye or lift it. I guess she's got bad hair"

But these comments are simply not true.

In order to understand what the true reason is, let's back off & look at some basic color theory.

Basic Color Theory

  • All hair has a tendency to produce a secondary pigment  when you start bleaching it. 
  • Colorists sometimes refer to this as the  "underlying pigment", "secondary pigment". or "undercoat."
  • The exact color of this secondary pigment or undercoat will depend on the level that the hair is at right now.
  • As you can see in the chart below, hair that is at level 5 will inevitably produce an underlying pigment of pure orange.
  • Hair at level 6-7 will produce an underlying pigment of orangish-yellow or yellowish-orange.
  • So it's very simple. Your client's hair is orange because you did not lift it enough!
  • You basically lifted it to level 6/7

Underlying pigments

Why are my client's roots orange but not the rest of the hair?

If you think about this one, it soon becomes obvious enough.

The lengths have typically been lightened and dyed several times in the course of their history. They are not level 6/7.

The new growth is the area which can be very dark...brown or dark brown depending on the client's natural hair base.

Think what happens when you apply toner or color to this section before lifting it up properly first.

It goes from level 4/5 straight to around level 6/7 - the perfect level to have a really nasty orange color!

Why are my client's roots dark brown and the rest orange?

Once again, it's pretty obvious when you think about it.

Take a look at the picture below.

Our model probably tried to color her own hair in the past - but not very well. So the lengths are orange. But at least she did lighten her lengths to some extent.

Now take a look at the roots. They have not been colored ever. That's why they are darker than the rest.

Brassy & Orange Hair

What is the solution for orange hair?

There are basically 2 possible solutions.

The best thing by far to do when you've got orange hair is to lighten it some more using bleach. Do that and all your problems go away.

But if you are unwilling or unable to lift the hair any more, you can use a complementary color to neutralize the orange.

Solution 1: Bleaching Orange Hair Up to Level 10 & Then Tone.

This is really the best solution & one we recommend for all clients looking to get their hair blonde.

Take the hair all the way up to level 9 or 10 by using a very good quality bleach. Lift properly!

As you do this, the undercoat will naturally change from orange to yellow to pale yellow.
Once you get your client to a level 9/10, you are in a good place to tone or re-color your client's hair.

How do I bleach orange hair?

Apply a good quality bleach, saturating the hair really really well and lift up the hair to level 10.
The reason stylists sometimes fail to get enough lift is that they are using a poor quality bleach.
We would really suggest that you use Ugly Duckling's Brilliant Blondexx Bond Protect Bleach.
It has Bond Protect built in and will protect the hair. It also has excellent lifting properties and is guaranteed to lift out the orange.
20 or 30 Vol developer is always enough to lift out orange using Brilliant Blondexx. So you won't compromise your client's hair as you lift.
When it has reached level 10, there will be no orange and minimal, minimal traces of very pale yellow.
Once you get it there, you are ready to re-color or tone.

Hair Lightening levels

Brilliant Blondexx Bond-Protect Bleach. Use with 20 Vol or 30 Vol developer and lift the hair to level 10

Brilliant Blondexx Bond Protect Bleach

After Bleaching, Tone

You can use any of the following Ugly Duckling Blonding Colors and Toners to go blonde once the hair has been lifted:

Intense Pearl Blonde 100V - violet or purple based
Intense Silver Blonde 100B - blue based
No-lift Pearl Blonde 10V - violet or purple based
No-lift Silver Blonde 10B - blue based
Blue Based Extra Cold Ash Blonde 10.1b - the "b" indicates that it is a blue based ash blonde.
Extra light Cool Blonde 10.2 - intense violet based 

You can also mix in other Ugly Duckling colors according to the reflect you wish - as long as they are colors on a level 9 or 10.

You can also put in a shadow root at the same time.
Blue based ash blonde colors like 6.1b and 7.1b work really well here.
You can also go slightly darker for the shadow root. - 5.11 is a popular choice. The exact choice of shadow root would depend on your client's skin tone.
The two video tutorials below are both instances where the stylist opted to put in a shadow root.

Some rules for applying Ugly Duckling colors and toners to get the best out of them:

Use Ugly Duckling toners and colors with 20 Vol developer. 
The mix is 1+2 for toners (the first four products mentioned above) and 1+1 for the blonding colors (the last two products).
Ugly Duckling's toners and blonding colors are very intensely pigmented and you need to watch as the color is processing.
Be ready to rinse once done. But generally around 20 minutes of processing time is enough.

