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The Ultimate Guide to Purple Shampoo for Gray Hair

Inside: All about purple shampoo and how it affects grey hair

If you’re a member of any of the many gray hair Facebook groups, or if you follow any gray hair influencers on Instagram, you’ve probably heard a lot of chatter about purple shampoo.

But what is purple shampoo, and why is it one of the most talked-about products in the silver hair community?

In this article, I’ll explain what purple shampoo is and why so many women turn to it as part of their gray hair care routine.

image of purple background with text that says ultimate guide to purple shampoo

What Is Purple Shampoo?

Purple shampoo is a violet-tinted toning shampoo designed specifically to reduce the appearance of brassy yellow tones in blonde or gray hair. It’s a shampoo that is usually infused with the ‘D&C Violet 2’ purple pigment and is designed for occasional use. 

What Does It Do To Gray Hair?

You may have heard people talking about how naturally gray hair can appear yellow and ‘brassy’. 

This can be due to genetics, the effects of the sun’s UV rays, chlorine or hard water, smoking, overuse of heat when styling, air pollution…and many other reasons. 

Any or all of these things can cause the hair to turn yellow.

Related article: Why Gray Hair Turns Yellow and How to Prevent It

Purple shampoo doesn’t remove the yellow color but is designed to tone down the yellow in gray and white hair. It tones the color in your hair from warm tones (yellow) to cool (silver).

Purple shampoo is only a temporary solution for yellows in your gray hair. You can read about a more permanent solution further down this article, as well as here.

image of pinterest pin

Please note that this article may contain affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.

The Color Wheel

Purple is the opposite of yellow on the color spectrum, so the violet pigment in purple shampoo neutralizes yellow tones, which brightens your silver hair and makes it sparkle!

image of the color wheel
The Color Wheel

How Do You Use Purple Shampoo To Tone Gray Hair?  

It’s really simple to use and you can do it yourself at home, which is one of the benefits of purple shampoo. No expensive trips to the salon to get your locks toned and looking fabulous – although you’re always welcome to treat yourself, too!

Each purple shampoo brand’s directions will be slightly different, so make sure you read the instructions on your shampoo bottle first.  

Note: When using purple shampoo, it’s a good idea to do a strand test before adding it all over, so you can check on your hair’s porosity and be sure that you won’t end up with a purple tinge depending on the length of time you leave it in.

In general, you will use the purple shampoo on wet hair, wait the recommended amount of time (3-10 minutes, depending on the brand), rinse it out, condition it and style it like usual.

If your purple shampoo doesn’t come with a companion purple conditioner, I highly recommend using a deep conditioner on your hair afterward, so your hair doesn’t become dry and brittle.

If your hair is resistant to color (as mine was), you can try putting it on dry hair and/or leaving it on a little longer.

Experiment a bit to see what works best for you!

How Often Should You Use It?

You only need to use purple shampoo once a week, depending on how strong your hair’s yellow tones are. 

It’s not a good idea to use it more often than once a week as it can be very drying and can also leave a purple tone in your hair if you overdo it.  

How Long Do You Need To Leave Purple Shampoo In Your Hair?

Be careful how long you leave it on with each use, as leaving it too long can cause changes to your hair’s color.

It only needs to be on for 5-10 minutes at most. Just make sure to read the instructions included with your product (each product is different).

What Should I Do If I Leave It In Too Long?

If you have overused purple shampoo, either by using it too often or leaving it on your hair for too long, hair colorists generally recommend using a clarifying shampoo to clear some of the product from your hair.

If the purple color is significant, just continue clarifying as toning shampoos will wash out after a few shampoos.  

My two favorite clarifiers are Hairprint and Neutrogena.

image of hairprint chelating shampoo

Hairprint is more expensive but it has so many benefits: it’s a natural, plant-based chelating shampoo. It is stronger than your typical clarifying shampoo and is especially effective against hard water residue, which can discolor your gray hair.

Hairprint’s products are fragrance-free, gluten-free, sulfate-free, PEG-free, silicone-free and cruelty-free. It’s my new favorite clarifier for all these reasons, and well worth the price!


Neutrogena Anti-Residue clarifying shampoo is also very good, and it can be found in most grocery stores or drugstores. It is extremely drying, however, so make sure to follow up with a deep conditioner

image of Joico K Pak intense hydrator
Joico K-Pak Intense Hydrator – my favorite deep conditioner

Benefits Of Purple Shampoo

Gray hairs begin to appear as your hair follicles produce less melanin. This means the color gradually (or rapidly for some people!) disappears from your hair as it grows. 

Some women find that their hair can also begin to change texture, becoming thicker but more dry and brittle. 

Now, that’s not always the case – my hair got thicker, smoother and less dry! It really depends on genetics, I suppose.

A good quality purple shampoo will be free from sulfates, meaning it doesn’t contain surfactants that will strip your hair of moisture but its ingredients will hydrate and nourish your hair, alongside toning down the yellow.

You can find some of my recommendations for the different types of purple shampoo farther down in this post.

Downsides

One of the key downsides to using purple shampoo is the risk of your hair taking on lilac tones.

image of woman with purple long hair
Unfortunately, purple tinged hair from overuse of purple shampoo will not look as nice as this photo!

This is especially true if you have naturally light hair with no brassy, yellow tones. Purple shampoo is designed to tone down yellow and it can add color to naturally lighter hair if overused or used unnecessarily.

