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I Finally Found an Anti-Brass Shampoo That Works on My Light-Brown Hair

Before and after photos taken a day apart. Photo: Liza Corsillo

My light-brown hair naturally turns golden blonde in the summertime, but after a series of failed dye jobs, lately it has skewed more neon orange. Normally I would go see a professional about this, but this year has been … different, obviously. So during quarantine, with lots of time on my hands and hair that was starting to look like Milla Jovovich in the The Fifth Element, I tested a bunch of different anti-brass shampoos and conditioners until I found one that really works.

First, I tried the classic drugstore purple shampoo, Shimmer Lights from Clairol. It did help tone down the orange but also made my hair feel dry and stripped. For a more moisturizing option, I ordered oVertone’s blue toning conditioner, which made my hair soft but did virtually nothing to the color. After that, I tried a gloss I found while reading fellow Strategist writer Dominique Pariso’s article about dyeing your hair at home during quarantine. It’s supposed to “beat the brass” from your hair, and it did. Sort of. I chose a color called “Smoky Topaz,” hoping to see the same level of results on my own hair as I did on the box. But it was still too subtle, made my hair color kind of dull, and wore off quickly.

At this point, I was ready to give up. I resigned to wait until I could see a pro again. But then one day, after stores were open again, I walked into a suburban Ulta Beauty looking for dry shampoo and ended up talking to the salesperson (almost until closing time) about my brassy hair. A fake blonde, she too had suffered from brassy highlights and led me over to Redken’s Color Extend purple shampoo for gray hair. She said because gray and silver hair are more likely to suffer from brassiness than brown or blonde, the products made for gray or silver hair are more intense and effective. They basically have more pigment in them that gets deposited onto hair strands when you wash and condition your hair.

Usually, if you want to correct hair that is too orange, you use products with blue pigment; if your hair is too yellow, you use purple. But Redken’s set uses both, attacking brassiness from both sides with a purple shampoo and a blue conditioner. Also, since gray hair tends to be dry and brittle, Redken’s Color Extend Graydiant shampoo and conditioner had moisture-adding elements that I wanted. Just in case I wasn’t sold — I was — after telling me all this, the salesperson took out her phone and showed me her own before and after pictures. I bought a set and started using it the very next day.

That was three months ago. I still use the shampoo and conditioner once or twice a week and as an extra freshener on days when I might meet up with friends or have my picture taken. The trick was following the salesperson’s advice: I put the conditioner on my dry hair and let it sit for 20 minutes before using the shampoo and conditioner normally. My highlights look like blonde highlights again, and my hair looks healthier overall. It’s not a permanent fix and requires consistent use to keep my hair in check, but the more I use it, the more balanced and natural looking my hair color gets.

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The Anti-Brass Shampoo I Use on My Light-Brown Hair