The one thing all people with gray hair will face, at some point or another, will be yellowing or discoloration of their silver locks. On occasion, I still have issues, even with a regular maintenance schedule using QuickSilverHair Clay Mask. I try new products regularly and discoloring buildup can happen before I even realize it.
It is a very frustrating problem for many of us, but good news you are not alone, you can do something about it (in most cases), and you can take preventive measures for the future. Depending on how the yellowing or discoloration was caused will mean the difference of fully returning to your natural color or not. There are different reasons for what causes gray hair to turn yellow, which you can read about here: Why Does Grey Hair Turn Yellow?
Many external causes can be remedied, those will be addressed in this post so you can naturally brighten your gray hair. I will not be addressing internal causes of discoloration since they are coming from the inside, below the follicle, that may mean changes in your diet or medications.
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First Step, Inspection:
Do you actually have discoloration or is that your natural color? My hair has a naturally beige tint, because I still have brown hair mixed in. However, I have a white streak and I can tell when it is not in its cleanest state. There are as many colors of gray hair as there are gray paints and they can have undertones of blue, brown, yellow, red, and black.
Understanding your gray and your white will help you not chase after some ideal dreamy pure white that doesn’t exist for you. In color theory, white is technically defined as the presence of all color, and black is defined as the absence of all color. What does this mean for your hair, your white hair is like a tiny strand of glass, it is reflective of all color. You can see a difference in the hue of your hair simply from the color you are wearing.
Quick Discoloration Test:
If you have longer hair this is an easy quick test, go to a naturally lit window with a hand mirror. Take the end of your hair and fold the tip so it is next to your roots, are the tips dingy compared to the brand new hair? Then you likely have some discoloration. If your tips are similar, then that is most likely your natural hair color.
How to Make Gray Hair Less Yellow?
Old-school method: Cover it!
The mainstream way to deal with yellowing or discoloration is purple shampoo. Great for internal causes of discoloration, that cannot be removed. The downsides to purple shampoo is it only covers up the yellowing, building up over time it can turn your hair purple, plus it is extremely drying. You can read more on that in this post: What is Purple Shampoo?
New-school method: Remove it!*
What if it is an external cause of yellowing? Like buildup of minerals, hair products, environmental pollutions, and chlorine from city water and pools. Why not remove it? This was the starting point for my QuickSilverHair Clay recipe, I wanted to REMOVE the yellowing rather than just cover it up.
*Not all yellowing can be removed; sometimes, you will just have to grow it off.
Naturally Brighten Gray Hair using QuickSilverHair Clay:
I have tried many recipes with the clay and this is what I use. For best results, use this recipe.
What you need:
- Shower Cap
- QuickSilverHair Clay
- Clarifying Conditioner*
For best results please use Acure Curiously Clarifying Shampoo and Conditioner (or an all-natural silicone free conditioner with natural oils) Synthetic ingredients will block the action of the clay.
- 3-4 pumps of QuickSilverHair Oil
(or a dropper full of 100% pure Argan, Jojoba, or coconut oil) You must use oil in order to activate the clay.
- Mix in a small bowl: 2-3 tbsp of clay (+/- depending on the length of your hair) with oil and enough conditioner to make a smooth mix it should feel and look like frosting.
- Apply gently and evenly to wet hair after using clarifying shampoo.
- For deeper brightening and clarifying leave on for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Do not use heat, heat will dry out the clay and cake it to your hair.
- Rinse mask from hair thoroughly. You can wash again, experiment depending on what you feel your hair needs. Some need another wash after and some enjoy leaving it until the next wash.
How Often to Use the Clay:
You can safely use the mask up to twice a week for stubborn discolorations. How often you use it is up to you, but I advise at least once every 15-30 days for maintaining your brightest and shiniest gray hair.
Options to try for excessive buildup, discolorations, or hot tool damage.
- For an extra deep moisturizing mask add coconut oil instead of conditioner on wet hair & wash out with clarifying shampoo. Only use this method if you know your hair likes coconut oil.
- For extra brightening, you can use baking soda in ONE of these two ways. Whichever you choose make sure you follow with moisturizing leave-in to replace your moisture.
1. Add one teaspoon of baking soda to the conditioner, clay, and oil when preparing your mask.
2. Clarify before using the mask with 1 part Acure Curiously Clarifying Shampoo and 1 part baking soda. A small amount goes a long way. I do this on occasion, and I use two teaspoons of baking soda to two teaspoons of shampoo for my mid-back length hair.
Mix and coat your hair gently from root to tips, leave on hair for around 3 minutes and then rinse thoroughly, you can shampoo again if you feel you want to get all the baking soda out, and then do the mask.
You can use the mask up to twice a week for extra brightening care. I only advise this if you really need to remove heavy discoloration. After that, you can use every 10, 20, or 30 days to maintain your natural silver locks.
- Vinegar rinse, one tablespoon of (apple cider or distilled) vinegar to one gallon of water. Work evenly through hair and rinse. Many people find this to be effective but it can dry your hair out so follow with moisture rich conditioning.
- If all else fails you can use temporary hair color like Manic Panic Virgin Snow which will make your white hair whiter. This lasts around two weeks depending on how often you wash your hair and what products you use. Some also make their own purple conditioning mask with one of the Manic Panic Purples and conditioner on dry hair. I recommend Manic Panic because it is vegan dye and far more natural than salon toners or the violet dye in purple shampoos.
