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Make Your Hair Color Last Longer: 14 Tricks From Stylists

Don't wash that color (and $$$) down the drain.

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iStock/Stephan Zabel

Take a break before color treatment

Starting a few days before you go to the salon for your coloring appointment, give your hair a breather from hair products so you can arrive with unwashed hair that’s free of buildup. “You don’t want to wash the night before, but you don’t want an excess of product if you want to help the color penetrate the cuticle and last longer,” says Jason Dolan, hair colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City.

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Soften your hair before coloring

The one product you will want to reach for? A deep conditioner. Soften your tresses with the treatment a few days before coloring so it’s hydrated when you get to the salon, says Lorean Cairns, co-founder and creative director of Fox & Jane Salon in New York City. “If it’s overly dry or has too many treatments, it might cause bad news and you won’t be able to achieve your Pinterest dream,” she says. “Make sure to keep hair healthy and leave it alone.” Oh, and be sure to check out the Rita Hazan root concealer—it instantly covers up gray strands until the next wash.

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iStock/Alexandr Dubovitskiy

Wait a couple days before washing

After you’ve gotten your color treatment, wait a full day or two before you even think about washing your hair so the dye doesn’t wash out. “Give it a little bit to settle in there and stay in the cuticle,” says Dolan. After 48 hours you can go back to your regular routine, he says. Avoid these absolute worst things you can do to your hair.

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iStock/Djura Topalov

Don’t scrub your hair every day

You’ve heard it before: Daily washes actually leave your hair less healthy. “Some natural oils are great for the hair and are most beneficial for hair,” says Cairns. If your hair tends to be dry, you can get away with washing every three days or less, she says, but if you have oily hair or work out daily, you might need to shampoo more often. A dry shampoo can get you through the off days if your scalp is getting oily. Check out these other reasons you can shower less often.

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Chill your shower out

A hot, steamy shower could fade your hair color. “When it’s really hot, just like with the body, it opens up the cuticle,” says Dolan. “If you just got it done, the color tends to rinse it out faster than normal.” While you don’t have to force yourself through a cold shower, dial back the temperature while you’re shampooing if you usually use really hot water, he says. Don’t miss these other showering mistakes that could ruin your hair.

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Use a shower filter

Hard water contains chlorine, minerals, and calcium that are hard on hair, especially when they mess with the chemicals in your color. “You feel it when you take a shower if you have hard water and your skin gets tighter,” says Dolan. “Minerals will start weighing on hair and you’ll notice your hair color turning odd colors.” Add a filter to your shower to avoid the nasty effects. Find out what your hair can reveal about your health.

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Buy the proper shampoo

Pick a shampoo and conditioner that don’t contain sulfates. “Sulfates have gotten a bad name for a reason,” says Cairns. “It works like a strong detergent to strip out your really expensive, beautiful hair color.” Look for a product designed specifically to be “color safe” or “for color,” she says.

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Consider a pigmented hair wash

Pick up a shampoo and conditioner that have a small amount of hair color to replenish your pigment when you do wash your hair. You can pick up a prepackaged product at the drugstore, or see if your salon will mix a bit of your specific dye into shampoo so it’s customized for your shade, says Cairns. Don’t miss these hairstyle mistakes that make you look older.

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Add a new product to your routine

Buy a bottle of after-color service treatment to lengthen the life of your color. “They’re nourishing your hair and locking in color and giving it shine to prevent it from fading,” says Dolan. Check out these sneaky reasons your hair is going gray too soon.

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…But keep others out

Sea salt sprays give you nice waves, but at the risk of sacrificing all-important moisture. “By using products that are dehydrating, you have more color rinse out than if the hair was healthy,” says Cairns. “Because you’re removing nutrients from hair strands, it’s not as structurally strong and can’t hold on to color as well.”

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Deep condition sparingly

Overdoing the deep conditioner could leave your hair color vulnerable to fading. “If your color is not holding at all and you feel your hair is dry and you’re doing at-home deep conditioner, it might not be the best thing for you,” says Dolan. “It makes hair softer and kind of pulls color out.” Feel free to use an intense hydrator sparingly, but don’t add it to your regular routine. Check out these genius tricks for taming frizzy hair.

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Put down the hot tools

Especially if you’ve stripped your hair raw for a light color like platinum blonde or a pastel pink, you should take it easy on the flat iron and blow dryer. Using hot tools right after an acidic color treatment could stain a pale color brown and create more breakage, says Cairns. It could be a few days, or even a few weeks, until your hair can take the heat. “Hair doesn’t go back to its pH balance or get replenished after one wash,” says Cairns. “Be cautious with very high heat.” If you do have to use a hot tool, use a heat protectant product to reduce damage, says Dolan. Get more tips for using heat on your hair.

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Protect your hair when you’re out and about

If you’ll be spending a lot of time outside, prep your hair with a product that contains SPF so your color doesn’t fade in the sun. In a pinch, use a bit of coconut oil, which a study in the journal Pharmacognosy Research found has an SPF value of 8. “It will protect your hair and also hydrate,” says Dolan. “Most sun protection products that you put in your hair will have coconut oil or sunflower oil.” Here’s what SPF and other sunscreen labels really mean.

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Use a gentle brush

After a bleaching treatment, your hair will be more sensitive than usual, so you’ll want to use a gentle brush to keep your locks healthy. “Something you’d use on a child is a great rule of thumb,” says Cairns. “If it’s scratchy or has metal on the end, avoid it.”

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.