Gentian Violet: Health Benefits, How to Use (for Skin & Hair)

Updated in March 2024

Gentian violet is a natural remedy with antifungal, antiseptic and antibacterial action for use on the skin. It can be indicated for the treatment of wounds, dermatitis, or bacterial or fungal infections on the skin. It can also help to treat infections in the mucous membranes, such as thrush, chilblains, or stomatitis. This remedy can help to relieve symptoms such as itching, redness or burning.

Additionally, gentian violet can be added to shampoo or or hair masks to improve the appearance of yellow tones in bleached, highlighted or dyed blonde hair. Gentian violet is also used in laboratory settings to identify specific bacteria.

Gentian violet can be purchased in pharmacies or natural health stores. It is usually in the form of an alcoholic solution at a concentration of 1 to 2%, in 30 mL bottles. It should be used as directed by a doctor or other healthcare professional as it can cause irritation or blemishes on the skin.

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Health benefits

Gentian violet is indicated to help treat inflammations or infections of the skin or mucous membranes, such as:

  • Thrush
  • Canker sores or stomatitis
  • Impetigo
  • Dermatitis
  • Atopic eczema
  • Erythema multiforme
  • Prurigo nodularis
  • Chilblains or athlete's foot
  • Superficial skin wounds

Gentian violet can also be used to tint dyed or highlighted blonde hair, however, as this product contains alcohol in its composition, prolonged use on hair can leave it dry, as well as stain clothes and skin. Check-out other ways to moisturize your hair

Gentian violet can also be used to diagnose tinea versicolor, to mark the skin before surgery or in laboratories to identify specific bacteria.

How to use

The way gentian violet is used depends on its purpose. It can be used on the skin to treat health conditions or on the hair for toning dyed blond hair.

The main ways to use gentian violet are:

1. Gentian violet on the skin

Gentian violet should be used on the affected skin by applying a little of the gentian violet solution to a cotton swab, cotton or gauze. Then apply it to the affected area once or twice a day, without applying it to healthy skin, as advised by your doctor.

Gentian violet should only be used for a maximum of 3 to 4 days, as it may cause skin irritation or permanent blemishes.

Before using gentian violet, you should wash and dry your skin well and, after use, immediately wash your hands, unless the area to be treated is the hands.

You should not advised the affected area with bandages, plastic or waterproof bandages, unless recommended by your doctor, as this may increase the risk of skin irritation.

When used in the mouth, be sure not to swallow the gentian violet solution.

2. Gentian violet in hair

To use gentian violet on blonde hair to tone it down and remove its yellow or dull appearance, you can add 1 to 2 drops of the gentian violet solution to the shampoo or hair hydration mask and mix. Apply to damp hair and let it act for a few minutes, until you obtain the desired shade of blonde. Then rinse out. Be sure not to use it for prolonged periods, as the pigments in gentian violet can turn hair purple.

It is important to use gloves to avoid staining your skin. Do not apply any of the shampoo or mask cream to your facial skin to prevent staining

Another option for toning blonde hair is to buy toning shampoos or purple shampoo, which contain gentian violet and are ready to use.

Possible side effects

The most common side effects that may occur while using gentian violet are skin redness, swelling, or irritation. Using it for longer than recommended can cause permanent stains on the skin.

It is advised to seek medical help immediately or the nearest emergency room if you notice allergy symptoms after using gentian violet, such as blistering or peeling of the skin, intense itching, feeling of tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, swallowing or speaking, feeling of a closed throat , swelling in the mouth, tongue or face. 

Contraindications for use

Gentian violet should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, or by people who have skin ulcers, open or deep wounds, animal bites or severe burns, or who are allergic to any component of the formula.

Additionally, gentian violet should not be used on the face due to the risk of permanent blemishes. This remedy should also not be used inside the nose or ear, unless directed by a doctor.

Gentian violet should not be used on the eyes and if accidental contact occurs, it should be washed immediately with water for at least 15 minutes. Seek medical attention if the eyes become irritated.