Purple Shampoo on Brown Hair: Does It Work?

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Purple shampoo is all the rage at the moment. It is hailed as the must-have hair product for anyone with blonde hair to add brightness and tone down unwanted brassy undertones.

This is all fine if you’re blonde, but what about brunettes? Can you use purple shampoo on brown hair? Will purple shampoo lighten brown hair? If not, what will?

Purple shampoo will not lighten brown hair. If you have brassy tones, you want to be using a blue shampoo, not purple.

In this article, we will go over how color-depositing shampoo works with brown hair, so you’ll be able to nail the brunette color tones you desire.


What Is A Color-Depositing Shampoo?

Purple Shampo

Purple shampoo is what is referred to as a toning or color-depositing shampoo. It’s important to understand how color-depositing shampoos work, so you know if the purple shampoo is what you should actually be using.

Despite purple shampoo being the most popular toning shampoo, it’s not the only one. Apart from purple, color-depositing shampoos also come in blue, green, and red.

Each color neutralizes different unwanted tones in the hair.

To figure out which one you should be using will depend on your natural hair color.

Blondes and those with light-colored hair tend to have yellow undertones.

Brown hair typically contains warmer, orange undertones.

Those with very dark or black hair have more red undertones.

Though no one has naturally green undertones, green happens, whether it’s from hard water, swimming in chlorinated water, or using the wrong hair dye or toner for your specific shade and tone of the hair.

To fully understand which color-depositing shampoo you should be using, let’s have a look at the color wheel….

When it comes to toning hair, colors opposite each other on the color wheel cancel each other out.

  • Purple cancels out yellow
  • Blue neutralizes orange
  • Green offsets red
  • Red counterbalances green

We’ve outlined below who should be using which shampoo with color examples of before and after hair swatches.

You know which shampoo you should be using for your hair and can see what results you can expect to get from a color-depositing shampoo.

What Color Shampoo You Should Be Using?

Blondes and Light Colored Hair

Those with blonde and light-colored hair trying to get rid of the yellow brassy undertones should use a purple shampoo, like Redken Color Extend Blondage Color Depositing Purple Shampoo .

Brunettes, Natural or Not

Whether or not you’ve bleached your hair, if you are a natural brunette, you’re going to want to use a blue shampoo, like Joico Color Balance Blue Shampoo  to get rid of those unwanted brassy orange tones and tone your brown hair.

Black or Dark Brown

Is your hair is black or very dark brown with red tones coming through? A green shampoo like MATRIX Total Results Dark Envy Color-Depositing Green Shampoo  is the route you want to go.

Green Tints Showing Through

If your hair has taken on a green tinge as a result of swimming in chlorinated water or from a DIY hair dye or toner mishap, then a red color depositing shampoo, like John Frieda Radiant Red Red Boosting Shampoo  will neutralize the green.

Should Brunettes Use Purple Shampoo?

Brown hair that’s been dyed or faded by the sun can often develop brassy copper undertones. If you refer back to the color wheel, blue (not purple) will cancel out those orange undertones.

Brunettes should be using a blue shampoo, not a purple shampoo.

Brunettes should be using a blue shampoo, not a purple shampoo.

If your hair is really, really dark brown, you may even want to try a green shampoo if your unwanted tone is more red than orange.

Will Purple Shampoo Lighten Brown Hair?

Color-depositing shampoos will not lift or lighten the hair. They simply deposit color to neutralize unwanted undertones.

Unlike bleach or dye, a color-depositing shampoo only coats the exterior of the hair strand depositing color, rather than penetrating the hair structure.

Lightening Shampoos

Lightening Shampoo

However, there are lightening shampoos available that will gently lighten light to medium shades of blonde and brown. Lightening shampoos work using ingredients that are meant to lighten the color of the hair over time, without using harsh chemicals.

Lightening shampoos will not give you instant results and require consistent use over a period of time to make a difference.

Lightening shampoos are good for subtle lightening as well as bringing out and emphasizing highlights. But you will not achieve a dramatic change in color. If you have dark brown hair, lightening shampoos will not make your hair blonde.

They can be used on colored, highlighted, or natural hair. They work the best on dark to medium blonde hair or lighter brunettes.

If you have medium to dark brown hair and are looking to give your balayage or highlights a pop, any of the lightening shampoos will do that for you.

Although most lightening shampoos work best on blonde and light brown hair, there are some specifically formulated for darker brown hair.

If your hair is medium to dark brown and are looking for all over lightening, lightening shampoos like John Frieda Brilliant Brunette Visibly Brighter Subtle Lightening Shampoo  and PRO:VOKE Illuminex Touch of Brunette, Brunette Enhancing Shampoo  may help.

These products are formulated specifically for brown hair. They may not necessarily lighten your hair very much, but they will help to brighten brown hair by boosting the appearance of warm, golden tones in the hair to illuminate the spectrum of your natural brunette color. 

Take Away

Purple shampoo, or any other color depositing shampoo, will not lighten dark brown hair.

If you are looking to enrich and brighten up your dark brown hair, you can try a lightening shampoo specifically formulated for brown hair to enhance your natural highlights and give more depth to your brown color.

Just note that lightening shampoos will not provide dramatic results.

If you have dark brown hair and you are looking to go blonde or a much lighter shade than your current color, you will have to bleach it.

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Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).