When it comes to my hair dye, I’ve pretty much been a human-sized mood ring over the last five years. I’d grow bored and change shades every few months, from red to teal to purple until finally landing on my absolute fave—hot pink—last year. What can I say, the ROY G. BIV hair color spectrum is just the way I like to express myself. The only issue? Maintenance is a real pain in the butt. Temporary color runs off every time you shower, so your vibrant cyan can quickly fade into a sickly seafoam green within a few washes. Money down the drain, literally. Unfortunately if you want to keep your colors bright and deep, you need to reapply frequently.
Since I don’t dye my own hair, the whole thing gets a bit costly. Sure, I’m bold about hair color, but I’ve seen one too many do-it-yourself disaster bleach jobs and Manic Panic fails to know that I’m simply not skilled enough to double process my own hair. I’m willing to shell out some cash for professional salon coloring and peace of mind, and I’m fortunate to have the resources to devote to it. Except at the rate temporary color fades, I was shelling out more than I bargained for in touch-ups every four to six weeks. It was a real conundrum: How do I maintain the hair color I love without spending a fortune?
Turns out that necessity is in fact the mother of invention. My fear of growing salon bills and impending bankruptcy (okay, a tad dramatic, but you get the picture) inspired me to experiment with ways to extend the lifespan of my color. Over the years, I’ve had some hits and misses, but through trial and error, I’ve honed my strategies. Below, you’ll find my tried-and-true tips, confirmed by experts, for stretching bold temporary color to the limits.
1. After applying fresh color, wait at least 72 hours before shampooing.
The first time I dyed my hair teal, I made the rookie mistake of shampooing the very next day. My badass blue-green faded quicker than a celebrity engagement. Lesson learned. The next time, I waited a few days before the inaugural post-dye wash. My color seemed to lock in and last longer. It turns out there’s a reason for this. “It can take approximately 72 hours for the cuticle layer to close and trap in the hair dye,” says Y. Claire Chang, M.D., a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology. "If you wait a full 72 hours before washing, you will notice a significant difference in the longevity of your color,” adds hairstylist and salon owner Eva Scrivo. Now, I wait at least three days—sometimes a full week—before washing after a salon visit, giving my bright shade of Pink Palazzo (by Aloxxi) time to fully absorb.
2. Don’t wash your hair every day.
It’s common sense: If you lose color every time you wash your hair, wash it less often, lose less color. On average, I wash mine twice a week and opt for dry shampoo to soak up oils. However, sometimes there’s no substitute for dunking your head under a stream of rushing water. Between shampoo days, if I’m really itching to rinse my scalp, I’ll wash with a conditioner specifically formulated for color-treated hair since it’s gentler on color than shampoo. My fave is Pureology Hydrate Sheer Conditioner. It’s 100 percent vegan and silicone free. Bonus tip: In general, it’s best to avoid silicone-based products, which strip color-treated hair of its luster, says Scrivo.
3. Rinse your hair with cooler water.
In terms of water, temperature matters too. Superhot water can cause damage to the outer cuticle and make your hair more porous, says Dr. Chang. The result? Fresh hair color can easily escape through your wide-open pores. To avoid fading, I wash with cooler temperatures. This is my least favorite part of the process because I love the feeling of piping hot water cascading down my head. During the dead of winter, I shampoo and condition my hair with lukewarm water in the sink and then hop into a scorching hot shower wearing a shower cap. However, in the warmer months, a tepid rinse feels quite refreshing.
4. Try a color-depositing product.
To stretch time between salon visits, one of my tricks is using a color-depositing product. From root concealers like Rita Hazan’s Root Concealer Touch-Up Spray Temporary Gray Coverage to color-boosting conditioners like Overtone, there are lots of DIY, budget-friendly options for freshening up your hair's hue.
In my opinion, the holy grail of all color-depositing products is Viral Colorwash, a shampoo that not only extends your hair color’s vibrance, but also adds pigment. Mind. Goes. Boom. The first time I used this shampoo and witnessed my hair transform from faded pink to hot fuchsia, I literally did a happy dance. So, how does it work its magic? The shampoo contains dyes that brighten and intensify color with each wash. What’s more? If I really want to vivify my pink, I simply wash twice. Just wear rubber gloves when you shampoo; the dye is seriously saturated and will stain your hands a little. Even though the Viral formula is sulfate- and peroxide-free, I still find it to be a little drying, so I alternate washes with Colour Savour Sulfate-Free Shampoo by AG Hair.
5. Avoid heat styling.
I barely blow dry my hair, mostly because I’m lazy and it’s time consuming. However, when it comes to prolonging hair color, my idleness has its benefits. Similar to rinsing hair in hot water, “heat styling also opens the cuticle of the hair, allowing color to fade,” explains Scrivo. Turns out I’ve been protecting my Pink Palazzo all along without even knowing it. But, as Maya Angelou told Oprah, “when you know better, you do better.” Since I can’t avoid heat styling altogether (I’m a sucker for a good wand and a hair full of waves) I need to prep with a heat protectant product. I’m thinking about trying Tresemme’s Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Spray. It received four-plus star reviews from more than 400 Ulta shoppers, and at a budget-friendly $5.49, it won’t break the bank.
6. Minimize your hair’s exposure to sunlight.
You may love those adorable sun-kissed highlights you get every summer, but if you’re a fuchsia-haired freak like me, the sun is not your friend. Since I turned 30, I’ve become vampirish, avoiding the sun at all costs to maintain healthy skin. However, our hair isn’t immune to sun damage either. According to Dr. Chang, excessive sun exposure, including both UVA and UVB rays, can damage your hair’s proteins and degrade its pigment, leading to dryness and discoloration.
“Think about what typically happens to drapes and furniture left uncovered in a light-filled room,” says Scrivo. To prevent sunlight-related fading, I cover my head whenever I know I’ll be in the sun for an extended period. I’m all about big-brimmed hats at the beach and lightweight bandanas when I go jogging.
Right about now you might be thinking no sun and cold showers; this color maintenance business is all work and no fun. Temporary color certainly isn’t for the noncommittal, but if you follow these strategies, I promise that your color will stay as bright and badass as the day you stepped out of the salon.
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