Critically reviewed by Sophie Davies, American Board Certified Haircolorist
As a natural brunette, I love my hair. But I also itch for change and it feels like I’ve gone some shade of blonde at least once during the year for the last 10 or 12 years.
So I’ve learned that not using purple shampoo gets annoying (my hair gets brassy super fast), using purple shampoo gets messy, and misusing it gets outright ugly.
What’s Purple Shampoo, You Ask?
Purple shampoo is shampoo that has had a purple dye or coloring added to it so that it neutralizes the yellow or brassy tones in blonde hair. The science is simple: Purple being opposite of yellow on the color wheel (directly complementary it’s called), it works to neutralize or cancel out its opposite, which is the unwanted yellow. Since the yellow and brassy tones will also dull the sheen of your otherwise beautiful head of blonde hair, if you’re looking at going blonde, you’ll also want purple shampoo within a wet arm’s reach. It’s just what happens with blonde hair over time: whether you bleached your hair on your own or had it done professionally, light-colored hair turns a brassy yellow after a while from the sun, from chlorine, and from hard water.
Who Should Use Purple Shampoo?
Anyone with light-colored hair or highlights, whether dyed or natural, will benefit from purple shampoo. Purple shampoo is basically a must for the following hair colors—and if you’re not in dire need of it now, you will be shortly:
- Blonde hair
- Bleached hair
- Highlighted brunettes
- Platinum Blondes
- Natural or dyed Silvers and Grays
In blonde hair, brunette hair with balayage highlights (whether paint or foil highlights), and in natural or dyed silver and grey hair, purple shampoo neutralizes the yellow and orange tones. This before-and-after graphic from one of the purple shampoos we’ll be comparing (L’Oreal) gives you an idea of the color magic possible.
How Often Should You Use Purple Shampoo?
Because purple shampoo is also a shampoo-shampoo, you could opt to replace out your current shampoo entirely with your new purple fix—just not for very long. You’re best off starting to use purple shampoo 1 to 2 times per week and keeping an eye on how much the yellow and brassy tones are disappearing. The lighter your hair, the faster you’ll see results.
When Will You Notice The Results of Purple Shampoo?
Within a few to several washings with purple shampoo, you’ll start to notice the brasses and yellows diminish and disappear. Depending on how light your hair is, that could also happen sooner rather than later.
How Long Should You Leave Purple Shampoo In?
Unless the product tells you otherwise, leave purple shampoo in for 1 to 3 minutes. The longer you leave it in for, the more yellow and brassy tones it will counteract. Too long, and your hair might start turning shades of purple and blue. All of the purple shampoos we’ll review here recommend leaving it in for from 3-4 minutes.
Naturally, you’ll also want to avoid the purple tones from coming in too strong so you should stop short of that, which will be gradual. The longer you leave in the purple shampoo, say, after 5+ minutes, the more bluish or purplish your hair is going to be, possibly even after one use. It’s important to not accidentally overdo it.
Depending on the brand you choose, it would likely take longer than 4 minutes, and maybe as long as 7 to 10 minutes, but 4 is a good cut-off point for safety.
How Do You Use Purple Shampoo?
Use purple shampoo just like you would use your normal shampoo, but let it sit after laterhing: apply it to your wet hair and massage it into a lather, then let it sit for 1-3 minutes and rinse it out thoroughly. (If you happen to get some in your eye, don’t panic—it’s just shampoo with a single purple color dye included—but rinse it out quickly.)
Where Does the Purple in Purple Shampoo Come From?
Chemically speaking, purple isn’t an easy color to work with naturally, so it leaves shampoo makers mostly with just this one option. All of the purple shampoos we reviewed, organic and all-natural included, and just about every purple shampoo on the market, gets its color from a colored powder that goes by a number of names. You’ll see it listed as “Violet 2,” “D&C Violet 2,” “External D&C Violet No. 2,” “CI 60730,” “Unicert Violet K7116-J,” “Jarocol Violet 43,” “Murasaki 401,” and “Acid Violet 43.” These are all the same ingredient, masquerading under different names. And just so you have the full list if you ever oddly need it, here is an even fuller list of names the purple dye goes by. This colorant has a relatively low (safe) rating by EWG and is in their “green” range for carcinogenicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and allergic or immunotoxic effects.
What is the Best Purple Shampoo?
1. Best Customer-Rated Purple Shampoo
2. Best Natural/Organic Purple Shampoo
3. Best Least Expensive Purple Shampoo
Naturally, this is a subjective question and a personal choice, but we can look at some science and logic to help us decide. We’ll look at several factors that could weigh in on your choice: Reviews, price, sulfates, parabens and SLS, and how many chemicals each shampoo uses and how soft or harsh those chemicals are.
Let’s jump right to the key points with a data bomb of a chart and then follow it up with an explanation of how we arrived at all this.
Okay, that’s a lot of data. If you’re interested in what others have thought, the Review column will be your go-to. If you’re concerned about parabens, sulfates and SLS or SLES, check out the Ingredients columns. For an overall rating assignment to the harshness and toxicity of ingredients, that’s what the EWG Rating column summarizes (a lower number is better). And for cost comparisons, you know where to find it.
