Is a Color-Safe Shampoo Worth the Extra Money?

Red colored hair

Hair color is made up of small molecules. Once the color is applied to the hair, a chemical alkalizer in the formulation opens the cuticle layer, which allows 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 as long as possible. Once your hair has been colored, it needs to be treated with special care. Colored hair tends to fade and lose shine and may become dull and lifeless after a few washes. To keep your color looking freshly done and prolong its life, you need to use special products and take the proper care of your locks.

Image courtesy of Pezibear at

Washing Your Hair after Coloring

Artificial color pigments have a tendency to gradually disappear from the hair, so hair color fades over time. Water, harsh cleansers, heat styling tools, and prolonged sun exposure can take out the color pigments deposited in the hair, causing fading and dullness.
Fortunately, there are some ways to slow down the fading process and extend the freshness of your shade. However, before purchasing any color care product make sure that you follow a few basic rules when it comes to washing your colored hair.

1. Wait After Coloring to Wash Your Hair

The hair cuticle is the outside protective layer of a hair strand which helps prevent damage to the cortex and controls the look and appearance of the hair. Cuticles that have been opened up during coloring make the hair more prone to the color being washed. The cuticle takes up to 72 hours to fully close and enable your strands to hold color inside. Shampooing hair too soon after coloring will wash out hair color. 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 while cool water seals the cuticle, which reduces color fading.

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 detergents that will fade the brilliance of your color.

Read the label on the shampoo bottle before purchasing it. Make sure that your shampoo is labeled “sulfate-free”. Sulfates are very strong detergents that will cut grease and make your shampoo 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 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 less 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 fragrance.

Shampoo and Conditioner for Color-Treated Hair

Hair shampoos formulated for colored hair shouldn’t contain sulfates and other harsh ingredients that can affect the color. They are supposed to cleanse hair without stripping it and also to help maintain proper pH balance. 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.

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 fading.

Color-depositing shampoos and conditioners are also 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.
Keep in mind that color-safe shampoos will help you slow down color fading, but they will not stop it altogether.

Dry Shampoos for Long-Lasting Color

A great way to save the 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 bounce and make your hair look fuller.

You may also like

Extending the Life of your Brazilian Blowout

Top Five Shampoo Brands for Keratin Treated Hair