How To Keep Platinum Hair From Going Brassy

how to keep platinum from going brassy
Photos: Emily Wraith

And why so many purple-tinted shampoos fail.

It’s been about two years since I bleached my hair platinum from dark brown, enough time to contemplate all the maintaining that comes with waking up a Debbie Harry every morning. So let’s talk about purple-tinted shampoos, the ones most hair colourists recommend when you complain about how fast white-blonde likes to turn brassy in the shower, in the sun, when you breathe. Truth is though, they kind of suck. The problem isn’t that the violet tint fails to neutralize it’s opposite hue, yellow, on the colour wheel. No, that science works— it’s how utterly and sadly drying they are if like me, your hair morphs into a bird’s nest whenever it gets wet.

That’s one thing I discovered when I interviewed celebrity hair colourist Justin Anderson for this story I wrote for The Kit last year. Blonde-tamer to Chelsea Handler, he told me, “I’m not sure which my clients hate more, straw-like hair or brassy tones.” And there lies the conundrum. He recommended dpHUE’s Cool Blonde Shampoo and Conditioner as the fix (he’s also the brand’s creative director), but alas, I never got my hands on them.

Perhaps we’re expecting too much. Truth is, purple shampoos are there to put the tint back into your strands, not to sit there and try to smooth them. And one thing I don’t recommend? Mixing your favourite conditioner with one that’s purple-tinted—that experiment only led to greasy roots, forcing me to wash my hair more often, which doesn’t bode well for us blondes either.

how to keep platinum hair from going brassy
On the hunt for the holy grail of purple-tinted shampoos and conditioners that would tone and soften, I tried a litany of expensive brands. Oribe, who’s dry shampoo is indisputable, didn’t measure up in the hydration department when I tried its Bright Blonde Shampoo and Conditioner For Beautiful Color. Ditto a bunch of other salon brands not worth mentioning.

Colourist Aura Freidman, who took Selma Hayek blonde earlier this year, agreed that purple shampoos are typically too drying, and recommended using only the conditioners. On her yes-list: Shu Uemura Shade Reviving Balm in Cool Blonde, Christophe Robin Shade Variation Care Nutritive Mask With Temporary Coloring in Baby Blonde and Davines Alchemic Conditioner in Silver. Who am I to disagree? And yet, I tried the first two and found them to be only marginally better than the rest.

But take heart! The best I tried was a brand I had never heard of before my hair colourist (shout out to Stacy Staley at Blonde Salon in Toronto) handed me a wee packet of Amika Bust Your Brass Conditioner to try at home. Another beauty editor who goes to my colourist said the same thing to me about her experience with lesser known Amika, so you know I’m not making this up. (For the record, the runner up of the dozen or so I tested was Schwarzopf Professional BlondeMe Tone Enhancing Bonding Mask).

how to keep blonde hair from going brassy

But one thing I discovered is that you really don’t need to use purple-tinted shampoos or conditioners to keep hair from turning brassy between hair appointments. I’ve always liked Schwarzkopf Professional Instant Blush Blonde Beautifier Spray in Ice, which looks like it’s legitimately going to add pastel highlights to your hair, but really doesn’t. You just spray it around randomly after rinsing your conditioner in the shower, for a bit of a sun-kissed effect.

However, if you really want allover brightening, I highly recommend Kérastase Touche Chromatique in Cool Blonde, a clever, purple-toned additive that you mix into your usual conditioner or hair mask (I like Kérastase Masque Force Architect, for salon-like smoothness.) Because it’s simply tinted liquid drops (and comes with a handy mixing bowl and stick), it doesn’t pile on an excess of gunk—ie. the texture of your go-to conditioner stays the same.

As I recently learned though, the chemical-altering minerals in water that your hair is exposed to as you wash isn’t even the top reason blondes go brassy. According to product developers at Moroccanoil, pollution and the sun’s UV rays are the worst offenders when it comes to hair damage and fading. That’s why the brand recently launched Moroccanoil Protect & Prevent Spray as a key component to their new, five-piece Color Complete range, to shield against environmental free radicals. Think of it as sunscreen beyond the face, because no platinum girl I know wants her hair to get the tan.

If you stayed with this story right to the end, congratulations. Here’s another beauty story on my favourite skincare #empties you might like.