The Best Shampoos For Color-Treated Hair

Color-treated hair requires TLC, and not any old shampoo will do.
Beauty
Written by Elise Minton Tabin
10.22.2021
The Best Shampoos For Color-Treated HairIcons8 Team/Unsplash

Achieving your perfect hair color takes patience, time, some outstanding inspiration photos, and a wad of cash. Good color doesn’t come cheap — nor should it — and the secret to keeping it looking fresh and vibrant in-between appointments comes down to what you wash your hair with regularly. Unfortunately, not every shampoo that sits on the shelves of your favorite beauty store is suited for color-treated hair. Here, we’re breaking down the benefits of shampoos formulated specifically for color-treated hair and which ones are worthy of a spot in your shower.

Why Color Fades Fast

Freshly colored tresses can lose their luster in no time flat, which is why celebrity colorist Ryan Pearl recommends waiting at least two days to first wash your hair after having it dyed. But that's not the only thing damaging your ’do:

1. The State of Your Strands

Maintaining your new hue comes down to the color you are starting with and how you care for your hair. For example, suppose the tresses are dry or damaged. In that case, a pre-shampoo used on the ends before washing the hair helps fill it with a protective layer, says Shab Reslan, a New York City-based trichologist who is the host of the Hair Like Hers podcast and founder of Leona, a hair health platform.

2. The H2O

Besides shampoo, water itself is a known color zapper. Reslan says hard water can cause a chemical reaction within the hair that changes the color. “Hard water can also leave a layer of buildup on the cuticle, which forces the color to appear dull and even darken blonde tones,” she adds. The solution: a water filter, like T3 Source Showerhead, which sifts out heavy metals and other impurities often found in water.

3. The Temperature

Yes, your shampoo matters a lot, but so does the water temperature. For example, hot water can wash out hair color. “Very hot water will fade the color and cause it to become dull,” says Pearl, who recommends sudsing up with lukewarm to cool water. Also, try and limit washing to no more than a few times per week.

4. Heat

Heat — be it from a styling tool or the sun — can dull color. The sun’s rays blanch out your existing color and can even leave it looking lighter than you desire. To limit sun damage, try wrapping sunscreen-protected strands in a scarf or wearing a hat to prevent unwanted lightening. Likewise, the heat emitted from styling tools will dull shine and flatten color, which is why Pearl advises setting the temperature on flat irons and curling irons as low as possible.

How to Find a Good Shampoo

The goal of a color-protecting shampoo is two-fold: It needs to cleanse the hair while also protecting against color loss and fade. Color-treated hair is, to varying degrees, compromised in one way or another, Reslan says. “The cuticle layer that determines the hair’s smoothness and ability to lock in color molecules becomes disrupted,” she notes. Therefore, it’s crucial for anyone who colors or highlights their hair to know what’s in their shampoo (and other products) and how rough or gentle the cleansing agents are.

Pearl says shampoos made for color-treated hair tend to have a lower alcohol content. “Look for one that is hydrating, too, which will ensure that your color stays in top shape,” he adds. Color-depositing shampoos have been around for decades, and they are a suitable option, too. These tinted formulas deposit pigment to the hair to help retain vibrancy and prolong the life of the color.

Steer clear of anything that’s clarifying, loaded with sulfates, and/or formulated with harsh cleansers. “They can compromise the cuticle and leave the hair feeling frizzy or dry while also washing out the color or blonde toner,” Reslan cautions. When it comes to sulfates, the ones to shun are ‘sodium lauryl’ and ‘sodium laureth’ sulfates — they are a terrible match for colored hair. “They can over-cleanse the hair, so finding alternative cleansing agents and timing your shampoo frequency to match the level of cleansing your safe shampoo is providing is the key to keeping everything clean and healthy,” she shares.

The Best of the Best for Color-Treated Hair

Now that you know what to look for in a color-safe shampoo, it’s time to shop for a new one. Below, formulas for every hair type and hue.

BYE-BYE BRASS: Virtue Color Kick De-Brassing Shampoo

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One of the downsides to going lighter is the brassiness that almost always comes along for the ride. So, rather than resorting to at-home color kits that promise to delete unwanted tones, opt for a brass-neutralizing shampoo like this one. Regardless of your color, this sulfate-free, violet-tinted wash relies on natural flower and plant extracts to remove yellow tones in the hair while instilling a much-needed dose of moisture and protein to strengthen and repair hair. $42, bluemercury.com

THE OG COLOR PROTECTOR: Fekkai Technician Color Shampoo Extended Color Vibrancy

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The Fekkai brand has a long-standing track record for releasing cult-classic products, and this one, for colored strands, is a long-time editor favorite. In addition to its peachy scent, this shampoo works to create less friction between the strands, which equates to stronger color that’s more resistant to fading. Power-packed ingredients like Mirabelle plum seed oil and solar protecting polymers work to enhance color vibrancy. $20, ulta.com

