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When should you wash color-treated hair?


Washing color-treated hair requires more care and attention than washing regular hair. The frequency with which you should wash depends on your hair type, the coloring process used, and the products you use. Washing too often can cause color to fade quickly, while washing too infrequently can lead to scalp buildup and damage. Finding the right balance is key to keeping color looking vibrant between salon visits.

How often should you wash color-treated hair?

Most experts recommend washing color-treated hair no more than 2-3 times per week. Washing less frequently helps keep the cuticle closed and color locked in. Here are general guidelines based on hair type:

Hair Type Washes Per Week
Fine or thinning hair 2-3 times
Medium or thick hair 2 times
Dry, coarse, or very curly hair 1-2 times

Washing too often, like daily, can cause color to fade quickly. Color molecules enter damaged areas of the hair shaft during processing. Frequent washing causes the cuticle to open and close, allowing color to escape. Proper cleansing helps lock in color.

Should you wash hair differently after a color service?

Yes, it’s important to wait 24-48 hours before washing newly colored hair. This gives the color time to fully develop and oxidize. After a salon color service, your stylist applies a glaze or toner that requires time to set the shade. Washing too soon can cause this layer to rinse away unevenly.

The first 1-2 washes after coloring are critical. Use a sulfate-free, color-safe shampoo and lukewarm water to help seal in color. Avoid applying shampoo directly on the roots. Instead, lather up hands first then apply to hair ends and work up. Rinse thoroughly and use a color-protecting conditioner.

How does hair type impact washing needs?

– Fine or thin hair: prone to color fading faster. Limit washing to 2-3 times per week max. Use a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo and cold water.

– Medium or thick hair: can go longer between washes, about 2 times per week. Use a moisturizing shampoo and lukewarm water.

– Dry or curly hair: needs more moisture. Use a hydrating, sulfate-free formula and wash 1-2 times per week. Avoid overwashing.

– Coarse or thick hair: prone to buildup. Use a clarifying shampoo once a week and conditioned regularly. Wash 1-2 times per week.

– Chemically treated: avoid sulfates. Use a gentle, hydrating shampoo for color-treated hair. Wash 2-3 times weekly.

– Product buildup: use a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo once a month to remove residue without stripping color.

What factors affect the washing needs of color-treated hair?

How often you should wash color-treated hair depends on:

Hair condition – Dry, damaged hair needs less frequent washing to retain moisture and color. Smooth, healthy hair can be washed more often.

Coloring process – Temporary, semi-permanent, demi-permanent, and permanent dyes have different levels of color deposited inside the hair shaft. Permanent color requires less frequent washing.

Your color shade – Warm shades like reds, coppers, and browns may bleed more when washing compared to cooler shades like blondes. Limit washing to help deeper warm tones last.

Chemical services – Bleaching, relaxing, perming, or straightening hair can impact the cuticle layer and color retention. Follow your stylist’s advice on washing after chemical services.

Scalp sensitivity – Some need to wash more frequently due to a sensitive or oily scalp. Use a gentle shampoo and focus washing on the scalp area specifically.

Styling products – Lots of product use can lead to buildup. Adjust washing frequency and use a clarifying shampoo to remove residue.

What are the consequences of over-washing color-treated hair?

Washing colored hair too often has several downsides:

– Color fades more quickly from the increased wash friction and water exposure. Warm water also opens the cuticle causing color to escape.

– Hair loses moisture, elasticity, and shine from frequent surfactant and water contact. This can increase frizz and breakage.

– The scalp may become imbalanced, leading to more oil production and color buildup near the roots.

– Permanent hair color oxidation is disrupted, preventing the color from fully developing and locking into the hair shaft.

– Toner washes out more quickly, resulting in off shades or brassiness between salon visits.

– Chemical services like perms, relaxers, or straightening treatments may have reduced longevity.

What problems can infrequent washing cause?

While too much washing causes color to fade, not washing enough leads to other problems:

– Product buildup can make hair dull, dry, and limp.

– Oils, dirt, and dead skin cells clog follicles and irritate the scalp. This can increase dandruff.

– Hair feels weighed down, greasy, and dirty. Roots appear oilier and darker than ends.

– Chemical treatments and perms may not take as effectively through built-up layers.

– Hair is more prone to breakage and shedding from accumulated residue relaxing and coating the cuticle.

– Increased color bleeding near the scalp over time as oils lift color pigments.

How to maximize time between washes

You can safely extend time between washing colored hair with a few pro tips:

– Use dry shampoo at the roots to absorb oil and refresh hair a day or two after washing. Be sure to brush thoroughly and evenly distribute.

– Swap out heavy styling products with lightweight serums, creams, or foams that won’t quickly build up on hair.

– Remove some residue and boost shine between washes with an apple cider vinegar scalp rinse. Dilute 1 part vinegar with 1-2 parts water and apply to the scalp. Leave on 1-2 minutes before rinsing clean. The acidity helps balance pH.

