Purple-tinged hair products are supposedly revolutionary; a magic wand, if you will, for faux-blonde hair, turning even the dullest, brassiest hues into shimmering curtains of gold. At least, allegedly.
Because for every blonde who swears by her violet BFFs, you’ll find another light-haired lady who hates them, claiming they didn’t work, or, worse, ruined her hair (seriously—I conducted a loose poll in the office, and we’ve got a ton of haters over here). So to keep you from wasting your money or ruining your dye job (or both), I begged an expert to give me the bullshit-free truth on whether or not purple products are worth the hype.
No, They’re Not Miracle Workers
Let me set your expectations in the right place: Even though these products are infused with purple pigments that are intended to counteract brassy tones in blonde hair (purple is opposite orange on the color wheel, which means they cancel each other out), purple shampoos and conditioners are “not going to keep your color from ever getting brassy again,” says celeb hairstylist Matt Fugate. As he notes, the dreaded tangerine-y tinge that can appear a few weeks after your dye-job can come from environmental elements, minerals in your water, and even hair-colorist error.
“If you’re not happy with your blonde color after you leave the salon, don’t think that purple products are going to turn you into Blake Lively or Gwen Stefani,” he says. “Violet shampoos and conditioners are great for prolonging the color you already have, not getting you a color you never had.”
But Yes, They Can Help All Hair Colors
Surprise! Brunettes can have (more) fun, too! “Really anyone who doesn’t want warm hues in their hair can use purple products to cool their color down,” says Fugate. Fun fact: “The darker your hair naturally is, the more prone it is to brassiness, thanks to the amount of melanin it has.”
So if your caramel ombré is feeling a bit too warm, slap some purple conditioner on it. Chestnut hair looking a tad too red? Add in some purple shampoo. “You might not see as big of a change as you would with blonde hair, but it can still help,” he says.
As Long as You Don’t F*ck It Up
Apologies to my cynical colleagues, but some of your spite is due to user error, i.e. using purple products every single day, or leaving them on for way too long. “People will slather the stuff on and leave it for an hour, thinking it’ll give them this beautiful, icy-blonde color, but it just stains the hair a dull color,” Fugate explains. “Or, they’ll apply it to dry hair, not realizing you need moisture to buffer the color, and their blonde will turn gray and dingy.”
And even though these products are advertised as conditioners and shampoos, they’re not meant for daily—or even weekly—use. “Your hair will eventually build up an immunity to the color if you use it too frequently, or you’ll just accidentally dull your blonde,” he says. “It’s just to refresh your color every so often.” If you’re washing your hair every single day, you can use purple products once a week, says Fugate; if you wash every few days, reach for the purple stuff once every other week.
Like all seemingly glorious innovations, your mileage may (and probably will) vary. “Sometimes, purple products simply don’t work,” says Fugate, noting that it all depends on what kind of hair you have. “Incredibly thick, coarse, resistant hair won’t see as much of a difference as super-fine baby hair that’s more susceptible to hue changing,” he says.
If your hair is healthy, strong, and barely dyed, you might not see a change at all. “The hair cuticle needs to be roughed up a bit so the purple pigments can penetrate the strand,” he says. “Bleached-out platinum hair will see noticeable results, while the subtly highlighted will probably only see minimal results.”
Bottom line: As long as you follow the instructions, there’s no real harm in adding some purple conditioners and shampoos to your weekly routine. To get you started, I’ve ID'd the very best formulas, below. Bye, brassiness.