Green Shampoo Won't Turn Your Brown Hair Green


The older I get, the more I feel like I’m becoming my mother. Is this thing, just, inevitable? I find myself saying things like, ‘You can wear those pants with a plain white button-down,’ and sneezing after meals, and packing comprehensive first aid kits with emergency snacks for anything more extensive than an hour-long excursion.

Don’t get me wrong, my mom is a cool lady and if I have to turn into anyone with age, I’m glad it’s shaping out to be her. But as I sat in Lucille Javier’s chair at Sally Hershberger downtown last October, pulling strands of hair into the light to make them shimmer and trying to explain how after a few months in the sun my hair just started pulling really red, it was like my mouth was moving and my mom’s voice was coming out. I had only heard her complain about her brown-turned-red hair my entire life—though, I always assumed it was a byproduct of oxidized dye rather than a natural occurrence. Clearly, I was wrong. Each month, she would return home from her salon appointment and ask me, ‘Is my hair brown?’ And usually it was somewhere closer to auburn. For some people, auburn might have been great! But it was not what my mom wanted, and now, at 23 with hair that naturally turned from Julia Louis-Dreyfus to Julia Roberts in the sun, it was not what I wanted either.

So began a series of ashy glosses meant to cool down my hair. I continued on this way for some time.

But between appointments, my hair returned to its naturally brassy roots, and a lifetime of fighting against it literally flashed before my eyes. Considering her genetic hand-me-downs also include a flat butt, couldn’t my hair be left alone? And then I remembered something else my mom and I had in common: we were both pretty good with a paintbrush.

If you think about it from the perspective of pure color theory, toning down red hair shouldn’t really be complicated. Opposite, or complementary, colors cancel each other out—you know how bleach blondes use purple shampoo to neutralize yellow tones? It works because yellow and purple are complementary colors. You just pick a color and look directly across it on the color wheel to find its partner. So in theory, the road to toning down my unwanted red should be paved with green. But for all the Shimmer Lights and Overtone on the market for blondes, a true green toning shampoo and conditioner (not blue, which would only cancel out orange-y tones in brown lighter than mine) just didn’t exist. Actually, I think this new line, from Matrix, is the first.

Used alone, the green toning shampoo and conditioner don’t make a huge difference in my hair. The magic happens once you use the mask—it deposits a significant amount of color, so you may want to use gloves (though I didn’t). In fact, I disregarded the instructions and used it like this: I mixed the green mask with a hydrating mask 50-50, applied it root to ends in my dry hair until it was saturated, threw it in a bun and went to the gym. A little over an hour later (that’s 55 minutes longer than recommended) I rinsed it out, and chased it with the matching shampoo and conditioner. The whole combo smells a little like your Uber driver’s favorite black ice air freshener, but once I blew my hair I found that it was extra shiny, slightly darker, and not red at all. Exactly how it looked after a fresh gloss.

Of course, it didn’t last as long, and I’ve found myself relying on the shampoo and conditioner between mask applications. But it certainly works better than that time I tried to DIY my own green mask with Manic Panic and a bunch of conditioner. Next time my mom comes to visit, I have the perfect activity for us.

—Ali Oshinsky

Photo via ITG