Beauty Lesson: How To Fix Discolouration in Colour-Treated Blond Hair

How to fix wonky colour caused by sun exposure and minerals in your water

My natural hair colour is an ashy dark blond, but it hasn’t seen the light of day since I was 17. Instead, I’ve coloured my hair a rainbow of red and blond hues and at the moment am enjoying a full head of blond highlights. After dozens of dye jobs over the years, my hair is not in the best condition. It’s also prone to discolouration.

The Problem: By the time two months have gone by and I’m ready to retouch my roots, my hair has morphed from blonde to “bright green” (in the words of my colourist). She’s totally exaggerating, of course. It isn’t “bright” green — it’s more of a sad yellow-green hue. To find a solution, I turned to Terry Ritcey, Redken’s National Education Director. “A lot of times, people think it’s the chlorine [in shower or pool water] that turns the hair green,” he says, “but it’s actually the oxidized minerals in the water.” Most treated water contains chlorine, and the more chlorine, the more algaecides (compounds that kill algae) the water will require. The chlorine oxidizes these compounds, such as iron or copper, the same way oxygen oxidizes a copper roof, turning it from reddish-brown to green. The algaecides then “cling on to the protein in the hair and that’s why you get that greenish cast [over time],” says Ritcey. It turns out that blonde colour and hair damage are both indicators for major discolouration. “Blond hair is blond because the density of melanin is less [than in darker hair colours],” he says. “This means that it’s typically more fine and fragile, or delicate, to begin with.” When hair has been stripped of melanin during colour treatment, it becomes thin and porous and is more likely to absorb minerals. Damaged blond hair is also affected by sun exposure. Ultraviolet rays “strip away the cuticle and go right to the cortex, which leaves the hair very dry,” says Terry. The heat of the sun also dries “the essential proteins and scalp oils that lubricate the hair shaft,” leaving hair brittle and brassy.

The Solution

1.  Take care everyday: Since dry, damaged hair is more porous and thus more likely to absorb minerals in water and become even weaker after sun exposure, use a deep conditioning mask weekly. Also apply styling products that protect against heat damage whenever using your blow-dryer or straightener. Get frequent trims to eliminate the most damaged portions of your hair.

2.  Use protection: When outside, wear a hat or use a product like Redken’s Take Cover mousse that will protect the scalp against ultraviolet rays. Before going in a pool, apply a mask or conditioner to slightly damp hair. This will seal the cuticle, preventing colour-altering minerals from entering the hair shaft. Rinse hair with fresh water immediately after exiting the pool.

3.  Keep clean and clear, once a week: Clarifying shampoos, like Redken Hair Cleansing Cream Shampoo, $16, often contain chelating agents, which help to neutralize the metallic ions that cling to the hair. They revive colour, and also remove build up from styling products and lesser-grade shampoos and conditioners. I tried out Redken’s Cleansing Cream and was majorly impressed by the results. After leaving the shampoo on my hair for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinsing and blow-drying, the change was obvious. The shampoo had returned my yellowed strands (see “Before” image) to the natural-looking highlights that my colourist had given me months before. She was equally amazed by the transformation when I visited the salon a few days later. When not cleansing with a clarifying product, Ritcey recommends using shampoo that contains mild fruit acids, such as grapefruit extract, which will help to eliminate build up on an everyday basis.

FLARE picks: Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil, $50, Ouidad Sun Shield Sun & Sport Leave-In Spray, $23, Redken Color Extend Take Cover SPF 25, $20, for salons.