We’ve all been there. You get your hair dyed and you’re in love with the color.
But the first time you wash your hair after your appointment, you notice the water is tinted when you rinse, and your color is literally going down the drain. Once your hair is dry, the color isn’t nearly as vibrant as it was when you left the salon.
Maybe you weren’t using the best shampoo or conditioner for color-treated hair. It’s okay; it happens to the best of us! That’s why we’re here to give you a rundown on what shampoos you should be using to keep your hair color looking fresh.
After all the time and money we put into coloring our hair, we should want to take great care of it to ensure the color always looks as fresh as it does when we left the salon. However, many shampoos and conditioners can cause hair color to fade quickly, as well as cause damage to the delicate color-treated hair.
Therefore, it’s crucial to use a color-safe shampoo and make sure to educate yourself on what really goes into your shampoo.
Why Does Hair Color Fade?
Hair color, even permanent hair dye, isn’t so permanent.
“Permanent hair color has a lifespan of four to six weeks depending on how much you wash your hair, and demi-permanent has a lifespan of three to four weeks,” said Anya Anderson, hair color expert and owner of Suite One 01 salon in Santa Monica, California.
The more you wash your hair, the faster it will fade.
On top of this degradation, if the natural hair color is “lifted,” or lightened — especially if bleach is involved — your hair can become more porous. This effect means that the cuticle, which is the outer layer of your hair shaft, is raised or lifted. When the cuticle is in this state and the hair is porous, it’s harder, Anderson said, for the hair to hold on to color molecules.
Plus, color is more easily stripped away when you wash when the cuticle is raised. Using hot water when washing can cause even more color to escape, so try rinsing with cold water, or at least lukewarm water if a cold blast doesn’t sound too appealing to you.
Regardless of whether your outer hair shaft is damaged, getting your hair wet is the biggest factor in color loss, according to independent cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski.
“When you get your hair wet, the hair fibers swell,” he told Public Goods. “They are like sponges and will absorb water. When this happens, the cuticles covering the hair fibers open up. This allows color molecules to ‘leak’ out of the hair shaft and then get washed down the drain”.
Additionally, the color that you choose to dye your hair could have an effect on how quickly it fades. Red hair dye, for example, is notoriously fast to fade. This speed is because the red color molecule is relatively big, and cannot penetrate the hair as well as other pigments.
Platinum blondes also commonly experience the problem of brassiness, when yellow or orange undertones start showing. This change is due to natural oxidation that occurs, especially when exposed to a lot of sun.
Plenty of things you expose yourself to in your day-to-day life can cause your hair color to fade. Anderson named over the counter hair care, sulfates, sunshine, salt water, chlorine, and heat and styling tools as culprits.
How Does Color Safe Shampoo Work?
The best shampoo for colored hair is shampoo that is explicitly color-safe. But how exactly does color-safe shampoo work?
According to Romanowski, the main difference is that color-safe shampoos have lower levels of detergent than typical shampoo, which should theoretically reduce the amount of color that’s pulled out of the hair. He also said a cationic polymer such as Polyquaternium-7 is often used in color-safe shampoos as well, which lays a film down on the hair and prevents color loss.
Additionally, Anderson said every brand of shampoo is different and has different color safe “technology” in their formulations. She explained that color-safe shampoos usually have color-locking systems, less sulfates than typical shampoos (if any) and ingredients with conditioning properties that will keep the hair stronger and better able to retain color.
“The healthier the hair, the longer-lasting color,” said Anderson.
Some keywords or ingredients you might see on color-safe shampoo bottles that help maintain vibrant color are amino ions, antioxidants and UVA/UVB filters. However, color-safe shampoo is just as much about what’s not in it as what is in it. Shampoo and conditioner for colored hair are often free from certain chemical ingredients that are harsh and contribute to color fading.
According to Anderson, some ingredients you should be on the lookout for on labels of shampoo and conditioner for colored hair are:
- Sulfates (sometimes disguised in ingredients as SLS or SLES)
- DEA (diethanolamine)
- MEA (monoethanolamine)
- PEGs (polyethylene glycols)
However, Romanowski stressed that the biggest factor in color loss is the act of getting your hair wet.
“The best way to prevent color loss is to use powdered shampoos and to reduce the number of washings with water that you have,” he said. “Any time you get your hair wet, some of the color will be removed.”
