Is your gray hair yellow or brassy? You need purple shampoo. Here is everything you need to know about finding the best natural purple shampoo for gray and silver (and blonde!) hair, plus my top purple shampoo picks too!
By: Lisa Fennessy
IN THIS POST:
- Why does gray or silver hair get brassy?
- Reduce brassiness with a UV + heat protectant
- Other preventative measures to stop yellowing or brassiness
- Why use purple shampoo?
- The active ingredients in purple shampoo
- How to use all-natural purple shampoo
- How to find the right purple shampoo for you
- The best all-natural purple shampoos
- All the purple shampoos I’ve tried, with before & after pics
- After reading this, most people bought…
- Common questions about purple shampoos for gray hair
Confession: The first couple of years I grew out my hair gray, I was convinced my experience transcended purple shampoo. Actually, it was more like I was running an offense for the “just use regular shampoo” team. I was fine rotating through my roster of favorite clean beauty shampoos. They were cleaning my hair per usual and everything was fine. Until it wasn’t.
RELATED: Gray hair, do care—why to ditch the dye.
About three years into my growth, my hair started taking on a brassy tinge. I couldn’t tell if my whites were actually white or if they were browns that hadn’t turned white yet. It was all getting a bit muddy and I found myself craving something to add brightness, definition, brilliance and clarity to my grays.
And then it dawned on me. I probably need a purple shampoo! Here’s why.
Why does gray or silver hair get yellow or brassy?
Jenn Jones, master colorist and owner of Creature Studio in Atlanta, explains, “Light colored hair like shades of blonde and gray are more susceptible to becoming discolored due to a number of factors like heat styling, medications, product buildup, sun, salt, chlorine and environmental pollutants.”
And she’s right. In fact, UV and heat are the biggest discoloring factors. Research has demonstrated UV turns proteins in hair yellow. Melanin in hair normally prevents hair from yellowing, but gray and silver hair have little to no melanin content to prevent this.
Help reduce brassiness with a clean UV + heat protectant
Using a heat + UV protectant, along with a great purple shampoo, can be incredibly effective at bringing out those white, bright silver and grays—it basically helps stop the yellowing/brassiness before it starts.
I’ve tried a number of ethical beauty heat protectants (read about my full experience, and get full reviews of all the ones I’ve tried here), and hands down, the best one is EVOLVh’s Superfinish Polishing Balm.
The Polishing Balm stands out to me because it’s water-based and really light and it doesn’t change the texture of my hair. It’s like adding nothing but it’s like adding everything. Check it out: the Polishing Balm defrizzes, adds moisture, softness, shine, strength, prevents breakage, splitting AND provides UV and heat protection. I know. I KNOW!
I add a dollop of this to my hair before every blow dry and it leaves my hair super shiny and soft. #obsessed
Code: NEWKNEW15 will save you 15% on your first order at EVOLVh here!
RELATED: Read my review on the best heat protectant for gray hair and beyond.
Other preventative steps to stop yellowing or brassy hair
We can’t control the melanin in our hair, but we can control any external factors that cause yellowing or brassiness—like the products we choose to use.
Product buildup is a big factor when it comes to yellowing. To avoid it, choose EDTA-free shampoos, which can specifically cause yellowing.
Another preventative measure is to look for shampoos that are rich with plant antioxidants, which help reduce yellowing caused by UV. Antioxidants that are most effective for stopping hair yellowing (UV, heat, iron in water) are the ones that quench the hydroxyl radicals that are causing the yellowing. These are plant sugars like mannitol, quercetin and purple pigments in grapes and cranberry, to name a few.
And since I mentioned it, reducing your exposure to UV rays is key to preventing yellowing of strands. Molecular Biologist and Cosmetic Chemist Kate Noonan explains that hair is made up of 95% keratin protein. When hair is exposed to UV, it breaks down that keratin—specifically the part that gives hair its strength and shine. UV also fades hair color and can create hair-yellowing. Using a hair sunscreen can help with this—and these are my top picks (you know I got you, girl).
Reducing your use of heat tools like flat irons, curling irons and blow dryers can also significantly reduce yellowing of your hair. Too much heat on gray hair can turn it brassy (or yellowish). That leaves you with a few options:
- Stop using heat tools, and when you do, make sure it’s continually in motion (aka, don’t hold your blow dryer stagnantly on one section of your hair).
- Choose heat tools that dry or style your hair in half the time, like the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer. It also has controlled heat settings that help reduce damage. Not sure if it’s for you? Check out my GRWM video here to see how FAST it dries hair.
- Skip heat all together and opt for a heatless styling tool! We’ve been testing a BUNCH of heatless curling options, so stay tuned for our review of the first, dropping later this week!
Why use purple shampoo?
Okay, now on to the purple shampoo! Purple shampoo is actually another preventative measure, but it merits a bit of an explanation, so we are dedicating this entire post to taking a deeper look.
Purple shampoos are called “purple shampoos” because they are actually…PURPLE. Jenn adds, “It’s basic color theory. Purple and yellow are complementary colors. That means when put together, they neutralize each other. These shampoos are going to get rid of unwanted yellow or ‘brassy’ tones in light shades of hair so the hair is left brighter.”
This is DIFFERENT than the chelating or clarifying shampoo, or apple cider vinegar rinses you might have heard of. A chelating or clarifying shampoo can be used to remove any product or mineral buildup that may be contributing to brassiness. ACV is typically used after you shampoo, condition or color because it seals the cuticle down and adds some shine.
