If you're used to coloring your hair regularly, the idea of salons being closed due to COVID-19 may make you panic a bit – especially if you've never dyed your hair at home. There are dozens of products and how-to guides that aim to make the process of DIY color as easy and accessible as possible (not to mention tons of professional colorists willing to walk you through the process virtually), but knowing how to care for your hair after an at-home dye job might be a little less clear. No one wants to go through the stress of trying to get just the right color, tone, and highlights in their own bathroom only to worry that they might ruin it all afterwards.
Luckily, though, learning how to take excellent care of colored hair is something that is universal. In other words: These tips and tricks will help your hair look and feel its best whether you’ve colored it yourself or not. "Even though your hair is in quarantine mode, it's still essential that you take care of it, especially if you've recently dyed it at home," New York City-based hairstylist Marshall Lin tells ishonest. "And not just your hair, but your scalp too."
If you've just mastered an at-home coloring session (congratulations!) and now want to make sure your hair (and scalp!) looks and feels as good as possible for as long as possible, here are some professional-backed tips to do so.
Make Extra Sure You've Rinsed Out All Color Before Shampooing
According to Rex Jimieson, color educator at Chicago's Maxine Salon, it's important to make sure you've rinsed all the dye out with water before that first post-color shampoo.
"Color residue left on the scalp can cause long term sensitivity to color and can also cause breakage as far down as the root," Rex Jimieson, color educator at colorist at Chicago’s Maxine Salon, tells ishonest
Wash Your Hair Less Often
After you've rinsed all the color out and are ready to start shampooing as usual, consider shampooing much, much less often than usual to maximize the health of your hair (and the longevity of its color).
Los Angeles-based colorist and Redken brand ambassador Matt Rez suggests using a dry shampoo for "up to three days" in between washes, as overwashing can leave hair feeling dry.
When You Do Use Shampoo, Avoid These Ingredients
When you do wash your hair, Rez says that using sulfate-free shampoo will keep hair as hydrated as possible. As Rez's suggestion reflects, sulfates have been shown to strip hair prematurely of color, so they're worth avoiding if you’re trying to make your color last for as long as possible.
Additionally, Dr. Gary Linkov, a board-certified plastic surgeon who specializes in hair restoration, says to avoid shampoos with strong ingredients like "salicylic acid and ketoconazole," both of which could potentially irritate and dry your scalp.
However, as beauty chemist Ni'Kita Wilson explains, it's most important to focus on the final product rather than individual ingredients in those products.
"Products like clarifying or detox shampoos that are not formulated for color treated hair may result in dulling color over time," Wilson says. "Sulfates themselves are not necessarily bad for hair [but] they are extremely effective at cleansing and will remove everything leaving strands stripped leading to dryness." If your favorite shampoo does contain sulfates, Wilson recommends "using pre-shampoo treatments to seal the cuticle to help preserve the color." ishonest editors love the Amika Fadeblock Pre-Shampoo Color Seal for this.
Use Less Heat (Both In Terms Of Tools & Water Temperature)
By now you've probably realized that when it comes to keeping colored hair healthy and for as long as possible, hydration is key. This means to cut back on how much heat you put on your hair — both when it comes to styling tools and water temperature.
Linkov says to keep blow dryer heat on a low setting and to avoid high temperatures in shower water as well. It's also worth considering skipping heat altogether if you can. It will give your hair a much needed break and help it stay as hydrated as possible as you sport your new color.
If you must use heat, Rez suggests using a heat protectant spray like Redken's Extreme Play Safe 450 to avoid damage and cuticle splitting, calling it a "next- level, leave-in conditioner that will reduce hair damage, strengthen, and protect hair while reducing the appearance of split ends by 70 percent."
Mask Once A Week
As Lin says, "Can you tell the theme here is moisture and hydration?" He suggests using a mask like Pai-Shau's Supreme Revitalizing Mask "at least once a week" to ensure hair stays as moisturized as possible.
"Your hair soaks up all the nourishment from the brand's Signature Tea Complex, and gives you soft and shiny locks in return," Lin says.
Masks are great for any type of hair, but if you’ve used bleach or other permanent colors on your hair, consider using a weekly treatment that’s a little stronger, as Roux Beauty Education Ambassador Patricia Williams suggests.
"These formulas penetrate into the hair shaft and can also change the porosity of the hair," Williams says. A keratin-based treatment can help gradually strengthen and repair any breakage that a permanent dye or bleach may cause.
If you're looking for product suggestions, IGK's Antisocial Overnight Bond- Building Dry Hair Mask, Kerastase's Nutritive Mask For Dry, Thick Hair, and Moroccan Oil's Restorative Hair Mask are among the highest-rated options on the market.
However, if you’re looking for the bond-rebuilding product that is most likely to be found in professional salons (especially if you’re blonde), look no further than Olaplex.
Consider Using Olaplex If You’ve Lightened Your Hair At Home
If you've attempted to go blonde at home and lived to tell the tale, then odds are your hair might be in need of some extra TLC. This, as Jimieson shares, is where Olaplex might come into play. Unlike the protein and keratin treatments listed above, the Olaplex system is three-fold and uses a specific patented ingredient (Bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate) to restore bonds in hair from the inside out rather than just focusing on surface-level damage.
"If you have done a lightening service or if your hair feels damaged, I would also recommend Olaplex 3 as a weekly treatment. It’s a once-a-week breakage preventer," Jimieson tells ishonest, explaining that it’s used in addition to a conditioner, rather than in place of one.
Olaplex is considered a bonding product, because it reforms disulfide bonds in your hair that are often broken when you use bleach. It’s formulated to protect hair from all types of chemical damage, but has become especially well-known for how well it repairs bleached-blonde hair.
Use A Silk Scarf Or Pillowcase At Night
For people who have particularly damaged (or damage-prone) hair, thinking about how your scalp and hair is being affected during the night is important. If you fall into this group and you’ve just colored your hair at home, then it’s especially important to consider the effect your sheets or pillowcases might be having on your hair.
"I also recommend a silk scarf around your hair at night or a silk pillowcase to prevent friction on the hair," Jimieson says, noting that friction is one of the main reasons for “manual damage,” which is what causes split ends and breakage.
If a silk pillowcase sounds foreign to you, don’t worry; there are a ton of brands that are selling silk pillowcases in all sizes and colors for reasonable prices. For options, consider browsing on ShhSilk, Brooklinen, or even Amazon.
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