Part 5: How to Fix Hot Roots and Brassy Hair
Part 5: How to Fix Hot Roots and Brassy Hair
Posted by Trudy Agyeman - Tagged , ,

Coloring Natural Hair, a Do-it-Yourself GuideI think the most common hair coloring mishaps are hot roots and brassy hair. Ladies, we often get too ambitious and try to lighten far beyond what our natural, black hair can take. We’ve seen the all too common orange glow on black hair that has been lightened.

If you are suffering from these two common mishaps here are a few tips to try before you grab the scissors for Big Chop #2:

Fix Hot Roots:

You have dyed your roots to match the beautiful, auburn shade you’ve been rockin’ and now your roots are on fire and your hairline is glowing! What you’ve got my dear are “hot roots”.

The scalp generates a lot of heat and this heat processes the dye fast, leaving your new growth more vibrant or “hot” than the rest of your hair.

Here’s a few remedies to the rescue:

  • Tone down your hot roots with semi-permanent color. Use a gold or ash base/toner to minimize the intensity.
  • Retouch your roots every 1/4″ to 1/2″, in other words don’t wait too long to color new growth.
  • When retouching your roots apply the dye 1/2″ away (mid-length area) from the scalp first, then go back and apply the dye to the roots.
  • Choose a slighter darker shade than the one you chose the last time, with a 20 volume developer. The heat from your scalp will lighten your new growth up to the same level you started with.
Fix Brassy Hair:

You have followed the rules and lightened your hair only 2 levels, but your hair is “too warm” and you’re afraid you’ll blind people in the sunlight. What you’ve got is brassy hair.

I love how boxed dye kits show the starting color as jet black and the end color a vibrant red or auburn. It’s usually too good to be true to lighten that many levels in one take. Chances are you will end up with brassy hair.

The underlying pigment in my hair is red-orange. In the summer my hair lightens from the sun and I can spot the red highlights. When I lighten my hair with haircolor, the red pigment in my hair gets “warm” and vibrant. Here are a few remedies to tone down the glow:

  • Use a pre-color treatment to even out the porosity of your hair before you color. Overly porous hair will process haircolor fast and your hair can easily process “too warm”.
  • If you are slightly brassy you can try using a violet or blue-based shampoo designed to neutralize brassiness and warmth. Take a look at a color wheel and notice that blue/violet is opposite red/orange. You are trying to cancel out the red-orange with a complementary tone.
  • If you are very brassy and glowing in the sun, then you can neutralize the warmth with an ‘Ash’ semi-permanent hair color. Do a strand test first to see if it will work.
Lightening Black Hair

My natural hair color is black. I wanted a medium brown shade. My hair picks up a lot of red when I lighten it. I used a neutral, ash, dark blonde to get this color.


If all this talk about “hot roots” and “brassy hair” is freaking you out or you are traumatized from the DIY experience, it’s time to save your pennies and seek out a professional hairstylist. Like with anything else, it takes practice, knowledge and confidence to successfully color your hair at home. If you have graduated to a DIY haircoloring expert, maybe it’s time to shop salon quality hair dye…

Have you had a haircoloring mishap? I’ve heard of people using Grape Kool-Aid powder to tone down brassy hair! Got any sane DIY tips to share?

*DISCLAIMER: As you know, I am not a professional colorist. I am sharing with you my experience with coloring my hair. Coloring black hair is tricky, so I urge you to do a lot of research. Start off slow, for example try a temporary rinse if you are a newbie. It takes time and experience to determine what hair products and treatments will work for you. The key to healthy, colored hair is maintenance. Do your research and the payoff is beautiful, healthy, colored hair.


  • Jordan says:

    Okay so I just recently died my hair magenta. I was previously going with my natural mixed beautiful browned curly hair . African American and native American. And I just wanted to try something new..Using loreal hi color and 30 developer I followed all the directions and the color came out good but the texture changed well idk if it’s texture but my hair became like desert dry and it feels weird like bitter. I’m sort of scared cause I don’t want my hair to be permanently like this..I love my natural hair. Maybe I’m just freaking out. Maybe I just need to upkeep the hair. Idk I need help. And I just straightened my hair and I used so much oil and grease that it is sooooo greasy like butter. And it is the only way that I could stop the hair from being stiff and look okay. As you can see I need help. I am a newbie and also my roots are extremely bright!! I want to know how to fix them. I’ve been going to every site and nothing is helping. Please help!!! :(

    • Trudy Agyeman says:


      I know how you feel. Panic sets in, your hair feels like straw and now you are glowing.
      Depending on how bright your roots are, they could tone down after a few washings. But, you said your hair feels dry, so I would first invest in a good, ‘color-safe’, deep-conditioner or conditioning mask. Always deep condition once a week.
      Next, to tone down the roots…I’ve used semi-permanents and rinses in a slightly deeper shade (perhaps a slightly deeper red) and recolored the roots to tone them down. (The more you deposit color, the darker it gets because your hair is porous). Lastly, don’t use grease to moisturize or even straighten your hair. Try small amounts of natural oils like olive, jojoba oil, and my favorite, argan oil. Grease leaves your hair, well…greasy, it attracts dirt, leaves your hair feeling heavy and clogs your scalp. Hope this helps :)

  • Amanda says:

    Ok… I use to have dark hair… A week ago I bleached my hair twice ( a day apart) and I colored my hair orange n red… So here’s my question. My roots are showin a bit of dark… To touch up my roots… Do I bleach them and then do the orange again or jus straight color it again? I really like my hair so I wanna keep up with it. I have color protector shampoo and cond. I also have a color dueo protector… And Aussie leave in cond. I jus need to kno how to keep up with my roots

    Much apprecieated. :)

    • Trudy Agyeman says:

      It’s been awhile so I’m not sure what you ended up doing. If you are bleaching to lighten because your hair is dark, then just doing straight color on your roots won’t work. You could do a strand test first, color a teeny section of the roots to see what you shade you get. When you do color your roots again, try using a color just slightly darker than the one you used before. You don’t want your roots to end up lighter than the rest of your hair. Slightly darker roots add dimension to your hair and is more flattering. Also, just color to your roots. Don’t re-deposit color on the rest of your hair, it just makes your ends darker. I found a good product at Sally that helps prevent your hair from getting too orange or red: Ardell Unred Hair Color Drabber and Ardell Red Gold Corrector Plus. I used it and it helped tone down the orange. Hope I helped you out a bit :)

  • Cynthia says:


    I recently dyed my dark brown hair a medium ash blonde. The sales mistakenly thought i had my hair dyed and told me to do my roots first and then the rest of my hair. So now my roots are a bit lighter than the rest of my hair. I like how my roots look and would like to lighten the rest of my hair. Should i use the same colour (30 volume developer & the colour mix) or what should i do?

    Thank you and help and advice is much appreciated and needed !! and happy holidays

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