Safeguard your shade with these easy tips, tricks, and product picks to make your hair color last as long as possible.

By Melanie Rud
July 11, 2019
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As anyone who dyes their hair will tell you, there are few things as satisfying as fresh color. That vibrant new shade just makes you feel so good. The only problem? You come into contact with things every day that take a serious toll on your gorgeous hue. And since coloring your hair can be a time-consuming (not to mention expensive, if you’re going to a salon) process, the last thing anyone wants is to have to go through it more often than necessary. Happily, there are easy things you can do to lock in your color. Ahead, five of the most common shade saboteurs, plus expert-recommended fade-fighting strategies.

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1
Water

Water is hair color’s number one worst enemy. It essentially washes the dye right out of the hair shaft and down the drain. (Fun fact: red dye molecules are the largest and as such the most prone to this. So if you’re rocking any kind of red hair color, pay extra close attention.) Not to mention that water can also contain harsh minerals that build up on the hair, dulling and fading the color, says Guy Tang, a master colorist and founder of Mydentity hair color products.

The best option is to simply minimize how frequently your hair is exposed to water. But since that’s easier said than done, you can also shield your shade by coating hair with a treatment before you hop in the shower. Try misting Aquis Prime Water Defense Prewash ($29; aquis.com) on dry strands; the mix of hydrating coconut oil and strengthening amino acids coats the hair, making it hydrophobic so that it won’t absorb as much water.

Also helpful is turning down the temperature of the water, says Patrick Ryan, a hair colorist and co-owner of Mixed Co. Salon in Chicago. The hotter the water, the more your cuticle (the outer layer of the hair) will open, and the easier it is for those color molecules to slip out.

2
Shampoo

This goes hand-in-hand with water since you’re likely also hitting the shampoo bottle whenever your hair is exposed to H2O. “Not all shampoos are created equal, and cleansing agents like sulfates can strip your color,” Tang says. Again, minimizing how often you shampoo is ideal. Opt for a dry shampoo to help stretch out your style on days you’re not washing. And when you do shampoo, be sure to stick with a sulfate-free option specifically formulated for colored hair, like Living Proof Color Care Shampoo ($29; sephora.com).

3
Heat

Any kind of heat opens the hair cuticle, which increases the likelihood of damage and fading, particularly with bold, fashion shades, notes Tang. Turn down the temperature on styling tools—Tang suggests capping it at 340 degrees, maximum. And if you are going to be heat styling, it’s imperative to first prep strands with a heat protectant, notes Ryan, who likes Oribe Balm d’Or Heat Styling Shield ($45; nordstrom.com).

4
Sun

Not only is the heat factor at play when it comes to the sun, there’s also the issue of UV rays. You already know that they can take a toll on your skin, but they can be equally problematic for hair color, too, causing fading and changes in tone. (Think back to summers when you were a kid—remember how light your hair was come Labor Day?) “Hats and scarves are a great way to protect your color whenever you’re out in the sun,” Ryan says. There are also plenty of styling products that contain UV protectants. One to try: Sun Bum 3-in-1 Leave In Hair Conditioning Treatment ($15; target.com). But in a pinch, any kind of spray sunscreen that you’d use on your body can also be spritzed onto your hair, says Ryan.

5
Chlorine

While blondes are especially prone to chlorine-induced hair color changes (namely, a greenish tint), the chemical can fade and change any hue. “If a dip in the pool is unavoidable, mix some conditioner with water in a spray bottle and thoroughly saturate your hair before you jump in,” says Ryan. This will create a protective coating on the hair to help minimize how much chlorine penetrates the hair shaft. Also important: Rinse your hair with fresh water as soon as possible post-swim.

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