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What color wheel colors neutralize hair?

Hair coloring is a popular way for people to change up their look. However, it can also be damaging to hair if not done properly. Using color theory and the color wheel is important for choosing tones that will neutralize or cancel out unwanted pigments in hair. Here’s a look at how to use color wheel colors to effectively neutralize hair.

Understanding Hair Pigments

Hair gets its color from melanin pigments. There are two types:

  • Eumelanin – brown and black pigments
  • Pheomelanin – red and blonde pigments

The combination and concentration of these melanins in the hair shaft produce all the natural hair colors we see from black to blonde. When coloring hair, we have to understand these underlying pigments to neutralize or remove them.

How Color Neutralization Works

Neutralization is the process of using an opposite or complementary color on the color wheel to cancel out or neutralize an unwanted tone in the hair. This follows the basic color theory principle that opposite colors neutralize each other.

Some examples:

  • Green neutralizes red
  • Purple neutralizes yellow
  • Blue neutralizes orange

By applying the right level and intensity of an opposite color, it neutralizes the unwanted pigment molecules in the hair shaft. This allows true color correction and also avoids further buildup of color layers on the hair over time.

Choosing Your Color Wheel

There are different types of color wheels used in hair coloring:

  • Primarily RGB (red, green, blue)
  • RYB (red, yellow, blue)
  • CYMK (cyan, yellow, magenta, black)

RGB and RYB are the most common. Here is an example of an RYB color wheel showing the primary through tertiary colors:

Primary Secondary Tertiary
Red Orange Red-orange
Yellow Green Yellow-green
Blue Purple Blue-purple

No matter the wheel, the essential color opposites remain the same: red vs green, yellow vs purple, blue vs orange. This forms the basis for neutralization.

Color Wheel Neutralization for Common Hair Pigments

Here is how color wheel neutralization works for some common natural hair pigments:

Warm Tones

  • Orange: Blue neutralizes orange. Using a blue-based color, like an ash brown, helps neutralize brassy orange tones.
  • Red: Green neutralizes red. Color correctors in green counteracts unwanted red tones.
  • Yellow: Purple neutralizes yellow. Violet and pearl toner shades help neutralize yellow.

Cool Tones

  • Ash: Red or gold neutralizes ash tones. Beige blonde helps soften overly ashy hair.
  • Green: Red neutralizes green. Adding warmth with red or copper shades counters a green cast.

The intensity of the neutralizing shade also needs to match the intensity of the underlying pigment to achieve full neutralization. Using professional hair color products is recommended for best results.

Other Considerations for Neutralizing Hair

Here are some other important points for effectively neutralizing hair color:

  • Analyze the current color – the existing tone and intensity determines the correct neutralizing shade.
  • Do a strand test – apply to a small section first to check the color result.
  • Choose demi- or semi-permanent color – for gentler, reversible neutralization on damaged hair.
  • Neutralize step-by-step – fully neutralize one unwanted tone before moving to the next.
  • Use a toner or glaze – for fine-tuning tone after coloring.
  • Deep condition after – nourishing masks and treatments keep hair healthy.

How Long Does Neutralized Hair Color Last?

How long neutralized hair color lasts depends on several factors:

  • Permanence of original color – permanent lasts longer than semi-permanent.
  • Porosity of hair – more porous hair fades faster.
  • Shampooing and heat styling – frequent washing and hot tools accelerate fading.
  • Toner vs permanent color – toners last about 4-6 weeks; demi-permanent color 6-8 weeks.
  • Reapply toners as needed – to maintain an even, neutralized color.

Using professional salon techniques and products helps maximize the durability of neutralized hair color. Proper at-home care is also key for making it last.

Best Color Wheel Neutralizing Shades

Here are some top color wheel shades for neutralizing common unwanted pigments in hair:

Unwanted Tone Neutralizing Shade
Yellow Violet, pearl
Orange Blue, ash
Red Green
Green Red
Ash Gold, beige

Consulting a colorist helps match the right neutralizing shade and intensity to your particular hair goals. With the proper application and aftercare, neutralized color can look vibrant and natural.


Using color wheel theory is essential to neutralize unwanted pigments and correct hair color effectively. Analyzing the existing tone and level then choosing the appropriate opposite shade on the wheel neutralizes the hair’s undertone. Cool tones like ash and green are neutralized with warm shades of red, gold and beige. Warm orange, yellow and red tones are counteracted with cool violet, blue and green shades. Following professional techniques for application and maintenance keeps the neutralized color looking its best.

Understanding the intricacies of hair’s underlying pigments along with smart use of the color wheel guides the way to beautiful, neutralized hair color results.