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If you've ever tried to lighten your hair at home — or caught sight of your reflection halfway through a double-process treatment — you're familiar with the dull, one-dimensional yellow that remains after bleaching. It's not an especially natural or flattering shade, which is why a good colorist will then apply highlights, lowlights and toner. (Side note: This is also why your salon visit takes four hours and costs a small fortune.)
What is purple shampoo?
The product goes on, you guessed it, purple — a bold, somewhat-alarming violet that will stain your bathtub if it dries — but rinses out clear. For about five minutes in between, that pigment works to neutralize those brassy shades with its magical, opposite-end-of-the-color-wheel powers, explains hairstylist Susan Monahan of Warren-Tricomi Salon.
And get this: It works. While an over-the-counter product can't replicate the nuanced work of a skilled colorist, it can help keep that blond shade bright for months, helping you stretch out the time between salon visits.
"It's great for cutting the brassiness in blond hair, especially in city areas where there tend to be a lot of mineral and rust buildup in water," celebrity colorist Ryan Pearl of Cutler Soho salon tells TODAY.
It can also help neutralize yellows or gold to make blond shades appear brighter, adds Victoria Hunter of Whittemore House Salon.
But it's not just for blondes. It can also be used to touch up highlights, keep trendy pastels looking crisp, or give grays (natural or otherwise) those chic blue undertones.
So, what's the catch? Well, there is the aforementioned tub staining, so be sure to clean up quickly. Plus, "covering an entire head of hair in the shower with a stain is tricky," Monahan explains to TODAY. "Most people don't add enough shampoo to really coat every hair."
And it is possible to go overboard. Pearl recommends using it just once a week, maximum. You can use one of our favorite drugstore shampoos on the other days.
With that, here as some purple shampoos to try. Let us know how it goes!
1. Matrix Total Results So Silver Shampoo, $25, Ulta
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Also available in a smaller size for $12 at Macy's.
Reviewers on Ulta raved, "I bought this product to take out the brassiness of my colored hair. Normally dark brown roots but I have balayage to basically platinum blonde and HELLO. I could tell the difference in my hair in ONE wash. This shampoo is amazing. I've used it twice so far this week (I only wash my hair about 3 times a week anyways) and it really does the job. Follow the directions on the back tho, lather it in your hair and LEAVE IT IN (it says max 5 minutes so I would keep it in the max). If you do not leave a purple shampoo in your hair and let it do it's job then you will not see results! Would buy it again for sure!"
2. Drybar 'Blonde Ale' Brightening Shampoo, $27, Nordstrom
Also available at Sephora.
As one reviewer put it, "After using 10 different purple shampoos this one is by far the best. Removes brass in ONE wash. I like to leave it in my hair while I shower to tone out even more! Lathers extremely well, smells great, and does not completely dry out your hair. A little goes a long way with its deep pigment!"
3. Clairol Shimmer Lights Shampoo + Conditioner, $18, Amazon
The shampoo is also available for $10 at Walmart.
One Amazon reviewer stated, "I can't live without this. I dye my hair myself after a disastrous trip to a salon left me with fried hair that started falling out and a blustery burn on my head. I have a lot of natural red in my dark blonde hair and dye it light blonde every 4-6 weeks. It turns bright red, and this saves the day every time! I also love the smell of it.
4. Joico Color Balance Purple Shampoo, $17, Ulta
Ulta reviewers have given this 4.5 stars and over 600 glowing reviews. "I use this shampoo with the conditioner every other shower and it truly takes the brassy tones out of my blonde hair. The exact reason I bought it! It leaves my hair soft and shiny and keeps tangles out which is very difficult for my fine hair, definitely going to purchase again" Amazon is selling the shampoo and conditioner together for $43.
5. Amika Bust Your Brass Cool Blonde Shampoo, $20, Sephora
Also available in a 33 ounce bottle for $70 at Amazon.
"Smells nice and keeps my hair a great shade of blonde! I have ash blonde highlights and this shampoo helps to keep the colour looking fresh. I don't find the smell too strong compared to other purple shampoos. I also find it a better consistency as some purple shampoos are too runny. I would definitely recommend this product."
You can also try a purple conditioner for a similar effect, suggests Monahan. Here's her go-to:
Davines Alchemic Conditioner Silver, $31, Amazon
Also available for $35 at Walmart.
This article was originally published on Nov. 10, 2016 on TODAY.com.