Color How-To: Lightening Asian Hair

Asian hair is notoriously challenging to lighten. And avoiding the dreaded orange crush is something every colorist faces when going from dark to light. “Asian hair is very hard to lift, and it can be hard to manage the pigment because it can easily turn orangey red,” says Mai Awano, Bumble and bumble Senior Colorist. “It’s a long and difficult process because when lifting, it turns red, orange, yellow and then pale. But the key is to control the stages.” Here, her best tips for coloring Asian hair. 

Q: What’s the best way to lighten Asian hair?

It depends on the lightening you’re looking for. If a client wants to go just a teeny bit lighter, we don’t have to use bleach—it may be easier and less damaging. But if they’re looking to go very light, you have to use bleach. 

Q: How can you avoid brassiness?

The best way is with toner. Cooler tones, like a purplish toner, kill yellow and green pigments, while blue toner kills red. 

Q: Anything else colorists should keep in mind?

When choosing a shade, consider the client’s undertones to find the most flattering color. Asians with more yellow undertones can wear orangish colors, while Asians with olive undertones can wear copper hues.