Why Is My Gray Hair Turning Yellow & Brassy?

When it comes to graying hair, there is no right or wrong way to age. Gray hair is a fact of life for many of us when we get older. Some women cover their grays and color their hair at the salon. Others welcome the salt and pepper look and celebrate their appearance changing in the mirror. 

Once we learn exactly why our gray hair turns yellow and brassy, we will be better equipped to know how we can fix it. If you embrace silver strands making their debut, you will want to read on for tips on keeping aging hair looking its best.

We explore everything you need to know about gray hair turning yellow, ways to prevent brassiness, and how to counteract yellowing gray, silver, and white hair to live your best aging hair life.

How Can I Embrace My Gray Hair?

Whether you have blond hair, red hair, brown or black hair, chances are you’ll experience some graying as you age. Gray hair is a result of your hair losing pigment. But even with the absence of pigment, some of us still worry about unwanted yellow tones and brassiness in gray hair.

Feeling better (not younger) means taking the side effects and by-products of the aging process and making them work for you. If you want to embrace your silver locks, you may not want to embrace the yellowness and brassy hues that can come with graying hair.

There are many reasons why gray hair turns brassy and yellow. Some of these reasons range from internal factors to external circumstances. Whatever the reason for the unwelcome yellowing of your gray hair, there are solutions to neutralize brassy tones and brighten your strands.

Removing brassiness from gray, white, and silver hair will make our manes really shine — in more ways than one. You may want to get rid of the yellow in your gray hair to keep your hair as a truly cool and neutral hue; brassiness can lead to gray hair looking dull, and no one wants that!

What Makes Gray Hair Brassy?

Gray hair is a very common and natural reaction to our hair color as we age. Gray hair is caused by a decrease in melanin and fewer pigment cells in the hair follicles. Humans aren’t the only ones who experience this phenomenon of getting older. 

Fun Fact: our furry friends, like cats and dogs, also undergo graying of their fur as they age. Melanocytes, which produce melanin, become mature and sometimes fail to produce the pigment needed to color hair. When this happens during the hair growth cycle, it will result in unpigmented hair in our hair follicles. 

Gray is a naturally light color. If we think of light-colored paper, the colors on it will show more than if that paper was black. The same idea applies to your hair, as well. Gray hair acts as an almost blank canvas, which sounds great in theory if you’d like to color it (although gray hair needs special attention by your hairstylist when coloring, as it doesn’t hold on to hair color as well as natural hair). 

For those content with their new natural silvery look, you may notice the gray in your hair becoming a brassy color. Gray hair becomes brassy with outside and inside influences. 

Outside influences that impact gray hair and turn it brassy include:

  • Shampoo and other hair products. Some shampoos and hair products with a tint could contain colorants that are yellow in hue. Since gray hair is more porous than hair that has pigment, it can absorb the colorants.

  • Water deposits. Chlorine and other minerals can cause your hair to become yellow and brassy, depending on how often you are exposed to these substances. That means frequent dips in the pool and washing your hair with water that contains chemicals or mineral deposits can cause a shift in tone.

  • Scalp oils. For those with higher oil production, sebum can build up from our scalp and discolor our hair.

  • Hot tools. Using heat to style our hair can cause yellowing. Don’t forget to always use a Thermal Protectant Spray if you style your hair with heat!

  • Sun. In the same way that the heat from styling tools can cause yellowing, sunshine can also do this.

  • Pollution. Air quality can make our gray strands turn brassy. Porous gray hair takes in deposits from pollution more easily (this also includes smoke).

Internal factors to consider that influence turning gray hair yellow include:

  • Medications. Certain medications and supplements can change the color of your hair.

  • Genetics. In the same way that genetics decide whether or not we go gray, they can also dictate the shade of our gray hair.

  • Illness and hormone imbalances. Speak with your doctor to determine if a medical imbalance or issue could be the culprit when it comes to brassiness reflecting in your hair.

How Can I Prevent Gray Hair from Turning Yellow?

Finding the source of your yellowing situation is a great first start. Take a look at the previous lists to see if any of these possibilities could be the cause of the brassiness.

An easy way to test if your shampoo or products affect the color of your gray hair is by switching up your products to clear versions.

Chlorine exposure typically comes in the form of pools or hot tubs. If you spend a lot of time swimming or lounging in the water, you’ll likely be exposed to chlorine. Avoid getting your hair wet with chlorinated water if you have gray hair.

Water that comes from your showerhead is tap water, typically provided by your local city. That water is often treated with chlorine or may have minerals that could affect your hair. If you suspect this to be the case, there are showerheads with filters that will remove the chlorine to keep your hair healthier (and less yellow!).

For the health of your hair and skin, wearing a sun hat outdoors to limit sun exposure can help. If you experience a build-up of oils or products on your scalp, use a clarifying product such as our New Dawn: Activated Charcoal Scalp Cleanser to wash away dirt and oils.

Choosing to style your hair without using heat can be a good choice. If you can’t say no to your blow dryer or curling iron, spritz on some thermal protectant spray first.

How Do I Get the Yellow Out of My Gray Hair?

The best way to get the yellow out is to find the source. Even if you’re having trouble figuring out the cause, the next step is to use a purple shampoo, purple conditioner, or a purple masque. 

The reason for using something purple with something yellow or brassy is simple science — or art. Looking at a color wheel, you will see the colors on the opposite side. 

Colors opposite from each other on a color wheel cancel each other out. To tone down the yellow and brassy colors, purple can help bring those warm tones to a cooler look. With purple shampoos and masks, you can see results almost immediately. 

Most shampoos will need a few minutes to stay in the hair, depending on the level of brassiness. Once washed out, you should see a noticeable difference. 

The Best Products for Gray Hair

Finding the right product for yellow or brassiness isn’t quite straightforward for those with aging, gray hair. 

Most purple shampoos and purple products designed to counteract yellowness are geared toward those with bleached hair. Aging gray hair is drier than most and needs consideration toward that. 

That’s why we made our Silver Lining Purple Brightening Shampoo For Grey & White Hair. Our Silver Lining Shampoo is sulfate-free and made to eliminate any yellow or brassy tones to say hello to bright silver strands. This shampoo is perfect for aging gray hair because it hydrates, strengthens, and adds volume instead of drying hair out further and weighing it down.

Following up the Silver Lining Purple Brightening Shampoo For Grey & White Hair with our Silver Lining Purple Butter Masque is a great way to get complete coverage. The masque is a conditioner replacer intended to be used one to three times a week. 

Full of natural ingredients like mango, avocado, and green coffee, our masque will help nourish and eliminate the yellow tones. Applying to your hair’s mid-shaft out toward the ends will help remove the brassiness while also making hair soft and manageable. 

Brassiness is an unfortunate side effect that occurs to many of us as we go gray with age. Fortunately, you can combat unwanted yellow tones in gray hair by determining what is causing brassy strands. Even if we can’t completely remove the outside or inside sources of gray hair brassiness, we can also turn to shampoos, conditioners, and hair masques to counteract yellowing.

Boost the beauty of your gray hair as you age better. If you are still unsure where to start, take our personalized hair quiz here to find the right products for you.


The Biology of Human Hair Greying | PMC

The Psychology of Gray Hair | ScienceDirect

Neutralizing Color | Just Paint