What are the active ingredients in purple shampoo?
So the bottom line is that you need something purple in the purple shampoo to get the job done. I’ve seen brands use a myriad of ingredients to attempt this, from botanicals like purple potato, to mineral-derived pigments like ultramarines and iron oxides, to plant extracts like bilberry extract and beet extract, to synthetic dyes (like Basic dyes and Acid Violets). And in a nutshell, I’ve found that the purple shampoos that use vegetable and botanical extracts are a lot less effective compared to purple shampoos that use synthetic dyes.
So then the obvious next question is, what’s the deal with synthetic dyes and do we need to be concerned with using them? Let’s break them down by category to dive in deeper.
Basic Dyes (which is actually the proper name for these dyes even though it sounds like a descriptor—”Basic dyes” can encompass everything from Basic Brown 16 to Basic Blue 99 and Basic Red 76, the two we’re specifically talking about here) fall under the category of “coal tar” dyes, which means they are exempt from FDA approval. Coal tar dyes are synthetic dyes and contain petrochemical derivatives.
From what we can see, each of the Basics comes with its own set of things to consider, some of which we highlight in our look at Overtone.
For example, we checked in with clean cosmetic chemist, Ayurvedic practitioner and founder of KKT Consultants, Krupa Koestline, who explains, “Basic Blue 99 [what we see in some purple shampoos] has been determined okay to use by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel (CIR) and the EU Safety panel, but have noted that the structure and composition can vary quite a bit and so that can be an issue if not properly tested.”
She continues, “Basic Red 76 [also what we see in some purple shampoos] is an ‘azo-dye’. Basic Red 76’s safety in use is inconclusive per [the] EU. The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) in an Opinion, SCCS/1385/10, has classified Basic Red 76, when used as a non-oxidative hair dye up to 2%, as not posing a risk for consumers. However, Australia doesn’t allow the dye and differs in opinion. The concern is the presence of o-ANISIDINE, which is a carcinogen.” The muddy waters around this specific issue are also illustrated in this challenge paper.
Like with anything, it’s about the quality of the ingredients, the percentage of the ingredient and how much you trust the company making the product. Which leads us back to marketing lingo, greenwashing and transparency.
Takeaway: Do I want to drink this? No. Am I okay with using a tiny percentage in my purple shampoo? Yes, I am.
Violet 2 (also known as Ex D&C Violet 2) and Acid Violet 43 used to be derived from coal tar, but are currently made during petroleum jelly refining. They routinely bear a “caution” statement regarding potential skin irritation and instructions for determining whether the product causes skin irritation in any given individual, so I wanted to do a little digging to see why.
Krupa explains, “Acid Violets are safe to use and don’t have any safety issues associated with them, in hair shampoo/conditioner application. They are both not recommended to be used on mucous membranes, but otherwise no other concerns.”
In some additional research and with help from Kate, we were able to add a little more color.
- Both Violet 2 and Acid Violet 43 are not mutagenic in any of the tests like the Ames test or the micronucleus assay.
- Violet 2 in a 1% concentration shows no system toxicity and no significant local skin reactions.
- Acid Violet 43 was determined to be safe for use in hair dye formulations, when impurities are limited. The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety is of the opinion that the use of Acid Violet 43 as a non-oxidative hair dye with a maximum on head concentration of 0.5% active dye does not pose a risk to the health of the consumer.
- The CIR (the US Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel) found that no dermatitis was seen when many human volunteers at different Derm centers had 1% Acid Violet 43 in petrolatum applied to their skin over a 6-month period.
To put all this in context, Kate explains, “Often, just a 0.3% concentration of Acid Violet is needed to treat hair brassiness.”
Takeaway: With all that in mind, the concentration of dyes like Acid Violet 43 and Violet No. 2 that we find in the purple shampoos I’m trying and recommending are considered safe, both by the FDA and by my trusted cosmetic chemist sources.
Plant-derived “botanical” dyes in purple shampoo
The FDA classifies color additives obtained primarily from mineral, plant or animal sources as “not subject to batch certification requirements.” This means that the FDA doesn’t need to review each batch of these colorants, and that cosmetics companies can include them without having them reviewed by the FDA’s certification. But, says the FDA, they “still are considered artificial colors, and when used in cosmetics or other FDA-regulated products, they must comply with the identity, specifications, uses, restrictions, and labeling requirements stated in the regulations.”
Takeaway: Again…this comes down to the transparency of the brand and how much you trust their practices. A trustworthy brand will do its research and comply with regulations, as well as provide clarity on the ingredients in its products.
Should I use blue shampoo for my gray hair?
NO. Purple shampoo is not to be confused with blue shampoo, which is used for darker hair to cancel out orange tones. Jenn warns, “Never put blue, even pale blue, on blonde hair when trying to cancel out yellow tones. Blue + yellow = GREEN.”
How to find an all-natural purple shampoo that’s right for you
MOST of the purple shampoos on the market are formulated with other health-compromising ingredients like surfactants, parabens, fragrance and more, like DMDM Hydantoin. DMDM Hydantoin is a formaldehyde-containing ingredient and it’s sometimes listed (sometimes not if it’s hidden in a surfactant).
