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Why is my hair turning orange naturally?

Hair color can change for a variety of reasons as we age. If you’ve noticed your hair taking on an orange tint, even without using hair dye, this is likely due to a combination of factors.

Causes of Natural Hair Color Changes

There are a few key reasons why your hair may start to turn orange:

Loss of Pigment

Your hair gets its color from a pigment called melanin. There are two types of melanin:

  • Eumelanin – responsible for brown and black hues
  • Pheomelanin – responsible for red and orange hues

As we age, we start to lose melanin, which can cause the red/orange pheomelanin to become more apparent. This is especially noticeable for those with darker hair that is losing its richness.

Sun Exposure

Prolonged exposure to UV rays from the sun can break down melanin in your hair over time. This causes the red/orange undertones to show through.

Chemical Processing

Hair treatments like dyeing, bleaching, perming, or straightening involve harsh chemicals. Over time, these chemicals remove pigment and create damage that leads to oxidative stress. This can result in orange discoloration as the undertones begin to peek through.

Chlorine Damage

Frequent swimming exposes your hair to chlorine, which acts as a bleaching agent. This fades hair color and allows the warmer, orange tones to present themselves.


There are some prescription medications that can interact with the melanin in your hair as a side effect. This includes things like antimalarials, tetracyclines, or anti-inflammatories. Speak with your doctor if you notice orange hair after starting a new medication.

Who is Most At Risk?

There are certain people who are more likely to experience their hair turning orange naturally as they age:

  • Individuals with lighter brown, blond, or gray hair – you already have pheomelanin present
  • People who frequently swim or sunbathe – chlorine and UV exposure
  • Those with processed hair – damage from chemicals
  • People with thinning hair – increased loss of pigment
  • Smokers – smoking accelerates hair aging

Managing and Preventing Orange Hair

While some natural orange tone is inevitable, there are things you can do to minimize and cope with it:

Limit Chemical Processing

Avoid overly bleaching, dyeing, straightening, or perming your hair. This will reduce damage and pigment loss. Let your roots grow out fully between treatments.

Use a Clarifying Shampoo

Clarifying shampoos can help remove chlorine and product buildup that accentuates brassiness. Look for ones with vitamin C or anti-hard water ingredients.

Try a Toner

Look for toners made for neutralizing orange tones. Purple or blue-hued formulas will cancel out unwanted warmth. Apply after shampooing and rinse thoroughly.

Protect Hair from Sun

Wear a hat when outdoors and limit direct sunlight exposure. Sunscreen spray made for hair can also help shield it from UV rays.

Eat Color Enhancing Foods

Foods high in vitamins and antioxidants will support melanin production. Eat plenty of vitamin C, copper, and iron from things like citrus, tomatoes, nuts, greens, and beans.

Try Temporary Color

Temporary rinses come in shades like black, brown, or gray to camouflage orange undertones between permanent dye jobs. Just rinse out after use.

When to See a Doctor

In some cases, having orange hair may be a sign of an underlying medical condition. See your doctor or dermatologist if you notice:

  • Orange hair occurring rapidly or at an early age
  • Significant changes in hair texture or density
  • Hair loss or thinning accompanying the color change
  • Flakes or scabs on the scalp

This could indicate problems like alopecia areata, ringworm, psoriasis, or nutritional deficiencies.

Consulting a Colorist

If embracing your new orange tones is not for you, speak to a professional hair colorist. They can advise you on the best dye, toners, and styling to camouflage unwanted warmth. Colorists who specialize in color correction are very familiar with issues of unwanted orange or red hair.

With some targeted adjustments to your hair care regimen, you can minimize brassiness and keep hair looking its best. Learning to work with and enhance your natural hair color can help you grow gracefully and beautifully!


Orange hair is often an unavoidable part of the natural aging process. However, being aware of the common causes and taking proactive steps through proper hair care can help you manage it gracefully. Work with your natural hair tones, protect hair from damage, and speak to a colorist if needed. Embrace your hair’s journey through life!