How to Tone Down Red Hair No Matter How Bright It Is

When it comes to red hair, the possibilities are endless. It’s a trendy color that comes in a variety of shades and it flatters an array of skin tones. But as with any bold and striking color, it can be, well, a lot. Sometimes the shade doesn’t always turn out quite as you had expected, whether you dyed your hair at home or in the salon. If you need to tone down your red, we know exactly what to do. Read on for the best tips on how to tone down red in hair and the best products to do so with. It might be as simple as buying a new shampoo!

how to tone down red hair | Mane Addicts
(Image Source: Unsplash / Jakayla Toney)

About the Expert

Shvonne Perkins has over 20 years of experience within the beauty industry as an educator and master hair colorist. Today, she is the Lead Colorist at Madison Reed and manages training and education for clients on how to navigate expert hair color from home.

Why the Need to Tone Down Red Hair

Simply put, there is a ton of variation when we think about red hair colors. Similar to how there are dirty blondes and platinum blondes, red hair has a spectrum of its own.

“There are copper-based reds, cool-toned violet reds, vibrant reds, and earth-toned reds. The problem for many people is that they don’t know exactly which one they want (or don’t want) until the color is already on and you’re seeing it up against our own eye and skin tone for the first time,” says Shvonne Perkins, Madison Reed’s Lead Colorist.

She notes someone might like a reference photo or swatch but when things are said and done it might not feel true to the wearer. “In that case, you may need to make a U-Turn and try to go back to your original color or at least tone down the red as much as possible,” she adds.

But fear not, we’re here to guide you if you end up with a shade that doesn’t quite feel like “you.” There’s nothing to be scared of as toning down red hair (and even further experimenting) can happen with the simplest of tweaks and at-home products.

How to Tone Down Red Hair

Ask Yourself, Lighten or Tone?

“Try to get an understanding of exactly what you don’t like about the red because not all solutions will be equal,” says Perkins. If the red is too dark or deep, you may need a color remover, even highlights to lighten some things up.

But if you’re most concerned about the tones of your hair leaning super golden, violet, or copper, you’ll need to scoop up a toner. Think what purple shampoo does for blondes to tone down brassiness. The fix might just be a simple use of an at-home product.

Wash Your Hair a Few Times First

“Most often the shade could be dialed in by lightening it slightly, either with a color remover or several uses of a clarifying shampoo. Most reds look best after they’ve been shampooed a couple of times and the excess pigment is washed out,” says Perkins.

When in Doubt, Consult a Stylist

“It can be easy to over-respond when you don’t like your hair color. It can completely change how you see yourself in the mirror, and it can be tempting to over-highlight the hair,” says Perkins. If after you’ve washed your hair a couple of times with a clarifying shampoo and still have major concerns, there is no shame in asking for help. Your hairstylist will be able to guide you toward the next step depending on where you would like your red hair to go.

Best Products to Tone Down Red Hair

Madison Reed Prime for Perfection

“This is like a deep cleansing facial for your hair. It targets permanent color and helps to gradually remove it from the hair. It’s a glyoxylic acid treatment that will help to remove red color without going straight to bleaching,” says Perkins.

Once some of the red is removed from your hair, you can then go back over the hair with a more neutral shade or a toner. Perkins notes highlighting over red hair may be necessary to get back to your original shade if that’s what you’re after.

Madison Reed Prime for Perfection | Mane Addicts
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Kevin Murphy Cool Angel

Cool Angel is a cool ash color-enhancing shine treatment. It’s a shampoo made with a blend of gray pigment that enhances cool ash shades and removes red and orange tones from hair. It has murumuru seed butter, green tea extract, and olive leaf extract for added moisture and color protection.

Kevin Murphy Cool Angel | Mane Addicts
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Kérastase Chroma Absolu Anti-Copper Green Mask for Color-Treated Hair

What cancels out the color red? That’s right, green. Because red and green are complements on the color wheel, green is able to cancel out unwanted red tones within the hair. Green shampoo is to redheads as purple shampoo is to blondes.

This mask is great for all hair types as a weekly or twice-a-week treatment. It will color-correct and hydrate while neutralizing any unwanted red and copper undertones in dark hair.

Kérastase Chroma Absolu Anti-Copper Green Mask for Color-Treated Hair | Mane Addicts
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Looking for more toners suitable for refreshing red hair colors? Check out more product selections HERE!