BUT! I was able to hunt down a few cleaner options that are formulated without all the junk. Purple shampoo is currently an incredibly niche piece of the clean beauty market (though it’s rapidly expanding, as evidenced from the new formulas I’ve recently tried), and each brand I’ve found formulates a bit differently.
Finding a “right fit” purple shampoo is really about taking into consideration your own type of hair and balancing that with how aggressive of a treatment you want. What it really comes down to in the end, as always, is making an educated decision about what you personally want.
How do I use all-natural purple shampoo?
If you’ve tried using purple shampoo to brighten your gray (or blonde) hair, but it doesn’t work—you *might* be doing it wrong. The trick? You have to leave it in and let it actually tone your hair!
Of course potency and efficacy can vary from brand to brand depending on percentages and ingredients, but if the question is “Does purple shampoo work?” the answer is YES, AND (!!) if it’s not working for you, you most likely are not giving the pigment enough time to transfer.
The best way to use clean beauty purple shampoos is:
- Apply on wet hair in the shower.
- Wash hair as normal, but don’t rinse.
- Let the shampoo sit on your hair for a few minutes (sometimes directions even say this explicitly) before rinsing. You can even take a clip into the shower and clip up your hair as you take this time to do all the other things like wash your face or shave. This gives the color a chance to work so you are not applying it and rinsing it off straight away.
- Once you’ve let it sit, rinse out and conditioner like normal.
Here’s a quick video of me trying out my favorite brand or purple shampoo…
You will also have to play with frequency, depending on how often you wash your hair and the needs of your own gray hair. For the person who washes daily, you may only need to use a purple shampoo a couple times a week to get those grays non-brassy and bright. Or for the person who only washes their hair once a week, you may be able to use a purple shampoo every time you wash.
It also depends on the shade of your hair. Jenn explains, “Anyone can use a purple shampoo; you just won’t get benefits from the color unless your hair is a level 8 [a medium blonde on the hair tone scale] and above. The pigment is just not strong enough to do anything to darker tones.”
The goal here is to determine your own personal equation of frequency, taking into consideration shampoo formula, hair type, hair shade, hair texture and personal washing frequency.
What if my hair turns purple?
If your hair happens to turn purple, Jenn suggests that “a clarifying shampoo will typically work well to pull out unwanted tones. You can apply the shampoo and let it sit for a while to help pull out the color. Typically, if your hair is over-processed or porous, the color can build up, usually on the ends, and be harder to get out.”
The best all-natural purple shampoos
I’m going to use this space to document the purple shampoos I’ve tried that I would consider to be the cleanest options available. I’m starting with my top two recommendations by hair type and I will continue to add reviews here as I try more product. Comment below if you have an option I didn’t include here!
Top purple shampoo pick for thick, dense, oily hair
OWAY Silver Steel Hair Bath | $45.95
I’m going to come right out and say it: I love using OWAY’s Silver Steel Hair Bath. It smells great and leaves my hair feeling fresh, bouncy and clean. It’s also packaged in glass, which is RARE for any shampoo. Most brands won’t do this for safety reasons, but I love it. It feels elevated and chic. Also…yay for less plastic.
This formula pumps out a dark, iridescent, royal purple. It cleans really well and is great at removing oils and buildup. I found this shampoo at the salon I go to, so it’s no surprise that it works. And when I say it works, it not only cleans hair, but it also reduces brassiness like a boss. Take a look at the before and afters on this blonde wig.
Silver Steel Hair Bath uses Violet 2 as a pigment to neutralize brassiness and I would classify this formula as the strongest purple shampoo I’ve tried in terms of toning power. Even when I took the pic with this product on my hand, it stained my hand purple for about an hour or so after that.
But outside of the fact that #itworks, what really turned me on to Silver Steel Hair Bath is that it’s stacked with nourishing hair ingredients like resurrection plant.
Resurrection plant the same ingredient we see in African Botanics’ Resurrection Cell Recovery Serum. It has the ability to survive in extremely harsh, dry conditions and has a regenerating, anti-oxidative, moisturizing and protective effect on the hair, skin and scalp. The formula is also rich in phytonutriens, and vitamins A, B and C, as well as hyaluronic acid, antioxidants and minerals.
As far as the scent goes, there is no one note that stands out to me here, but it has a light, spa-like scent.
Ingredients: Water (ND), Sodium Coceth Sulfate (ND), Cocamidopropyl Betaine (ND), Magnesium Sulfate (ND), Averrhoa Carambola Fruit Extract (FT), Agrimonia Eupatoria Extract (O), Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract (B), Pisum Sativum (Pea) Peptide Sativum (Pea) (ND), Leuconostoc / Radish Root Ferment Filtrate (ND), Sodium Babassu Amphoacetate (ND), Coco-glucoside(ND), Glycerin (ND), Macadamia Seed Oil, Glycereth-8 Esters (ND), Juniperus Virginiana Wood Oil (EO), Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Oil (EO), Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil (EO), Citrus Sinensis Peel Oil Expressed (EO), Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil (EO), Laurus Nobilis Leaf Oil (EO), Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil (EO), Cinnamomum Camphora (Camphor) Bark Oil (EO), Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil (EO), Juniperus Virginiana Oil (EO), Cananga Odorata Flower Extract (ND), Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil (EO), Verbena Officinalis Leaf Extract (ND), Citrus Aurantifolia (lime) Peel Oil (EO), Acacia Decurrens Dealbata Flower Extract (ND), Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Oil (EO), Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Oil (EO), Citrus Aurantium Flower Oil (EO), Rosa Damascena Flower Oil (EO), Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil (EO), Cymbopogon Martini oil (EO), Lavender Hybrida Oil (EO), Glyceryl Oleate (ND), CI 60730 (Ext. Violet 2), Polyquaternium-10, Hydrogenated Palm Glycerides Citrate (ND), Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate (ND), Glycol Distearate, Citral Acid (ND), Sodium Chloride (ND), Tocopherol (ND), Sodium benzoate.
