As I was getting my balayage touched up this past weekend, my colorist asked me if I was using a blue shampoo to keep the copper tones I always ask her to avoid out of my dark brown hair. Somewhat confused, I told her I wasn’t, but that I was using a purple shampoo whenever I washed. “That won’t do much for you,” she said, explaining that the tones violet shampoos really help are bright blondes or full heads of light shades. As she was speaking, in true editor fashion, I made a note in my phone to email one of my go-to celebrity colorists to get an insider scoop on what the concept was all about (and ran to grab a bottle of blue shampoo for my shower, obviously).
When my phone buzzed with a new email from Chad Kenyon, colorist to celebrities like Abigail Spencer, Kirbie Johnson and Elizabeth Moss, he echoed everything my colorist said and I couldn’t believe it took emptying at least five bottles of purple shampoo before I started learning so much about how I should actually be treating the copper tones in my strands. Kenyon explained that the color of the shampoo you should be using directly correlates with the underlying pigment of your hair, which your colorist already knows right when you sit in their chair—all you have to do is ask.
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“We all have a natural underlying pigment underneath our ‘visible’ hair color,” he explained, adding that these tones are red, copper/orange and gold/yellow. “Think about the first color your hair turns when bleach is applied to it—that’s your underlying pigment.” According to Kenyon, dark brunettes and those with black hair will usually have red tones, medium to light brunettes will have orange or copper tones, and dark to light blondes will have yellow or gold (also known as “brassy”) undertones.
Once the underlying pigment is established, Kenyon laid out the very basic toning (or “neutralizing”) guide to follow in order to cancel-out these unwanted hues and get your strands back to the bleached color you went to the salon seeking: Blue cancels out orange/copper, green cancels out red and violet cancels out yellow/gold. How does this all work? It’s simple once you hear it explained: “On the color wheel, the colors that are directly across from each other are called ‘complementary colors’ (yellow is opposite violet, blue is across from orange and green is directly across from red),” he explained to me. Simply put, complementary colors cancel each other out, which is important to remember when it comes time to treat the tones at home.
Based on which hue your locks have living underneath them—because we all have an image of our freshly-bleached strands looking back at the mirror at us, hoping that’s not the actual color it’ll stay—it’s crucial to buy the proper shampoo for it (take it from me!). If you’re a brunette with copper or orange tones peeking through, try a blue shampoo, like Joico Color Balance Blue Shampoo ($16), to keep your lightened locks in tip-top shape. For blondes with unwanted brassiness or harsh yellow tones, Kenyon loves using Kevin Murphy’s BLONDE.ANGEL.WASH ($55) while unique products like Color Wow’s Brass Banned Mousse ($24) comes in a teal shade to fight unwanted reddish brassy tones in brunettes while you style.
While staying quiet in the salon chair might be a rising trend, colorists really are a wealth of knowledge if you just listen to what the have to say—your hair (especially brunettes, now!) will thank you.