Now that you’ve spent hours and hundreds of dollars getting your hair to that just-perfect color, it’s time to keep it intact for as long as possible. Truth be told, most of us do at least one—if not all—of these hair no-nos within the first week or so after having our hair professionally colored, even if it’s unintentional. Here, expert answers to your most important questions about how to keep your color fresh, shiny and vibrant.
Don’t Wash Your Hair—at First
We all ask ourselves the same question a day or two after our color appointment: “How long do I have to wait before washing my 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.
Stretch Out Your Wash Cycle
To keep fresh hair color intact for as long as possible, New York City–based hairstylist Jackie 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.”
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 strands should be sure to avoid hot water. Leo Izquierdo, 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, rinse with cold or lukewarm water, as it will help seal up the cuticle and lock in your fresh color,” says Cleveland.
Invest in a Color-Safe Shampoo
Another surefire way to prematurely strip gorgeous color? Washing 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.”
Steer Clear of Too Much 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. Friedman offers up another complexion-saving suggestion: “Try a hat with UV protection—it’s great for both your hair and skin.”
Skip Certain In-Shower Treatments and Masks
Dandruff-busting shampoos or clarifying treatments can also do a number on hair color, because as Tina Outen, founder of Tina Did It Salon at Ricky’s NYC, explains, “they are used to strip unwanted tones in color correction.” Another step to skip? Thick treatment masks. While they may seem nourishing 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.”
It’s All About Protection
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.
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 styling products open up the cuticle allowing the color to slip out.
Outen 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 Seabrooke. To curb any damage to your hair, be sure to keep your hair protected whenever you’re outside with a good hat and sun-protecting hair products.
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