- Or you can see your stylist and she can add a blue or purple toner to your hair that will cover the yellowing a little longer than purple shampoo. Like the Manic Panic, it only lasts a couple of weeks.
What Not To Do:
I advise against any combination of these, and using them as a single treatment, be very careful and know the risks. Not only can they cause more discoloration, they can also cause chemical trauma which could lead to scalp irritation, dry, broken, damaged hair, and even hair loss.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: my advice; just don’t! I have also spoken to professionals who advise against this. Even though drug store hydrogen peroxide is only around 3% peroxide it will still act as bleach. This is a harsh treatment; you are bleaching your hair, and you could end up with more discolorations. It will dry your hair out, it can cause it to become brittle, fragile and ultimately cause severe breakage from the roots to the tips.
True story: we had a black dog who needed a daily wound wash with hydrogen peroxide, after three days, his black hair was a brassy orange.§
- Developer: Also, peroxide, if you choose this route please seek the help of a professional who specializes in hair color. Developer comes in levels 10-40, 40 being the strongest and has the most oxidizing power. Usually, the stylist will avoid getting it on your scalp so it doesn’t burn you. It will lighten your darker pigments of hair, and you will likely need toner afterwards to avoid yellowing.
- Vitamin C: aka ascorbic acid, in very minute quantities is actually good for cleansing hair and you will find it in shampoos. However, crushing large quantities of vitamin c, mixing it with dandruff shampoo or anything else, and applying it to your hair can result in a chemical reaction that can burn your scalp. It can also discolor your hair, cause damage and breakage down to the root.
- Baking soda: using it alone; if you already have dry hair, it will strip your hair of it’s natural oils and cause your hair to become drier. It can also irritate your scalp as it pulls the oil rich natural layer of protection from the skin. If you do choose to use baking soda dilute it with gentle shampoo or conditioner and follow with conditioning.
Do not mix baking soda with peroxide or vitamin c (the pills, ascorbic acid or citrus juices)…you will create a corrosive acid.
Household tip: Use it for the lime buildup on your faucet but don’t put it on your hair.§
- Neutrogena Clarifying Shampoo: This shampoo is extremely high in harsh detergents. Therefore mixing it with peroxide, baking soda, or vitamin c is a recipe for potentially severe damage. Using it alone is fine for clarifying, follow with conditioner as it is extremely drying.
Remember not all yellowing can be removed; sometimes, you will just have to grow it off. In the meantime, you can protect your new growth.
Tips to Keeping Your Locks Silver:
Ditch sulfate loaded shampoos: the sulfates are heavy-duty detergents (same ones they use in your laundry and dish soap) these detergents strip your hair and leave it dry and vulnerable to discolorations, breakage, and frizz.
Regularly use a gentle clarifying shampoo to remove product buildup.
Ditch silicone loaded conditioners and leave-ins: silicones create a plastic coating on your hair shaft, while they make your hair feel silky they are bonded to the shaft, using heat tools on the silicone will bake the product onto your hair shaft, and it takes heavy-duty sulfate loaded products to remove them.
Use a silicone free heat protectant; many of the heat protectants are nothing but silicones. Desert Essence makes this Coconut Hair Defrizzer & Heat Protector
Use sun protectants: protection when you will be out in the sun, can prevent irreversible sun damage to your white hair. Sun Bum Revitalizing 3 in 1 Leave-In Conditioner Spray UV Protection (this product does contain silicones but worth it occasionally for sunscreen on your hair.)
Use a hat when in the sun or a head wrap. I have had the blue version of this hat from San Diego Hat Company Women’s Cotton Crochet Hat for 20 years. I wear it for gardening and going to the park or picnics. I love that it is cotton, it keeps my head cool and protected.
Use heat tools (dryers and irons) that have manual heat settings where you are able to control the heat. Use those tools on the lowest possible heat to attain your desired hairstyle.
For swimmers, make sure to wet your hair before entering the pool, dry hair will instantly soak up all the chlorine, however if you soak your hair before with tap water your hair cannot grab anymore moisture from the pool water. If you swim daily you can follow Jonie’s process and protect your silver from the chlorine.
I’m certain that QuickSilverHair Oil has saved my bright shiny silvers from yellowing in the swimming pool. I’m rehabilitating from hip replacement surgery so swimming is vital for my recovery. I did my research, bought a special “waterproof” cap, and learned on the first lap there is no such thing. My hair got soaked. I asked my silver community what to do and how do I protect my precious virgin silvers!
After wetting my hair with regular water, I slather QuickSilverHair Oil and comb it through, put in top bun with my non-waterproof cap! After my swim, I immediately shower, shampoo, and condition. It’s a lot of extra work and thought for swim days to coincide with hair-washing days, BUT TOTALLY WORTH IT! I love this oil and it smells so nice. I believe, the oil is fully protecting my hair from yellowing from the chlorine and gives me a nice conditioning at the same time. Thank you, Joli.
If you are on well water or live in an area with hard water, get a shower filter (only needed on homes without a whole house filtration system). Not all filters are created equal though, you want one that filters out more than chlorine, it needs to be able to filter out some of the minerals in the water to soften it, like the AquaBliss High Output 12-Stage Shower Filter. These are easy to install so no need to be intimidated.
I hope you have found this post helpful. Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share.
As always it is about so much more than the hair.
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