Top pick for mature, thin, drier hair
Bruns SCHAMPO N24 | $39
This formula was recommended to me by one reader on Instagram—THANK YOU! I was so so so excited to give this option a try. In terms of ingredients, this is BY FAR the simplest formula I’ve seen to date. To be honest, I was kind of borderline shocked at the brevity of the ingredient list. It left me looking at the label like, Where’s the rest of the ingredients?
SCHAMPO N24 is packaged in plastic and squeezes out a medium, translucent purple. I would equate the consistency, color and texture to be like that slime kids get out of a $0.25 machine. A demi-translucent jelly, if you will.
This shampoo is on the mild end of the spectrum—mild in cleansing power and milder in pigment. It didn’t stain my hand when I took these pics (like OWAY’s did) and it’s gentle enough to use every day. It works to clean without stripping or drying out hair, which is great considering hair gets naturally drier as we age. Especially gray hair!
It also has ingredients like jojoba oil to add protection against dryness, breakage and split ends, and grapefruit essential oil, which helps relieve scalp irritation. As far as antioxidants go, the campeachy tree also works to make the same purple pigment grapes/berries make and it makes quercetin too.
Kate adds, “The BRUNS shampoo looks really good because the pH is ideal for hair and scalp—I can tell what the exact product pH must be by their Ecocert COSMOS preservative choice. They also use the COSMOS cationic guar, which reduces friction between strands, is scalp-friendly and works to keep hair strong. Here’s a cool article that mentions the importance of a low pH shampoo for hair.”
I have thicker hair, but I’ve actually come to love this option because I can use it all the time without fear of giving myself straw head. It also has a lovely grapefruit/citrus scent.
SCHAMPO N24 uses naturals (campeachy tree) and synthetics (Acid Violet 43) as pigment to neutralize brassiness. (They also have an awesome purple hair mask too, which is insane and works so well to moisturize and tone hair at the same time. Check them both out here!)
Ingredients: Aqua, Decyl Glucoside, Glycerin, Olive Oil Polyglyceryl-6 Esters, Sodium Laurylglucosides Hydroxypropylsulfonate, Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil, Xanthan Gum, Hydroxypropyl Guar, Haematoxylum Campechianum Powder, Parfum**, Boswellia Carterii Oil**, Citrus Paradisi Peel Oil**, Cymbopogon Citratus Leaf Oil**, Citral***, Linalool***, Limonene***, Glyceryl Laurate, Potassium Sorbate, Pentylene Glycol, Sorbic Acid, Acid Violet 43*. *synthetic origin **essential oils ***natural components in essential oils
All the purple shampoos I’ve tried (with before & after pics!)
Flourish Vibrant + Violet Purple Perfecting Shampoo | $36
This is a top pick for people with sensitivities and/or allergies to synthetic dyes. Created from certified organic, wild harvested and Ecocert ingredients, this plant-based shampoo is tinted with beet extract, bilberry extract, rhubarb extract and more to get its purple hue. There is also the option to add a dried plant mix called a Violet Booster for a more pigmented experience. I used it both with and without.
I finished the bottle (on this blonde wig) before I could snap a pic to show you the color—oops. But it cleans hair well, smells good and is sustainably packaged. My only personal hangup is I didn’t see that much of a brightening effect from these ingredients. I also found that it oxidized over time, becoming less purple as it aged.
BEST FOR: Someone with chemical sensitivities or purists who want something as close to nature as possible.
Ingredients: purified water (and) Rosa canina (rosehip)extract (and) helianthus annus (sunflower) seed extract, decyl glucoside***, sodium lauryl sulfoacetate***^, vegetable glycerin*, propanediol***, (and) proprietary color blend of spirulina platensis (spirulina), beta vulgaris (beet) extract, vaccinium myrtillus (bilberry) extract, rheum palmatum (rhubarb) extract, ribes nigrum (black currant)extract, gluconolactone***(and) sodium benzoate***(preservative system), guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, panthenol (vitamin B), secret essential oil blend including violet leaf. VEGAN. GLUTEN+NUT FREE. *certified organic ** wild harvested ***Ecocert ^safe, gentle cleanser, not SLS
EverEscents Organics Berry Blonde Shampoo | $32.95
This is another option for people who don’t want to use synthetic dyes. EverEscents uses a mix of red sweet potato and blue gardenia to tint their Organic Berry Blonde Shampoo.
What really drew me to this formula is that it’s made from 83.8% certified organic ingredients and 99.36% naturally derived ingredients. But you will see the color here is more of a gray metallic rather than a vibrant violet/purple, which leads me to my next point.
This is not *really* a purple shampoo in the traditional sense of purple shampoos. And EverEscents confirms. They say this shampoo is designed to “maintain the tone in between salon visits.” (Not to “overtone” hair.) They also say that because it’s not meant to tone hair, it’s a good fit for all hair types and all colors.
