Whether you’ve lost count of how many times you’ve dyed your hair or you’re coloring it for the first time, let’s take a moment to talk about maintenance. There’s nothing worse than getting that perfect shade at the salon — or at home, if you’re adventurous like that — only to find that your dream hue starts to fade and look dull only a few washes later.
The thing is, extra care is a must for your dye job and there are a number of contributing factors when it comes to your color fading. Watch out for exposure to hard water, the overuse of heat-styling tools (and hot shower temperatures), and even UV rays. “The sun bleaches color out of everything, including your hair,” St. Louis-based colorist Caitlin Ford tells Allure. “If you’re going outside for extended periods of time, protect your scalp and hair with a hat,” she adds. We also like to spritz on a little hair sunscreen to make sure we’ve covered all of our bases.
While sulfates are usually given the side-eye — for example, they’re a no-go, according to Allure‘s very own Clean Best of Beauty seal — they aren’t necessarily better for preserving color as they’re made out to be. Cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller previously told Allure that water is as damaging as any cleanser. “When your hair gets wet, it swells, the hair shaft opens, and some color leaches out,” says Schueller, who tested sulfates against other surfactants and didn’t see any notable differences in terms of fading color. This is why many experts suggest washing your hair less often and spritzing dry shampoo to buy you extra time in between.
However, the case against sulfates is still pretty valid — especially if you want to err on the side of caution. Not only are they irritating to the skin, but they are also capable of “stripping the [scalp] of its natural oils” a little too well, Aanand Geria, a board-certified dermatologist in Rutherford, New Jersey previously explained to Allure. In other words? Sulfates are a pretty slippery slope leading to dryness and flaking.
Among many experts, New York City-based colorist Nikki Ferrara is a fan of brands with sulfate-free offerings, as she says they will “extend the shelf life of your hair color and prevent fading.” Los Angeles-based colorist and Redken brand ambassador Matt Rez previously divulged that using sulfate-free shampoo will also keep hair as hydrated as possible. Adding to the chorus is cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, who told Allure that sulfates can dry hair out, which can be especially damaging after coloring. They’ll also make your eyes burn if they accidentally slip in, which is a universally hated experience.
This is all to say that your best bet, when it comes to preserving your color, is to switch your regular shampoo and conditioner with ones that are specially formulated for color-treated hair. (Please, no clarifying shampoos.) Here, we asked the pros to help us find the best shampoos and conditioners out there to prolong your gorgeous hue.
Editor’s note: All prices reflect the combined cost of the shampoo and conditioner. While most of the items listed below are sold in sets, a few are not and may link to an individual product or search page.