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Blue Shampoo Is the Product Color-Treated Brunettes Have Been Waiting For

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As stunning as a balayage or ombré hair makeover can be, the reality is, color-treated hair won't stay looking salon-fresh forever. Everything from the minerals in your tap water to the hair products you use can take a toll on your hair color. You may notice this happening when those expertly lightened locks suddenly begin to look harsh and brassy. Luckily, one of the best ways for brunettes to keep their colored hair looking extra sharp can be done in the shower—and it comes in the form of blue shampoo.

Similar to how purple shampoo works on blonde hair, blue shampoo is an easy and affordable way for brunettes to tone their hair at home to quickly eliminate any brassiness. Want the run down on exactly what this magic hair product is and how to use it? Continue reading below for everything you need to know about blue shampoo.

About the Expert:

Lana Grand is a Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylist and colorist with over 17 years of experience in the beauty industry.

What is blue shampoo?

When lightened, color-treated hair is exposed to heat, certain hair products, or environmental factors (like pollution or the sun), you'll eventually start to see the hair color change—most often revealing brassy tones. Grand explains that this happens because "human hair is comprised of color pigments that are usually invisible to the naked eye," but when the hair is colored, all those pigments rush to the surface. For blondes, these underlying pigments tend to have a golden or yellow color, but for brunettes, it's more common for these pigments to have orange, red, or copper tones.

To understand how blue and purple shampoos work, Grand says we have to quickly go back to middle school art class. “If you remember the color wheel, purple cancels out gold while blue cancels out orange,” she explains. Essentially these colors will neutralize each other. For blondes who usually have yellow in their brassy tones, the best color to use to neutralize those shades is purple. For brunettes with brassiness that has more of an orange, red, or copper tint, the best color to use is blue.

Blue shampoos are packed with blue pigment that is deposited into the hair each time you use it. Because of all the color theory in play, rather than dying the hair blue, it will simply curb all those brassy tones and restores the vibrance of your lightened locks.

"To all the brunettes struggling to control brass, trying blue shampoo instead of purple, might just be the equivalent of a Christmas miracle," Grand says.

Who should use blue shampoo?

While purple shampoo is typically the best bet for blondes, blue shampoo is often a better option for brunettes who have lightened their strands with balayage, ombré, or conventional highlights as their underlying tones tend to be more orange.

If you’re a brunette with virgin hair (aka hair that has never been color treated), you can use blue shampoo occasionally to brighten your strands and help your dark hair appear shinier. Blue shampoo is also a great option for those with grey hair or silver hair if the hair begins to look orange or brassy, and it’s usually best for brunettes who are going or have already gone gray. For blondes who have gone gray, purple shampoo may be a better fit—but it all depends on your hair's undertones. Remember, orange tones = blue shampoo, yellow tones = purple shampoo.

How to use blue shampoo

Can’t wait to add blue shampoo to your shower routine? We’ve got good news: Incorporating this product into your existing haircare system couldn't be simpler. Simply wet your hair in the shower with warm water and swap the shampoo you normally use for the blue shampoo of your choice. Just like any other shampoo formula, these toning shampoos act as a cleanser while also eliminating unwanted orange tones.

Just keep in mind that blue shampoo shouldn't be completely swapped out for your favorite shampoo formula. Instead, Grand suggests using it every other time you wash your hair or a few times a month. When your blue-shampoo day finally arrives (yay!), it’s up to you how long you let the shampoo sit on your strands before rinsing it out—but it should depend on how intense your brassy tones are. "Let the shampoo sit on your hair for a few minutes if your hair is really brassy," Grand says. Most formulas recommend allowing the blue-violet pigments to sit for somewhere between two to five minutes, but be sure to check the directions on your specific formula.

If you have curly hair, high porosity hair, or damaged hair, color-depositing shampoos can work very quickly as these hair types are often able to absorb products in rapid time. If this is the case, Grand suggests allowing the shampoo to sit on the hair for a little less time than suggested. If you leave blue shampoo on for too long (whether you have damaged or healthy hair), you run the risk of leaving a noticeable blue tint on your hair instead of only neutralizing the brassy tones. And while we love Marge Simpson, that’s not the look most of us are going for when we reach for blue shampoo.

Unlike a standard shampoo, in which you likely focus on massaging the roots, be sure to apply blue shampoo as evenly throughout the hair as possible from the ends to the roots. This will ensure that the color is distributed evenly.

After you've rinsed the blue shampoo out, lather on your favorite hair conditioner to replenish moisture and boost shine. For brunette hair that needs extra toning, you can also double up on the blue toning by following your blue shampoo with a blue conditioner like the AVEDA Blue Malva Color Conditioner. This will further tone your hair while also hydrating your color-treated strands.

After you've finished this at-home toning process, be sure to apply a leave-in conditioner and a heat protectant if you plan to use hot tools to keep that freshly toned hair brass-free for as long as possible.

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About the author
Cortney Clift
Cortney is a New York-based freelance writer who has written about beauty and wellness for more than six years. She was previously the senior writer and special projects editor at Brit + Co where she covered a wide range of news and lifestyle topics.
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Article Last Updated December 14, 2020 12:00 AM