– Switch to a boar bristle brush which distributes scalp oils down the hair shaft for a cleaner look between washes.

– Tie hair up more between washes to prevent overhandling. Braids, buns, and ponytails conceal oil and help hair last longer.

– Use dry shampoo at the roots to absorb oil and refresh hair a day or two after washing. Be sure to brush thoroughly and evenly distribute.

How to wash for maximized color retention

To keep color vibrant between salon visits, follow these tips when washing:

– Use cooler water instead of hot, which opens the cuticle causing color to escape. Lukewarm is preferred.

– Opt for a sulfate-free, color-safe shampoo with antioxidants or UV filters that help color last. Avoid regular shampoos which can strip color faster.

– Apply shampoo to hands first then work through ends and up to roots to prevent direct contact with the most porous areas. Concentrate shampoo mostly on the scalp.

– Rinse hair thoroughly with cool water to close the cuticle and seal in color. Any remaining shampoo can cause color to fade.

– Limit washing to every other day for permanent color or 2-3 times per week for semi-permanent shades. Time between washes allows color to stabilize.

– Use a deep conditioning mask weekly to protect and rehydrate color-treated strands. Avoid applying conditioner at the roots which can lead to dark regrowth.

– Blot wet hair gently with a towel. Rubbing while wet can loosen color and promote fading.

– Let hair air dry whenever possible instead of hot tools that can dehydrate and damage the cuticle.

Best shampoos and conditioners for color-treated hair

Look for formulas that will clean without stripping away color. Here are the best color-safe shampoos and conditioners:


– Redken Color Extend Shampoo – sulfate-free specifically for color-treated hair

– Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Shampoo – contains antioxidants and UV filters

– Living Proof No Fade Shampoo – seals cuticle to lock in color

– Bumble and Bumble Color Minded Shampoo – gentle sulfate-free cleansing

– Olaplex No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo – repairs bonds to protect color


– Olaplex No.5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner – rebuilds bonds to prevent fading

– Redken Color Extend Conditioner – nourishing, helps color last

– Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Conditioner – hydrating with antioxidants

– Living Proof No Fade Conditioner – seals cuticle for long-lasting color

– DevaCurl One Condition – hydrating and color-safe for curly hair

Chemical services require special washing considerations

If you’ve had a chemical service like highlights, lowlights, permanent color, relaxing, or texturizing, follow these tips when washing:

– Wait at least 24-48 hours before washing newly chemically treated hair. This allows the cuticle to close and color to set.

– When washing for the first time after chemical services, use cool water and a gentle, sulfate-free shampoo. Concentrate lather mostly on the roots instead of lengths.

– Rinse thoroughly with cool water and follow up with a hydrating conditioner, avoiding the scalp.

– Extend time between washes to 4-5 days for the first 1-2 weeks after chemical services. This helps color fully oxidize and set.

– Avoid heat styling during the first week post-chemical service. Air dry and use protective styling.

– Use a deep conditioner or bond-building treatment once a week for up to a month post-chemical service to help reconstruct and seal the cuticle.

– Adjust regular use of clarifying shampoos to only once every 2-3 weeks if needed to avoid overly stripping hair.

– Consult your stylist on when to resume normal washing, heat styling, and chemical treatment schedules. Improper aftercare can diminish results.

How to wash if exercising frequently

Working out raises body temperature and circulation, increasing sweat and oil production on the scalp. Here are tips for washing after fitness:

– After intense workouts, use a clarifying shampoo to remove sweat residue without stripping color. Follow with a hydrating rinse-out conditioner avoiding the scalp.

– If unable to wash hair post-workout, use dry shampoo at the roots to soak up excess oils and sweat until you can shampoo.

– When washing post-workout, use cool water to rinse out shampoo and conditioner. Heat from warm water opens the cuticle causing increased color fade.

– Pull hair back into a ponytail or braid during exercise when possible to avoid friction and rubbing that can loosen color.

– After outdoor sports or activities, shampoo and condition hair promptly once indoors to remove pollutants that can diminish color over time.

– Reduce regular shampooing to 2-3 times per week to accommodate an extra wash day after heavy activity or workouts.

– Adjust your exercise schedule so heavy cardio and training days don’t fall on the same days you need to shampoo hair. Space workout and wash days apart when possible.


To keep color looking vibrant in between salon visits, incorporate color-safe washing habits according to your hair’s needs. Limit regular shampooing to 1-3 times weekly for most color-treated hair, using a sulfate-free formula. Wait at least 24-48 hours before the first post-color wash. Rinse thoroughly with cool water and use a hydrating conditioner on mid-lengths to ends. Adjust frequency to accommodatestyling products, chemical services, and exercise schedules. With a customized washing regimen, you can help maximize the longevity and shine of your hair color.