This shampoo is not designed to neutralize brassy tones in your gray hair. If you want THAT, you have to buy something that is designed to do THAT.
To be honest, my favorite thing about this shampoo is that it washed my hair as good as any conventional shampoo ever has. The “clean hair” satisfaction score here is off the charts. It left my hair feeling fresh and bouncy, but after using it for a few weeks, it also left my hair and scalp feeling dry.
The other drawback is that it’s not available in the US. I ordered this from Australia and paid about $40 in shipping alone for this 8oz bottle.
The scent here is like an old school box of Nerds—very sweet and grape-y, which I personally dig.
BEST FOR: Someone with oilier hair who is trying to maintain their hair color in between salon visits.
Ingredients: Certified Organic Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice*, Glycerin* (moisturiser), Coco-Betaine** (foaming agent derived from coconut oil), Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate** (sulfate free mild cleansing agent derived from renewable resources), Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate (mild cleansing agent derived from coconut oil), Glycol Distearate** (emollient / thickening agent), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract*, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract*, Tilia Cordata (Linden) Flower Extract*, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Extract*, Betula Alba (Birch) Bark/Leaf Extract*, Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail) Extract*, Achillea Millefolium (Yarrow) Extract*, Panthenol Vitamin B5** (strengthens against breakage and nourishment for hair and scalp), Tocopheryl Acetate Vitamin E** (keeps hair flexible), Natural Mixed Berry Flavour**, Citric Acid** (natural preservative), Maris Sal (Sea Salt)**, Polyquaternium-10** (mild thickening agent derived from wood fibre), ((Benzyl Alcohol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate); mild preservative approved for use in Certified Organic formulas), Ipomoea Batatas (Red Sweet Potato) Root Extract **(natural colour), Gardenia Jasminoides (Blue Gardenia) Fruit Extract ** (natural colour).
*CERTIFIED ORGANIC INGREDIENT **NATURALLY DERIVED INGREDIENT
83.80% CERTIFIED ORGANIC INGREDIENTS 99.36% NATURALLY DERIVED INGREDIENTS
Ethique Tone It Down Brightening Purple Shampoo Bar | $17
The Ethique Tone It Down purple shampoo bar is another option that does not employ synthetic dyes. Instead it uses a combination of beet root powder and mineral-derived pigment like ultramarines, iron oxide red and mica.
Love the sustainability efforts here, but as you can see the pigment transfer is a lot lighter than other shampoos, which has a direct impact on this shampoo’s ability to cancel out brassy tones compared to liquid purple shampoos. If we look at this product through the lens of efficacy, I didn’t find it to be even in the same ballpark as our top picks.
BEST FOR: Someone who values sustainability.
Ingredients: Sodium cocoyl isethionate, stearic acid, sodium cocoyl glycinate, mica, Theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter, Orbignya oleifera (babassu) seed oil, behentrimonium methosulfate, betaine, brassica alcohol, sodium isethionate, lactic acid, glycerin, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, parfum*, benzyl alchol, sodium chloride, aqua (water) dehydroacetic acide, Jasminum officinale (jasmine) oil, Beta vulgaris (beet) root powder, linalool, CI 77491, CI 77891, CI 77007
*We asked Ethique about the components of their fragrance, and they said, “Our Tone It Down bar features a COSMOS NATURAL certified fragrance containing Jasmine essential oil and vanilla parfum.” (And they shared the certification with us. *Two thumbs up!*).
Innersense Bright Balance Hairbath | $30
This shampoo definitely works. It tones hair, period. If I leave it on for 5 minutes like the directions say, it definitely cancels out the brassiness—but it has more of a graying / steel color effect rather than a brightening effect. That can probably be adjusted by leaving it on for less time. You can also see that the shampoo color itself is a darker color purple than my top picks.
What’s interesting to me here is Innersense has chosen to use a mix of Basic Red and Basic Blue dyes to attain the purple color of this shampoo. That’s the same thing that color depositing shampoos like Overtone use (and we talked about above).
As far as the cleaning experience goes, it cleans my hair well without drying it out, which is consistent with every Innersense shampoo I’ve tried. The scent to me smells like a bouquet of white flowers…Gardenia? Jasmine? I don’t know and it’s hard to tell because most of the ingredient list consists of fragrance components.
BEST FOR: Someone who wants to try a new purple shampoo that works!
