Is a Color-Safe Shampoo Worth the Extra Money?

Last Updated on February 18, 2023 by Gaga

Hair color is made up of small molecules. Once the color is applied to the hair, a chemical alkalizer opens the cuticle layer to enable the dye molecules to penetrate the cortex and deposit a new color. Following this process, the hair is rinsed with cool water and conditioned, which helps the cuticle to close, keeping the color molecules inside the hair.

When you find the hair color that is your perfect type, you will want it to stay looking vibrant for as long as possible. Once your hair has been colored, it needs to be treated with special care. Artificial color pigments tend to gradually disappear and your hair may become dull and lifeless after a few washes. Hard water, harsh cleansers, heat styling tools, and prolonged sun exposure can take out the color pigments deposited in the hair, causing fading and dullness. To keep your color looking fresh and prolong its life, you need to use special products and take the proper care of your locks.

A woman with freshly shampooed red colored hair

Washing Hair After Dying

Before purchasing any color care product, make sure to follow a few basic rules when it comes to washing your colored hair.

1. Wait to Wash Hair After Coloring

The hair cuticle is the outside protective layer of a hair strand that helps prevent damage to the cortex and controls the look and appearance of the hair. When you dye your hair, the cuticles must first be opened, so that the color can deposit effectively. It takes up to 72 hours for the cuticles to fully close, sealing the color inside. Shampooing hair too soon after coloring will wash out color pigments. If you would like your hair to completely absorb and lock in the new color, skip shampooing for the first two days after dyeing your hair.

2. Avoid Frequent Washing

To prevent your vibrant color from being washed away, stretch out the time between washes. The shampooing process removes a little bit of color every time you wash your hair. It’s a good practice to shampoo only as often as necessary. If possible, shampoo your hair no more than three times per week. Protect your hair from the water in the shower on no-wash days.

3. Lower the Water Temperature 

When you wash your hair, it’s important not to expose it to hot water. Hot water tends to raise the hair cuticle, allowing the color molecules to escape. On the contrary, cool water seals the cuticle, which helps reduce color fading.

4. Avoid Using a Chemical-Laden Shampoo

It doesn’t matter if you have a temporary, semi, or permanent hair color: it is vital to avoid shampoos that can cause hair color to fade. Ordinary shampoos may contain strong detergents that will fade the brilliance of your color.

Read the label on the shampoo bottle before purchasing. Make sure that your shampoo is labeled “sulfate-free”. Sulfates are powerful detergents that will cut grease and create a nice, soapy lather but they will also reduce the vibrancy and sheen of your hair color. Hair cuticles need to stay closed, to ensure color longevity. Sulfate detergents rough up the cuticle layer, allowing color molecules to leak out. Stronger clarifying shampoos can even remove the color completely from your hair in a few washes.

The most common harsh sulfates in hair shampoos are sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, and ammonium lauryl sulfate. Study the ingredients and go for sulfate-free shampoos and those that are labeled “color safe”. Sulfate-free shampoos use milder cleansers to carry out the cleaning task. You may see fewer foamy bubbles that are associated with cleansing action, but you will still get effective cleansing.

Color-safe products also shouldn’t contain alcohol, parabens, salt, and artificial fragrances.

Shampoo and Conditioner for Color-Treated Hair

Hair shampoos formulated for colored hair shouldn’t contain ingredients that can negatively affect the color. They are supposed to maintain proper pH balance and cleanse hair without stripping the color. There are three main benefits that color care shampoos offer:

  1. In addition to being sulfate-free, color-protective shampoos and conditioners are formulated with extra moisturizing ingredients that deliver extra hydration and protect your over-processed hair from breaking.
  2. Color-protecting shampoos contain antioxidants, proteins, and amino acids that help strengthen the hair cuticle which prevents the pigment from leaking out and provides long-lasting color retention.
  3. Color-enhancing shampoos also contain pH adjusters and sunscreens that provide color-treated hair with a radiant shine which helps the color stay vibrant.

Keep in mind that color-safe shampoos will help you slow down color fading, but they will not stop it altogether.

A conditioner specially formulated for color-treated hair helps keep the cuticles smooth to lock the color pigments deep inside the hair. These products contain UV filters to shield strands against UV rays and environmental pollutants that can cause damage and color fading.

There is also the category of color-depositing shampoos and conditioners available on the market. These products deposit a small amount of dye with each wash to revive color and help you go longer between touch-ups.

Dry Shampoos for Long-Lasting Color

Young woman applying dry shampoo to colored hair

A great way to save color and prevent premature fading is to keep hair dry as long as you can. Dry shampoos help reduce your hair’s contact with water which helps extend the life of hair color. These products soak up excess oil from your scalp and strands and give you more time in between your washes. Dry shampoos also add texture and bounce, making your hair look fuller.

a beautiful Asian girl with pastel hair color

About the author

Website | + posts

Gaga is a blogger and founder of the Softer Hair website. She often says that insomnia is to blame for her first blogging attempts. Being the night owl, she hated the morning alarm. She left her office job and returned to what she loved most - writing.