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Silver strands are having a major moment, with icy gray hues as the coolest (pun intended) hair color out there. We’re all for rocking these statement-making shades, just keep in mind that this type of color commitment is going to call for a bit more upkeep, specifically when it comes to your shampooing protocol.
“The difference between having hair that’s colored gray versus any other color is that your natural base shade has to be lifted first before the gray color can be deposited on top,” says Kristen Fleming, color director of Chicago’s 3rd Coast Salon. “This means the color will fade quicker than others, so ideally, the less you shampoo the better for silver hair.” (Water is any color’s number one worst enemy.)
When you do suds up, reach for a blue- or violet-based toning shampoo a few times per week; these pigments work by neutralizing unwanted warmth and brassiness so that your silver shade stays crisp and cool, explains Fleming.
Ahead, the best shampoos for gray hair.
Best Sulfate-Free: Joico Color Endure Violet Shampoo
Opting for a shampoo that’s free of sulfates—detergent-like ingredients that can potentially strip your color—is a good move for anyone who dyes their hair. Here, you get that benefit, but in a violet-based toning formula that also refreshes your gray hue. It’s a fan fave on Amazon, with reviewers noting both how well and how quickly it works.
Best Drugstore: Clairol Professional Shimmer Lights Shampoo
Generally speaking, it can be tough to find toning shampoos at the drugstore, making this pick all the more noteworthy. A great option for either blonde and/or gray shades, it quickly knocks out brassiness and leaves hair extra shiny. Plus, we can’t forget to mention the affordable price tag.
Best Hydrating: Pureology Hydrate Shampoo
Sulfate-free and with an antifade complex, this is an all-around great choice for colored hair. But it’s also deeply moisturizing, which, according to Fleming, is a major boon for those with gray hair.
“To achieve true gray and silver the hair has to be pre-lightened to the palest color it can be, which compromises its integrity,” she explains. In other words, going gray takes a toll on your tresses. Picking shampoos that are extra-hydrating (and always, always, using a conditioner) is super important.
Best Strengthening: Drybar Blonde Ale Brightening Shampoo
On a similar note, going gray zaps not only the moisture from your hair, but can also do a number on its strength and resilience, too. That’s why we appreciate that this formula is infused with keratin, a protein that makes up the majority of our hair, to help reinforce strands and keep your mane as healthy as possible. Plus, this one also has deep purple pigments that brighten both gray and blonde tones beautifully.
Best Brightening: Philip Kingsley Pure Blonde/Silver Daily Brightening Shampoo
The key to rocking the gray hair trend is not only making sure your silver shade is perfectly cool, but also that it’s extra shiny; dull, gray hair just isn’t cute. That’s where this sudser comes up huge. It does have a subtle violet tint to it, though it isn’t quite pigmented as some of the other options on this list. Instead, it’s infused with optical brightening ingredients that translate to an “I just left the salon” shine and long-lasting glossiness.
Best for Daily Use: Unite Hair Blonda Daily Shampoo
As mentioned, cutting back on how often you’re shampooing is super important. If you’re only doing so a few times per week, go ahead and use a pigmented shampoo each time. But if you fall into the daily hair washing camp, it’s best to reach for all of the tinted formulas we’ve talked about only two to three times weekly—overdoing it can end up leaving a purplish cast to your gray, obviously not the intended effect.
In between, lather up with this non-colored pick. The gentle, shine-enhancing cleanser will keep your bright shade fresh and is the perfect daily option. Fleming is both a fan of this and its toning counterpart.
Best Color-Protecting: Sachajuan Silver Shampoo
Yes, this too has violet pigments, but it goes above and beyond the gray-enhancing call of duty. Credit the addition of UV protectants that help guard against sun-induced fading (yes, the sun takes a toll on your hair just like it does your skin), and also hydrates and increases shine. Also nice: It’s a great option for all hair types and textures.
Best for Platinum Tones: Evo Fabuloso Platinum Blonde Toning Shampoo
Another choice sulfate-free pick, the purple pigments in this one work particularly well on those shades that straddle the silver-blonde border, think ultra-light platinum. Fleming also adds that they make a great toning conditioner, which your colorist can customize with pigment, so be sure to ask him or her about that.
Since this is pretty pigmented, you may want to wear gloves when applying it; let it sit on your hair for anywhere from one to three minutes for the best results.
Best Luxury: Oribe Silverati Shampoo
Go ahead and treat yourself to this splurge-worthy sudser, one of Fleming’s favorites. (After all, if you’re only using it a few times per week, one bottle is going to last quite a long time.) Regardless, it’s worth the price, thanks to the carefully crafted formula that touts a litany of carefully-chosen ingredients. Along with a combo of blue and silver pigments to keep silver shades vibrant, there are also gentle cleansers, strengthening keratin, and a complex of protective antioxidants to further help safeguard your color. Not to mention that in true Oribe fashion it smells incredible, too.
Best for All Shades: Aveda Blue Malva Color Shampoo
Here’s one shampoo you can use even if you ultimately decide gray hair isn’t the look for you. Another one of Fleming’s recommendations, this one has a bluish-purple tint made to keep gray hair bright and fresh, but that also works to neutralize brassiness in all shades, from blonde to brunette to red. Bonus points for the packaging; the bottle is made of 80% post-consumer used plastic.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there.
Meet the Expert
Kristen Fleming is a sought-after hair colorist in Chicago and Color Director of 3rd Coast Salon and a blonde specialist. With over 16 years of experience, she’s been educated by some of the best in New York, L.A., and in Chicago. Her work can be found on models walking in New York Fashion Week, on magazine pages, and on her beautiful clients known as the "kristenscolorsquad.”