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What shampoo causes hair color to fade?

Hair color fading can be frustrating, as you’ve likely spent time and money to achieve your desired shade. The good news is that you can minimize color fading by being mindful of which shampoos you use. Certain ingredients, as well as over-washing, can contribute to your vibrant hue washing down the drain. Read on to learn what to avoid and how to keep your color looking freshly done.

When you color your hair, you’re depositing pigment within the hair shaft. How long this color lasts depends on multiple factors:

  • The type of hair dye used – Permanent colors with developers tend to have longer staying power than semi-permanent or temporary colors.
  • Your hair type and texture – More porous and damaged hair often fades faster.
  • Frequency of washing – Too much shampooing can strip color.
  • Exposure to sun and heat styling – This can cause fading.
  • Products used – Harsh shampoos and improper aftercare affect color.

While some fading over time is inevitable, the proper shampoo and haircare routine can help maximize the vibrancy and longevity of your shade.

How Shampoos Impact Hair Color

To understand why some shampoos cause faster fading than others, it helps to know what’s inside them. Here are some of the key ingredients and properties to look for or avoid:


Sulfate-based surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) are commonly found in shampoos. They create a lather and deeply cleanse by removing oil and buildup. However, these harsh cleansers can also strip color by opening the cuticle and allowing pigment to escape. Limiting sulfates is recommended to preserve hair color.

Clarifying Shampoos

Clarifying shampoos are designed to deeply clean and remove product residue, hard water minerals, and other impurities. While these can be helpful occasionally, frequent clarifying can cause rapid fading by stripping color molecules. It’s best to limit clarifying shampoos to once a week or every other week.

Anti-Dandruff Shampoos

Medicated anti-dandruff shampoos often contain ingredients like zinc pyrithione, selenium sulfide, and ketoconazole. These help treat dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis by controlling fungal growth and reducing inflammation. However, they can be drying and harsh on color-treated hair when used too often. Use only as needed and alternate with a more nourishing shampoo.

Natural/Botanical Ingredients

Many consumers seek out natural and botanically-derived shampoos. However, some ingredients like lemon, vinegar, and citrus extracts can lighten hair. Always check labels for any botanicals that may affect color, especially blondes and grays. Focus instead on gentle, sulfate-free formulas.

Ingredients That Help Preserve Hair Color

While you want to avoid drying sulfates and clarifying ingredients, some shampoo components can actually help keep color looking vibrant:

UV Filters

UV filters like benzophenone-4 help protect hair from fading by screening out color-damaging rays from the sun. This is especially useful for keeping blondes and reds brighter.

Vegetable Oils and Butters

Plant-derived oils like argan, coconut, and avocado, along with butters like shea and cocoa, nourish and protect the cuticle. This seals in color and prevents fading by limiting water penetration into the shaft.


Keratin proteins reinforce weakened areas of the hair strands. By rebuilding damage, keratin allows better retention of color within the cuticle.

Polyquaternium and Behentrimonium Compounds

These conditioning agents smooth and seal the cuticle. This provides added protection against color molecules escaping from within the hair shaft.

Ingredients to Help Minimize Color Fading
Ingredient Type Examples Benefits
UV Filters Benzophenone-4 Absorbs UV rays to protect color
Natural Oils and Butters Argan, coconut, shea Seal cuticle to lock in color
Keratin Hydrolyzed keratin Repairs damage and seals cuticle
Conditioning Agents Polyquaternium, behentrimonium Smooth cuticle for added color protection

Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid for Color Protection

On the other hand, here are some red flag ingredients that can cause hair color to fade faster:

Shampoo Ingredients That Can Cause Fading
Ingredient Type Examples Potential Effects on Color
Sulfates SLS, SLES Strips color by opening cuticle
Clarifiers Baking soda, citric acid Removes buildup but also color molecules
Anti-Dandruff Agents Zinc pyrithione, ketoconazole Helpful for dandruff but very drying to color
Botanical Ingredients Lemon, vinegar, citrus extracts Can lighten and dry out hair over time

Tips to Make Hair Color Last

In addition to avoiding the shampoo ingredients above, here are some extra tips to help your hair color stay fresh and long-lasting:

  • Wash less frequently – Cleansing less often means less opportunity for color to wash away. Try for every 2-3 days instead of daily.
  • Use cool water – Hot water opens the cuticle causing color to escape. Rinse with cooler temps.
  • alternate with dry shampoo – Let a dry shampoo absorb oil between washes to refresh hair and extend time between lathering up.
  • Rinse with a vinegar blend – Rinsing with a mix of 1 cup water plus 1-2 tablespoons vinegar seals the cuticle.
  • Limit heat styling – Excessive heat from blow drying, curling, straightening and more can fade color.
  • Protect from sun – Wear a hat outside and use sprays with UV filters to prevent fading from sunlight exposure.

Shampoo Brand Recommendations

Based on all we’ve discussed, here are some top-rated shampoo brands and products recommended for protecting hair color:


– Pureology shampoos are sulfate-free and made for color-treated hair.

– Lines like Color Fanatic Multitasking Hair Beautifier help prevent fading with antioxidants.


– Natural, sulfate-free formulas like OI All in One Milk minimize color stripping.

– Contains roucou oil to nourish hair and provide UV protection.


– Redken’s Color Extend Magnetics lines are gentle cleansers that help hair retain vivid color.

– Key ingredients like protein, ceramide, and gluconate strengthen and smooth the cuticle.

Celeb Luxury

– The Viral Colorwash is a popular sulfate-free color-care shampoo.

– Uses ingredients like collagen, keratin, and caviar extract to seal in shine and color.


– Olaplex’s No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo contains the brand’s patented bond-building technology.

– It rebuilds hair damaged by color processing to better hold onto dye molecules.


Preserving your hair color requires being mindful of your shampoo ingredients. Look for hydrating oils and antioxidants while avoiding clarifying agents and sulfates. Washing less frequently, using cooler water, and limiting heat styling also help maintain color vibrancy and minimize fading. With the right shampoo and routine, you can keep your hair looking freshly colored and luminous.