If it seems to you like there are 10 bazillion different types of shampoos on the market these days, well, you’re right—there are. And not only are there options for strengthening and moisturizing and de-frizzing and smoothing (and a whole lot more), but there is also a whole subset of color-enhancing options.
You’ve probably heard of or seen purple formulas out there, but they aren’t the only tinted sudsers available. Blue shampoo is another option, that, according to colorists, is a great pick for one group in particular. Spoiler alert: It’s not the same people who should be using purple shampoo. Ahead, hair colorists Kristen Fleming and Giselle Luza explain more.
What Is Blue Shampoo?
It’s exactly what it sounds like: A blue shampoo is a shampoo tinted with blue pigments that are temporarily deposited onto the hair shaft, explains Fleming. More on what this does—AKA why you’d use one of these, and who should use one—in a moment, but it’s important to note that this pigment isn’t going to turn your hair blue, so don’t be scared by what’s inside the bottle. (It can, however, leave a little bit of a stain on your shower floor or wall, so make sure to rinse it off right away.)
Why Should You Use Blue Shampoo?
Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane back to the days of elementary school art class. Remember that color wheel on the wall? On that color wheel, blue sits directly across from orange, meaning it neutralizes it, says Luza. And as far as your hair goes, that means that if you have an abundance of orange tones in your hair, which often reads as brassiness, a blue shampoo will help counteract this, she explains. This typically happens in brunettes, because the main underlying pigment in brown hair color is orange, she adds. (For comparison, yellow is the main underlying pigment in blond hair.)
Who Should Use Blue Shampoo?
“Anyone with orange, brassy tones who would like a cooler or more neutral color to their hair should consider using blue shampoo,” suggests Luza. (Again, this is typically a problem reserved for brunettes.) But one word of caution: Blue shampoos and purple shampoos, while similar, are not interchangeable. Back to that color wheel for a moment: Purple falls opposite, and neutralizes, yellow tones, says Fleming. As such, “purple shampoos are great for blondes [who] want a whiter or creamier, rather than a golden, blonde,” she explains.
You need to consider what tone you’re trying to neutralize, adds Luza. If blue shampoo is used on blonde hair, you run the risk of ending up with a weird greenish hue. (Again, art class—blue plus yellow equal green.) On the flip side, if you use purple shampoo on brunette hair, it won’t be strong enough to cancel out the orange, she points out.
How To Use Blue Shampoo
If you are going to use a blue shampoo, do so sparingly. “You don’t want to use this as a replacement for your regular shampoo because it can be drying and the pigment can build up on your hair,” Luza advises. She suggests incorporating it into your routine once to twice per month; Fleming says a blue shampoo can be used weekly, depending on just how much brassiness you’re trying to counteract.
You can also pump up its effects by letting it sit on the hair for anywhere from three to seven minutes before rinsing in order to give it enough time to do its thing, says Fleming. On the flip side, if you feel like your blue shampoo is too strong or too potent, or you just want to take it for a test run, you can dilute it by mixing it with equal parts of your regular shampoo, suggests Luza. Either way, make sure to always follow with a conditioner.
Keep reading for some of the blue shampoos our experts love.
The Best Blue Shampoos on the Market
“This is one of my favorite, cruelty-free, plant-based blue shampoos for neutralizing unwanted warm tones,” says Fleming. She also lauds it for being gentle and for having an amazing scent and says it has definitely earned its status as a cult favorite.
Luza is a fan of this option, which she says is very pigmented and commonly used by professionals. To that point, she says it’s ideal for anyone who needs to neutralize a lot of brassiness. Bonus points for the wallet-friendly price tag.
Okay, so this isn’t a blue shampoo per se; it’s basically the DIY version. Customization is the name of the game with these drops, which are meant to be mixed into your existing shampoo (or conditioner). Luza likes them for that very reason; tweak exactly how much pigment and how strong of a neutralizing effect you want to achieve based on how many drops you add. They’re also not drying, a common issue with many tinted shampoos, she adds.
Fleming says this is an especially great blue shampoo for balayaged brunettes who want to keep their tones neutral. The brand was co-founded by celebrity colorist Justin Anderson, she adds, and this formula is simple to use yet very effective. It helps to balance out your overall color without dulling it, she says.
Another one of Luza’s favorites, this is high-quality yet affordable, as well as sulfate- and paraben-free, and certified cruelty-free, too. We appreciate the pump-top bottle which helps minimize the likelihood of any messy spills.
“One of the best options out there, this will knock out brass in one wash,” says Fleming. “The pigment is very potent, so I recommend using this no more than once per week and leaving it on for one to three minutes only,” she says. Using gloves and making sure to thoroughly rinse your shower so that it doesn’t stain your tile or grout is also a good idea if you’re using this heavy-hitter, she adds.