Ask An Expert: Should I Wash My Hair Before I Color It?

All Your Hair Questions, Answered

Ask An Expert: Should I Wash My Hair Before I Color It?

31 August 2018
should i wash my hair before coloring
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Emily Arata

Senior Editor, Hair.com

As an employee of L’Oréal, Emily works with celebrity stylists to make finding the right cut, color, or style easier than ever before. She's previously written for Allure, Elite Daily, and First We Feast.

For first-timers, salon hair color can seem like something of an insider’s club. All those fancy foils, rinses, dyes, and hood dryers make it look like stylists are doing incredibly complicated science right there on your scalp. In some ways, they are!

There’s a favorite old wives' tale that you shouldn’t wash your hair before coloring it. Is there any truth to the tip? Should you wash your hair before you color it?

According to Katie Collette, L’Oréal Professionnel artist, you don’t always need to wash your hair before you color it. It depends on the condition of your hair and the color you’ve chosen.

Ready to get the scoop on how shampoo and color services play together? Keep reading.

Why does shampoo matter before a hair color appointment?

The idea behind avoiding shampoo before an appointment is that oils will build up, helping to protect your scalp from irritation. That’s only partly true.

If you’re headed in for a root touch-up or wondering how to fix brassy brown hair, whether or not you wash your hair is typically no issue. When it comes to color-depositing or toning shampoos, however, Collette warns they could impact your ultimate salon color.

If you’ve been using a violet-based shampoo or conditioner to prevent unwanted warmth, holding off on this for a few applications prior to give the most accurate read of your current highlights.

Katie Collette

For those with cotton candy or very light shades, know that dirty hair can appear a shade or two darker than it really is. Since stylists generally recommend washing less to best protect a fragile color, your hair may need a scrubbing before your appointment. Your stylist will want to see clean hair to get the best read on what your hair needs.

The same mindset applies when you arrive at the salon for newly dark color, too.

“Anytime you are wanting to deepen your color or add lowlights, clean hair offers the most accurate read of your natural color. This will allow your colorist the best match when determining the level of depth for your service.”

As an added note, Collette cautions against arriving with at your color appointment with hair wet from the shower.

“Dry hair is always preferred versus wet hair! Many professional hair color brands must be applied to dry hair to guarantee a predictable outcome,” she says.

Besides, why skip the professional scalp massage? Enjoy it while you’re at the salon.

Should you wash your hair before coloring it?

As with all hair questions, you have to start with your end goal. If your dream hair includes very light blonde or fantasy hair color that requires bleach, you may want to skip a wash before your salon appointment.

Collette says bleach shouldn’t irritate your scalp, but it doesn’t hurt to let oil build up for a day or two.

“With correct preventive measures scalp irritation isn’t an issue, but I recommend waiting a couple of days without washing to help nourish your scalp with your natural oils,” she explains.

Notably, whether or not you wash won’t really have an effect on hair that’s being lightened. The chemical formulas will create the same result, regardless of how clean or oily your mane starts out.

What if you experience irritation or damage anyway?

If you’ve had a consultation and gone to a trusted stylist, your color service should go off without a hitch. On the off-chance you’re not happy with the way your hair looks or feels, be honest about it right away. If it’s a color issue, he or she may be able to make minor adjustments that bring your color closer to what you envisioned.

Collette recommends an in-salon treatment as a final step for her clients.

“I love to finish my color services with a L’Oréal Professionnel Serie Expert Vitamino A-OX Powermix. This in-salon treatment is customized for each client’s unique hair needs,” she says.

Interested in customized advice about your color service? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you.

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