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Hair Care and Color Guide

Hair Color 101

How to get the most from your chosen shade. Experts tackle your questions, head-on.

By Courtney Dunlop
Woman brushing hairPaul Sunday

Q. Are hair-coloring chemicals harmful?

A. Dyeing your hair can weaken it, which is why colorists stress the importance of using conditioning treatments and color-specific products. "Coloring formulas can also irritate your scalp if it’s extremely sensitive," says Nicolay Loor, a colorist at the Stephen Knoll salon, in New York City. About 30 years ago, concern arose that chemicals in the coloring process might increase the risk for certain cancers in those who dye their hair, “but most large studies since then have been reassuring,” says Michael J. Thun, M.D., M.S., vice president of epidemiology and surveillance research for the American Cancer Society. And according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, hair dyes are considered safe to use during pregnancy. (Still, if you’re pregnant, colorists suggest consulting your doctor.)


Q. How do I keep my hair color from fading?

A. You can’t stop fading completely, but you can slow it down. Don’t shampoo for at least a day after you color. "From then on, wash only every two to three days," says Jasen James, a color specialist at Maxine Salon, in Chicago. Stick to shampoos and conditioners made for color-treated hair, since “these products are designed to keep the hair shafts closed, and that keeps color in,” explains Crawford. If your scalp gets greasy on days you don’t shampoo, Naomi Knights, a color technologist at the Cristiano Cora Studio, in New York City, suggests scrubbing and rinsing your scalp with plain water, then conditioning and rinsing the hair’s ends. Or try a dry shampoo, which absorbs scalp oils without the need for water.


Shield hair from the sun with a hat or a color-protecting styling product, such as Kérastase Soleil Crème UV Défense Active ($36, Salt water and chlorine can fade your shade, too, so create a barrier by wetting hair with fresh water, then applying conditioner, like KMS California Sol Perfection Survival Creme ($13, “Hair acts like a sponge,” says color specialist Amanda Paul. “If it’s wet, it can’t absorb (the chlorine or the salt water) and will fade less.”

In general, help keep hair healthy by minimizing the damage of heat styling with a frequent conditioning treatment, such as Redken Color Extend Rich Recovery ($17, And be wary of volumizing products, which can open the hair’s cuticles, releasing the color inside and causing fading.

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