Keeping brassy tones out of lightened hair can sometimes feel like a full-time job, but it doesn’t have to be. Incorporating a blue or purple shampoo into your at-home care routine can help keep your color fresh without a salon visit. But before reaching for a toning shampoo, you must decide which is right for you: There are a few differences between purple vs. blue shampoo, and choosing the correct shade is the key to achieving your most vibrant and balanced color. Whether you're a blonde battling yellow undertones or a brunette warding off orange hues, Matrix brand ambassador George Papanikolas is here to explain everything you need to know about these formulas. Keep reading for all the details.
Why Does Hair Turn Brassy?
Before getting into blue shampoo vs. purple shampoo, it’s important to understand why color-treated hair becomes brassy in the first place. As a quick refresher, brassiness refers to the unwanted warm tones that can develop on dyed or lightened hair over time. On brown hair, brassiness appears orange or red. On blonde, white, or gray hair, it takes on a more yellow hue.
Now, to the why. Lightening your hair with peroxide or bleach can bring out your color’s underlying warm pigments. If you go to a salon, your colorist will typically apply professional toner (usually a demi-permanent hair gloss) after lightening your hair to neutralize these warm tones and enhance your overall color. However, toners aren’t permanent. As Papanikolas explains, toned hair can still “oxidize and fade from exposure to sun, air, and water,” ultimately revealing those brassy undertones over time. The good news is that you don’t need to race back to the salon when you see brass creeping in. Toning haircare products can help refresh your color, too. This brings us to our next point…
Purple vs. Blue Shampoo
Blue and purple shampoos are color-correcting formulas that temporarily reduce brassy tones in color-treated hair. The main difference between purple vs. blue shampoo is the shade of brassiness they’re designed to address. Blue shampoo neutralizes orange tones in the hair, while purple formulas help counteract yellow. It all goes back to basic color theory: Shades that lay opposite on the color wheel are complementary and cancel one another out when combined.
Each color can prolong the life of your salon color and keep your hue fresh and vibrant between touch-ups. In addition to toning and cleansing hair, most blue and purple shampoos offer additional haircare benefits like strengthening, repairing, softening, or increasing shine. When shopping for your own, look for a formula to help address your specific hair concerns for the best results.
What Is Purple Shampoo?
Purple shampoo deposits violet pigments onto the hair’s surface to help offset yellow tones. It’s most commonly recommended for those with cool-toned blonde, gray, or silver strands but can also help warmer blondes strike the ideal balance of warm but not brassy. To avoid unintentionally tinting your strands purple, be sure to space out your usage. Once or twice a month is typically ideal for warm-toned blondes, while those with cool-toned blonde hair can reach for purple shampoo weekly or on an as-needed basis.
Will purple shampoo lighten my hair?
No, purple shampoo won’t lighten your strands. It deposits pigment onto the hair's surface—meaning it can minimize the appearance of warm tones but not lift existing color. If you want to lighten your strands, you’ll have to book a bleach or lightening session with your colorist.
Can you use purple shampoo on brown hair?
While there’s no actual harm in using purple shampoo on brown hair, Papanikolas notes that it won’t neutralize unwanted orange tones if that’s your goal. But that’s not to say purple shampoo is totally ineffective for brunettes: Those with blonde highlights that are level eight or higher may benefit from the brightening results of purple shampoo. For more information, speak with your colorist to customize your routine, or check out our full explainer, How To Use Purple Shampoo on Brown Hair.
What Is Blue Shampoo?
Whereas purple shampoo is primarily for blondes, blue shampoo is for brunettes. The formula contains brilliant cobalt or indigo-toned pigments that help eliminate orange hues in brown hair, restoring its cooler, more neutral undertones. Darker blondes and those with virgin hair can use blue shampoo to help restore vibrancy and shine, as well. Like purple shampoo, blue shampoo isn’t made for daily use—once every week or two should be sufficient.
Can you use blue shampoo on blonde hair?
According to Papanikolas, applying blue shampoo to light blonde hair can give it a gray or ashy tone since there’s no orange for the formula to adhere to. If you’re going to invest your hard-earned money on a salon-quality formula (and a salon color, for that matter), opt for purple shampoo instead.
