If you’ve embraced your natural gray or chosen a trendy silver color, you’ve got to start using a toning shampoo. Below, we’ll share our research on keeping gray hair healthy along with the best shampoo for gray hair.
What Is Shampoo for Gray Hair?
Shampoo designed for gray hair usually contains purple pigment to neutralize yellow and brassy tones in the hair. You’ll also find gray hair shampoo formulated to strengthen and moisturize graying hair to keep it from becoming brittle.
Before we address all the gray-t things toning shampoo can do for your hair, let’s quickly address why hair turns gray in the first place.
Why Hair Turns Gray
Hair may begin turning gray as early as age 30, and scientists finally know why. As we age, we produce less of an enzyme called catalase. Catalase breaks down hydrogen peroxide into oxygen and water.
So as we produce less catalase, hydrogen peroxide isn’t broken down in our hair follicles as it used to be. It starts to build up. And as we all know, hydrogen peroxide has a bleaching effect. The hydrogen peroxide essentially wipes out the melanin in our hair follicles and bleaches the strands growing from them.
The result is gray hair. While most of us prefer a shimmering silver-gray, the reality is that many people end up going more of a tawny, yellowish-gray, or white.
Sometimes, you’ll notice that your roots are a nice, vibrant gray, but your ends are yellowish or brassy (due to picking up pigments from hair products or your environment). So how do we deal with unwanted brassy or yellow tones in our natural gray color? With toning shampoo for gray hair, of course!
How Gray Hair Shampoo Works
Gray hair shampoos deposit small amounts of purple or blue-toned pigments on hair strands. The result isn’t purple or blue hair, though – instead, these pigments have a toning effect. Let’s look at the color wheel to see how and why these violet and blue tones work to “cancel” out yellow or brassy tones in the hair.
As you can see, purple is directly across the wheel from yellow. The two are considered complementary colors. Adding purple pigment to yellow hair tones it and “removes” the yellow to reveal a cooler-toned gray. That’s why you’ll often see women with blonde hair (natural or dyed) reaching for purple shampoo.
It works equally well on blonde and gray hair to take out those unwanted warm tones (yellow and orange) in favor of creating a cooler ash tone (think silver, platinum, or ash blonde). Let’s take a look at the very best toning shampoos on the market for gray hair.
6 Best Shampoos for Gray Hair
These shampoos will deposit small amounts of the right corrective pigment – violet or blue – to remove unwanted tones from your gray and reveal a shimmering, healthy silver or white.
Take a look at our top salon and drugstore brand picks for gray hair shampoos. Which one will work best for you?
1. Redken Color Extend Graydient Purple Shampoo
The top toning shampoo for gray hair is Redken Color Extend Graydiant Purple Shampoo. It’s made by Redken, North America’s #1 professional salon brand, and it is the gold standard for attaining that sought-after shimmery silver color.
The secret’s in the customized purple pigment Redken includes in this formula. It’s developed to perfectly tone and correct even the most yellow, dingy, or brassy gray. But this shampoo goes deeper, including citric acid as an ingredient for a low pH shampoo that improves hair and scalp health.
The results? Radiant, toned gray hair is twice as strong (Redken’s promise) with better shine and more softness. Reviewers found it to be just as high quality as other Redken shampoos, giving it 4.5 stars with almost 3,000 reviews. This is one you won’t be able to live without once you try it!
2. Matrix Total Results So Silver Purple Shampoo
Correct your gray to reveal a more silver or white overall color when using MATRIX Total Results So Silver Purple Shampoo. This salon-quality shampoo is designed to neutralize the warm tones that turn gray brassy, dull, or yellow.
Purple pigment in the formula tones your hair color, but the rest focuses on making your hair soft, shiny, frizz-free, and strong. It brightens up your hair’s natural “highlights” to reveal a more dimensional color. Blondes can use it, too!
This shampoo has a really unique and pleasant scent that isn’t your typical “flowers and fruit” shampoo scent. Instead, it has a mossy, leafy, slightly floral aroma that is intoxicating. Reviewers highly rate it with 4.5 stars and nearly 30,000 reviews! This is a tried and true customer favorite.
