Every salon blonde can agree that purple shampoo is a must-have—and we’ve been seeing a lot of the color-depositing product these days. While we know that violet-tinted shampoos work like magic on cool, ash-blonde hair, what about brunettes? Can using purple shampoo on brown hair yield similar toning and brightening benefits?
We tapped Nick Stenson, beauty expert and Matrix brand ambassador, to answer whether you can apply purple shampoo to dark hair. He gave us pointers, product suggestions, and even alternatives for those with brunette locks. Keep scrolling through because what he told us may surprise you.
What does purple shampoo do?
Before we get into purple shampoo on brown hair, here’s a quick refresher on what the product does. It basically works as a color corrector to restore cool tones to your strands. Since purple is on the opposite end of the color wheel from yellow, the two hues cancel each other out—which is why purple shampoo works to eliminate brassy tones in color-treated blonde or platinum hair. Contrarily, blue formulas can help offset the orange undertones that crop up on brunette hair color—more on that later.
Why does hair turn brassy?
By now, you may be thinking, “If my hair never turned brassy, I’d never need purple shampoo, right?” It’s normal to wonder if you can get ahead of brassiness from the start and skip needing a purple shampoo in your routine. The truth is, brass is sometimes an inevitable aspect of the lightening experience.
Lifting your hair with color or bleach will always bring up your strands' warm undertones and underlying pigments. Though bleach allows you to push past these yellow and orange tones, your hair will likely require a salon-toning gloss to balance your color. Sun exposure, hot tools, and other environmental factors can cause color-treated hair to oxidize and turn brassy over time. This is typically when many people turn to an at-home toner, namely, purple shampoo. To better understand professional vs. at-home toning formulas, check out our complete toning guide.
What happens if you put purple shampoo on brown hair?
If you have natural or color-treated dark brown hair, don’t expect purple shampoo to become your new holy grail product. While there’s no tangible harm in using it, you may not achieve the results you were hoping for.
“Purple shampoo is most effective on medium to light blonde hair types and wouldn’t be warranted for use on darker hair types,” Stenson says.
Now, lightened brunettes? That’s a different story. Whether you recently lightened your brunette hair color with balayage or opted for blonde highlights, those with level eight color or higher can benefit from the toning and brightening effects of purple shampoo. However, darker brunettes should look elsewhere for toning brown brassy hair (more on that soon).
Does purple shampoo lighten your hair?
Purple shampoo doesn’t actually lighten your hair like bleach or traditional hair lightener. Instead, purple shampoo neutralizes and minimizes the appearance of warm tones in cool blonde, gray, or silver hair. This neutralization may, in turn, cause your hair to appear sharper and brighter—but never lighter. It’s all about toning down the brass, not lifting your hair color.
How do you fix brassy brunette hair?
While we’ve determined that purple shampoo isn’t right for all brunette hair types, there are methods specifically for toning brown brassy hair. Using blue shampoo is one excellent option for at-home color care.
If you’ve never heard of blue shampoo before, here’s what you need to know. Blue shampoo contains blue-violet pigments that cancel out brassy tones that can occur when dark brown shades are lightened.
“Blue shampoo is very useful in darker hair types due to the stronger counterbalance of brass tones provided by the blue base toning deposit,” says Stenson. “[In short], purple shampoo neutralizes yellow tones, and blue shampoo neutralizes orange tones.”
Blue shampoo is a must-have if you’re a lightened brunette that often experiences brass. Hint, hint: We’ve got some suggestions for that below.
How often should you use purple or blue shampoo?
The frequency of using a toning shampoo depends on your hair type, the level of brassiness, and personal preference. As a general guideline, you can start by using purple or blue shampoo once a week. This helps maintain the desired tone and keep brassiness at bay. And it won’t take long to see the effect.
“Using a blue-based shampoo on dark blonde to light brown hair will show results with every use,” says Stenson. “The more often you use it, the more color impact you’ll see.”
However, note that excessive use of these shampoos can lead to over-toning. This could result in an overly cool or even a wash of new color to your hair.
“The signs of overuse would be over-darkening or a blue tint,” Stenson cautions.
Stenson says you can reverse over-toning with a clarifying shampoo. You can also dilute the shampoo with regular shampoo to lessen the toning effect. And if your hair is extra processed or excessively porous, Stenson also suggests being extra cautious with toning shampoos since it may result in uneven color absorption.