REVIVE DULL-LOOKING HIGHLIGHTS: R+Co Gemstone Shampoo

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Many shampoos fail to deliver on their promise to wake up dull color — but not this one. The next best thing to a color-enlivening gloss, this sulfate-free formula features a color protection complex that works to bump up the definition for brighter color (it lasts up to 10 washes!) that looks like you just left the salon. $32, randco.com

FOR A SERIOUS DOSE OF SHINE: Better Not Younger Second Chance Shampoo

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Colored hair tends to fare better with sulfate-free shampoos, which is why this one sits at the top of our favorites list. The low-foaming formula is ideal for all hair types, textures, and colors, and it majorly cleans without washing away any of your color. All that’s left behind are fresh strands that boast mega-watt shine. $27, sephora.com

THE ECO-FRIENDLY OPTION: Rhyme & Reason: Colour & Protect Shampoo

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Not all shampoos made for color-treated hair need to be a splurge; there are plenty of affordable options that do the job. Case in point: this dermatologist-approved brand that boasts scalp-friendly ingredients, like white tea and babsou oil, in retro-inspired recycled plastic packaging. The innovative fade-defying formulation works to rebuild the hair’s natural barrier so it can hold onto that salon color. $9, target.com

A NEW TAKE ON A CLASSIC: Brite Organix Shampoo Color

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Color-depositing shampoos are nothing new — they first debuted in the early 1990s — and they’re still one of the most reliable ways to pop your color (when only a touch of it is needed) without a trip to the salon. This line of color-enhancing shampoos, available in everything from pastels to gray tones, adds a buildable hue to your hair each time you wash with it. $10, briteorganix.com

FOR A DEEP-DOWN CLEAN: dpHue ACV Rinse Lite

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Not your typical shampoo, this liquidy rinse is ideal for fine hair and does a stellar job of cleansing and refreshing the scalp while maintaining color. That’s because it contains unscented apple cider vinegar, which won’t strip away your color or your hair’s natural oils. Instead, it seals the cuticle and adds shine. $35, dphue.com

THE NEW CULT-FAVORITE PURPLE SHAMPOO: Olaplex No. 4P Blonde Enhancer Toning Shampoo

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Purple- and violet-hued shampoos work wonders on blondes because the pigments remove orange and brassy tones in the hair. The newest release from Olaplex is a sulfate-free shampoo made specifically for bright tones and blondes. What's unique about the super-concentrated shampoo is that you can customize it to your liking — the longer you leave it on, the brighter your hair will be. $28, sephora.com

THE ULTIMATE HYDRATION HELPER: Jaci Hydration Shampoo

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Dry, colored strands don’t stand a chance against this daily shampoo replete with an herbal blend of coconut, quinoa, and sunflower essential oils for moisture. Another bonus: the brand is committed to minimizing its carbon footprint by using solar power and cutting-edge technology to reduce climate-changing emissions. So, every time you wash your hair with these high-functioning shampoos (and conditioners), you’re also doing good by Mother Earth. $24, jaci.com

LIKE A DETOX FOR YOUR 'Do: L'Oréal Professionnel Metal Detox

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Depending on where you live, your shower water may contain heavy metals that strip the life right out of your color. This truly innovative detoxifying cream shampoo relies on glicoamine, a tiny molecule that neutralizes metals inside the hair fiber for shinier and brighter color. $32, lovelyskin.com

THE ANTIDOTE FOR BLEACHED HAIR: Kérastase Le Bain Cicaextreme Shampoo

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In a league all its own, this super moisturizing shampoo-in-cream revives the most sensitized, lightened, and highlighted hair after bleaching. The shampoo has the consistency of a conditioning hair mask and works best when used with the brand’s Bain Ultra-Violet Purple Shampoo (purple shampoos negate yellow and brassy tones in colored hair), leaving strands better hydrated and nourished. As a result, even the most extreme blondes are protected. $35, kerastase-usa.com

KISS DAMAGE GOODBYE: Davroe Repair Senses Revitalizing Shampoo

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A good shampoo for colored hair preserves the integrity of your color and leaves the mane feeling fresh, clean, and as soft as silk. This vitamin- and nutrient-rich formulation gently removes dirt, oil, and impurities without stripping the hair or its color. It’s also sulfate-free and contains rice and quinoa amino acids, so, even if you shampoo with it daily, your color will remain vibrant. $29, davroe.com

KEEPS BLONDES LOOKING BRIGHT: Drybar Blonde Ale Brightening Shampoo

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Straight from the master of blowouts and updos comes this purple pigmented shampoo that knocks out brassy tones in highlighted, white, grey, and blonde hair. Where some purple shampoos can be drying and leave the hair feeling brittle, this one doesn’t thanks to a blend of keratin and natural color preservers, like chamomile and lemon extract. $29, ulta.com

All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.

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ELISE MINTON TABINis a freelance writer for AEDIT.

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