Stain Away: How to De-Yellow Grey Hair and Become a Silver, Frizz-Free Fox

by Liza Herz on 2 July 2013 · 20 comments

Maye MuskWe spooked reader Victoria with our smoothing-serum recommendations for silver hair. Don’t all of these products make grey hair yellow? she wondered. They are all yellow in colour.

Great question, Victoria, and very Beautygeek-ish of you. Welcome to the clan; you’re one of us. And rather than reply with a one-word answer, we have to say, well, it’s rather complicated.

We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but it’s not so much that hair products will yellow grey hair. Other things you come into contact with daily can skew your hue: Hard water leaves discolouring mineral deposits; smoking leaves icky residue on hair; and UV rays can yellow your hair because they leech out the blue. Why do such things happen? Grey hair is porous (the result of pigment that flew the coop), so it easily absorbs seemingly innocuous things.

instant fixes for yellowed hair

Purple or violet tinted shampoos and conditioners instantly brighten dulled silver hair. Cast your mind back to high school art class colour theory: purple neutralizes yellow since they lie opposite one another on the colour wheel.


Because dullness builds up gradually and the following products reverse this process instantly, seeing your blah, yellow grey hair transformed into light-bouncing silvery strands will give you quite the thrill. Promise. Some of our favourites:

John Frieda Sheer Blonde Colour Renew_shampoo and conditioner

  • Pantene Pro-V Silver Expressions Daily Color Enhancing Shampoo and Conditioner ($5.99 each, drugstores, mass retailers)
  • John Frieda Sheer Blonde Colour Renew Tone Correcting Shampoo and Conditioner ($13.99 each,
  • Schwarzkopf BC Hairtherapy Color Save Shampoo Silver Shampoo for grey and lightened hair ($15.25, select salons)
  • AG Hair Sterling Silver Toning Shampoo and Conditioner ($16 each,

(One caveat: don’t get the shampoo on your white shower curtain. It will be hell to remove the telltale purple drops. Trust.)

To remove debris and neutralize brassiness without depositing pigment, try Joico K-Pak Clarify Chelating Shampoo ($16.75, select salons) but follow up with a great rinse-out conditioner or leave-in conditioner, because it’s powerful stuff.

Now (finally!) to Victoria’s serum question. (Are you still with us, Victoria?)

Will yellow serums make grey hair yellow, too?

When hair serums appear yellow, it’s often the bottle that is tinted, not the product (beauty companies must think that a gentle golden shade is more appealing to us than a clear serum). Based on our speedy a priori test and follow up a posteriori testing, for example, both Shu Uemura Essence Absolue ($69, and Kérastase Elixir Ultime ($54, are clear serums in gold bottles.

John Frieda Full Repair Touchup Flyaway TamerAnd of course, our favourite, which we recommend every chance we get, John Frieda Full Repair FlyAway Tamer ($12, drugstores) is clear (and it’s hard to find; tweet @JohnFriedaCA for info). Granted Flyaway Tamer is more for on-the-fly Hair Triage (it’s easy to use thanks to the oversized mascara-wand applicator), but you should have one as a matter of course in each purse or makeup bag. And in your desk drawer, for Crazy Cat Lady hair banishment. Life-changing.

smoothing-serum alternatives

You’re cautious, Victoria and we applaud that. So rather than get you tossed out of drugstores for cracking open serum bottles, might we suggest you choose creamy white leave-in conditioners or finishing creams to smooth unruly hair? They can also be easier to use if you tend to go overboard with serum (a real no-no as one extra drop can take your hair from shiny to greasy instantly). Dove Colour Care contains my favourite silicone — cyclopentasiloxane — a proven frizz smoother.

Serums and crèmes sold as colour protectors are also great for grey hair as their added UV filters protect against yellowing.

Giovanni 2chic Ultra Sleek Leave-In Conditioning & Styling Elixir_Live Clean Damage Therapy Split End Cream

  • Pantene Pro-V Beautiful Lengths Strengthen & Smooth Finishing Crème ($5.99, drugstores, mass retailers)
  • Giovanni 2Chic Brazilian Keratin & Argan Oil Ultra-Sleek Leave-In Conditioner & Styling Elixir ($9.99, Loblaws, Whole Foods)
  • Tresemmé Leave-in Split End Conditioning Treatment ($5.99, drugstores, mass retailers)
  • Dove Hair Therapy Damage Solutions Color Care Leave-On Conditioner ($7.99,
  • Live Clean Damage Therapy Split End Cream ($9.99,

OK. Any questions? Anyone else have favourite recommendations to add, either in the de-yellow category or de-frizzing?

