The Lowdown on Purple & Blue Shampoo

I don't remember when purple shampoo became so popular. It was like there was regular shampoo and then BOOM, PURPLE SHAMPOO!

When I got into hair school in April of 2016, it was all I heard. Purple shampoo this, purple shampoo that. Everyone was talking about it ALL. THE. TIME. I soon chopped my hair into a very cool pixie cut and had it bleached out.

I found out there was also blue shampoo that no one ever talked about. With a little help from color theory class and my own color wheel, I figured out when to use what. 

Yellow/Golden Hair or Ash?

It actually came at a time when a co-worker of mine was unhappy with her blonde hair. She didn't like how ashy it looked. I agreed that it washed her out. She had a warm, yellow-ish skin tone and the most beautiful big, blue eyes, and her hair just looked off. So I asked her what she was using. 

"Blue and purple shampoo and conditioner." 

She said she alternated them because she didn't know which one she should use, and everyone, including her hairdresser, just shoved the shampoos in her hair and said, "Here - this is for blondes."

This is the kind of thing that pisses me off as much as over-saturation of the market with pink toned foundations and almost nothing for warm skin tones. Why do cosmetics companies think only pink people exist? 

And, in this case, why do hairdressers think ashy blonde suits everyone and no one ever talks about skin tone? There are so many golden blonde celebrities like Blake Lively, Beyonce, and Jennifer Aniston who are gorgeous! 

What is purple or blue shampoo and what does it do?

When we lighten your hair at the salon we use a toner that does the cancelling out for us. A toner is a demi permanent color. Over time, the color will fade and you might notice your hair turning brassy.

Colored shampoos act as temporary, at-home toners.  

Purple shampoo gets rid of yellow tones in the hair. 

Blue shampoo gets rid of orange tones in the hair.

Purple or violet is across from yellow on the color wheel. Blue is across from orange. 

When you mix those opposing colors together they cancel each other out. They are complementary colors on the color wheel. 

Now, to get the tone of blonde you want, you need to know what color your hair is (is it yellow or orange, or both?) and what do you want to cancel out? 

  • If you want to keep the yellow, or gold, you may have some orange, so you would use blue shampoo. (If you don't see orange, and you want to keep the yellow, you don't need to use a colored shampoo).
  • If you want to cancel the yellow tones, you use purple shampoo. 
  • If you have both yellow and orange and you want to cancel them, you use both blue AND purple shampoo and conditioner. 

So with my friend, I advised her to stop using the purple shampoo and to use the blue one instead ONLY and see what happened. A week later, she had her golden (yellow) tones back in her hair and no orange strands. She was a lot happier. 

Cool (Ash) or Warm (Gold)?

I advise everyone to figure out what skin tone they are, because this will make life easier. If you look best in silver accessories, you're cool. If you look best in gold accessories, you're warm. If you look great in both, you're neutral. 

So if you're cool, choose ashy tones for your hair, if you're warm, choose gold, and if you're neutral, choose neutral :-)

As for my blonde hair 

I really loved my almost-platinum ash blonde, but the more I lightened it, the more unnatural it looked. I learned that ashy tones don't look good on me because I'm yellow, or warm, or golden as well.

So purple shampoo would never work for me because it would cancel out yellow, and I wanted the yellow (or golden tones). I switched to blue shampoo to cancel out orange tones, and as my hair grew and I kept lightening it, I just loved the result. 

If you really want to make ashy tones work, and you have golden skin, you may have to wear a lot of makeup to get that cool, fashionable look we see on Pinterest and Instagram. 

For best results...

Always consider your own skin tone and what you look best in. And have fun and test different tones to find what works best for you.