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How do I know if my shampoo is color safe?

When you color treat your hair, maintaining that new hue is an important consideration. Using the wrong shampoo can cause your color to fade quickly. So how do you know if your shampoo is safe for colored hair? Here are some tips.

Check the Label

Start by looking at the shampoo bottle label. Look for key phrases like “color safe,” “color preserving,” or “for color-treated hair.” These are good indications that the shampoo is designed to be gentle on hair color.

You may also see mention of “sulfate-free” on the label. Sulfates are cleaning agents that can be harsh on hair color. Avoiding sulfates helps prevent stripping of color.

Avoid Clarifying Shampoos

Clarifying shampoos are designed to deeply cleanse hair and remove product buildup. However, they are too strong for color-treated locks as they can cause rapid fading. Stay away from clarifying shampoos unless you are trying to intentionally strip out hair color.

Look for Moisturizing Ingredients

Moisture is key for maintaining vivid, shiny color. Look for hydrating ingredients like oils, butters, aloe vera, and panthenol on the ingredient list. These will condition and protect colored hair.

Ask Your Stylist

Your hair stylist is a great resource for figuring out if a shampoo is color safe or not. They are familiar with your specific hair type and color treatment. Describe the shampoo you are considering and ask if they recommend it. Stylists may also carry professional color-safe shampoos you can purchase.

Do a Patch Test

If you are unsure about a new shampoo, do a patch test before using it all over your colored hair. Wash a small hidden section of hair near the nape of your neck. Let it dry, then examine the area for any detectable color fading. If everything looks fine, the shampoo should be okay to use.

Observe How Your Hair Looks and Feels

Pay attention to how your colored hair looks and feels when using a new shampoo. Signs that the shampoo is not color safe include:

  • Hair color looking faded, dull, or brassy
  • Split ends or breakage
  • Hair feeling dry or straw-like
  • Increased tangles and frizziness

If you notice these changes after switching shampoos, go back to your previous color-safe formula.

Use a Color Depositing Shampoo

To help offset any potential color loss from shampoos that aren’t 100% safe, use a color depositing shampoo weekly. These contain a small amount of semi-permanent hair dye to freshen up your hue.

Rinse With Cool Water

No matter what shampoo you use, rinsing with cool water instead of hot helps preserve your color. Hot water opens the hair cuticle, allowing more color to wash down the drain. Cool water keeps cuticles sealed tight.

Shampoo Less Frequently

Over-shampooing can fade color quickly. Limit washes to every other day or a few times per week if you can. Use a good dry shampoo between washes to keep hair fresh.

Get a Salon Gloss Treatment

If you notice your color looking dull between salon appointments, ask your stylist for a gloss or glaze treatment. This deposits semi-permanent color to refresh fading tones and add shine.


Maintaining beautiful, vibrant hair color requires being selective about which shampoos you use. Always check the label for phrases like “color safe” and look for moisturizing ingredients. Avoid clarifying shampoos, watch for signs of fading, and supplement with a color depositing shampoo. Ask your stylist if you aren’t sure about a product. With some care, you can keep your color looking its best.

Common Questions

Why do some shampoos cause color to fade faster?

Some shampoos contain ingredients like sulfates and salts that can strip color from hair more quickly. Clarifying shampoos are designed to deeply cleanse which also removes color molecules. Using hot water and shampooing too frequently also accelerates fading.

Which ingredient should I look for in a color safe shampoo?

Amino acids like arginine help protect hair color and provide moisture. Look for these, along with oils and butters to condition and seal the cuticle. Opt for sulfate-free shampoos as well.

How often should I use a color depositing shampoo?

Using a color depositing shampoo once a week is ideal for keeping vivid tones refreshed between salon visits. You can also alternate using it with your regular color-safe shampoo.

What should I do if my hair color fades right after one wash?

If your color fades significantly after just one wash, the shampoo is too harsh and stripping. Discontinue use immediately. Seek out a more gentle, sulfate-free formula for colored hair. Also, limit washing to 2-3 times per week.

Is there a difference between drugstore and salon color-safe shampoos?

Salon shampoos designed for color-treated hair are usually higher quality and more effective than drugstore varieties. However, there are some good drugstore options available too. Look for targeted formulas from color-safe brands.

Tips for Maximizing Color Vibrancy

  • Use cool or lukewarm water instead of hot when washing hair
  • Rinse with a blast of cold water at the end of your shower
  • Shampoo less frequently – aim for every 2-3 days
  • Apply shampoo to roots only and use conditioner on ends
  • Blot wet hair with a towel instead of rubbing
  • Let hair air dry instead of using hot tools
  • Touch up roots regularly to avoid banding as grow-out occurs
  • Use a leave-in conditioner after every wash
  • Wear a shower cap when swimming to protect color

Ingredients to Avoid

Watch out for these harsh ingredients that can lead to faster color fading:

  • Sulfates (sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate)
  • Salts and minerals
  • Clarifying agents
  • Artificial fragrances and dyes
  • Alcohol/ethanol
  • Parabens

Recommended Color Safe Brands

Brand Top Products
Redken Color Extend Magnetics, Color Extend Graydiant
Pureology Color Fanatic, Strength Cure
MATRIX Keep Me Vivid, Brass Off
Joico Color Balance Purple, Color Endure Violet
Moroccanoil Color Depositing Mask
Kerastase Color Vive Mask, Blond Absolu Mask
Olaplex No.4 and 5 Shampoo & Conditioner

These professional haircare brands offer sulfate-free formulas that cleanse gently while depositing pigments to keep color looking vibrant and fresh.

DIY Color Depositing Treatment

Make your own weekly color gloss treatment at home:

  • Mix a tablespoon of semi-permanent hair dye in your color with conditioner
  • Apply thoroughly to wet hair after shampooing
  • Let sit for 5-10 minutes
  • Rinse and style as usual

This helps seal in moisture and refresh faded tones. Adjust the dye-to-conditioner ratio as needed to achieve desired vibrancy.

When to See a Stylist

Schedule a salon visit if you notice any of the following:

  • Roots coming in 1/2 inch or more
  • Banding or demarcation between root growth and ends
  • Color looking brassy or uneven
  • Highlights growing out
  • Unable to tone down brassiness at home
  • Regrowth reaching more than 2 inches
  • Color has faded significantly
  • Change of color or technique desired

Your colorist can refresh your hue with a gloss, toner, all-over color, highlights, balayage, root smudge, or redo. Don’t wait too long between appointments!

How Temperature Affects Hair Color

Hot water, heating tools, and exposure to sunlight can all cause your hair color to fade faster. Here’s a look at how temperature impacts your shade:

Hot Water Opens cuticle, allowing color molecules to wash away
Heating Tools Breaks down color molecules with prolonged direct heat
Sun Exposure UV rays oxidize and degrade hair color pigments

To limit fading from heat, opt for cooler water temperatures, let hair air dry, and use heat protecting products when hot tool styling is a must.


Keeping your hair color vibrant in between salon visits is all about being choosy with your shampoo. Opt for a formula made specifically for color-treated hair and avoid ones with harsh sulfates or clarifying agents. Do a strand test when unsure about a new product. Supplement your washing with a weekly color-depositing treatment. And don’t wait too long before seeing your stylist for a refresh! With some diligence, you can maintain salon-worthy hair color at home.