All You Need to Know About Yellowing Gray Hair
Yellowing gray hair will not happen to everyone, but if it happens to you and it bothers you, here are the best ways to reduce and remove yellow in your gray hair.
I had no idea that yellowing gray hair was an issue until I became immersed in the world of Gray Hair Facebook groups.
But it is an issue and one that really causes consternation for some silver sisters. This post will address why gray hair turns yellow, how to prevent it, and how to treat it.
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Before I get into the hows and whys of yellowing gray hair, let me reassure you – genetics also play a part in this, so some silver sisters will have more of a problem with yellowing than others.
Some of you may NEVER have a problem with yellowing, but forewarned is forearmed, right?
WHY GRAY HAIR TURNS YELLOW AND HOW TO PREVENT IT
A number of factors can cause gray hair to turn yellow. I’ve listed the most common causes below:
Are you a carrot fanatic? When I was in college, and trying to stay super-skinny, I ate carrots like a madman. I noticed my skin turning darker, and thought that some kind of miracle had happened and that I actually had a tan!
But it wasn’t
Over-consuming vegetables and fruits that are high in beta-carotene (carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, cantaloupe, etc.) can not only affect your
You don’t want to give up these healthy foods altogether, so just eat them in moderation.
Do you swim in a chlorinated pool? If you do, you will want to protect your gray hair first.
One great solution? Wet your hair before going in the pool (dry hair will yellow more quickly than wet hair).
After you are done swimming, wash your hair with a good clarifying shampoo and conditioner.
HARD WATER OR WELL WATER
I live in Southern California and the water in my neighborhood is very hard. I didn’t realize that hard water can affect your hair color (whether natural or dyed), until I read this great article.
As the article states, hard water can leave a residue on your grays that leaves a yellowish cast. To prevent it, consider installing a showerhead that includes a water filter.
If that’s not an option, try this line of products designed specifically to prevent buildup from hard water. Note: Malibu says these products can be used on white/gray hair but do NOT use them with heat. See their FAQ before using.
Watch out for your styling tools! Curling irons, blow dryers, and flat irons can all cause gray hair to yellow.
Make sure you use a blow dryer that has temperature controls, and always use thermal protectant spray before blow drying
If you use a flat-iron, this product comes highly recommended. (I used to worry that Argan oil would stain my silvers, but that doesn’t appear to be true).
Try to refrain from heat tools every so often, if you can. I prefer my hair straight, so letting it air dry isn’t my favorite option (I get crazy waves and frizz), but it is the healthier option, for sure!
This is a hard one to avoid if you live in a large city. The best I can tell you is to keep your hair relatively clean and to avoid heavy styling products (like mousses and gels) that attract pollutants.
This shampoo & conditioner designed especially for urban living is an interesting concept. It might be worth a try, if you live in a place with poor air quality.
I saw a photo on Instagram the other day of a woman with gray hair who thought her hair was turning blonde again, and then found out it was actually just turning dark yellow due to product buildup. Yikes!
One good way to prevent product build-up is to use hair care products that do not contain silicones, sulfates or parabens.
By the Way, Your Hair Looks Fabulous’ products fit the bill, as do any products that are certified Curly Girl-Friendly.
If you’ve read my Current Hair Care Routine, you know I use clarifying shampoo once a week to fade my brunette dye. It’s also a great way to prevent excess product buildup. (It’s very drying, however, so make sure to follow up with a deep conditioner).
Are you a smoker, or do you like to hang out near campfires? Smoke will definitely cause your hair to yellow, so watch out!
It’s not easy to find information about how. to prevent smoke from yellowing your gray hair. But if you are a smoker, stopping would be the easiest way to keep your silvers bright!
And if you are Boy Scout volunteer, like I am, step back from the campfire!
In either case, wearing a bandana or tucking your lovely silver hair into a hat wouldn’t hurt.