Ingredients: water/aqua/eau, cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine, hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) water, sodium cocoyl isethionate, glycerin, alcohol, caprylyl/capryl glucoside, glyceryl stearate se, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, sodium levulinate, potassium sorbate, citric acid, pyrus malus (apple) fruit extract, oryza sativa (rice) extract*, 2,6-dimethyl-7-octen-2-ol, orange terpenes, triethyl citrate, basic blue 99, sodium gluconate, basic red 76, hydrolyzed rice protein, butyrospermum parkii (shea) butter*, calophyllum inophyllum seed oil*, persea gratissima (avocado) oil, plumeria acutifolia flower extract, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil*, allyl heptoate natural, alpha-terpineol, amyris balsamifera bark oil, anisaldehyde, benzyl acetate, beta-ionone, dimethyl heptenal, dodecahydro tetramethyl naphthofuran, eugenia caryophyllus (clove) leaf oil, eugenol, gamma decalactone, gamma nonalactone, gamma undecalactone, hexenyl acetate, hexyl acetate, hexyl cinnamal (hexyl cinnamic aldehyde), lemon oil terpenes, methyl benzoate, phenethyl acetate, phenethyl alcohol, raspberry ketone, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil, vanillin, hydrolyzed quinoa, taraxacum officinale (dandelion) leaf extract, melissa officinalis leaf extract, salvia officinalis (sage) leaf extract, coconut acid, sodium isethionate, sodium benzoate, benzyl alcohol, citronellolᵻ, limoneneᵻ, linaloolᵻ
Kavella Purple Shampoo | $12
A reader asked me if I had tried Kavella and I hadn’t, so I ordered a sample (more photos to come). Kavella uses Acid Violet 43 and Acid Red 33 as colorants in a cleaner base. I love how pigmented this formula is, however I’m not recommending it for two reasons. This formula was super thin, runny and hard to manage. And it uses lower foaming agents as the primary and secondary surfactants so it NEVER foamed up for me—not even after three rounds of washing.
Call foaming/sudsing shampoo a personal preference, but I will go out on a limb and say most people feel the same. HOWEVER, if you are someone who prefers a shampoo that does not foam at all—then this one could be a good match for you.
BEST FOR: People who have a dry scalp or dry hair.
Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract*, Sodium Cocoyl Glycinate, Cocamidopropyl Hydroxysultaine, Decyl Glucoside, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycerin*, Sucrose Cocoate, Leuconostoc/ Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Glycol Distearate, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Protein, Gluconolactone, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Polyquaternium-10, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters, Potassium Sorbate, CI 60730 Acid Violet 43, Prunus Armeniaca L. (Apricot Kernel) Essential Oil, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Essential Oil*, CI 17200 Acid Red 33, Dipteryx Odorata (Tonka Bean) Absolute*, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil*, Lactic Acid, Benzaldehyde**, Benzyl Alcohol**, Cinnamal**, Limonene**, Linalool**, Benzyl Benzoate**, Coumarin**, Eugenol**
*organic **natural components of our apricot kernel essential oil and tonka bean absolute
Kitsch Purple Toning Solid Shampoo | $14
I’m throwing Kitsch’s Purple Toning Solid Shampoo Bar into the mix because I wanted to see how a bar that uses synthetic dyes measures up. I was drawn to this bar specifically because of its simple ingredient list, including Violet No. 2 as a dye and Biotin to boost shine, reduce dullness & strengthen your hair.
The directions here say to wet hair and then “paint” on from lengths to ends for even toning. But what I can tell you (and what you can see CLEARLY in this image above) is that this purple shampoo bar foams up WHITE and color does not transfer at all.
On the other hand, I loved how this bar cleaned my hair. It left my hair and scalp feeling fresh, but not stripped. However, it did not make my gray hair more brilliant or neutralize any brassiness.
BEST FOR: Someone who values sustainability and clean hair.
Full ingredient list:Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Vegetable Glycerin, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Natural Fragrance*, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Violet No. 2 (CI 60730). *Natural fragrance derived from plants (Orange Blossom & Jasmine).
Rahua Color Full Shampoo | $38
Let me start out by saying I love Rahua. The entire brand is formulated around the foundational ingredient rahua oil, which indigenous Amazon women have used for years to nourish their hair and skin.
Their Color Full line is similar in mission to the EverEscents Organic Berry Blonde line: it’s not designed to tone gray hair, but to “preserve hair coloring” for “all shades of color-treated and highlighted hair.” This is more like a “color safe shampoo” for people who dye their hair.
I tried this shampoo and it did not brighten or whiten my grays, which makes sense because as a “color safe shampoo for all shades of color treated hair,” there are no FD&C dyes or active toning agents.
In my eyes, this formula is really designed to preserve color rather than neutralize brassiness, so if you are looking for that, this would be a great option for you.
BEST FOR: Someone trying to maintain their hair color in between salon visits.
Ingredients: Aqua, Herbal Infusion of Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Organic Hibiscus Sabdariffa Flower Extract, Eclipta Prostrata (King of hair) Extract and Organic Vacciniumm Myrtillus (Bilberry Fruit) Extract, Sodium Alpha Olefin Sulfonate, Coco Betaine*, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate*, Sodium Chloride (Sea salt), Organic Ocimum Basilicum (Sweet Basil) Extract, Vegetable Glycerin, Gardenia Jasminoides (Gardenia Enfleurage) Oil, Aroma, Organic Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba (Guar) Gum, Kaolin Clay, Zinc Oxide, Sucrose Extract, Mauritia Flexuosa Morete) Fruit Oil, Oenocarpus Bataua (Rahua Unguarahua) Oil, Linum Usitatissimum (Flax) Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil. *Denotes plant derived ingredient.
After reading this, most people bought…
Bruns SCHAMPO N24 | $39
This purple shampoo is on the mild end of the spectrum—mild in cleansing power and milder in pigment. But it’s gentle enough to use every day, and it actually works to brighten and tone brassy strands. It works to clean without stripping or drying out hair, which is great considering hair gets naturally drier as we age. Especially gray hair!
Common questions about purple shampoos for gray hair
Purple shampoo is a shampoo containing purple pigment to neutralize yellow and brassy tones in gray and/or blonde hair. Learn more here.