Monitor your hair’s response and adjust the usage accordingly. If you have more severe brassiness, you may need to increase the frequency to every other day or a few times per week. On the other hand, if you have minimal brassiness, you may only need to use it occasionally for maintenance.
Remember—you should always follow the specific instructions on the bottle and adapt the usage based on your unique hair needs and desired results.
Our Best Toning Products for Brown Hair
Now that you know all about purple and blue shampoo, you can decide which products are right for you! Stenson rounded up a few of his favorite products to help maintain vibrant and toned brown hair. We’re also giving shout-outs to other great options from the L’Oréal portfolio of professional products. (Green shampoo, anyone?)
Matrix Brass Off Blue Shampoo and Conditioner
This is Stenson’s choice to help counterbalance brassy tones in brown hair. Matrix Brass Off Blue Shampoo works wonders to refresh your hair’s cool tones and is one of the best shampoos for brunette hair. It’s suitable for both color-treated and natural hair.
The Matrix Brass Off Blue Conditioner nourishes the hair for movement and touchable softness. When used with its shampoo pairing, it can help replenish moisture.
“Allow the conditioner to sit on the hair for five to 10 minutes before rinsing with cool water,” Stenson expands.
Matrix Brass Off All-In-One Toning Leave-In Spray
Experience toning and styling benefits in one fell swoop with Matrix’s Brass Off All-In-One Toning Leave-In Spray. Enriched with conditioning agents and neutralizing dyes, it offers 10 hair benefits to nix brass between salon visits and prepare hair for styling.
Matrix Brass Off Custom Neutralization Mask
The ultra-rich Matrix Brass Off Custom Neutralization Mask helps repair and protect fragile hair, enhance shine, and of course, restore cool tones to brassy locks.
Matrix Dark Envy Green Toning Shampoo and Hydrating Conditioner
Not to make your head spin or anything, but did you know there’s also such a thing as green toners? Though they’re less frequently talked about, they’re used to balance out the red pigments in deep brown to jet-black hair. Regardless of whether your mane is natural or color-treated, pick up Matrix’s Dark Envy Green Toning Shampoo and Hydrating Conditioner to enhance richness.
Pureology Color Fanatic Top Coat + Tone Blue
If you want toned, silky hair for up to eight washes, look no further than Pureology’s Color Fanatic Top Coat + Tone Blue. Read our full review of the Top Coat + Tone range to understand the full scope of its toning, conditioning, and hair-loving benefits.
Our Best Purple Products for Lightened Brown Hair
Matrix So Silver Purple Shampoo and Conditioner
We’ve determined that purple shampoo on brown hair isn’t useful unless you have lightened hair, like blonde highlights. In that case, Matrix’s So Silver Purple Shampoo for Blonde Hair is one of the best purple shampoos (in our opinion!) to banish unwanted yellow tones. The color-depositing properties will neutralize the brassy tones and brighten your hair with a cool finish.
Pair it with the matching Matrix So Silver Conditioner for Blonde and Silver Hair.
Redken Color Extend Blondage Shampoo and Color-Depositing Conditioner
Another one of L’Oréal’s best purple shampoo options is Redken’s Color Extend Blondage Shampoo. This shampoo features key ingredients salicylic acid to strengthen and repair blonde hair from the core and pure violet pigments to remove unwanted brassiness. Round out your wash day with the Blondage Color-Depositing Conditioner to leave blonde hair color cool and bright.
Our Best Products for Colored-Treated Brown Hair
Matrix Instacure Shampoo and Conditioner
If you want to maintain vibrant and toned brown hair, make sure you’re also protecting your color. Stenson says that a color-protecting shampoo is “vital to supporting hair color’s longevity.”
Say hello to healthier, stronger hair with Matrix Instacure Anti-Breakage Shampoo. The innovative formula is specifically designed to combat damage from chemical treatments. Infused with nourishing liquid proteins, it works deep within the hair fibers to restore vitality and resilience.
Pair your shampoo with the matching Matrix Instacure Anti-Breakage Conditioner.
Matrix Instacure Anti-Breakage Leave-In Conditioner Spray
For the best results, don’t stop with just shampoo and conditioner. Stenson suggests using Matrix Instacure Anti-Breakage Leave-In Conditioner Spray to help repair your hair’s strength. This powerhouse product reduces breakage, controls frizz, and smooths the hair cuticle. The nourishing formula can also help fill your hair’s porosity and boost elasticity. Give your hair the TLC it deserves.