After Toning, Condition

The bleaching and toning process always opens the hair cuticle and you need to return it to its original form after all chemical processes.
We suggest you use Ugly Duckling's Bond Protect Shampoo and Mask.
These are low pH products (meaning that they are acidic, meaning they close the hair cuticle).
They are also packed with Bond Protect products and organic conditioners.
Your client's hair will be strengthened and also conditioned.

Solution 2: Toning Down Orange Hair

Hair Color Wheel

If you just want to cover over orange without lifting it out, you can do so by choosing the opposite color to orange.

Refer to the color wheel above.
As you can see from the color wheel, the color opposite to orange it on the color wheel is blue.

So the way to neutralize the orange would therefore be to use blue based colors.

This way will neutralize your orange. But it will not get you to white blonde. You would need to compromise with a dark blonde color.

Ugly Duckling has a range of blue based ash blonde colors which are made to do this. 
We generally recommend 6.1b, a blue based dark ash blonde or 7.1b, cold ash blonde for the purposes of toning down orange.

If the orange is really really strong, you can reinforce this by adding in some ash blue additive.

Around an inch squeezed out of the ash blue additive added to a tube of  the 6.1b and 7.1b will do this.
This will help you cover the orange and go a dark ash or medium blonde

7.1b Light Cold Ash Blonde 6.1b Cold Dark Ash Blonde Ash Blue Additive

Some real-life examples of orange hair makeovers.

(1) Orange hair to blonde hair with a smudge root.

Hair by Ashley Betancourt

Products Used:

  • Brilliant Blondexx Lightener
  • 6.1b for the shadow root
  • 10V Pearl Blonde toner for the lengths
  • 20 Vol Developer
  • Brilliant Blondexx Shampoo and Mask to maintain & tone.

(2) Orange hair to pure white blonde.

Hair by Ashley Betancourt

Products Used:

Brilliant Blondexx Lightener with 20 Vol developer.
5.13 with 10 Vol developer for the shadow root
10V Pearl Blonde toner mixed with 9.23 and Clear for the lengths
20 Vol Developer
Brilliant Blonde Purple Mask to get the hair even whiter.


What color cancels out brassy orange hair?

Blue is the color that cancels out orange, which is why we recommend blue based colors and toners to neutralize and tone down orange hair.
However, dumping color on color is not a good idea. You won't get good color results that way.

As we said before, it is far better to bleach first and lift up the hair.

Use a quality bleach (like Brilliant Blondexx) and get that orange out.
Because hair is orange because it has not been lifted enough. So lift to pale yellow.

After that, by all means apply a blue based ash blonde color and toners.

Won't it damage the hair to use bleach on orange hair? 

What really damages the hair is repeated color applications because you did not get the first one right.
If you use good quality bleach, with 20 Vol, you won't damage the hair.
Then just the one application of a blue based ash blonde color and you will be good to go.

I don't want to use bleach. Can't I just apply the toner to cancel the orange? 

If your client's hair is orange, it basically means you have not lifted it enough.
So you need to use bleach, then tone.

If you are totally against bleaching, you may use Ugly Duckling's intense pearl blonde and intense silver blonde toners.

These toners are the best lifting toners in the market.

They have a booster in them which are helpful in lifting the hair up by one or two levels.

In this case, use with 30 Vol because you still need to lift by 3 levels or more.

Won't purple or blue shampoo and mask cancel out orange? 

Purple shampoo and mask are excellent products for whitening blonde hair which is slightly yellow.
They are also great maintenance products for blondes.
But they can't lift. Which is why they are not the appropriate solution for hair which is too orange.
Blue shampoo won't work either.

Can you use box dye to fix orange hair?

In general, going darker is always a possibility when going orange.

However, be careful with box dye because it is very hard to remove.

How do you fix orange hair to brown if I can't use box dye?

As we saw above, going darker is always possible. Rather than using a box dye, use Ugly Duckling's Chestnut or Brown Series (anything ending in .7). These colors are very good at covering orange to brown/light brown. 

The color result will be rich and vibrant & it won't look like the orange has been "pasted over."

To learn more, go here: https://www.uglyducklingcolor.com/shop-now#chestnuts

If my hair is orange, can I dye it blonde?

Yes, & that is what we do recommend.

But because it is level 6/7, you need to lift first with bleach. Then color your chosen choice of blonde.

You won't be able to just color over the orange and get blonde. Hair color doesn't work that way! 

About the author

Sally has been a hair colorist and trainer for many years in both the US & Europe. She currently does hair color training for Ugly Duckling. She also helps develop new & awesome products for the brand.