Ah, blonde hair. It conjures up the nostalgia of Sun-In, the sexiness of Brigitte Bardot and makes us wish we all could be California girls. Except when brassy tones creep in and ruin the sun-lifted effect. There’s no need to lose your cool (pardon the pun), though, as that’s when the best purple shampoo swoops in with its impressive hue-restoring powers.
If you’re new to this kind of shampoo, you’re in luck – we’ve spoken to some of the industry’s biggest hair experts to explain exactly how it works and how to use it. Keep reading for everything you need to know…
What causes brassy hair?
It’s arguably blonde hair’s biggest nemesis: brassiness. Why does it happen? ‘Lighter strands often struggle to look shiny and healthy,’ says Steve Shiel, scientific director at L’Oréal. ‘This is because free radicals in the colouring process break down protein so blonde hair becomes porous.’
This porousness means bleached hair soaks up unwanted minerals and metals in your tap water and acquires a yellow tinge over time. ‘It also means that blonde hair absorbs light instead of reflecting it and is more prone to damage,’ adds Shiel.
What is purple shampoo?
Put simply, violet-hued shampoo is the haircare equivalent of a surly bodyguard. It protects against dullness and unwanted warm tones between colour appointments.
‘Purple shampoo neutralises the yellow in blonde hair, leaving a creamy to ash result,’ explains leading colourist and celebrity favourite, Josh Wood. ‘This is because yellow and purple sit opposite each other on the colour wheel.’
So when you wash with this particular shade of shampoo, it deposits purple pigment into blonde hair, to counteract any yellowy tones that start to shine through.
How to use purple shampoo
This may seem obvious, but a violet-based shampoo is not made for your daily lather.
Those who bleach their hair and live in hard water areas (which creates more mineral build-up on strands), should only use it once a week. Meaning, one bottle will last you until your next colour appointment, if not longer.
But Zoe Irwin, creative director at John Frieda Salons, advises clients to be careful as purple-based products can be drying.
‘I decant half my purple shampoo into half a bottle of Oribe Shampoo For Moisture Control,’ she says.
‘The effect is softer, both in terms of the colour and how my hair feels afterwards. I wouldn’t recommend taking your purple shampoo right down to the ends. The hair there can be up to four years old so will grab onto too much of the purple pigment.
‘If you can’t avoid it, coat the ends in conditioner first to create a hydrating base and to dilute the shampoo. Then apply your purple shampoo in an ‘s’ shape on mid-lengths and work it in with your fingers to deposit the pigment evenly.’
For how long should you leave purple shampoo in?
It all depends on the instructions on the specific bottle, but not over-doing it is key. ‘If you leave a purple shampoo on for too long, your hair will have a blue-purple tinge to it,’ Irwin cautions.
Session stylist Ali Pirzadeh concurs and recommends using your regular conditioner afterwards. ‘I wouldn’t bother with a purple conditioner as well, as you want to make sure your hair is still being nourished.’
What’s the difference between toner and purple shampoo?
Toners cool down or warm up your colour in between salon appointments.
An at-home version like Josh Wood Icy Blondes Gloss is the equivalent of a semi-permanent colour treatment mask. Free from peroxide or ammonia, it won’t actually lift your colour, but it penetrates the hair cuticle and deposits a small amount of lilac colour. This brightens old hair dye and boosts its undertones as well as preventing fade and ramping up shine.
L’Oréal Paris Elvive Colour Protect Purple Reviving Oil, £12.99 | Feelunique
This is the first ever brass-banishing oil. Designed to be used in-between hair washes, it should be used on clean towel-dried hair. Work 2/3 drops into dry and brittle ends for instant toning, as well as hydration.
Below are our picks for the best purple shampoo for blonde hair. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for the best shampoo for oily hair or one that will give you more grit for styling. And that’s not all. We’ve also pulled together some natural options, so if you have a sensitive scalp, you’re in luck.
Dramatically improves the look of months-old highlights. So good we struggled to tell it apart from more pricey formulas.
Keeps blonde shades true and uses skincare ingredients such as hydrating hyaluronic acid and brightening edelweiss flower to dive deep into weaker follicles.
Packed with nourishing ingredients, the gentle formula lifts away dirt and grime to create a bright, healthy-looking mane. Salicylic Acid exfoliates, helping to capture hair-dulling product build-up from the scalp. Glycerin counteracts dryness with a generous dose of moisture.
Corrects yellowness, prolongs colour with an anti-fade formula and improves the strength of fragile bleached strands thanks to repairing ceramides and astaxanthin (a powerful nature-derived antioxidant).
As well as removing those unwanted brassy tones, Pantene’s purple shampoo also works to soften strands for grey hair that glows. This one is designed to really bring out the best in grey, white and blonde hair.
A colour-depositing shampoo that eliminates brassy undertones and contains proteins to protect against breakage. Think a brighter blonde with salon-worthy shine.
Uses ultra violet pigments to neutralise yellow tones and works brilliantly on balayage, highlights, full-on bleach and grey-blondes.
They claim that you'll see results in one wash and they weren't wrong. Hello, icy blonde friend.
OK, so the name isn't exactly inviting, but the effect that this shampoo has on blonde hair certainly is. It not only gets rid of brassiness, it increases the cool tones in your hair to restore a silvery blonde look.
A few weeks after your colour appointment, hair can start looking dull. This isn't the strongest of purple formulas - but that's actually the beauty of the product. No harsh ingredients lift your colour so you avoid damaging it in the long run.
For a fresh and uplifting choice, try this purple shampoo, enriched with lemon. Great clarifying product and kind on your wallet, too.
Works in the same way as your regular purple shampoo by neutralising brassiness, but it also adds silvery, ashy tones for the perfect peroxide blonde. An absolute must-buy if you're all about the bleached look.
Vegan and sulphate-free, this is perfect for both blondes and brunettes who like to keep their tone cool and their scalp happy.
Brightens silver tones and keeps the lightest blonde shades 'ice ice baby'.
This shampoo is infused with citric acid, which cleanses the hair really gently. Bleaching hair damages the strand, but this formula seals the cuticle to prevent further everyday damage. Hair is left looking and feeling softer and more manageable.