4 Tips to Make Hair Color Last Longer

We all know our hair is an investment. We invest our time, money, and efforts into making our hair look and feel great. One of our biggest investments in our hair is typically some sort of chemical treatment such as hair coloring. Since we spend so much of our hard earned money on a beautiful and professional hair color service, we want to get the most bang for our buck. I want to share four tips with you to prevent color fade and promote color longevity!

Before I dive into the things you can do at home to set yourself up for long lasting color, first I must explain some of the science behind how hair color works.

Our hair strand is like a pinecone. Each strand's cuticle, or outermost layer, has 'scales' that open and close much like those on a pinecone. When the cuticle is tightly closed, the hair is usually classified as healthy, non-porous, and undamaged. This type of hair usually looks shiny since all of the scales are laying down and snugly compacted together. However, it is also more difficult for color molecules to penetrate into a tightly closed cuticle. This is why we as stylists mix a 'developer' into your color formula to open up the cuticle to allow the color to absorb inside the hair shaft.

When the cuticle is open, it is more susceptible for certain molecules to get in or out - which can be a good thing or a bad thing. It can be a good thing when we are doing a deep conditioning treatment and trying to pack that hair strand with protein and moisture. It can be a bad thing when we are trying to get hair color molecules to stay in the hair strand. Some specific artificial hair colors have different sized molecules making those colors more prone to color fade. Ever notice red hair color fades the fastest? That's because red color molecules are one of the largest color molecules there are. Fortunately, there are things you can do following your color service to ensure the cuticle is closed down and that it stays that way.

Tip #1: Wash in cool water.

Has your stylist ever rinsed your color out with cool water? Or told you to do a cool water rinse at home when rinsing your conditioner out? That's because heat opens the cuticle, and cool water is a great way to close it. Washing and rinsing your hair in hot or even warm water is an invitation for your color to take a hike. I know it's not the most comfortable way to end your shower, but it will make a huge difference in how long your color lasts. Here's a bonus tip: don't wash your hair every day. I could write a whole other blog post about that concept, but I'll save that for another day.

Tip #2: Use a thermal protectant.

I highly recommend applying a thermal protectant to the hair before any heat styling because just like with warm water, heat from our hot tools also opens the cuticle and promotes color fade. This includes heat from our blowdryers, flat irons, curling irons, etc. Some styling products have thermal protectant properties built into them in addition to their other purposes, and others are specifically just for thermal protection. I recommend using one that will protect the hair up to 400 degrees F or higher. Often times they come in the form of a spray or serum that you apply to the hair when damp, just before you would blow dry (or air dry if you're planning on using hot tools later). Other types of thermal protectants are designed to be applied on dry hair just before you would use hot tools. Either type work great, some people use both types but if you have a good one, you really only need to use one type or the other.

Tip #3: Use a sulfate-free shampoo.

Sulfates are what make our shampoos foam and lather. They are not necessary to the cleanliness of our hair but can make it easier to distribute the shampoo throughout the hair. There are plenty of sulfate-free shampoos out there that still lather but do not wreak havoc on our hair like shampoos containing sulfates do. Sulfates actually strip the hair of the natural oils and moisture that it needs, but they can also open the cuticle and strip your color as well. I recommend using a shampoo that was designed for color-treated hair or that is color safe and without sulfates. How do you know if your shampoo contains sulfates or not? Usually it will say somewhere on the bottle "sulfate-free" or you can always look at the ingredients on the back to see if any types of sulfates are listed.

Tip #4: Protect your hair from the sun.

Living in Wisconsin this is probably one of the last things on our mind when we get to be out in the sun. But just as we need to protect our skin, we should also be protecting our hair. The sun does the same damage to our hair as bleaching it does, so that means it's literally lifting the color right out. I advise my clients to wear a hat when out in the sun or at the very least put it up in a bun if possible. Any attempt at covering your hair from the sun will make your color last longer. Also, since the sun's rays are mimicked in tanning beds, wrap your hair up in a towel if you like to indoor tan.

The aftercare of a color service is so important and how we treat our hair in between salon visits makes such a difference in the health and integrity of our hair.I hope these four tips help to make your color last longer and to help you get the most out of your color services!

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