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

should i wash my hair before coloring

You may not realize it, but there’s much more to achieving the hair color of your dreams than you may think. For starters, should you wash your hair before coloring it? You may have heard this—but is it an old wives’ tale? Or is there actual merit to it? This one simple question can actually have a big impact on the way your color takes to your hair and your happiness with the end result.

So, we asked Katie Collette, L’Oréal Professionnel artist, for the lowdown.

Good hair day by @fouronethree_salon.

Turns out, you don’t always need to wash your hair before you color it. It actually depends on the condition of your hair and the color you’ve chosen. Who knew? (Not me!)

Here’s more on how shampooing and color are intertwined.

Should I wash my hair before dying it at a salon?

One of the benefits of unwashed hair (other than, well, not having to wash it) is that there is time for oils to build up on your scalp (aka “grease”) and thus, the oils can, in theory, help to protect against irritation caused by the dye.

But, that’s actually only partly true—and it depends on the color service you’re seeking. While it 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 they can actually impact your overall results and color.

For Lighter Hair

For lighter colored hair, “dirty” hair can actually make your hair look a shade or two darker than it truly is.

And while stylists recommend skipping a few washes a week to achieve healthier hair, you just might need to scrub it prior to your colorist appointment. Otherwise, the stylist won't be able to see the true color or texture of your hair, and may not be able to give you what you really want.

For Darker Hair

As for darker tones, the same applies.

Collette says, “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.”

Oh, and it’s important to note that freshly clean hair does NOT mean dripping wet hair. Collette warns against showing up to your appointment with wet or damp hair. Most all colors 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!

Good hair day by @sydamenpohjasta.

For Bleaching

Everyone has #hairgoals. So, depending on what yours are—prepare properly! For light blonde or fantasy colors that require a decent amount of bleaching, you can skip a wash or two.

While Collette says bleach *shouldn’t* irritate your scalp, it won’t hurt to let oil build up for a day or two. (Yaaas!)

“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 the “to wash, or not to wash” debate won’t really matter in the case of lightening, because the chemical formulas will result in the same look regardless. AKA, you can still color your greasy locks if you’re going lighter.

The End Result

We’d love to assume that every color service will go off without a hitch, but sometimes they don’t. If you’ve done your due diligence, prepared properly and had a quality consultation with your stylist, you should be quite happy with your results. But if not, you still have options.

If you’re not happy with your color, be honest about it right away. (Easier said than done, we know.) Chances are your stylist will be able to make minor adjustments that will bring your color closer to your #hairgoals.

The Final Step

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.

And as for post-coloring washes, regardless of if you’ve gone lighter or darker, it’s totally fine (in fact, it’s encouraged!) to skip a few washes right after coloring. It will give your new style more time to absorb and oxidize, and allow your natural hair oils to replenish themselves.

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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