Sunshine can leave a yellow stain on your silvers. Protect them (and your skin) by wearing a hat.
Erica Henry Johnston (who has STUNNING silvers) has a great video about sun damage:
Yellowing can also be caused by medications, vitamin deficiencies, hormone imbalances, liver disease, etc. So if the common causes listed above can be ruled out, you should consult with your doctor to see if there is a medical cause for the yellowing.
HOW TO GET RID OF YELLOW TONES IN GRAY HAIR
One of the only surefire ways to remove (not just reduce!) yellow tones in your gray hair is to treat your hair with QuickSilverHair Clay.
QuickSilverHair Clay was invented by one of our own silver sisters, Joli Campbell, and it’s a beautiful frosting-like mask that detoxifies your hair. It brightens your silvers and also removes yellow tones.
To use QSH clay for yellow removal, use it once or twice a week until all of the
Once the yellowing is removed, switch to maintenance mode and use the clay once every 20-30 days for best results. Joli suggests using Acure Clarifying Shampoo & Conditioner once a week in between treatments.
Klorane with Centaury
Klorane is one of the premier anti-yellowing shampoos on the market. It can be drying, however, so you may want to consider using a deep conditioner aftewards!
Purple shampoos are the best shampoos for gray hair turning yellow, as purple is the opposite of yellow on the color wheel. (Blue combats orange tones, as shown in this post).
Important note: purple shampoos only temporarily cover yellow, they don’t remove it. To remove it, your best bet is still QuickSilverHair Clay.
A great purple option is BTWCo’s purple shampoo & conditioner. It’s very gentle, has a light fragrance, and really makes silver hair shine. (They also make an excellent clarifying shampoo that you can use in conjunction with the purple shampoo & conditioner to combat yellowing.)
As per BTWCo’s founder, our fellow silver sister Lauren Stein, “The clarifying shampoo works to take away yellowing that builds up on the hair from styling products, smoke, sun, etc. Then, the purple shampoo and conditioner work to neutralize any yellowing, brassiness or dull tones that clarifying or regular shampoo washing just can’t get out.”
Fanola No Yellow Shampoo is a super-popular shampoo among silver sisters, many of whom suggested that I add it to this list. It’s a bit more potent than a regular purple shampoo (it is more like a toner), so you may want to wear disposable gloves when you use it (unless you want purple hands!)
This shampoo does contain sulfates, so if you are avoiding sulfates, try the Fanola No Yellow Vegan Shampoo:
After shampooing with the Fanola No Yellow Shampoo, you can use this mask for further toning. Try not to use it more than once or twice a week, as per the manufacturer.
Another option is
Your Silver Sisters’ Thoughts and Recommendations on Yellowing Treatments
I polled our fellow gray-haired women about the subject of how to brighten and whiten gray hair, and they were kind enough to send me their thoughts on the subject!
That’s why I love our community – everyone wants to help their fellow silver sisters.
“I’m 100% transitioned. I stay out of the sun, and I am also very careful about heat styling and what products I use in my hair. So far I’ve been pretty successful.
I currently use New Wash, a detergent and sulfate-free cleanser, made by the folks who started Bumble and Bumble.
Basically, products designed for natural or curly hair work great at combating yellowing, because they don’t use sulfates or parabens that can cause build up, and they are generally pretty moisture intensive.
I think they work great for silver hair because it’s drier and sometimes more fragile than regular hair.”
Judy Davis, @judithdavisofficial
Check out Judith’s Silver Hair Transition Story!
I live in the Northeast USA where temperatures can change from 60 to 20 degrees in a day. I also live near the water so when it’s hazy, hot, and humid I definitely get frizzy hair!
In the summer I usually don’t blow dry my hair but in the winter I have to. Currently using a Chi Pro low EMF hair dryer and a curling iron for special occasions only.
You will find me wearing a hat if I’m in the sun, and don’t get my hair wet in chlorinated water if possible.
