When to Wash Hair After Coloring to Prevent Fading—And Other Mistakes to Avoid After Your Salon Visit

When to Wash Hair After Coloring to Prevent Fading—And Other Mistakes to Avoid After Your Salon Visit featured image
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Now that you’ve spent hours in the salon to that just-perfect hair color, it’s time to keep it intact for as long as possible. “How you take care of your hair color affects how long it lasts,” confirms Laura Gibson, RUSK global artistic director. Truth be told, we’re all guilty of committing one (or all!) of the below hair-color sins. From washing too early to using the wrong products when it does come time to shampoo, these mistakes are more common than you think. Ahead, an expert roadmap to when to wash hair after coloring to prevent fading and keeping your post-salon hair color fresh for longer.

Practice Washing Less

When it comes to keeping color vibrant, celebrity colorist and dpHue cofounder Justin Anderson offers up a solid tip: “My number-one rule is definitely shampoo less,” says Anderson. “Over-shampooing not only strips your color but also the natural oils that your scalp produces, which are essential for the health of your hair and scalp.” “I always say, think of your favorite T-shirt. If you were to wash it everyday, the color will fade, the same applies to your hair color. I recommend my clients opt for dpHUE’s ACV HairRinse ($37) as a shampoo substitute. This will give your hair a gentle cleanse, without stripping any essential oils and that beautiful vibrant color you just received at the salon,” he says.

Avoid Swimming to Save Your Strands

“Swimming is a big no-no,” says Emily Claire Sacco, colorist at Rob Peetoom Williamsburg, noting that both salt water and chlorine will strip or alter your color. Tina Outen, founder of Tina Did It Salon at Ricky’s NYC, compares the chlorine in swimming pools like Kryptonite to color. It’s a bleaching agent, meaning colored hair should stay far, far away.

“Blonde hair is susceptible to turning green [from chlorine] while darker hair becomes more dull and loses its shine,” adds New York City–based colorist Jaclyn Seabrooke. The reason: “Chlorine is attracted to the most porous parts of the hair, which would be your fresh highlights,” explains Ryan Trygstad, celebrity hairstylist and cofounder of Mark Ryan Salon. To curb any damage to your hair during summer months and always, be sure to keep your hair protected whenever you’re outside with a good hat and sun-protecting hair products.

Trust at-Home Treatments

When it comes to sealing in hair color and getting as much longevity as possible, Sacco says professional-grade treatments may be your best bet. “Patented treatments such as Olaplex or K18 have been proven to seal the cuticle shut, locking the color molecules into the hair,” she says. As every hair type and need is different, Sacco suggests asking your stylist which they would recommend for your hair.

Don’t Wash Your Hair—at First

We all ask ourselves the same question a day or two after our color appointment: When is the right time to wash freshly colored hair? Celebrity colorist Aura Friedman makes it simple: “Wait at least three days before shampooing your hair after color,” she says. Izquierdo agrees, explaining this three-day waiting period gives ample time “for the cuticle to close and the color to set.” If you have a workout scheduled a day or two after your color appointment, your best bet is to reschedule to avoid lifting the color right off of your hair.

Stick to Gentle Cleansers

Clarifying shampoos are definitely having a moment for their ability to deep-cleanse the scalp and hair of excess gunk and grime, but Trygstad says this type of shampoo is number-one thing those with fresh color should stay away from. “These shampoos can remove the fresh pigment and tone of your hair,” he says. Instead, Sacco says to opt for a sulfate-free or color-safe shampoo so you can cleanse without worry.”

Sulfates are fresh color’s worst enemy,” says Sacco. “They strip color molecules from the hair, leaving it dull and dry.” In addition, your colorist may suggest using a tinted shampoo or conditioner to up-keep your tonality in between services, she notes.

Mix Up Your Shampoo

To keep hair color looking bright and salon-fresh, washing with a pigmented shampoo at least once a week is a must. To tone oxidized blond hair, purple shampoos like Moroccanoil Blonde Perfecting Purple Shampoo ($26) instantly reverse yellow, brassy tones. (Lavender-tinted products also work to brighten up gray and ashy hues.)

