Coloring your hair is an investment of your time, money, and self-confidence. Whether you’re blonde, brunette, covering a few grays, or going for a bold hue, making your color last as long as possible is good for the health of your hair — and kinder on your budget.
We spoke with LifeSpa elite stylist Sara Ebrahimi, a Wella hair regional educator and Easihair Pro national educator, about her top tips for keeping your color from fading and extending the time between appointments. Based at Life Time Bergen County in Montvale, N.J., Ebrahimi offered this advice.
1. Prep your hair before coloring.
A day or two before coloring your hair, Ebrahimi suggests using a clarifying or chelating shampoo to remove product buildup, chlorine, minerals and metals from tap water, and other residue that may affect the application of your hair color. “Chelating shampoo is like an exfoliating face wash for your hair,” she says. “It will help provide a clean, smooth base for a more even application.”
2. Choose professional hair color over box color.
Ebrahimi says there are several reasons that professional color is a more ideal choice than DIY box products. “Box versions are meant to be a quick fix,” Ebrahimi explains. “When you consistently apply box color over your hair, it deeply penetrates the hair shaft and becomes coated in layers that dull color over time. These coatings contain metallic salts which, after multiple coated applications, become difficult to remove without severely compromising your hair health.”
3. Wait 48 hours to wash your hair after coloring.
“I always recommend this to my clients because it gives the color time to penetrate the hair shaft,” Ebrahimi says. Washing your hair less frequently also helps the hair hold onto the color application. “There are many amazing dry shampoo products available now, and they can really go a long way in helping you delay the time between — and decrease the frequency of — shampooing.”
4. Wash with care.
Ebrahimi advises avoiding hot water, which will open the hair cuticle and release both color and moisture from your hair. “Cool water will help preserve your color and maintain your hair health,” she notes.
Most importantly, Ebrahimi believes in using shampoos and conditioners that are specially formulated for color-treated hair and that do not contain sulfates or sodium chloride; these products are milder and won’t strip color from your strands. “They are the foundation of successful color longevity and vibrancy,” Ebrahimi says.
Try color-preserving or color-depositing versions, which can help maintain the richness of your hue by adding color back in during the wash. Blondes can opt for purple shampoos to tone down brassiness, but Ebrahimi cautions against shampooing with it during every wash because it can be drying for the hair.
To be even more proactive about making your color last, consider installing a shower filter to help prevent minerals and tap-water residue from rinsing your color down the drain.
5. Use hot tools sparingly.
Not only can they be damaging to your hair, but just like hot water, hot tools can open the cuticle and cause hair color to fade more quickly. When you do employ a straightener, blow dryer, or other hot styling tool, “use the lowest setting you can to get the effect you’re trying to achieve,” Ebrahimi advises. “And always use a thermal protecting spray or leave-in conditioning treatment beforehand to prevent damage and fading and to preserve the integrity of the hair.”
6. Use professional, salon-quality hair products.
These products must be purchased from a salon or other hair authority to ensure they meet quality standards. “One major challenge I see is clients buying what they believe to be salon-quality products from Amazon or third-party sellers at a discounted price,” Ebrahimi says. “Those products can be — and at times have been — tampered with, diluted, or otherwise compromised, so we cannot guarantee their performance on your hair. Instead, invest in quality, professional hair-care products that will help you maintain the investment in your color.”
7. Avoid the extremes.
Choosing a hue close to your natural color can help extend the time between appointments, Ebrahimi says. “Roots are less noticeable with natural colors, and there are many great root-concealing products in the marketplace now.”
She also finds that more sparing color applications, such as glosses, highlights, or balayage, help maximize time between clients’ color appointments. These techniques allow more of the natural hair color to show through, so the color difference isn’t as obvious as hair grows out.
While she loves the bold and bright color trends, such as blue, pink, pastels, or shades of red, Ebrahimi says they have a tendency to fade faster. “Unless you really like the color change of, say, a bright pink fading to a light rose over time, which can be really pretty on certain skin tones, stick closer to your natural color or one that won’t fade as quickly.”
Just like a nutrition or fitness plan is unique to each individual, so too is a hair care plan. Talk to your stylist to find out which colors will be easiest for you to extend and the options that are the best for your budget, preferred maintenance level, and skin tone.