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What Is a Blue Rinse?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Discover the subtle charm of a blue hair rinse, a specialized hair treatment designed to enhance the natural allure of gray hair. According to a study by the Journal of Cosmetic Science, blue pigments can effectively neutralize yellow tones in gray hair, providing a more uniform and appealing color. While traditionally popular among an older demographic, the use of blue rinses has declined, as noted by the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, with only a small percentage of individuals opting for this method to maintain their gray hair's vibrancy. The precision in application is crucial; an overextended treatment time can shift hair color towards an unintended spectrum of blue shades. This nuanced approach to hair care ensures that both men and women can achieve a dignified silver sheen without compromising hair health.

Gray hair may take on a yellowed appearance if you smoke. In times past, it was all too common for elderly ladies and gentleman to smoke, and this could lead to discoloration of hair and skin. Sometimes the blue rinse is tied specifically with older women who do smoke, but since this habit is fortunately receding and many people either never start or have quit, there’s less need to for blue rinses. Yellowing of the hair can occur for other reasons such as having high contents of metals in your water source.

Another factor that has made blue rinses less common is the ease and availability of hair dyes to use at home. Blue rinses were typically used in salon settings whereas women who dye their hair at home typically use a color. There are gray haired dyes that are fairly natural, in addition to those that may be age defying. Quick temporary colors are often easy to apply.

Blue rinses were temporary colors too, and some women prefer a more permanent solution. These were often applied during wash and set trips to salons, and the hair wouldn’t remain blue (or a more vibrant gray) forever. Each time the hair was washed, a little color would depart, leaving the hair once again yellowed or translucent. Perhaps this application of temporary color was meant to make sure that ladies returned to salons on a fairly regular basis, so that they could have their hair touched up.

If you’d like to try a blue rinse to get rid of yellowed grey hair, look for temporary colors in mousses, gels or sprays that have platinum or violet overtones. These will be subtle and won't turn the hair blue. These can also work well for sheer white blonde hair, eliminating any fading of color. In all though, most people prefer to use more permanent hair color solutions, and the blue rinse has faded significantly in popularity.

How To Do a Blue Rinse

Although blue rinse hair is falling out of fashion, you can still find blue rinse solutions in stores and online. However, hair care formulas have come a long way. You can now choose from several products and methods for similar results.

Temporary Blue Rinse Hair Color

Apply a temporary hair color rinse after shampooing; you do not need to rinse it out. The effect only lasts a few washes, so this type of color requires frequent reapplication.

Tinted Shampoo

If you want to save yourself a step, you can use a blue- or purple-tinted shampoo or conditioner to correct yellow discoloration. These products apply a subtle blue or purple wash that builds up gradually, so don't expect dramatic results.

Toner

If you don't mind a little extra work, toner can neutralize yellow tones to brighten gray hair. Mix it with a developer, leave it on for up to 45 minutes, then rinse and condition your hair. This can be a harsh process for your strands, so if you are unsure about it, go to a salon instead of trying to do it at home.

Precautions

Before using any home hair color, do a patch test. Apply a small amount of the product on the inside of your elbow and wait 24 hours. If no allergic reaction occurs, it's safe to color your hair. It is possible to develop a new allergic reaction to products you have used before, so don't skip this step, even if you have colored your hair without issues in the past.

Wear gloves when applying hair color, toner and even some tinted shampoos and conditioners. This prevents the pigments from staining your hands and protects your skin from harsh chemicals.

Why Do Old Ladies Have Blue Hair?

The intention of the original blue rinse hair formula was never to dye ladies' hair blue! Rather, it was meant to make the strands appear whiter, similar to the effect of laundry bluing on white linens.

Unfortunately, an unsuccessful home blue rinse can leave a blue or purple tint. Because some older people have difficulty distinguishing subtle color differences, the blue effect may go unnoticed. In the past, it was so common to see women with blue-tinged tresses that "blue hair" became a slang term for an older woman. Some even embraced the blue color.

Today, accidental blue hair is rare, as temporary blue rinses have declined in popularity. This is partly due to a decline in cigarette smoking, one of the main causes of yellowing in gray hair. It is also due to an increase in hair color options.

How To Get Rid of Blue Tint in Hair

If you used a temporary blue rinse, the color should vanish with a few washes. However, if the blue color is the result of a semipermanent blue dye, then removing it could be a formidable challenge. There are several approaches you can try.

Neutralize the Color

One option is to try to neutralize the blue color. Just as blue rinse cancels out orange or brassy tones, an orange-tinted shampoo, conditioner or toner may neutralize the blue tint.

Try a Bleach Wash

Another option is to use a bleach wash, which involves applying a highly diluted concentration of bleach mixed with shampoo. It's not as damaging as normal bleaching, but it still requires the use of harsh chemicals.

Visit a Salon

Gray hair has a thinner cuticle than pigmented hair, so it is more prone to breakage. If you need to correct a home hair coloring mishap, the safest choice may be to let a professional stylist take over. Professional products are often gentler and more effective than anything you can buy in a store, and your stylist will know how to correct the issue with minimal damage.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By alfredillo — On Sep 18, 2012

I have some grey hair on both ear sides and I would like it to be kind of blue or purple. I have tried using Fanci-full no. 42 but I do not see the results. Maybe it is out of date to have the hair blue, but I love it. Can you recommend anything to help me?

By anon198314 — On Jul 19, 2011

After I got my hair bleached, my hairdresser used a dark purple rinse to tone down the yellows. She also recommended that I buy a blue or purple shampoo to help keep the color. Although the blue rinse is less popular now, the idea behind it still seems to hold up.

By helene55 — On Jan 15, 2011

I am spending some time in Slovakia right now, and here blue rinses are very popular. While women in the United States tend to dye their hair blonde most often, Slovak women prefer reds. This goes from bright orange reds to really deep reds, and even to dark bluish purples. Some women will use a powerful dye, while others do seem to just add a blue or even red rinse product to their natural color, adding only a slight, but noticeable, change to their hair.

By afterall — On Jan 13, 2011

Some people still do blue rinses, but these days it has become just another kind of style thing rather than a way of preventing yellowed hair or covering/altering grey. Most people use dye, though, rather than a hair rinse.

By anon84592 — On May 16, 2010

love blue tinted hair. always did!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia...
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