Tips For Using Blue and Purple Shampoo
Determining whether you should use purple vs. blue shampoo to tone your strands is only part of the equation. After nailing down the right one for you, there are a few best practices to keep in mind before jumping in the shower. Find our tips and favorite formulas to try ahead.
Use in moderation
Although blue and purple shampoos can effectively tone brass, overusing them can actually darken your hair or leave behind a purple or blue cast (a clarifying shampoo can help easily reverse this). As such, experts advise using toning shampoos as needed (up to twice weekly) or only applying them to areas of visible brass, like the roots or ends. These color-depositing formulas show results with every use and last a few washes, so your locks may not need anything beyond that.
Read the labels
Every toning formula is unique, so be sure to read the directions of your chosen shampoo. You’ll often need to let these products sit on your hair for two to three minutes, but some require more than five minutes to work their magic. Set a timer on your phone to ensure you adhere to the intended application time.
Be choosy with your conditioner
If your blue or purple shampoo has a complementary conditioner, it’s a good idea to use them as a system to experience their full benefits. If not, choose a moisturizing, color-safe conditioner that’ll soften and hydrate your hair and boost its shine. Brush up on your conditioning skills in our article How To Use Conditioner the Right Way (and discover some of our top picks!).
Supplement your toning shampoos
When your hair needs extra toning, Papanikolas recommends adding a pigmented spray like Matrix’s Brass Off or So Silver All-In-One Leave-In Toning Spray to your routine. These buildable blue and purple-tinted formulas allow you to apply as little or as much as you need, depending on the level of neutralization your brassy hair requires. Read our Matrix All-In-One Toning Leave-In Spray review to discover how we put the latter to the test (and the impressive results we enjoyed).
Our Favorite Blue and Purple Shampoos To Try Now
Now to the fun part: Shopping. Scroll on to discover a few of our favorite toning formulas from L’Orèal’s portfolio of professional brands.
Matrix So Silver Shampoo
Never let the fear of brass stop you from going ultra-blonde! Matrix’s purple So Silver Shampoo illuminates highlights on blondes and adds shimmering brightness to color-treated and natural hair ranging from gray to white.
Redken Blondage Shampoo
Redken’s Blondage Shampoo contains citric acid and helps gently strengthen hair while cleansing, while violet pigments in the formula remove unwanted brass for a brighter, truer blonde hair color.
Shu Uemura Art of Hair Yūbi Blonde Anti-Brass Purple Shampoo
Neutralize unwanted brassy and yellow tones in color-treated blonde, bleached, highlighted, or silver hair with Shu Uemura Art of Hair’s Yūbi Blonde Anti-Brass Purple Shampoo. If sensual scents sway you, you’ll love its fragrant blend of sparkling ginger, fresh tea, jasmine, white peony, and white musk.
Matrix Brass Off Shampoo
Calling all brunettes who lighten their hair: Pick up Matrix’s Brass Off Shampoo to keep your salon shade looking sharp. This professional salon clarifying shampoo neutralizes brassy tones while refreshing your hair with cool tones.
Pureology Color Fanatic Top Coat + Tone Blue
While Pureology’s Color Fanatic Top Coat + Tone Blue isn’t an actual shampoo, this blue-toned hair gloss provides similar brass-busting results. It neutralizes unwanted orange tones in dark blonde and dark brown hair, with results lasting for up to eight washes. Plus, it seals hair’s cuticle for a soft and silky feel and leaves behind a beautifully reflective sheen.
Purple vs. Blue Shampoo: The Bottom Line
Toning shampoos are invaluable tools for maintaining the vibrancy of color-treated hair. And fortunately, choosing between a purple vs. blue shampoo is as easy as determining the undertones you need to cancel out. “If your hair is turning yellow, you will want to use a purple shampoo,” says Papanikolas. “If your hair is turning orange, then a blue shampoo will neutralize the unwanted orange tones.” For more personalized color care advice, we recommend using our salon locator to book a consultation with a stylist in your area.