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

should i wash my hair before coloring

If you’ve ever lightened your hair, you probably know how much upkeep goes into keeping your hue fresh and vibrant. I touch-up my blonde, color-treated hair frequently (about once every two months, on average), and every time I prepare to see my colorist again, I make sure my strands are at least two days post-wash. While I’ve never minded skipping a few shampoo sessions and loading up on dry shampoo, as I've always thought that it was better for the sake of my salon color, I began to wonder: Should I wash my hair before color?

If you’re wondering whether it's best to forgo shampoo before your next appointment or head to the salon with squeaky clean strands, you’re in luck. We spoke with Katie Collette, L’Oréal Professionnel artist and colorist, to get to the bottom of the debate once and for all. Keep reading for everything you need to know.

True Or False: You can dye your hair whether it’s clean or dirty

True. If you’ve ever wondered “should I wash my hair before I dye it,” unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer: Whether or not you’re better off going to the salon with dirty hair actually depends on the condition of your hair and the color you’ve chosen to dye it. Skipping a wash or two allows natural oils (aka “grease”) to build up on your scalp. These oils can, in theory, help to protect the scalp against irritation caused by the dye. While this is generally true, the color you're getting makes a big difference in whether or not your hair should be freshly washed.

Photo Credit: @fouronethree_salon.

True Or False: Hair color matters

True. When you’re deciding whether or not you should show up for your appointment with freshly washed hair, consider your chosen color service. While heading to the salon with oily strands wouldn’t really make a difference for a root touch up, if you’re using a shampoo that has color-depositing or toning benefits, Collette warns that these formulas can actually impact your overall results and color.

For lighter-colored locks, the oils in dirty hair can actually make your hair look a shade or two darker than it truly is, especially if your strands are naturally a lighter shade. While stylists generally recommend skipping a few washes a week to achieve healthier hair, you might need to scrub it prior to your colorist appointment so your stylist can get an accurate look at your hair’s natural color and texture.

The same applies for darker tones.

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

Photo Credit: @leo.valencia.

True Or False: It’s best to skip a wash or two prior to bleaching

True. Know what your desired color entails, and prepare accordingly.For light blonde or fantasy colors that require a decent amount of bleaching, you can skip a wash or two before hitting the salon.

While Collette says bleach *shouldn’t* irritate your scalp, it won’t hurt to let oil build up for a day or two to add an extra layer of protection between your scalp and the bleach.

“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.

Keep in mind that color-wise, the end result should be the same whether you’re going to the salon with freshly-washed hair or with dirty hair. AKA, you can still color your greasy locks if you’re going lighter.

True Or False: It’s best to show up to your appointment with wet hair

False. Most permanent hair color formulas need to be applied to dry hair, and having to dry your hair at the start of the appointment can result in wasted time and even extra fees. Whether you choose to wash your hair prior to your appointment or arrive with second-day strands, make sure your hair is dry before arriving at the salon.


True Or False: You should take a break from shampoo after your appointment

True. Whether you've gone lighter or darker, it's totally fine (in fact, it's encouraged) to skip a few washes in the days after your appointment. Skipping a wash or two will give your new hue more time to absorb and oxidize, allowing your natural hair oils to replenish themselves and helping your color last longer. Once you do wash your hair, be sure to use a color-protecting shampoo and conditioner system like Matrix Total Results Color Obsessed Shampoo and Conditioner. This system cleanses and conditions to protect against fading and extend color vibrancy.

For blonde shades, be sure to add a color-toning shampoo and conditioner system like Redken Color Extend Blondage Shampoo and Conditioner to your routine. This system contains ultra violet pigment and the brand’s Triple Acid Protein complex to tone, strengthen and brighten all in one for a brighter, stronger blonde.

Searching for more expert advice? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.


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