Quick Answer? Best Purple Shampoo, Go!
If you’re looking for the purple shampoo that will most quickly reduce the brassiness in your hair, pick this one, and if you’re looking for the healthiest overall purple shampoo that will still do the trick, pick this one.
Otherwise, let’s dive into this chart and the best purple shampoos:
Best Purple Shampoo Based on Customer Ratings Comparison
For a purple shampoo, Redken Color Extended Blondage has the highest overall customer ratings. But it comes with a tradeoff which is its high EWG ingredient ratings.
|Best Purple Shampoo: User Ratings||5* Ratings|
|1. Redken Color Extended Blondage||80%|
|2. Fanola No Yellow||79%|
|3. Matrix Biolage ColorLast||78%|
|4. Matrix Total Results So Silver||76%|
|6. HoneySkin Organic||65%|
|7. L’Oreal Paris EverPure||63%|
Best Natural/Organic Purple Shampoo Based on Ingredients
Since “The U.S. government doesn’t review the toxicity of products before they’re sold,” and “Companies are allowed to use almost any ingredient they wish without regard for how safe they are,” “The aim of Skin Deep®️ is to fill in where industry and government leave off.” Launched in 2004, EWG’s Skin Deep®️ resource center collates and compares cosmetic product ingredients to health and safety information from “nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases.”
EWG Ingredient Ratings
Based on their review and research, EWG staff assign one number or a range of numbers between 1 to 10, Best to Worst, to almost every cosmetic ingredient in use. Water, for instance, is a “1,” while Formaldehyde is a “7-10” and Thimerosal is a “10.” To create equal grounds for our comparison, we took all single digits as they were, and we averaged any ratings that EWG had given in ranges. For example, “1-3” became 2 and “4-7” became 5.5.
The seven purple shampoos we reviewed had a total of 195 ingredients between them all. Seventy-eight of these ingredients (40 percent) had been assigned a range of numbers by EWG (“1-3,” for example) so in those cases we averaged out the numbers.
Because EWG rates more harmful chemicals higher, the lower the final number each product had, the less harmful it would be. That seemed to work out. Here’s what else we found:
Ingredients of Note
- The only Organic Purple Shampoo of the lot we reviewed had not only the least total number of ingredients but also the best ingredients overall. Its only tradeoff seems to be a high price and lower than expected customer ratings, the two factors possibly playing off of each other.
- “Fragrance,” with an EWG rating of 8, was used in all non-organic purple shampoos. (EWG says “3,163 ingredients hide behind the word ‘fragrance’”)
- The next worst-rated ingredient in purple shampoos was “Methylisothiazolinone,” used in 3 of the 7 (L’Oreal, Joico, and Fanola.)
Best Purple Shampoo Based on Ingredients: Harsh Chemicals
Paraben-free, sulfate-free and SLS/SLES-free purple shampoos include HoneySkin and L’Oreal’s Paris EverPure purple shampoo.
|Best Purple Shampoo: No Harsh Ingredients||Paraben Free?||Sulfate Free?||SLS, SLES Free?|
|1. HoneySkin Organic||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|2. L’Oreal Paris EverPure||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|3. Matrix Biolage ColorLast||Yes||No||No|
|4. Matrix Total Results So Silver||Yes||No||No|
|5. Redken Color Extended Blondage||Yes||No||No|
|7. Fanola No Yellow||No||No||No|
Best Purple Shampoo Based on Ingredients: EWG Ratings
Here’s where we come to our numerical value assigned to each purple shampoo, based on the combined total EWG rating of its ingredients. Joico had the highest/worst score and the organic Purple Shampoo by HoneySkin had the lowest/best score.
|Best Purple Shampoo: EWG Rating||EWG Combined Ingredient Ratings|
|1. HoneySkin Organic||21.5 ★★★★★|
|2. Matrix Total Results So Silver||32|
|3. Redken Color Extended Blondage||57.5|
|4. Fanola No Yellow||60|
|5. L’Oreal Paris EverPure||75.5|
|6. Matrix Biolage ColorLast||79.5|
|7. Joico||92 ★|
Best Purple Shampoo Based on Price
Based on price alone, the best purple shampoo is Fanola No Yellow.
|Purple Shampoo||Price per Ounce|
|1. Fanola No Yellow||$0.50|
|2. Matrix Total Results So Silver||$0.62|
|3. Matrix Biolage ColorLast||$0.89|
|4. L’Oreal Paris EverPure||$0.998|
|5. Redken Color Extended Blondage||$1.183|
|7. HoneySkin Organic||$2.186|
I hope one or more of these comparisons has helped you pick a purple — whether it’s a purple you now want to try, or now know you don’t need to try.
As for myself, honestly, I continue trying out whatever brand of purple shampoo catches my eye, as long as it’s made an effort to be paraben, sulfate, and SLS-free.
That’s how I ran into HoneySkin. Next year, who knows.