White hair is completely lacking in melanin, the pigment that gives the hair color. White hair might be caused by stress, smoking, overuse of peroxide and nutritional imbalances. In most instances, however, gray or white hair is a natural part of aging. White hair can be beautiful and lustrous if it is cared for properly. However, it is susceptible to picking up a yellow cast when subjected to the wrong conditions.


Because hair is porous, it will pick up pollutants from the air, such as smog and dust. Hair that contains melanin also absorbs these environmental contaminants, but it is less noticeable due to hair pigmentation. When the hair is white, it will appear dull and yellowish when it has accumulated pollutants. Use a leave-in conditioner to fill up the porosity of the hair so pollutants will be less likely to be absorbed.


Cigarette and cigar smoke can build up on the hair just like it does on walls, clothing and skin. It causes yellowing due to the tar and nicotine in the smoke. Smoke tends to drift upwards and coats the hair causing it to yellow, especially in the front. To avoid yellowing due to smoking, try to smoke in open, less-confined spaces or quit smoking altogether. Avoid secondhand smoke as much as possible.


Products such as gel, mousse and hairspray can cause yellowing of white hair due to product residue and the binding properties of hair products that might attract and hold pollutants. In addition, some products contain chemicals that may contribute to yellowing. Use a clarifying shampoo at least once every week to remove product buildup.


Some medications can cause white hair to turn yellow. Medications are excreted through the pores of the skin and the scalp and may coat the hair shaft and contribute to a yellow cast. Use a shampoo that contains a blue or violet base to counteract the appearance of yellow in white hair. Shampoo often to remove medication buildup, as well.


To avoid yellowing of white hair, wash the hair often to avoid product and pollutant accumulation. In addition, use a clarifying shampoo at least once a week; more if you are exposed to smoke, or use products heavily. Use a shampoo that contains a blue or violet base to counteract the yellowing effects of medications, and other contributing factors. In addition, apply a leave-in conditioner daily to fill the porosity of the hair to help avoid absorption of contaminants.

References and Resources

Clinical Advisor