There is no shortage of purple shampoos to choose from. These are some of better options (sans SLS, synthetic fragrance, parabens etc.) that I’ve tried.
Finding a “right fit” purple shampoo is really about taking into consideration your own type of hair and balancing that with how aggressive of a treatment you want. Check out my recommendations for natural purple shampoos.
Have you found a cleaner purple shampoo that works for you?
TNK Team Note: This article contains affiliate links. TNK uses affiliate links as a source for revenue to fund operations of the business and to be less dependent on branded content. TNK stands behind all product recommendations. Still have questions about these links or our process? Feel free to email us.
SusieMarch 29, 2022
I love the Bruns 24 purple shampoo! So glad I found it on your site. Will the shampoo be restocked on March 31st also or just the conditioner?
Lisa FennessyApril 10, 2022
Hi Susie! So sorry for the delay here, I’m hoping it will be back in stock by next Monday 4/18. We shipped by boat this time because the air shipping was 3X what it was before the war and covid and I’m trying to keep this at the same price for y’all bc it’s already A LOT. So so sorry for the wait! Fingers crossed we will be back in business next week! xo, L
HelenApril 23, 2022
Aloha from Hawaii 🌻
I’ve recently gone from black to white hair because my gray is taking over. So I have natural grays as well as extremely processed hair. I’m looking for a more natural purple shampoo but most of your preferred options are unavailable.
I wanted to see if these brands are ok to your standards.
OGX – Blonde Enhanced + Purple Toning Shampoo
artnaturals – Purple Shampoo for Blonde Hair
Mahalo in advance.
Lisa FennessyMay 8, 2022
Aloha Helen! Your hair sounds beautiful! Thanks for checking in. I looked at both of those shampoos and they are a no-go for me personally. The BRUNS shampoo will be back in stock this week. I know it’s getting to the warehouse on Wednesday and then hopefully they will have it unpacked and restocked by Friday! Fingers crossed! If you can’t wait, I would recommend OWAY’s listed here. xo, L
RiaMay 11, 2022
This article is great, thank you. I do have a question and wonder if you may know the answer. I am in my late 30s and post-pandemic after not wearing my hair up every day for 2 years, I got a surprise. I have been going lightly grey since 30. Stopped dying prior to COVID. But now my hair has a couple of areas with more prominent grey batches, other areas it is every other hair and then the rest still my prior natural hair colour. My hair is brunette by eye but genetically it is very dark blond so my hair goes honey rather than red in the sun so has warm undertones. From reading a few articles, it seems to be that purple shampoo can make natural darker hair cooler. So I was wondering if there is a way to get my greys less brassy but not affect the natural warmness of my hair? And if one of the recommended products may be better than another for this situation. Thank you
Lisa FennessyMay 20, 2022
Hi Ria! Love this question. So one thing I want to clarify is purple shampoo is not powerful enough to effect hair that is dark. It only effects hair that is light (so gray hair or blonde hair). Therefore if you use a purple shampoo it will not effect your dark hair, it will only make your gray hair more brilliant. This applies to purple shampoos. If you use something like Overtone (which is a dye) you will get different results. Does this help? xo, L
Karla woodardJune 5, 2022
I really like Phyto Argent purple Shampoo. Have you evaluated this one?
Lisa FennessyJuly 5, 2022
Hi Karla! I haven’t tried this one. It’s not as “clean” as the others I recommend so it’s a little outside of our scope but I’m glad you found something you love! xo, Lisa
JerriJune 13, 2022
Tried this shampoo for over a week, followed the directions. I don’t like it because it made my hair very limp with no body. My hair is short and typically have a lot of body with no problems. My hair is dark and graying (50% gray). I was hoping this would be good for me but it isn’t ….sorry.
DebbieJune 24, 2022
Hi Lisa, I have just come across you by accident and I am very excited. I had white hair as a child and as I aged it changed to a dark blonde. I am now 55 and only have grey patches near my ears. I would like to have more grey/silver but I am getting very impatient. I follow a organic/natural chemical free lifestyle as much as possible so I was wondering if the Silver Steel Hair Bath would be a good option for me. My hair is fine and post menopause oily.
Lisa FennessyJuly 5, 2022
Hi Debbie! I think it’s a great option. It has a little more cleaning power than the BRUNS so I think it’s a better fit for people with oily hair IMO! Hope this helps! xo, Lisa
DebbieJuly 5, 2022
Thank you very much.
MaureenJuly 27, 2022
What conditioner would you pair with the purple shampoo?
Lisa FennessyAugust 6, 2022
Hi Maureen! I would use either the conditioner or the hair mask here (https://shopthenewknew.com/). (The mask is so great and a little more conditioning and more purple ; ) xo, Lisa
JuaniSeptember 1, 2022
I am 66 yrs old I have a lot of gray in the front and have the rest of my hair highlighted heavily to blend it in with the gray but the color comes out brassy I use a purple shampoo but it dries my hair out so bad and my scalp. I have very thin fine hair that gets oily and have to wash everyday unless I use a dry shampoo but haven’t found one that doesn’t make my head itch. Do you have any recommendations for fine thin oily hair.