3. Pantene Silver Expressions Purple Shampoo
- Neutralizes yellowing and dullness
- Conditions salt and pepper hair
- Lotus flower scent
- Some users say this shampoo can be drying
Our top pick for toning natural gray is Pantene Silver Expressions Purple Shampoo. This Pro-V formula contains nourishing B-vitamins to strengthen your hair and make it shinier. The affordable price tag makes it an even better buy!
Get rid of dullness and yellow tones thanks to the violet pigment in this shampoo. It temporarily masks unwanted warm and dull tones for a brighter, more silvery gray or white color. Pantene notes that this shampoo works best on natural gray.
So use another shampoo on our list if you’re dying your hair gray or have color-treated hair. Reviews are great for this shampoo, with an overall rating of 4.5 stars from nearly 6,000 reviews. If you’re going gray naturally and want to keep yellow tones out of it, this is a great option.
4. L’Oreal EverPure Brass Toning Purple Shampoo
L’Oreal Paris EverPure Purple Shampoo is a great budget-friendly option for toning your gray with shampoo. Plus, this affordable option comes with some unique benefits for your hair!
It’s made with a mix of temporary purple dye and hibiscus extract (hibiscus sabdariffa), a natural substance rich in anthocyanins (the pigment that gives plants violet, blue, or red color). It’s sulfate-free, so it won’t strip your hair of natural oils or be harsh on your silver strands.
Word to the wise: This sulfate-free shampoo won’t lather quite as much as shampoo with sulfates, so don’t expect a supremely sudsy lather when using it. Use it 2-3 times a week in place of your regular shampoo. We also recommend grabbing the EverPure purple conditioner for maximum toning effects!
5. Jhirmack Silver Brightening Purple Shampoo
Jhirmack Silver Brightening Purple Shampoo is Amazon’s Choice for gray hair shampoo, and we can easily see why. This is an affordable, effective option for anyone looking to remove yellow or brassy tones from gray hair.
Like other gray hair shampoos, this one contains purple pigments to counterbalance the yellow or orange/brassy tones in gray (or silver, or blonde) hair. The result is a cooler, more silvery, or white color without the warm undertones. This shampoo is definitely best for ladies with medium to coarse or dry hair.
It’s a little heavy for fine hair or hair that tends to get oily fast. But if you’re struggling to give your hair the moisture and nourishment it needs, this gray hair shampoo is perfect. It gets 4.5 stars overall on Amazon and has almost 8,500 reviews!
6. Clairol Shimmer Lights Purple Shampoo
It was a big hit when it first came out in the 80s, and it still has a loyal fan base for a reason. Clairol Shimmer Lights Shampoo is one of the most well-known purple toning shampoos for blonde and gray hair.
This award-winning shampoo is enriched with proteins to strengthen hair and add shine. The violet pigments it contains neutralize brassy and yellow tones in gray to reveal cooler ash tones that show off shimmering silver or icy white.
With a 4.6 star rating overall, this is clearly a beauty industry favorite with lots of satisfied customers. Strip the dullness and unwanted tones away and enjoy soft, manageable hair strengthened with protein when you use it.
Should You Use Shampoo for Gray Hair?
Quick recap: we’ve looked at what gray hair shampoo is and how it can help revitalize and tone any shade of gray hair. We’ve gone over the 6 best shampoos for gray hair on the market right now.
We also dove deep into the science behind gray hair, learning that over time, our bodies literally start “bleaching” our hair to turn gray due to hydrogen peroxide buildup in our hair follicles.
With all this in mind, is gray hair shampoo what you need? That’s easy enough to answer.
- Is your hair gray (or beginning to go gray)?
- Do you have unwanted yellow or brassy (orange) tones in your hair?
- Are just the ends of your gray hair turning yellow or brassy?
- Does your natural gray color look dull or flat?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should start using shampoo for gray hair. Choose a gray hair shampoo from our list to start neutralizing unwanted tones in your hair to reveal a more vibrant, shimmering gray that will wake up your look and revitalize you.
Remember to keep using it 2-3 times per week to avoid depositing too much purple pigment on your strands. If you notice a purplish tone to your hair, simply lay off the pigmented shampoo for a few days and switch back to your regular shampoo.
Since the pigment is temporary and only on the surface of the hair, it doesn’t take long to wash out. Want boosted results? Grab the matching conditioner when you buy your gray hair shampoo and use it as directed. Pigmented conditioner sits on the hair longer than shampoo, allowing you to infuse more toning power into your shower.