How to use color theory to find the best shampoo for your hair (2024)

The feeling that lives rent-free in our heads? Walking out of a salon with freshly colored hair. But we demand rent from the brassiness and dullness that happens after a few weeks. That’s where color-depositing shampoo (think purple shampoo) comes into the picture.

Believe it or not, color theory is a big part of finding the right color-depositing shampoo for you — you want to pick the opposite color on the color wheel for your hair. In general, blondes should use purple shampoo, redheads should use green and brunettes should choose a blue shampoo.

We spoke to three hairstylists about the difference in colors and how to shop for these shampoos. Yes, they should be different than your regular shampoo.

SKIP AHEAD What is purple shampoo? | Who should use purple shampoo? | What is blue shampoo? | Who should use blue shampoo? | What is green shampoo? | Who should use green shampoo? | How to shop for color-depositing shampoos

Our top picksWhat is purple shampoo?

Purple shampoos cleanse the hair (to an extent) but also cancel out unwanted yellow tones and brassiness by depositing purple pigment, according to our experts.

Who should use purple shampoo?

According to Byrd, purple shampoos are great for blonde (natural or color-treated) or gray hair because they help counteract unwanted yellow tones.

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What is blue shampoo?

According to O’Connor, blue shampoo is a color-depositing or toning shampoo that can help counteract unwanted orange and brassy tones in your hair. However, according to our experts, like other color-depositing shampoos, blue shampoo won’t cleanse the hair as well as your standard option.

Who should use a blue shampoo?

Blue shampoos are great for blondes with a more caramel highlight and brunettes with orange and brassy tones, says Benson. Blue is the best color for these orange-y tones because it counteracts and neutralizes it, says Byrd.

How to use color theory to find the best shampoo for your hair (7)



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What is green shampoo?

Like the other color options, this shampoo mildly cleanses the hair but primarily focuses on depositing green pigments to counteract unwanted red/brassy tones in hair, according to O’Connor.

Who should use a green shampoo?

If you have dark hair, are brunette and have red tones in your hair, or have red and brassy tones, consider using a green shampoo because it will counteract the red, says O’Connor.

How to shop for color shampoos

When shopping for color shampoos, our experts recommend considering the following:

  • Pigment: The shampoo’s pigment concentration will dictate how often you can use it. The lighter the pigment, the safer it is for daily use. The darker it is, the more cautious you want to be with overusing it, according to Benson.
  • Hair type and texture: Regardless of your hair type or texture, you can use a color-depositing shampoo. You can also use it on dyed or undyed hair. However, it’s important to know that if you have fine hair or hair with higher porosity: your hair will pick up more pigment from the shampoos if so. In order to prevent your fine hair from turning purple, blue or green, consider an option with a less concentrated pigment, says O’Connor.
  • Ingredients: Look for ones with hydrating ingredients, including hyaluronic acid and shea butter, says Byrd. If possible, avoid shampoos with sulfates to prevent drying out your hair even more, says Benson.
  • Consistency: According to O’Connor, you want your shampoo to have a more liquid consistency. This will help you apply it and distribute it evenly in your hair.

Frequently asked questions

While this shampoo can cleanse your hair to a degree, you wouldn’t want to replace it with your standard option because the more you use it, the darker and more pigmented it can make your color, says O’Connor. So instead, use it once every few shampoos (four to six washes) to maintain color and upkeep your hair between salon visits, she says.

If you’re trying a color-depositing shampoo for the first time, consider mixing it with your regular shampoo. It will help dilute the pigment since most of these shampoos can be quite strong in color, according to O’Connor. After doing this step, work the shampoo evenly from top to bottom — you’ll want to end at the roots because this part of your hair tends to be more porous so that it will grab color, says Byrd.

When it comes to how much you should use, you’ll want to use only a quarter-size amount first, says Byrd. Once you use it and see how your hair reacts to it, you can adjust how much or little you want to use, says O’Connor.

The duration of the color deposited by these shampoos depends on factors such as frequency of use, the hair's porosity, and the shampoo's specific formulation. Generally, the color will gradually fade with each wash, so regular use is often necessary to maintain the desired tone, says Benson.

However, excessive use or leaving the shampoo on for too long can lead to over-depositing of color, resulting in an unnatural or uneven hue. She says it's essential to follow the instructions provided with the product and monitor the results to achieve the desired effect without damaging the hair.

Yes, color-depositing shampoos can work on natural and dyed hair. However, you must use the right tone for your hair, says O’Connor. For example, if you have naturally dark brown hair, a green shampoo would be best since red is the undertone in dark brown hair, and green counteracts enhance color and remove any brassiness, she says.

The main purpose of color-depositing shampoos is to add color and tone to the hair by depositing pigments onto the hair shaft, temporarily altering the color to neutralize unwanted tones or to enhance and refresh existing color, says Benson. Still, another added benefit they tend to have is protecting and maintaining the color, making them color-safe.

However, these do differ from color-protecting shampoos. Color-protecting shampoos won’t add color to the hair and are formulated to maintain the existing color for as long as possible without the potential for it to fade or appear dull, says O’Connor. This type of shampoo typically has ingredients that are less likely to strip away the color, such as sulfate-free cleansers and UV filters to prevent premature fading and maintain the richness of the hair color, according to Benson.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts with specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

Why trust NBC Select?

Bianca Alvarez is an associate reporter covering skin care, hair care, and gift guides, as well as recent stories on the best heat protectants and leave-in conditioners. For this story, she interviewed three hairstylists and shared their recommendations as well as researched highly rated purple, blue and green shampoos that met their guidance.

Catch up on NBC Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.

Bianca Alvarez

Bianca Alvarez is an associate reporter at NBC Select.

How to use color theory to find the best shampoo for your hair (2024)
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