Lisa FennessyNovember 11, 2022
Hi Juani! So many shampoos will dry out hair. The good news is there are FOR SURE moisturizing ones. I like the BRUNS shampoo and conditioner. They are very gentle and moisturizing and they do not dry out my scalp. Have you tried them? xo, Lisa
CarrieSeptember 25, 2022
Maybe I missed it, but how about conditioners? What do you use? Will something I use negate the benefit of the purple shampoo? Very helpful article! Thank you!
Lisa FennessyNovember 11, 2022
I didn’t go into that here but I recommend the BRUNS conditioner…also I love the BRUNS purple hair mask which is just a more rich conditioner that you can leave on for a bit. Richly nourishes and treats yellowing. SO GOOD. Both are here. xo, Lisa
Lex R.September 27, 2022
Thanks for the great article. You mention that you use the purple shampoo/conditioning products about once weekly. Are you using more standard (non-gray focused) shampoo/conditioner in between? I’ve been fully gray for about a year and a half, but have yet to add in any gray-focused products to my regimen. Just ordered the Oway shampoo and Evolvh Superfinish Polishing Balm (thanks for the tips!). Other than that, I’ve been relying on an ancient minerals moisturizing shampoo and conditioner from ZionHealth, which I don’t think is doing the trick anymore (my ends are super dry these days). Appreciate your thoughts! – Lex
Lisa FennessyOctober 20, 2022
Hi Lex! I probably use purple shampoo more than not. I have that in the shower and I also have EVOLVh’s Moisturizing Shampoo and Mukti’s Botanique Shampoo..I rotate all three. ; ) Lisa
CelesteOctober 15, 2022
This might sound silly – but can I just add grape juice to a good conditioner? I hate the idea of adding the artificial colorants to my hair.
Lisa FennessyOctober 20, 2022
You could but it wouldn’t do anything. I’m actually unconvinced that these purple shampoos listed above without the synthetic dyes even work at all to change the color of hair. The purple needs to be charged in a specific way to actually adhere to the hair. Vegetables and botanicals are not charged that way. We’ve tried it. Grape juice is also not charged that way. xo, Lisa
HeleneOctober 17, 2022
Hi, I am trying to find the Bruns #24 but I cannot seem to find it in Canada (shipping from the US is very expensive). Any idea where I could find it here? Also any suggestions for purple conditioner? Thanks!
Lisa FennessyOctober 20, 2022
Hi Helene! You could try reaching out to Bruns themselves. They are based in Sweden. They might be able to help you more efficiently. xo, Lisa
HeleneOctober 20, 2022
I tried, they do not deliver internationaly 🙁 But thanks…
Patricia PasierbDecember 26, 2022
I developed an EYE allergy to my Clairol shimmer lights shampoo. What ingredient is the most likely culprit? What replacement shampoo might work to remove the yellow from my very white head of hair?
Lisa FennessyJanuary 1, 2023
Hi Patricia! I’m so sorry that happened to you! I’m not sure what your exact allergy is but you could use our No Thanks List to cross reference ingredients in that product with ingredients we recommend avoiding. Also, the shampoos listed in this post are my top picks for cancelling out yellow tones in white hair. Hope this helps! xo, Lisa
JazmineJanuary 31, 2023
Hi! I have used to clean purple shampoos… One did nothing and the one I’m using right now which is innerscence purple shampoo has been turning my hair blue! It’s White and gray at the root with some brown mixed in and the rest of majority of my hair is bleach blonde but still very yellow from bleaching out the color so it grows in to match. I would love to know if you think any of the shampoos you’re recommending might also turn my hair blue? My hair is also curly and coarse and very damaged so I need some thing that works but it’s very hydrating and nourishing. Thanks so much for this great post! Hoping to hear back
Lisa FennessyFebruary 24, 2023
Hi Jazmine! Okay I JUST updated this post with before and after pics and I can see why the Innersense shampoo would be turning your hair blue. Come back and check it out. I also think that you would like the BRUNS shampoo which is moisturizing, not too strong in pigment and doesn’t strip hair. xo, L
StaceyFebruary 8, 2023
Thanks for this info! I bought OWAY’s Silver Steel Hair Bath and love it! Just curious if you have you tried Pacifica’s Sunshine High purple conditioner? If so, can you share your thoughts? All the ingredients appear to be natural and it works great! Just thought I would mention it 🙂
Lisa FennessyFebruary 24, 2023
Hi Stacey! Thanks for this, I haven’t tried that one yet but will add it to our list! xo, Lisa
CarrieFebruary 11, 2023
Hi! I’m 41 and have been trying to transition to my natural salt and pepper grey by growin it out since last May only having my coppery brassy blonde glazed to match my mousy brown salt n pepper hair at roots. My hair is fine and due to a benign, but prolactin (hormone) producing brain tumor and now the medication being used to treat it, my hair has been falling out. I want to try to tone the orange-ish bottom and my brighten my silvery grey salt n pepper. Do you recommend a purple shampoo and blue or just purple? Thanks for all of the advice so far 🙂
Lisa FennessyFebruary 24, 2023
Hi Carrie! So this one is tricky. You could use a blue shampoo on the bottom orange parts of your hair to neutralize. And then a purple shampoo on your salt and pepper top part to brighten. If that doesn’t work or if it seems too complicated, a salon visit might help. They could tone it for you. xo, Lisa
ShelleyFebruary 12, 2023
Have you tried Innersense purple shampoo and conditioner?
Lisa FennessyFebruary 24, 2023
Yes! I just added my review to this post so check back! xo, Lisa