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Can Anything Tone Down Brassiness in Dark Hair Like Aveda Black Malva?

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Like Bain de Soleil’s Orange Gelée, we thought about including Aveda’s Black Malva shampoo and conditioner in our mega guide to avoiding supply-chain-related shopping problems. It didn’t really fit in with the other COVID-related shortages, though, since it was discontinued pre-pandemic (much to the chagrin of those who used the stuff for nearly half a century and don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars for it on eBay). Instead we’re answering the question here.

This is the worst time of year to find out that your favorite anti-brass shampoo and conditioner have been discontinued, considering the effects that summer sun, chlorine, and salt water can have on your hair. This is especially true for color-treated hair, which tends to be more porous and thus especially susceptible to dullness and brassiness. Whatever the one-off reason for halting production of Aveda’s cult line for brunettes, it’s a major loss for longtime fans, for whom the next-closest products by Aveda — the Blue Malva and Clove lines — simply don’t hold the same dark-hair-specific magic. And at some point, that eBay stock is going to run out. But even before that happens, there’s got to be a less expensive and less hard-to-get alternative.

According to Blackstone’s salon hairstylist Phoebe Nathan, who’s a bit of a dark-hair specialist (she was chosen as the colorist who does the best jet-black hair in this year’s edition of Best of New York), Black Malva shampoo was used to cool down/darken brunette and black hair, getting rid of any of those aforementioned unwanted red or brassy tones. We asked Nathan to suggest a worthy dupe, preferably one that she has actually worked with firsthand, and sure enough, she had a passionate and immediate response. First, though, she did emphasize her preference for color-depositing conditioners over shampoos: “I’m actually not a fan of ‘color enhancing’ shampoos. I much prefer conditioners, which have better staying power, leave the hair in better condition, and tend to apply color more evenly to the hair,” she says.

For cooling down red tones in brunette hair, her absolute favorite product that she personally uses and also recommends to her clients, is this Christophe Robin Shade Variation Mask in Ash Brown. “It keeps unwanted brassiness at bay for darker hair tones, while simultaneously leaving your hair feeling soft and nourished,” she says. For subtle results, try using the deep purple mask for just five minutes, increasing the amount of time you leave it in for a more intense, darker color. If you go too dark, don’t worry, the color will fade after three to five washes depending on how light and porous your hair is.

For a less expensive dupe, you could also try this semipermanent hair gloss, that was recommended by Amanda Power, founder and creative color lead of Power Hair, for our article about dyeing hair at home. It comes in ten different colors, including two cool-tone, brass-neutralizing shades for brunettes. After reading about it on our site last summer, and having been disappointed by many blue and purple toning conditioners, I gave the gloss a try on my medium-brown highlighted hair. I bought it in smoky topaz, leaving it on for a total of 15 minutes before washing it out in the shower. The results were subtle, but I definitely saw a big improvement, like someone had simply removed the orange filter from my hair. Like a conditioner, it left my hair feeling hydrated and silky smooth and it washed out about a month later. My favorite thing about it is it’s ammonia-free, so you don’t have to worry about it damaging or lightening your hair.

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Can Anything Tone Down Brassiness Like Aveda Black Malva?