What is a Blue Rinse?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The blue rinse is a type of hair dye that may be applied to gray hair. Its intent is to vitalize gray hair color and counteract any yellowness or transparency of the hair shaft. Both men and women may have blue rinses, though these have become much less common. One reason for its less frequent use is if the color is allowed to sit too long on the hair, it can turn the hair from a vibrant grey to several shades of blue.

Elderly persons may use a blue rinse to vitalize gray hair and remove any yellowing of the hair shaft.
Elderly persons may use a blue rinse to vitalize gray hair and remove any yellowing of the hair shaft.

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.

Elderly people who smoke can experience discoloration of their hair and skin.
Elderly people who smoke can experience discoloration of their hair and skin.

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.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


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?


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.


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.


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.


love blue tinted hair. always did!

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