The Brass Section:
How to Prevent and Refresh Brassy Color
What’s every blonde’s worst nightmare? It comes down to one word: brass. While it’s frustrating for your clients, it’s just as frustrating for you as a colorist to watch your work get tarnished by that dastardly orange hue. What’s a stylist to do? From why brass happens to what you can do about it, check out advice below from celebrity colorist Marie Ferro. Trust us, after reading this, you'll know how to kick brass in the …you know where!
How does brass happen?
In short: it’s a chemical reaction. “When peroxide and ammonia from a chemical process are added to the hair, that underlying pigment in the hair is lifted,” Marie says. “In the case of a color process, color molecules are deposited and violet or ash tones counteract the underlying warm pigment by depositing the opposite color to balance out the color to a neutral or eye-pleasing shade. Brassiness occurs when the ash or violet molecules are covered by product buildup or lifted out by product stripping.”
So what exactly causes brass?
According to Marie, there are several culprits for brassy color. It comes down to two categories: elements that lead to buildup and elements that strip color from the hair.
Shampoos with sulfates, ocean water and sun exposure can lift pigment from the hair to reveal the underlying pigment and cause brassiness. And products containing silicone or parabens, as well as mineral deposits from the shower or swimming pool, can cause buildup that leads to brass.
Finally, brassy color can be caused by layering too much color. “In this case, you have to clear the palette of the hair with a color remover and then formulate for what is underneath the color buildup,” Marie says.
While there are plenty of causes for brassy color, don’t worry! There are plenty of solutions as well!
Are some of my clients more likely to get brassy hair than others?
“Yes,” Marie says. “Ethnicity, pre-existing level and thickness of the hair strand plays a factor.” In general, the darker the hair, the more of a challenge it is to lift the underlying pigment out of the hair, making darker-haired clients more prone to brassy color. “Also, thicker hair has more of a challenge in letting go of the darker pigments,” Marie says. Overall: Your clients with thicker, darker hair Levels 8 and under tend to fall into the brassy range.
What can my clients do at home to prevent brassy color?
There’s no shortage of options for at-home prevention! Marie suggests a violet-toned shampoo to start. “They deposit surface color to counteract the brassiness in the hair,” Marie says. “I like Goldwell Color Glow IQ.” Other product recommendations from Marie: Phyto, ColorProof and Malibu C shampoos.
“These at-home hair products have ingredients that don’t build up on the hair, and their ingredients support color staying in the hair,” she says.
What can I do to refresh brassy haircolor?
“As a stylist, you have to determine what is going on with the hair before you can chose a procedure,” Marie says. “If the hair is already lifted to a Level 9 or above and has brassiness, then all you need to do is tone. I use a demi-permanent color to tone because you only need the color deposits.” Marie recommends Goldwell Colorance Express Toning. “It’s a great 5-minute express toner that only deposits color,” she says.
For clients with Level 6 to 8 brassy color who wish to go lighter, go with a lightener—the strength of which would depend on the condition of the client’s hair. However, if your Level 6 to 8 brassy client wanted to stay within the same range and just ditch the brass, you’ll have to try another technique. “I would deposit a countering color that would create a neutral color,” Marie says. “For example, if the hair was a brassy orange Level 6, I would counter with a blue-based Level 6 ash tone.”
Marie also loves Malibu C's Crystal Gel treatment as an in-salon tactic for preventing a brassy blonde. "It's great for a deeper lift of mineral and product buildup," Marie says. "I use it before a color treatment, so the color I put into the hair goes right in the hair and doesn’t sit on top of mineral buildup. Therefore, when the client washes her hair, the deposited color molecules don’t wash out as easily."
What else should I keep in mind when handling a brassy blonde?
“Keeping the hair as healthy as possible when doing chemical services is important,” Marie says. “The more damage that is done to the hair, the more porous the hair becomes, and the more challenging it is for color to stay in the hair. I love Goldwell Silklift because it adds silk proteins, so it has a conditioning effect while lifting the hair.”
Oh, and one last bit of advice? Preventing brassy color isn’t just your job, it’s your client’s job as well. “Educate your client on how to maintain their hair at home,” Marie says. “Work together!”
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