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How to Get that Brassy Yellow Color out of Your Gray Hair

Middle-aged women are forgotten about by retailers. I offer help with clothing choices, skincare, and healthy eating for the mature woman.

Is Your Hair Going Yellow?

The last time I went to the hairdressers, she said my hair was going yellow. Now you have to understand that virtually everyone has either dark brown or black hair in the region I live in Brazil. I assumed this lady hadn't cut anyone's hair that was blonde.
She kept harping on about it and told me there were products I could buy to fix it. Surely, my hair was gray with bits of blonde in it, and it wasn't brassy or yellow like this woman was implying.
When I returned home and began to look at my hair, she was right, and I was in denial. This started my journey into what caused it and how to cure it. If your hair has turned yellow or has a brassy tinge, then you'll find this page useful.
Let's first look at what may have made yours and my hair turn yellow. Although I am saying yellow if you're a brunette or salt and pepper gray, your hair may have an orange hue to it instead of yellow.


Sadly some of the things we can't do anything about. Genetics plays a large role in not just our looks but also in our hair color, thickness (or lack thereof), and the ability to retain pigment.

As we age, our hair loses pigment and this is why it goes gray. The pigment is the color, whether you are blond, brunette or a redhead.
Now both of my grandmothers had almost white or light gray hair. My mother, well, although she had auburn hair, I never saw it except in photos taken before I was born. My mother bleached her hair blonde and when my father told her she looked like Doris Day, she remained blonde with the aid of hair coloring and always ranged anywhere from a platinum blonde to a honey blonde.

brassy and yellowing hair

brassy and yellowing hair

Climatic Conditions

The climate you're in also has an effect. This should come as no surprise and most people who spend time out in the sun without a hat, will notice their hair goes lighter. However when you have gray hair, what tends to happen is that the hair goes yellow. This is why mine has begun to yellow. We have a UV rating in the extreme category and although I wear a hat when I am working outdoors, I tend not to wear one when I run errands. Here it is common to see people walking around with parasols or even using umbrellas as a parasol.

Air pollution can also cause gray hair to turn yellow. Again, keeping the hair covered will help ward off these problems.


For me, this isn't my cause but it may be for some women. I won't state the obvious that you already know about your health and smoking but it can turn your hair yellow. Much as the air pollution does, you have a lot of smoke around your head. Wearing a bandanna, scarf or fitted hat will help protect your hair. If you have ever cleaned the walls of a room where a smoker lives, you'll know how yellow they will be, this too can be contributing to your yellowing hair. Also if you live with a smoker and there is smoke in the room this could be one of your reasons for the condition.

I have lived with smokers all my life and now, I finally realize the possible hazard to my hair it may have been causing.

The Blue Rinse Ladies

When I was younger, I always wondered why older women had purplish hair. I never looked into I just thought it had become popular in their heyday, and they continued it. Now I know it was a blue rinse to keep the brassy yellow color in check.
These special shampoos and rinses are not only for those going gray; they are for people who color their hair. If you've noticed, your hair may look great just after coloring, but then it begins to change, albeit gradually. The reason for this is the pigments used in the dyes and colors start to fade over time. The wide range of hair colors comes from using different pigment combinations. In these hair colorings, it is the blue tones that tend to fade first. What then happens is the strong tones of yellows and oranges are dominant.

Color wheel

Color wheel

By using a toner shampoo, you can put back just the color you need. If you think of a color wheel, purple and blue are on the opposite side to the yellow and orange. So if your hair is too orange or yellow, commonly called brassy. You need to regain that balance by adding its opposite color, which is blue or purple.
The colors that are suggested are blue for brunettes and purple for blondes and those who have gray hair. Although, as I said, there are blue rinses which are applied in the salon you can also buy the toner and do it yourself or use a blue or purple shampoo.

Other Causes for Yellowing


If you have noticed a yellowing of your hair after beginning medication, speak to your doctor. Some medications may list it as a side effect but others may not. If you are concerned about the discoloration, your doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative.


As we age, we tend to settle into a routine and may not be eating as well as we did when we were cooking for a family. Examine your diet, and see where you can incorporate healthier choices.


Stress is not only bad for your overall health, it's bad for your hair. Although it may take some time to show up, too much stress in your life can cause discoloration and damage to your hair.

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Homemade Remedies

If you prefer to find a home remedy and not purchase a rinse there are some home preparations using ingredients that you probably already have.

In an effort to go without shampoo, there was a trend some time ago to use baking soda. It's true that many of the dry shampoos have this as their main ingredient. When applied to the scalp it will remove oil. I have read that people use baking soda mixed with water and apply to the entire hair and then rinse it with apple cider vinegar.
Now I know you have read about the benefits of apple cider vinegar and if you want, go ahead and try it.

However, let's be clear, if you remember from your chemistry class, vinegar is an acid. So although you are toning down the yellow, you are in essence stripping the color away. The contrary is baking soda which is an alkali.
I have strong hair but I still don't want to apply baking soda or vinegar, even in a dilute form because I want my hair to be nurtured. Using a strong alkali followed by an acid isn't the right choice for me. If you have oily hair, then vinegar may help reduce the oil and strip shampoo build up. For me, I prefer not to use something that, although homemade and inexpensive, I feel it is too strong and potentially damaging for my hair.

Although some of the rinses and shampoos can seem expensive, they have been formulated to give you the best results. Let's face it if you weren't happy with the results, you'd never buy their product again.

