Skip to Content

What ingredients should be avoided in color-safe shampoo?

When you color your hair, you want the color to last as long as possible. Fading color is a common problem many people face, leading them to re-color their hair more often than they would like. Using a color-safe shampoo can help lock in hair color and prevent fading. But not all “color-safe” shampoos are truly safe for color-treated hair. There are certain ingredients that should be avoided to keep your hair color vibrant.

Why does hair color fade?

Before getting into specific ingredients to avoid, it’s helpful to understand why hair color fades in the first place. There are a few key reasons:

  • Water – Each time you wash your hair, the water causes the cuticle (outer layer) of the hair to swell and the color molecules to wash out.
  • Shampoo – Most shampoos are alkaline (have a high pH). This causes the cuticle to open even further, leading to more color loss.
  • Heat styling – Using hot tools like blow dryers and straighteners causes oxidation, which can break down hair color.
  • Sun exposure – The UV rays from the sun damage hair and speed up fading.
  • Chlorine – Swimming in pools removes color from hair.

With each wash, a bit of color fades from the hair. That’s why it’s important to use a gentler, color-safe shampoo.

Ingredients that cause color fading

Now let’s get into the specific ingredients found in some shampoos that you’ll want to avoid if you color your hair:

1. Sulfates

Sulfates are cleansing agents that create a lather and deep clean. Two common sulfates used in shampoos are:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – This harsh cleanser strips away oils from the hair and fades color.
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) – A milder version of SLS that is still too harsh for color-treated hair.

Instead, look for sulfate-free shampoos that use gentler cleansers like cocamidopropyl betaine.

2. Alcohol

Ingredients like ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, and benzyl alcohol have a drying effect and cause color to fade faster. They should be avoided in color-safe shampoos.

3. Parabens

Parabens like methylparaben and propylparaben are preservatives commonly found in shampoos. They can strip color from hair.

4. Fragrance

Added fragrances from perfumes and essential oils also speed up color fading. Opt for fragrance-free shampoos.

5. Salt

Some shampoos contain sodium chloride (simple table salt). Salt causes the cuticle to swell, allowing color molecules to escape.

Ingredients that help keep color vibrant

Now that we’ve covered what to avoid, here are some ingredients that actively help keep hair color locked in and looking vibrant:

1. UV Filters

Ingredients like benzophenone-4 provide protection from UV rays to prevent fading from sun exposure.

2. Keratin

Keratin proteins reinforce the hair cuticle and increase color retention.

3. Jojoba Oil

Natural oils like jojoba add moisture to counteract the drying effects of coloring. The oils make hair cuticles lie flat to seal in color.

4. Honey

Honey is a humectant that attracts and seals in moisture to prevent dryness and color fading.

5. Natural Botanical Extracts

Plant-based extracts like chamomile, calendula, and marigold have antioxidants that preserve hair color.

Tips for using color-safe shampoo

Once you’ve selected a good color-safe shampoo free of harmful ingredients, be sure to follow these tips to get the most out of it:

  • Shampoo less often – Only lather up 2-3 times per week to limit color stripping.
  • Use cool water – Hot water opens up the cuticle causing color to fade faster.
  • Rinse thoroughly – Remove all traces of shampoo to avoid residue depositing on hair.
  • Follow with conditioner – Conditioning creates a protective seal over hair strands.
  • Limit heat styling – Allow hair to air dry when possible and use heat protecting sprays.
  • Deep condition weekly – Use a hydrating masque to replenish moisture and smooth the cuticle.

The best color-safe shampoos

Here are some top-rated color-safe shampoos to consider:

Brand Product Key Features
Pureology Color Fanatic Multi-Tasking Hair Beautifier 100% vegan and cruelty-free, formulated for color-treated hair, uses antioxidants to protect color
Olaplex No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo Repairs bonds in hair to prevent breakage and fading, sulfate-free
Briogeo Color Me Brilliant Mushroom + Bamboo Color Protect Shampoo Contains UV inhibitors, free of sulfates and parabens
Redken Color Extend Magnetics Sulfate-Free Shampoo Amino-ion complex helps seal in color, safe for color-treated hair
Matrix Total Results So Silver Color Depositing Purple Shampoo Purple pigment neutralizes brassy yellow tones in blonde and gray hair
L’anza Color Protecting Shampoo Keratin and extracts strengthen hair to prevent fading

DIY color-safe shampoo

You can also make your own natural color-safe shampoo at home with just a few ingredients:

  • Uncolored shampoo – Start with a base of sulfate-free shampoo.
  • Avocado oil – Nourishes hair and prevents the cuticle from opening.
  • Honey – Seals in moisture and creates a protective barrier.
  • Lemongrass essential oil – Has antioxidants that lock in hair color.
  • Rosemary extract – Another antioxidant that stabilizes hair pigment.

Combine a few tablespoons of avocado oil, 1 teaspoon of honey, and 5-10 drops of essential oils into 8 oz of base shampoo. Shake well before each use. Store in an airtight container.


When looking for a color-safe shampoo, steer clear of formulas containing sulfates, alcohol, parabens, fragrance, and salt. Seek out shampoos with gentler cleansers along with ingredients like keratin, oils, and antioxidants that lock in color. Follow some simple hair care practices like shampooing less often, using cooler water, and limiting heat styling. With the right color-safe shampoo and habits, you can keep your hair color vibrant and lasting longer.