The 12 Best Shampoos for Color-Treated Hair
The best shampoo for color-treated hair will be individualized, depending on your specific situation. Here are our top picks for general color protection as well as specific hair concerns.
Best Clean Beauty Color Safe Shampoo
Public Goods shampoo ticks a lot of boxes — it’s color-safe, sulfate-free, vegan and doesn’t contain parabens, synthetic fragrance, sodium lauryl sulfates, phthalates nor anything from formaldehyde. The shampoo’s blend of essential oils moisturizes your strands, and there are no harsh chemicals that will strip color. Plus, one tree is planted with every Public Goods order, so you can feel good about making a positive impact on the environment.
Best Color Protecting Shampoo for All Colors
This is a shampoo that’s gentle enough to use daily on color-treated hair. It contains an antioxidant complex that helps keep color vibrant, and UV filters that guard you against UV damage from the sun that causes hair to fade faster.
Best Sulfate-Free Color Safe Shampoo
This shampoo has a technology exclusive to Redken, which is called the RCT Protein Complex. This ingredient set is a “multi-targeted delivery system” that cares for the hair’s root, core and tip. It contains amino ions that create a protective seal around the hair, keeping color locked in.
Best Shampoo for Dry Colored Hair
The restore shampoo is designed specifically for damaged, dry hair. It’s made with Living Proof’s patented “Healthy Hair Molecule” OFPMA that can restore the hair’s cuticle, and also protects colored hair from future damage.
Best Color Safe Shampoo for Damaged Hair
This is pretty much the holy grail for damaged hair. The technology of Olaplex used to only be offered in salons, but now it’s available in major retailers for at-home uses. Rather than just nourish hair, it actually rebuilds broken bonds in the hair while eliminating frizz. This restoration is particularly great if your hair is damaged from bleach.
Best Color Safe Shampoo for Blondes
If you’re a platinum blonde, you need a purple shampoo. It’s non-negotiable!
Purple shampoo is your best bet to avoid dreaded brassiness and yellow undertones. The shampoo comes out dark purple, and will help cool down the tones of your hair. Plus, it has keratin to condition damaged hair and enhances moisture and smoothness. Keratin is a fibrous structural proteins that protects epithelial cells from damage or stress.
Best Color Safe Shampoo for Brunettes
Blondes aren’t the only ones who have concerns about brassiness. Bottle brunettes also need some help combatting brassy, orange tones, and this shampoo does just that. It protects your color and refreshes it by depositing blue and purple tones into the hair.
Best Color Safe Shampoo for Fine Hair
One major worry for people with extra fine hair is products weighing the hair down — making it flat and/or greasy. However, this shampoo addresses those concerns while instead repairing any damage the fine hair has, as well as volumizing the hair and protecting from color loss with essential oils, vitamins, proteins and antioxidants.
Best Color Safe Shampoo for Thick Hair
Pureology has created a cult favorite (it’s amassed an average of 4.6 stars through over 1,700 reviews on Ulta’s site) that nourishes and adds moisture to medium and thick dry hair – no frizz attached. It’s made with powerhouse oils like jojoba, camelina, coconut and olive. It also has Pureology’s signature Anti Fade Complex to protect color.
Best Vegan Color Safe Shampoo
This shampoo is from Matrix’s R.A.W collection, which stands for real, authentic and wholesome. The vegan formula is specially made for color-treated hair is made with coconut milk, which is very nourishing, and meadowfoam, an antioxidant. It is made with up to 98% of ingredients from a natural origin.
The Best Shampoo for Color Treated Hair Available at the Drugstore
Between the super cool packaging and the impressive formulation, it’s surprising that this shampoo for dyed hair is available at the drugstore at such an affordable price point. This sulfate-free shampoo is made with 93% naturally derived ingredients, plus, it’s cruelty-free. Amazonian murumuru butter keeps color-treated hair moisturized and vibrant.
Another front runner for the best drugstore shampoo for colored hair is this one from OGX. It’s made with orchid extract and grape seed oil to moisturize and keep color from fading. It also has UVA and UVB filters to protect hair from damage caused by the sun.
Keep Your Color
This is just the tip of the iceberg of all the options of color-safe shampoo, but these ones are the cream of the crop when it comes to the best shampoo for color-treated hair.
If you’re still not sure which shampoo is best for you, ask your stylist. They are the experts, and they know your hair’s needs. They’ll be able to give you personalized recommendations for shampoo and conditioner for colored hair, so your hair color will stay beautiful and fresh until your next visit to the salon.
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