I have read too many reviews in the forums who save their hair felt brittle after applying baking soda followed by a vinegar rinse. My mature hair deserves something better.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Mary Wickison


Mary Wickison (author) from USA on January 03, 2019:

Thank you Graham,

I'm pleased you enjoyed reading it. Thanks

Graham Lee from Lancashire. England. on January 03, 2019:

A tip top article. Very informative. Thank you Mary.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on April 01, 2018:

Hi Dianna,

We are in a similar climate and the sun can cause problems for our hair. Vinegar, although natural, is quite strong, and we are at an age where we need to protect our hair, not strip it.

Thanks for your comment and Happy Easter.

Dianna Mendez on March 18, 2018:

I would have used vinegar as a remedy! Thank you for sharing this information and saving my color! I am now at the stage where I must pay attention to what I use on my hair for best results.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 06, 2018:

Hi Margie,

Whatever you're doing, keep doing it! It seems to be working well for you. I know what you mean about the dingy gray, let's hope for the best.

Thanks for the comment, and the compliment.

Margie's Southern Kitchen from the USA on March 06, 2018:

Loved your Hub Mary! I am almost 68 and my hair has not turn gray yet! But sure it is just around the corner. I have some of the blue shampoo from when I was high-lightening my hair. So I am ready. My mother had a beautiful white hair when her hair turned gray, hopping mind is like that and not a dingy gray. You have beautiful hair.Thanks for sharing Mary!

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on February 19, 2018:

I'm glad your mother found a good solution. Regarding your hair, let me do some research and see what I can find out.

Thanks for your comment.

Ruth Coffee from Zionsville, Indiana on February 19, 2018:

My mother had trouble with this, but she was able to take care of it with the rinses. My problem is crazy gray hair...I need to find a way to smooth it without using a flat iron! I'm going to keep searching, you may have written about that.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on February 09, 2018:

Hi Audrey,

I grew up in California and my hair would always go lighter in summer.

When I moved to Brazil, where it's basically summer year round, my hair was going light again. I thought nothing of it, until the hairdresser I mentioned, commented on it. Where I thought it was just lightening, it was white gray, with yellowing.

I have now embraced going gray, and just opt to keep the yellow controlled. My days of coloring my hair, are over.

I know some women find it difficult to allow themselves to go gray.

I am encouraged when I look at Pinterest of all the women of my age and older who flaunt their gray and white hair.

I hope whatever decision you make, you'll love.

Thanks for reading and your comment.

Audrey Howitt from California on February 08, 2018:

I am in the midst of trying to figure out whether to let it go white--I have had difficulty keeping the color vibrant as I have gotten more and more gray--and with blonde hair it really does turn yellow--so this was helpful!

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on January 31, 2018:

I agree it is best to have healthy hair. I'm pleased you found the information useful. Thanks for reading.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 31, 2018:

Nice and very useful information!

I didn’t know about the hair turning yellow or brassy. I just want my hair to remain healthy.

Thanks for sharing the wonderful tips, suggestions and homemade remedies.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on January 29, 2018:

I agree, our hair is our crowning glory. If we feel good about ourselves we see the world in a positive way.

Thanks for reading.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on January 29, 2018:


I had no idea I was going yellow. I just thought it was a shade of blonde. Isn't it funny how it's only now that we learn why all those women had purple hair?

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 29, 2018:

Very helpful facts and suggestions. We need to feel good about our hair; it is such a great part of our total image.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on January 28, 2018:

I always wondered why "old" ladies had blue hair when I was young. Now I know, lol. I'm unsure if my hair is turning yellow, I do not think so. However, it probably will before too long so I will keep this great advice in mind.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on January 27, 2018:

Hi Jo,

If you get the chance to visit, I would recommend it. I haven't had the chance to see much as we have a farm here and that is difficult to leave.

The Brazilians are very friendly and are proud of what their country has to offer. In this area, very few speak English. Down south it may be different.

Thanks for reading and your comment.

Jo Miller from Tennessee on January 27, 2018:

Thanks, Mary, for the useful information. I don't have a great deal of gray yet but may some day need this advice.

I just visited your continent for the first time ever, but did not make it to Brazil. We have traveled often but this was our first trip to South America.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on January 27, 2018:

This doesn't only affect women, you know. I do however appreciate your support. A happy weekend to you as well.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 27, 2018:

The only connection I have to this topic is my friendship with you....and that's enough! :) Happy Weekend my friend.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on January 27, 2018:

Hi Mary,

Although we get a lot of international tourists, there aren't many blondes that live here. One time during the carnival festivities, a little boy came up to me and asked if he could touch my hair.

Down in the south, there are more blondes where there were more Swiss, and German immigrants years ago. There are also some famous (here in Brazil) television personalities who are blonde. In the region I live, it is a mixture of indigenous, black, and Portuguese.

There are also very few nationals with gray hair, especially the women, as they will color it.

Most of the men are clean shaven and my husband has a white beard so they call him Papa Noel. LOL

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 27, 2018:

I'm intrigued about living in Brazil from your hubs. That is one country we have not yet visited. Your hair colour would certainly perplex them.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on January 26, 2018:

Hi Flourish,

You're right about those ladies, now they would be trendy.

I'm glad the mystery of yellow hair, is solved. Now we can both rest easy.

Great to hear from you. Have a wonderful weekend.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 26, 2018:

I recall all those blue and purple haired ladies. These days they’d be trendy. I’ve often wondered what made hair yellow and how to fix it so I’m glad you wrote this.

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