“We recommend maintaining our clients color with color-pigmented conditioners such as Christophe Robin Shade Variation Mask in Baby Blonde ($53),” says Trygstad. “These conditioners help maintain that fresh right out of salon color and tone.

“If brunette hair is skewing a bit too copper, incorporate a blue-hued shampoo such as Redken Color Extend Brownlights Blue Toning Sulfate-Free Shampoo ($26) into your regular hair wash schedule to cool things off.

Avoid Hot Water

It may seem second nature to just hop in the shower and shampoo as usual post-color, but celebrity hairstylist Michelle Cleveland says freshly-colored hair should be sure to avoid hot water. Leo Izquierdo, cofounder and colorist at New York’s IGK Salon, agrees, adding that hot water will lift the outer layer of hair color and cause color to fade. “Instead, simply use cold water (lukewarm is OK too), as it will help seal up the cuticle and lock in your fresh color,” says Cleveland.

Rethink Your Workout

According to Gibson, certain workouts can impact the longevity of your hair color. Her two top tips: “Do not shampoo daily and avoid heated workout classes. This will cause your color to fade significantly faster,” she says.

Steer Clear of the Sun

Chemicals and chlorine are two of the more obvious color-strippers, but Eric Leonardos, celebrity hairstylist at STARRING, says there’s another huge one we often forget about: the sun. “You should avoid direct sunlight for long periods of time and use an SPF designed specifically for hair.” Cleveland agrees, adding she always recommends a good UV spray protectant for her color clients. Her favorite that also boasts SPF?  Sebastian Trillant Spray ($21.50). Friedman offers up another hair saving suggestion: “Try a hat with UV protection—it’s great for both your hair and skin.”

Stretch Out Your Hair Wash Cycle

To keep fresh hair color intact for as long as possible, Seabrooke recommends washing your strands two to three times per week—”preferably once or twice a week while in quarantine to really get into that hair self-care,” she adds. “If you wash your hair everyday, you are not only washing away a little bit of your color each time, you are also washing away natural oils that are needed to moisturize your hair and scalp which keep it looking fresh and healthy.”

Invest in Dye Safe Formulas

Another surefire way to prematurely strip gorgeous color? Washing your hair with a sulfate-filled shampoo. “Sulfates are what give you the suds and squeaky-clean feeling when you shampoo,” explains Seabrooke, adding that those with fresh color should lay off the suds as much as possible. “Always have a sulfate-free shampoo in your shower that you switch between, especially if you’re someone who showers frequently. This will help your color last longer as you are not stripping the color as often.”

Skin Certain In-Shower Treatments and Masks

Dandruff-busting shampoos or clarifying treatments can also do a number on hair color, because as Outen explains, “they are used to strip unwanted tones in color correction.” Another step to skip? Thick treatment masks. While they may seem nourishing to dry hair and a great way to keep color intact, Outen says it’s quite the opposite. “They penetrate so deeply into the hair and can drag the color pigments out with them.”

Lay Off the Chemicals

Celebrity colorist Sharon Dorram says one of the most important things to remember after coloring your hair is not to overexpose it to too many chemicals. “Anything from hairspray and styling products with alcohol to too much blow-drying can all contribute to color fading.” The chemicals found in hair styling products open up the hair cuticle allowing the color to slip out.

Not so lucky for us, Trygstad says heat-styling tools and excessive shampooing can seriously contribute to premature hair color fading. Instead of reaching for your curling iron every morning, try throwing your hair into a loose braid while still damp for a heat-free wavy style.

Protect Your Hair Color

When it comes to color and heat, Seabrooke’s instructions are clear: “Do not style hair without a heat protectant before using hot tools. I see so many people blow-dry their hair and then hit it with a flat or curling iron and you can actually see where the color has lifted from having no heat protection,” she explains, adding that no matter how healthy your strands may be, heat will strip away color and hydration and lead to major damage.

“A heat protectant will reduce moisture loss from inside the hair and smooth the outside protecting it from humidity, which will also help maintain your color.” Friedman recommends using KHairPep on eighty-percent dried hair before any kind of heat styling for best results.In fact, Dorram notes the only product you should really be using when heat styling is a protectant. “Try to avoid using volumizers, mousse, hairsprays, and even gels with high heat for long periods of time. The hair is too vulnerable and easily damaged,” says Dorram.

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