How to Wash and Condition Color-Treated Hair

We know what you’re thinking: Is there really that much of a difference between washing non-colored hair and color-treated hair? We’re here to tell you like it is: there’s a big difference.

When you don’t have colored hair, there’s much less to worry about. For the most part, it’s wash, rinse, condition, rinse, and go with any regular shampoo and conditioner. With color-treated hair, it’s a bit more involved. Here are five critical things you should always do when it comes to washing and conditioning your color-treated hair:


First things first, finding the right shampoo and conditioner is key. If your hair is colored, you have to get a shampoo and conditioner that is safe for color-treated hair. There are lots of cleansers out there that claim to be color safe, but the best way to know is by looking at the ingredients and finding out if the product you're looking at is a sulfate-free shampoo. Shameless plug: all of our shampoos and conditioners care for your color.  Beyond being color-conscious, also be sure that you find the best shampoo and conditioner that fits your hair needs. Is you hair on the flatter side? Get a shampoo that is volumizing. Struggle with dryness? Indulge in a moisturizing conditioner. And don’t be afraid to mix and match them! With solid, color-safe products, you don’t need to compromise your hair color for your hair type.


We’ve all been there. It’s not technically time to wash, but you’re in the shower and your shampoo bottle is squeaking “Use me!” in a tiny voice. (No? Just us?) We advise you resist the urge to wash your hair until it’s absolutely time to do it, because over-washing can lead to color fade. Cutting down your wash days to only when needed helps to keep colored hair looking fresh between applications.

The best way to know if it’s truly time to cleanse the grime is by looking at your scalp. As natural oil builds up, your hair can look matted down, greasy, or shiny-but-not-in-a-good-way shiny. Those with fine hair will experience this 2-4 days after shampooing, whereas thicker hair types will see oil build-up in your hair cuticle and scalp between 5-10 days, or even longer. Try delaying your wash frequency with dry shampoo or co-washing. A day or two before your typical wash day, spritz dry shampoo on your roots and see if you can’t wait an extra couple days before washing. Or, alternate washing your hair with conditioner every-other-wash, (or a co-wash), so you are still getting a clean feeling without using the cleansing agents of a traditional shampoo. It takes some experimentation, but the longer you can delay using shampoo, the longer your color will ultimately last.


We’d say it more times but, we think you get the point. Massaging your scalp with your finger pads (not nails) helps break away oil and remove product build-up—an underestimated culprit for causing color fade, while also stimulating blood flow to the scalp for encouraged hair growth. Massaging with shampoo helps to spread the stuff around, so you can get away with only using a little bit. A lot of folks are used to super-bubbly shampoos, but most color-safe shampoos only have a modest lather. That’s because big bubbles usually indicate that the shampoo has sulfates in it—a not-so-color-safe ingredient. So don’t worry if while you’re massaging with your color-safe shampoo, you’re not getting big bubbles—you’re still getting an equally effective cleanse.


A lot of folks believe the term “rinse and repeat” was a marketing tool that got you to buy shampoo twice as often as you really need to. (Tricksters.) We believe if used correctly, most shampoos should be effective enough to get the job done on the first try. So after shampooing, rinse with lukewarm-to-cool water and jump straight to your conditioner. Why not hot water? Hot water tends to cause fast color fade since heat opens up the hair’s cuticle. Simply turn the temp down a few notches when rinsing, so you won’t have to shiver through the whole shower.

When conditioning color-treated hair, try and keep your conditioner off your roots and focus applying it on your ends (the opposite of where we advise you massage your shampoo.) Keeping your conditioner focused on your mid-lengths and ends will help prevent flattening around your hairline, or over-moisturizing an area that tends to self-moisturize (thanks, natural oils). Leave it on for 2-10 minutes, or 20 if you’re in need of extra hydration. Anything longer than that will likely be ineffective unless you’re using a special treatment that instructs otherwise. And just like your shampoo, rinse with lukewarm-to-cool water.


So here’s the frank truth: if your hair color isn’t your natural color (aka it’s been dyed), it’s eventually going to fade. But that’s okay! It doesn’t mean that you have to live by a strict coloring schedule or else your color is doomed. (That is unless, you have the flexible convenience of color sent to your door.) All it means is that, sometimes you have to find shortcuts to make your color last longer between applications. Our favorite route? Tint Rinse. This temporary color treatment was created to boost, tone, and add vibrancy to your color. Used after you shampoo and before you condition, you massage it throughout your hair, leave it on a couple minutes, and boom. Your color is revived just like that. We recommend you start using it 2-3 weeks after you’ve freshly colored your hair, cycling it into your routine every-other wash. We love using this option as a way to make your hair color last, so you don’t have to worry while you're waiting for your color.

With these five simple rules, your hair color will go the distance. Getting into the groove of a new cleanse and condition routine may initially take a beat—especially if you’re used to doing the opposite of all of these rules. We know it may seem like a lot at first, but with anything, practice makes perfect. So try incorporating one rule at a time, and monitor your color vibrancy as you go. We’ll bet that even if you incorporate only three of these five rules into your routine, you’ll notice your color remains vibrant weeks longer than before. So go forth and wash with the knowledge of a colorist, and enjoy radiant, long-lasting color. Happy washing!