A Health staffer tried and tested more than 10 shampoos for toning color-treated blonde hair. Here are the winners.
You know the saying: Blondes have more fun. But it isn’t so fun when a few weeks after a hair appointment, my beige or honey-hued locks start to turn a yucky shade of yellow, or even orange. Next thing you know, I'm coughing up more dollars at the salon to get my highlights fixed and toned.
Blonde hair turns brassy after it oxidizes, explains Paul Cucinello, celebrity stylist and creative director at Chris Chase Salon NYC. “When hair oxidizes, the pH level rises, which opens up the cuticle, releasing the controlling pigment—usually violet—that was making your color look so pretty,” he says.
Spending too much time in the sun, using harsh shampoos, or overusing heat-styling tools can all cause hair to oxidize. Easing up on any of these hair no-nos will help keep your color intact, says Cucinello. But purple toning shampoos are also an option. “Since violet and yellow are opposite colors, the violet cancels out the yellow and the resulting color is a softer beige-blonde,” Cucinello says.
How to use a purple shampoo
“How often you should use a violet shampoo depends on how brassy your hair is beginning to appear, how often you regularly shampoo your hair, and how well your hair holds tone,” Cucinello says.
Here’s a rough guide: If your hair is just starting to look brassy, start by using a violet shampoo and conditioner once a week in place of your regular shampoo. Lather the shampoo up for about 2 to 3 minutes, then leave the violet conditioner on for about 5 minutes. Increase the amount of time you leave both products on your hair if your hair is resistant to the purple tone.
“If you shampoo your hair more than four times per week, your toner basically has no chance of survival, so I'd suggest using violet shampoo and conditioner twice a week,” Cucinello suggests.
Warning: If you go overboard with the purple shampoo, your hair may actually take a bit of the lavender color. If it happens, don’t fret. “Just give you hair a quick wash with your regular shampoo and it should take a little bit of the violet out,” he says.
Not sure which blonde ale is best for your strands? I tested out more than 10 different brands to see which could make my highlights look as good as new again. The five picks below worked wonders.
Clairol Shimmer Lights Conditioning Shampoo
If you're looking for a steal, give this one a try. The purple pigment is vibrant—I saw a noticeable improvement in my color even after using it one time and only leaving it in for a minute or so. The only downsides? My hair didn't feel as soft and hydrated after washing it as it did when I used some of the more expensive buys. But that's what you get when you pay less than $10, says Cucinello, who is also a fan of this bargain bottle. "At this super low price point, you're going to compromise a bit of the conditioning benefits of its luxury competitors," he says. "If you aren't shy and need to get the job done quickly, this one is super easy to find at any drug store and can totally be a lifesaver." It has a strong perfume-like smell that I didn't love, but not awful enough to keep me from buying again.
Joico Color Balance Purple Shampoo
This was hands-down my favorite. The shampoo alone left my hair super silky and also restored my hair the closest to the beigey-blonde I ask for when I get my hair colored. Paired with the conditioner, my color and blow dry never looked better. A friend even asked if I got my hair done after the first time I used the combo.
Shu Uemura Art of Hair Color Lustre Cool Blonde Shade Reviving Balm
Like any products from the luxe brand, this isn't the most wallet-friendly option. That being said, you most likely will only need to use a dollop every other week, so one bottle will go a long way. I used the shampoo before a friend's birthday dinner when I knew I wanted my hair to look pretty and fresh. Per the directions, I wet my hair in the sink, towel-dried my hair, then applied the product and let it sit for about 7 minutes before hopping in the shower and rinsing it out. It's a bit more labor-intensive, but my hair looked healthy and yellow-free for weeks.
Drybar 'Blonde Ale' Brightening Shampoo
After a Drybar stylist used this shampoo on my hair when I got a blowout, I had to buy it. I've used it up to three times per week and have never noticed any strands taking on the purple pigment. Also, it has a lovely, herbal smell, unlike a lot of other potent purple toners.
R+Co SUNSET BLVD Blonde Shampoo
After testing so many heavy duty blonde-repairing products, I wanted to find an option that I couldn't overuse; I wash my hair almost every day, so a less-intense formula was a good fit for me. The R+Co version didn't disappoint. The hue is much more gray-silver than purple in the bottle, so you know off the bat you'll be less prone to purple buildup.