When it comes to blonde hair, many of us are familiar with the idea of chlorine turning our lovely hair green, but what is the cause of hair extensions turning pink/orange?
If this has ever happened to you, you may have been concerned as to how this could have happened, however the answer is surprisingly simple.
Blonde hair extensions turning orange or pink is the exact same chemical process as when blonde hair turns brassy a few weeks after it has been coloured. It is a chemical reaction this causes discolouration in human hair that has been processed to blonde.
Why Do Hair Extensions Turn Brassy?
It all comes down to violet and ash pigments.
When blonde hair is coloured, violet and ash pigments are added to the hair to balance any warm tones to result in a beautiful ashy blonde. As demonstrated in the chart to the right, the darker your natural hair, the more warm pigments you will have, which is why those of us who are natural brunettes find it hard to achieve a platinum blonde in comparison to those lucky enough to have naturally light or mousey brown hair.
When hair is freshly coloured, the violet and ash pigments are added to the hair to mask the warm tones, and you leave the salon with the perfect colour. For the weeks after your appointment, as you wash your hair you will slowly begin to lift the violet and ash pigments, which over time will begin to reveal your natural pigment. As your natural pigments are warm, this will lead to your blonde hair looking more and more brassy.
Fortunately, this process is generally pretty slow, so by the time you are due a hair appointment to touch up your roots, a toner can be applied, or you can use a weekly silver shampoo treatment to keep the colour at bay.
There are however exceptions to this rule which can accelerate the “brassy” process, which includes hair extensions.
How Chlorine, Minerals, Sea Water And Sun Exposure Can Change The Colour Of Hair Extensions
So now that we understand what causes blonde hair to gradually become brassy, let’s take a look at the top 4 culprits for accelerating this process leading to discolouration.
Chlorine from swimming pool water, minerals from shower water (hard water areas), sea water and sun exposure all have the ability to strip away violet and ash pigment. As detailed above, when the violet and ash pigment is stripped away from blonde hair it reveals the natural warm pigment, so holidays are a very common time in which blonde hair can become brassy much quicker than usual.
When you throw hair extensions into the mix as well, this is where you may experience orange or even in some extreme cases pink. The reason for this is that hair extensions typically come from India, Russia or China, and will 9 out 10 times be dark brown before they are slowly processed into different shades. Not all blonde hair extensions will start their life as dark brown, however it would be safe to assume that the majority will. Because of this, naturally the hair extensions will be made up of warm pigments from the natural colour, and will require the violet and ash tones to develop the lighter ashier shades available within the industry.
If exposed to any of the 4 elements above, the violet and ash pigment will gradually be removed as it would also from natural hair, leaving an orangey/pink tone by revealing the natural red pigment. The same will happen to your natural blonde hair, however if your natural colour is lighter than the natural colour of the hair extensions, the amount of warm pigment revealed will most likely be lower, yellow instead of red, resulting in brassy hair extensions with your own hair still looking ok.
Therefore hair extensions turning orange whilst on holiday is not as serious an issue as it may seem, it is essentially the exact same problem anyone with blonde hair faces when preventing brassiness, the process has just been sped up due to the sea water, shower water, chlorine, sun exposure, and higher level of natural warm pigment.
It is for this very reason that it is not recommended to wear your hair extensions on holiday.
Have you experienced this problem but have not been on holiday? The same process can be caused by hard water, check out our article on hard water here.
How To Correct Brassiness In Hair Extensions
If you have experienced the above, you first need to identify what caused the problem in the first place. If you have just come back from holiday it is most likely one of the above, and if not it is likely hard water. Either way, you will need to prevent or restrict your hair extensions from being exposed to this so it does not worsen, or become brassy again once corrected.
To correct the discolouration, just like when blonde hair begins to turn brassy between washes, you will need to reintroduce the violet and ash pigments that have been washed away. A silver shampoo is a great way to do this, or a toner. You must be very careful when attempting to correct discolouration, seeking professional advise first and performing it on a test strand before doing the entire set.