Gentian violet. Not jensen or genstan violet. Gentian, pronounced “gen” “shen”. What is it you say? Gentian violet is an antiseptic dye used to treat fungal infections on skin. Kinda like monkey blood, that bright red stuff your school teacher put on your cuts and scrapes when you got bumped up in pre-school. You can buy it from any pharmacy for next to nothing :). Awesome! So why do people use it on their hair? Basically, the deep purple/violet colour helps to lighten that yellow/brassy colour blonde hair tends to turn as the colour fades. I would go into the science of how it works but it’s a bore so I’ll just say that violet counteracts yellow just like green does for redness (see my post on primers for that nugget).
I’ve been getting a half head of highlights about 4 times a year for going on 5 years now. My rockstar hairdresser uses a 30% peroxide dye and two shades of blonde to get as “natural” a colour as possible. The colour dye I get is more ash blonde than a yellow blonde so I really have to work at keeping that colour on the whiter side of blonde. I do this mainly by using gentian violet.
I buy an awesome natural shampoo from Earthsap and mix in a couple of drops to a new bottle. WARNING: THIS SHIT STAINS LIKE A MOFO. I’m serious, it will stain your clothes, your hands, your porcelain sink, your bathroom tiles, the bottom of your shower, your scalp. I once recommended this to a girl I studied with and she didn’t take me seriously and dyed the side of her face and her hands for days! Having said this, I have managed to be super careful and not spill when I do put drops into my shampoo but sometimes little droplets flick onto the sink and I have gotten the stains out. Anyhoo, I’m just saying, handle this dye carefully.
I’ve been using this stuff for a couple of years now so I know just how much gentian violet my hair can take. I do tend to use more than most, I pop in about 10 – 15 drops in my 250ml shampoo bottle. If you are lighter than me I’d recommend using half that amount. Think of your hair as a blank piece of paper. The lighter your hair is, the more a colour is going to show up on it. So if you are platinum blonde there is a good chance of you staining your hair. But because I know what my hair can handle and only half my head is dyed I use this combo practically every time I wash my hair and haven’t turned purple yet.
You can of course purchase special shampoos that contain violet dye in the formula itself. These guys are more of toners than basic shampoo and are much stronger than just mixing gentian violet in with a shampoo. I recently purchased Joico’s violet shampoo and damn is it strong! It’s also sulphate free which meant I used double the amount to really clean my hair which resulted in dying my scalp a little and putting a faint lilac tinge to my hair, which I really dug! But I’m just saying that shampoos like these are the bomb for really getting your colour back to that fresh out the salon shit. But I have also bought “blonde” salon shampoo that doesn’t contain any violet dye and it was pretty pathetic to be honest. This was the Redken Blonde Glam sham(poo)! It basically intensified the yellow in my hair and with out the violet dye, it really did nothing to lighten my colour.
So. If you want to keep from letting your blonde hair fade from an ashy tone into a brassy yellow find something that’s purple or mix it with gentian violet. Purple = lighter, happier hair.