Once a month, I use Shimmer Lights Blonde & Silver shampoo and conditioner. Word of caution: don’t leave it in too long or you will have purple hair (or maybe that is just me?)
Usually, I don’t use any other products on my hair but if I’m going out to a special occasion I will use Living Proof Prime Style Extender.
Also, I like to use Paul Mitchell Fast Drying Sculpting Spray or Paul Mitchell Extra Body Sculpting Foam.”
Vicki Kay, @silver_n-curls
“I’ve always loved Marilyn Monroe’s platinum blonde. In the past, I would bleach & tone my brunette hair…only for it to be too brassy. Who knew that I would have silver/ platinum “treasure” buried beneath layers of hair color?
I keep my hair it’s sparkling white/silver by using TIGI Bed Head Dumb Blonde Purple Toning Shampoo once a month.
The rest of the time, I cleanse my hair with As I Am Coconut Co-wash Cleansing Conditioner for curly/wavy hair.”
“I am all about protecting my virgin silver strands! I do my best to let my hair air-dry, but when I do need to use heat, I believe these sprays have helped keep the yellowing at bay. In fact, I’ll be bringing one on my upcoming vacation to spray my hair poolside!
As an added bonus, they leave my hair wonderfully smooth and calm down any new
Jackie Stallings, @jackiestallings
“My journey to platinum was paved with many samplings of different products!
A year ago, when I was visiting my kids in Los Angeles, I had my hair toned to even out the year of growth, and it looked amazing for about 3-4 weeks. Thus began my battle with brass!
I’m pretty sure I tried every purple shampoo on the market. The most potent purple was the Phytargent by Phyto. It has lasted me seven months, so it is a solid investment.
Pravana The Perfect Blonde Purple Toning Masque is also good for keeping your older growth cool in between salon visits.
I live part-time on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, so I am often in the sun and swimming in saltwater.
I changed my Birchbox profile to receive hair products for deep conditioning. I comb the UV-protection deep conditioners through my hair and leave them in while playing outdoors or driving my Jeep with the top down.
This really helps to keep my hair soft and keep the brass at bay, while fighting against the elements.
In November 2018, I was fortunate to work on a campaign for ULTA. A hair stylist on set mentioned a product by Keracolor: Color +
This has been the holy grail of hair products for me. It deposits a little bit of color with every wash and keeps my hair soft and most importantly, brass-free! “
“I am at 17 months and fully transitioned.
I have a lot of hair, which can be a bit coarse (though since my transition it’s actually much improved!), and it has a wave to it if I let it air dry.
Daily (every second day or every day I use the gym) I use Kerastase Extensionist shampoo on my hair as I want to keep my hair strong and the lengths healthy.
I alternate between the Extensionist Masque and Provoke Touch of Silver Daily Conditioner (it’s purple in
Once a week I use Joico Deep Cleansing Shampoo. I find that using this once a week ensures every white is in tip top bright condition but make sure to deep condition after a deep cleansing shampoo!
But personally, I prefer my whites to be pure white so I make sure not to overuse the purple shampoo!
I do blow dry my hair, but try to air dry it at least once or twice a week.
Through trial and error, I have found all of this combined means I don’t have a problem with dulling/yellowing of my white/grey hair.
It is trial and error to see what works, because I have a high concentration of white at the front of my head it does have a tendency to yellow/dull if I don’t use the right products, but once you find the products you are happy with, it’s amazing to see the strength and shine your hair can have!”
Have you had any problems with yellow tones in your gray hair?
How did you treat it? If you have any unique ideas for how to get yellow out of gray hair, I’d love to hear it. Please let me know in the comments below!
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Katie is the founder of Katie Goes Platinum. After constantly dyeing her hair for over 25 years, in 2018 Katie decided to stop the madness and embrace the gray. Since then, she’s been sharing her favorite gray hair tips, resources, and stories to empower women to feel beautiful during and after their transition to gray hair.