Today’s made-in-Canada content includes model Maye Musk, AG Hair and Live Clean. And Liza Herz, too.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Beauty Reflections 2 July 2013 at 10:46 am

Great tips for sure! My favourite serum at the moment is the Keihl’s Silk Groom Serum-it’s clear and works really well for grey hair like mine. The other thing I’ve recently tried and works better than most brightening shampoos is Pro:Voke Touch Of Silver Brightening Shampoo and Conditioner. You only need to use them twice a week instead of daily. You can get them at or at London Drugs.


Liza 3 July 2013 at 8:25 am

Excellent point! Those chelating or colour depositing shampoos can strip hair, so definitely do NOT use them every day.

I agree that a serum is great for smoothing frizz. But some people can over-do it (looks at self in mirror) so a smoothing or finishing cream has more room for error. That’s why we all (and virtually all editors who’ve tried it) love the Frieda FlyAway Tamer. The gel/serum formula ensures you don’t get that greasy, unwashed look.

I haven’t heard of Pro:Voke but will definitely check it out.




Joanne Latimer (@SinusSister) 2 July 2013 at 11:56 am

Bookmarked this info-packed post for the near future, when I stop the charade. You know what I mean. :)


Liza 3 July 2013 at 8:25 am

OOh. Come join team silver. And document your progress (something I wish I had done.)


Ellicia 2 July 2013 at 5:25 pm

This jogged my memory. My grandmother used to put a few drops of Mrs. Stewart’s Liquid Bluing in a final rinse she put on her hair after shampooing. It worked beautifully.


Liza 3 July 2013 at 8:29 am

Amazing! I love a good bit of beauty DIY. I wonder what it’s made of? And how long it would stay in your hair?

As a bit of a fraidy cat, I’m grateful for pre-mixed purple-tinted shampoos. But your grandmother rocked!


Ellicia 3 July 2013 at 8:05 pm

I was wondering how safe it was also. Lo and behold, even after all these years, they have a web site and one of the recommended uses for the product is hair whitening , even for pets. Just think how nice our Westies and bichons could look too. Here is the web site if you would like to read further.


Liza 3 July 2013 at 8:57 pm

That’s fantastic.

Well, it wouldn’t show up on my yellow lab’s fur, so you’ll have to try.

And if you do, please send a photo! (That goes double if you try it on yourself!)


Blush Stops Here (@blushstopshere) 12 July 2013 at 9:31 pm

Purple or violet tinted shampoos and conditioners also brighten dulled highlights.


brit 28 July 2013 at 9:41 am

everything you recommend has cones in it :( How about something natural that won’t ruin our hair ?


Janine 29 July 2013 at 4:35 pm

Hi Brit,

We’re not as anti-silicone as some — we understand how they work, and that for instant-gratification shine and de-frizzing, they work best for stubborn, wiry hair. This piece sheds some light.


Ardith 17 March 2014 at 6:40 pm

My gray hair turns yellow from the curling iron. Using rollers is not real convenient so I’m searching for answers to get rid of the yellowing. I am using the purple shampoo weekly but it’s not taking it out.


Janine 17 March 2014 at 10:33 pm

Hi Ardith,

Thanks for your question! The short answer is that you need a clarifying shampoo to remove the yellowing. There are a couple of things that might be responsible for the yellowing; more details to come in the next few days via a post that addresses the issue. Do you use a heat-protection spray or serum before you use your curling iron?


Jane McGinnis 1 July 2014 at 8:06 pm

My hair stylist said to put a pinch of baking soda in clarifying shampoo to get rid of the yellow streaks from mineral deposits or hot irons.


Hope Roberts 18 September 2014 at 2:41 pm

my white hair is turning yellow and I think it may be the product I’m using to give it more body since my hair is fine. Is there a product out there for white hair? Thank you


Janine 22 September 2014 at 9:16 am

I don’t think so, Hope — not exactly. I’m more familiar with the types of products mentioned in this post, formulas designed to remove yellow from white hair. What’s the volumizing product you’re using?


Dede 10 November 2014 at 2:04 pm

Where can I get the purple and violet tinted shampoo’s and conditioners ? I have looked for them but I can’t find them anywhere. I do not like to see the yellow in the front of my hair. It seems to make my hair look dirty. ( it’s not )


Janine 11 November 2014 at 10:11 am

Hi Dede! Have you tried Pantene Pro-V Silver Expressions? Available at Walmart and Finesse also had a silver-enhancing duo, but I’m not sure whether the brand still exists.


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