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If you’ve ever tried to lighten your hair at home — or caught sight of your reflection halfway through a double-process treatment — you’re familiar with the dull, one-dimensional yellow that remains after bleaching. It’s not an especially natural or flattering shade, which is why a good colorist will then apply highlights, lowlights and toner. (Side note: This is also why your salon visit takes four hours and costs a small fortune.)
Unfortunately, dyed hair likes to slowly creep back toward that brassy yellow over time. That’s where purple shampoo, which is kind of a “toner lite,” comes in.
The shampoo goes on, you guessed it, purple — a bold, somewhat alarming violet that will stain your bathtub if it dries — but rinses out clear. Because purple is on the opposite side of the color wheel as yellow, it helps to combat underlying brassiness in the hair and get rid of yellow pigment, explained Lauren Grummel, a New York City-based colorist.
And while an over-the-counter product can’t replicate the nuanced work of a skilled colorist, it can help you extend the time between appointments. “A purple shampoo is really great because it can help keep your color fresher for longer, outside of the salon,” Grummel said.
But it’s not just for dyed blondes. It can also be used to touch up highlights, keep trendy pastels looking crisp or give grays (natural or otherwise) those chic blue undertones.
“A natural blonde could use it if their hair is feeling a little dull and they wanted a bit of vibrancy,” Grummel added.
So, what’s the catch? Well, there is the aforementioned tub staining, so be sure to clean up quickly. And if you use it too often, you might notice your hair starting to look a little flat or ashy, Grummel said. Although, that can be quickly remedied by washing with your regular shampoo and conditioner.
She recommends starting by using the product once a week and then bumping it up to two times per week if you feel like you need more.
With that, here are some of the best purple shampoos, according to experts and reviewers.
Kasey Bertucci, hairstylist and co-founder of Salon 120 West in Boston likes this shampoo from Redken. Ideal for blonde and highlighted hair, the formula has salicylic acid which she said can also help remove unwanted pigment.
This pick from Bertucci also just so happens to be an Amazon reviewer favorite with more than 33,000 raving five-star reviews. “I would recommend using a cleansing shampoo first and then following up with the Fanola, just to make sure that you have a nice, clean slate before applying,” Bertucci said.
Olaplex’s No. 4 Blonde Enhancer Toning Shampoo is one of the most recent additions to the market. Released in September, the highly-concentrated formula promises to strengthen and hydrate hair while neutralizing unwanted brassy tones. “It’s part of their hair restorative line, so if you are highlighting and your hair feels a little brittle and needs a bit of reconstruction, that’s a great option,” Bertucci said.
Gummel loves the Blonde Angel Wash and Rinse from Kevin Murphy, since it’ll rarely give you any of those unwanted tones. “You’d have to use it a lot to make your hair look dull and flat,” she said. “It always makes the blondes look so bright and shiny and just takes that edge of warmth out of the hair.”
For an affordable option that delivers intense results, look no further than L’Oreal’s EverPure Purple Shampoo. The top-rated pick is enriched with hibiscus and purple pigments and is free of sulfates, parabens and harsh salts.
“I love that I can go around town and people ask who did my hair and I can share that this comes from a shampoo bottle,” one verified Amazon reviewer wrote. “I have naturally blond hair now and it looks amazing. I love this product because when I get my hair done it turns brassy yellow, but now I can get the results and keep the results I want without drying my hair out. Definitely worth the money! Remember though, once purple turns lavender, rinse!”
Preserve the color of your highlighted, blonde, gray or ombré hair with this purple shampoo. Along with the purple pigment, it contains hair-healthy ingredients like rosehip oil, arginine, green tea extracts and keratin, making it a great all-around treatment. And don’t just take our word for it, you can also look to the impressive Amazon review section for evidence: It has an average 4.6-star rating and over 8,100 glowing reviews.
“Smells nice and keeps my hair a great shade of blonde! I have ash blonde highlights and this shampoo helps to keep the colour looking fresh. I don’t find the smell too strong compared to other purple shampoos. I also find it a better consistency as some purple shampoos are too runny. I would definitely recommend this product,” wrote one Sephora reviewer.
Hairstylist Susan Monahan of Warren-Tricomi Salon said that this is her go-to conditioner for blonde hair. It provides a similar effect as purple shampoo.
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Emma Stessman is Shop TODAY’s Editorial Assistant.
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