Purple shampoo is also fairly harsh on your hair and can cause it to become dry and brittle if overused.

My Favorites

I’ll be doing a full post about this soon, but in the meantime, the purple shampoos I have found that work the best are:

image of bold uniq products

Bold Uniq Purple Shampoo & Conditioner
Use Code KATIE20 for 20% off

Bold Uniq is fantastic. Their shampoo & conditioner combine beautifully to brighten your silver hair without drying it out!

Bold Uniq’s shampoo is more intense than your average purple shampoo, so make sure you do a strand test first.

Their products are paraben and sulfate-free, cruelty-free, and vegan-friendly.

image of katie after using bold uniq purple shampoo
This is the result after using Bold Uniq Purple Shampoo for 5 minutes on wet hair, followed by Bold Uniq Purple Conditioner. I was SUPER happy with the result!



image of kerotin purple shampoo & conditioner

Kerotin Purple Shampoo & Conditioner
Use Code KGP15 for 15% off

Kerotin’s Purple Shampoo & Conditioner are also excellent.

They are not as intensely colored as Bold Uniq but also work quite well without drying out your hair.

Kerotin is Made in the USA, and their products are free of silicones, parabens, sulfates and sodium chloride. They are also cruelty-free.


image of pantene silver expressions shampoo

Pantene Pro-V Silver Expressions. – this is one of the best drugstore-brand purple shampoos.

It leaves your hair so soft that you do NOT need to use a deep conditioner afterward, just your usual one.

Read my full review here.

Pantene products are cruelty-free in most countries, but they do allow animal testing in certain countries that require it.

Alternatives

Not everybody will want to use purple shampoo and there are some great alternatives out there!

image of QuickSilverHair clay kit

QuickSilverHair Clay is a fabulous cleansing clay that will remove impurities from your gray hair and restore health to your tresses.

Its main ingredient is kaolin clay, which is absorbent and removes excess oil from your hair and scalp. It also cleanses and strengthens your hair.

I’m not kidding when I say it is my FAVORITE gray hair product, and I use it at least once a month to brighten my silver hair and remove product build-up.


image of oribe silverati shampoo

Oribe Silverati uses natural ingredients to repair and restore damage to your hair.

Its key elements are watermelon, lychee, and Edelweiss flower, along with hydrolyzed vegetable protein.

These combine to reduce yellowing and provide a gentle cleanser for your hair and scalp.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Purple shampoo isn’t essential for gray hair. 

For one thing, not everybody’s gray hair will take on brassy yellow tones.  Yellowing is common for many people on their natural hair journey, however, it does not necessarily follow that your hair will yellow as it turns gray.

For another thing, some women don’t mind the brassy yellow tones.  If they don’t bother you, why try to fix them?

In gray hair care, the only time you need to use purple shampoo is if your hair has permanent yellowing. It won’t remove the permanent yellowing but will reduce its appearance.

You don’t want to use it more than once a week, as it can give your hair a lilac tinge. It can also significantly dry out your hair and cause it to become brittle. 

If you leave purple shampoo on too long, it can make your lighter gray hair take on a gunmetal gray appearance.  If this happens, no worries as it will fade in a short while.

If you have yellow tones in your white hair, the purple shampoo will help tone down the brassy yellow, just as it does with gray hair.

But if you have no yellowing in your white hair, there’s no need to use purple shampoo.  Just skip it!

As with gray, silver, or white hair, it’s fine to use on salt and pepper hair, providing you are using it to reduce the yellow tones in your hair.  

When used correctly, it does not lighten or change the color of your hair. The pigment simply reduces the yellowing in your hair. 

Purple shampoo can work well for any hair color in the spectrum from yellow to gray to white, whether that color is natural or dyed. 

Other colors will benefit more from different colored shampoo, depending on their place on the color wheel.  

Blue shampoo is designed to reduce the appearance of brassy orange tones in fading brunette hair (as blue is the opposite color to orange on the color wheel).

Blue shampoo won’t hurt gray hair, but it won’t do much about reducing yellow tones (in fact, it can make them appear green!) but it can help if you still have naturally brown hair to reduce brassiness.

If you want to know more, read “Why Blue shampoo is perfect for brassy brunettes

No, purple shampoo just reduces the appearance of yellowing.

For a more permanent solution, try the QuickSilverHair Clay Kit. The clay can remove most non-permanent yellowing caused by product buildup, chlorine, some minerals, pollution, hard water and well water discolorations.

QuickSilver Hair Clay cannot remove permanent yellowing caused by sun or heat damage, or semi- or demi- or permanent dyes. For that type of yellowing, a haircut is your best option.

Conclusion

Purple shampoo can be a much-needed tool in your routine as you navigate your gray-hair journey. But there are key things to remember as you dive in. 

Which one have you tried on your gray or white hair?  I’d love to hear about the products you recommend (or don’t!) and what you’ve found that has worked well for you on your silver hair. 

Leave me a comment and let me know!

Please do me a favor and share this post to social media, as it helps me grow my audience and spread the word about our Silver Revolution!  And remember to subscribe to my YouTube Channel and Pinterest Feed for more gray hair tips and product recommendations. Thanks!

For an even larger selection of fantastic gray hair products, make sure to check out my Amazon Influencer Page!

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