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Learn How To Neutralize Red Tones in Hair With Our DIY Guide

A woman in casual clothes is standing on the wooden background. She has curly red hair with orange undertones and freckles across her face.

Many people try to transform their hair color at home only to end up with disastrous results. One of the most common issues people come across is hair color that’s too red – this is often the case when going from a darker hair color to a lighter hair color.

The problem is often painfully apparent as soon as your hair is dry, prompting you to search for ways to tone the red down.

In this article, we discuss several ways to neutralize the red tones and save your hair. Note: Many of our recommendations work for orange or red tones.

What Color Cancels Out Red Tones?

A woman, wearing a white t-shirt and black shorts with red brassy hair standing on the brick wall background.

Before you begin neutralizing red tones in your hair, you need to know what color cancels red tones. It’s got everything to do with color theory. On the color wheel, green and red are opposite each other. Therefore, green (i.e., the opposite color) is effective at canceling out red tones.

While green is not the only color that you can use to cancel out those pesky red tones, it is the first color that people reach for in situations like this. 

The color wheel is used to determine how to choose color removers for color-treated hair.

As you look at the hair color wheel, you’ll notice that other options to cancel out red and orange tones (or similar shades of unwanted tones) are blue toning shampoo and purple shampoo. For example, blue cancels orange undertones in blond hair.

How to Neutralize Red Tones in Hair: Step by Step

An attractive woman reading sits outside with dark brown hair with red hair tones.

In this section, we’ll tell you step-by-step how to get rid of red tones (or orange tones) in your hair. There are several methods you can use, and we’ll cover each of them in detail. Let’s get right into it! 

Green Toning Shampoo

Applying green hair color on red hair | What happens when you mix green color on red hair

Green shampoo is one of the easiest ways to cancel out red at home. You can find a green toning shampoo at your local drugstore or add two or three drops of green food coloring (or green dye) to your shampoo.

The green tones within the shampoo help to counteract the red dye on your strands. Here is how to neutralize red tones with green shampoo:

  1. Dampen your hair and apply the green shampoo all over – if needed, part your hair into 4 or more sections to make the application process easier. Make sure that your curls are completely coated in the product, and then leave it on for the manufacturer’s recommended time. If you made your green shampoo at home, leave it on for about 5-10 minutes. 
  2. Once you have waited the entire recommended time, proceed to rinse your hair with water. It may take a few minutes to completely rinse all the product out. 
  3. Check whether the red tone came out of your hair. If your hair still looks too red, you need to redo the process. If you made your own green shampoo, you could add a few more drops of green color to it.
  4. Reapply the shampoo as you did in the following steps. If your hair only has a bit of red left to neutralize, leave the shampoo on for a minute or so. If it needs a more substantial change, you can leave it on for the full time again. 
  5. Rinse your hair thoroughly, apply your conditioner, and then style your hair as necessary. 

Note: Always remember to use green food color very cautiously. If you overuse the food color, you may end up with a green mess.

Also, green shampoo is not recommended for neutralizing red tones on light hair. It’s only appropriate for dark or brown hair. 

Ash Color Hair

Hair Transformation - Red to Ash Brown (no bleach needed)

You may have heard people refer to ash shades as calming tones – it’s true, and this makes them great for color neutralization. A permanent or semi-permanent ash hair dye that’s close to your desired shade will work perfectly.

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you neutralize red tones with ash hair dye.

  1. Before you begin any color application process, apply Vaseline all over your hairline, forehead, ears, and the nape of your neck. This will create a barrier between your hair and the hair dye. 
  2. Also, remember to wear an old t-shirt and gloves because things can get messy. 
  3. If you’ll be using a semi-permanent ash color, shampoo your hair. Don’t apply anything to your hair post-wash. You want your hair cuticles to remain wide open so that they’ll be able to adequately absorb the color. If you’re using a permanent hair dye, you don’t need to shampoo your hair first. 
  4. Part your hair into four to six sections to make your hair easier to work with.
  5. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the ash color. It’s crucial to follow the instructions to the letter for the best results.
  6. Once you complete the mixing steps, begin applying the ash shade to your hair from tips to roots. Do your absolute best to ensure the color is thoroughly applied. 
  7. Cover your hair with a color processing cap and wait until the time is up. Reference the instructions on the packaging to find out how long to leave the color on your hair.
  8. When time is up, rinse your hair thoroughly to ensure that all of the hair color is washed away.
  9. Follow the rest of the instructions on the hair color packaging. You may be instructed to shampoo and/or condition your hair before proceeding with your normal styling process. 

Darker Hair Dye

HAIR TRANSFORMATION • red to brown without bleach

Another option you have when your hair comes out too red is to use an ammonia-free dye that’s darker than your hair. Doing so will cover the red, leaving you with a more wearable shade. If you opt for this one, be sure to follow the same application process mentioned above. 

Hair Color Corrector (or Color Remover)

An attractive female with red streaks throughout reddish dark hair sits outside while texting with friends by mobile phone.

If none of the options above sound just right, you can try a color corrector, like Color Oops. This is another quick and easy way to neutralize or remove the red tones in your hair. 

Although similar to hair bleach, color correctors are not nearly as harsh on your hair. They enter your hair shaft and break down the red color molecules within it.

When you wash your hair after using the color corrector, you will find that the red tones in your hair have totally disappeared.

Color correctors are particularly helpful when you have tried other methods to neutralize the red, but it still hasn’t gone away. You can use color correctors just as you would a box dye.

Take the same precautionary steps, such as Vaseline, an old t-shirt, and gloves, and reference the instructions on the box. 

Note: If your looking for a potential solution using household products, some ladies have “corrected” their hair naturally using an apple cider vinegar rinse. In our experience, this solution provides inconsistent results removing warm tones.

Dos and Don’ts of Neutralizing Red Tones

Cute girl with colored hair and freckles reading an email on her mobile phone.

Sometimes, trying to neutralize red tones can result in a whole new hair disaster. To prevent that, we’d like to share some dos and don’ts that can help make the process run smoothly. 

Dos

  • Always follow the instructions on the hair dye packaging for the best results. If you have any questions, call the manufacturer of the product or contact a hairstylist who is experienced in natural hair care. 
  • Be careful with green shampoo, as it can turn your hair green. Check your hair color every couple of minutes while the color is processing. Remove some of the color with your fingers and look at the hair – if it looks like it’s turning green, rinse the shampoo out immediately. 
  • Do use professional quality hair colors and toning shampoos if they are available. DIY mixtures have a higher risk of failure or disaster than products specifically formulated for neutralizing red tones. 
A woman with red pigments in her hair wearing a dress and sandals sits on the sidewalk beneath a tree, talking on her smartphone.

Don’ts

  • Don’t neglect your hair after color-treating it. After such a process, your curls will be thirsty for moisture. Condition and deep condition your hair afterward to preserve your hair’s health. 

Professional color correction services can be extremely expensive. But you don’t have to worry about that now that you have all the information you need to get rid of unwanted red tones in your hair at home.

Conclusion

The color wheel is a helpful tool when you’re looking to cancel out red tones in your hair. Green, the opposite of red on the color wheel, can counteract those pesky reddish-orange tones.

If green shampoo isn’t effective enough, other colors can help neutralize brassy tones like purple and blue. These two colors work well as they also operate within an opposing relationship on the color wheel (i.e., purple being opposite of yellow).

In addition, the DIY approach outlined in this article is much more cost-effective than professional services at a hair salon. With the tips and helpful information in this article, you’ll finally be able to achieve the hair color result you’ve always wanted!