12 Things You Don’t Know Are Fading Your Hair Color

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Photo Credits: Rosdiana Ciaravolo / Contributor/ Getty Images | Image Used for Illustrative Purposes Only

With summer quickly approaching, it’s time to start boosting your color care. Here we share the top 12 most surprising ways you’re ruining your dyed strands (and wasting money) without realizing it. 

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1 / 12

Washing Your Hair Too Often 

Pamella Gonzalez, colorist at Benjamin NYC, says excessive washing is the number-one cause of premature color fade. Maddison Cave, colorist at the Rita Hazan Salon, says this is because the chemicals in hair color make our hair more vulnerable to water. “Try washing your hair every other day or even every three days if you don’t get oily,” she says, also recommending using dry shampoo in between washes to keep it feeling clean. If you find you need to wash your hair frequently, Gonzalez suggests using a cowash shampoo with little to no detergents.

2 / 12

Using Harsh Shampoo

Nelson Chan, celebrity stylist and founder of Nelson j Natural Salon in Beverly Hills, explains that the ingredients in shampoos and conditioners that contain sulfates and salts are often doing a number on your colored hair. “The solution is to look for sulfate-free and color-safe shampoos,” he says. Another no-no for colored hair: purple, blue, silver or red shampoos. “Be careful of pigmented shampoos,” warns Clint Dunlap, colorist at Marie Robinson Salon. “Overuse of these shampoos can build up on porous ends and cause any hair color to dull—and quickly.”

3 / 12

Abusing Chlorine

“Human hair is one of the most absorbent materials around,” says Andrew Carruthers, director of education for Sam Villa, who says you should think about a dry sponge versus a wet sponge when it comes to soaking your hair. “When that dry sponge is submerged into chlorine-filled water, how much more of that chlorine will it absorb versus a sponge that has already been saturated with clean water?” But that’s not to say those of us with colored hair can’t go swimming. “Chlorine should be removed from hair before it dries,” adds Carruthers, explaining that once hair is dry, the chlorine bonds to the hair and it very difficult to remove. “If possible, hair should be rinsed with clean water before the chlorine water has a chance to dry.”

4 / 12

Washing With Hot or Hard Water

“Even if you are using the perfect shampoo for your hair type, water is a big contributor to fading,” explains Cave, adding that when washing your hair, the cooler the water temperature the better. Another secret color-fading culprit: chlorine you didn’t know was in your water. “Every now and then, I see a client who has a green hue to their hair due to the chlorine in their water,” says celebrity hair colorist Ashley Wahler. “Investing in a shower head filter is a quick fix to that problem as well as keeping your color bright and hair shiny,” she says.

5 / 12

Not Applying Sunscreen to Hair

“If you have a sunroof or are constantly outside, be sure to wear a hat,” stresses Wahler, adding that the sun can not only fade color, but it exposes the natural remaining pigments, which are usually the brassy and unwanted tones. “The sun produces harmful UVA/UVB rays, which can also burn the hair,” adds Jim Markham, celebrity stylist and founder of ColorProof. The good news: avoiding this is easy. “Invest in hair products with SPF or just spray a little bit of sunscreen on your hair,” says Gonzalez. “Don’t forget to massage some into the scalp,” Dunlap notes.

6 / 12

Not Using a Thermal Protectant

Markham says that heat protection is an absolute must if you’re using hot tools. “Heat styling can fry the cuticle, leaving hair frazzled, dry, damaged and broken over time.” Be sure to reach for a heat protectant every time you style to keep your color from fading and your hues looking bright. Try ColorProof’s HeatProof Anti-Frizz Blow Dry Crème ($32) prior to styling to add a layer of both color and heat protection to your locks. 

7 / 12

Styling Your Hair Every Day

Carruthers warns that excessive heat, which usually comes from styling, can destroy the molecules in hair color. “Color fading increased dramatically as the industry introduced higher heat irons,” he says, adding that you should look for tools that only reach a safe temperature for color-treated hair. This Sleekr Professional Straightening Iron ($96) from Sam Villa does just that with their unique color-treated setting. 

8 / 12

Not Sealing Your Cuticles Before Washing

“Besides using sulfate-free/co-wash shampoo, apply coconut oil on the ends of your hair before shampooing to protect harsh water and shampoo from stripping your hair color,” advises Chan.

9 / 12

Never Using a Hair Mask

Celebrity hairstylist Ricardo Rojas says that after your hair has been exposed to the sun and/or chlorine, it’s crucial to nourish it at it’s most fragile state. “I like to do a nourishing jasmine or coconut hair mask every three weeks for my clients during the summer months.” If you don’t have enough time to dedicate to a mask, reach for Sachajuan’s Intensive Hair Oil ($50), formulated with argan and sea buckthorn oil, for the same effect minus the time commitment (apply it to damp or dry hair and style as usual). 

10 / 12

Dying Your Hair Red

“When considering which hues to dye your hair, maybe reconsider red,” advises Cave, explaining that while it’s glamorous, if it’s not your natural tone, the artificial red pigments tend to leave strands the fastest.

11 / 12

Failing to Apply a Leave-In Treatment Before Outdoor Activity

Chan explains that outdoor activities will fade hair color just like heat styling will, so creating a custom leave-in treatment to seal cuticles to lock in hair color before spending the day outdoors or styling is your best bet. “Mix 2 ounces of lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of coconut oil and 0.25 ounces of your favorite conditioner,” he says, adding that we should apply this treatment on hair before and after we go in the sun, and before we start heat styling to keep color intact. Fekkai’s Pre-Soleil Hair Mist ($20) will also do the trick, as a UV filter coats your strands with every spritz, helping to lock in hydration and keep color fading at bay.

12 / 12

Using Alcohol-Based Products

Cave warns against using styling products with alcohol listed as one of the main ingredients, explaining that it can quickly dry your hair out, making the color fade much faster. 

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