Should Your Hair Be Clean or Dirty Before Getting It Colored?

December 28, 2022
Samantha Holender
By: Samantha Holender | by L'Oréal
Person with long dark hair in a pale pink robe coloring their roots at home.
When I have a balayage appointment coming up, I stop washing my hair days beforehand — we’re talking five-day hair that’s full of dry shampoo. After all, if they’re going to wash it at the salon, why should I? While my colorist is admirably non-judgemental about my oily, greasy hair, recently I’ve been wondering if my product buildup and excess oil might be messing with my blonde hair color. To find out if it’s better to have dirty or freshly washed hair before a color appointment, I turned to Terri Fe’, my Washington DC-based colorist.


Should Your Hair Be Dirty or Clean Before Dyeing It?

While you may be going greasy out of sheer convenience, it’s actually the best thing you could be doing for the health of your hair. “Your hair should be dirty because the natural oils help to protect against the harsh chemicals,” says Fe’. “The grease serves as an extra coating so that when we go to break down the cuticle, there’s less damage and breakage to the hair and irritation to your scalp.” The more oil on your hair, the more protection you’re going to have during the bleaching process. Fe’ explains that after bleaching, your hair gets washed and cleaned before toning ensues. That way, buildup doesn't interfere with the actual color payoff. 

Beyond that, clean hair can make things more difficult for your hair colorist, especially when doing a paint-on technique like balayage. “If your hair is freshly washed, you’ll have more flyaways, so it’s a bit harder to get the new or baby hairs down and colored,” says Fe’. “Sometimes I’ll even go in with hairspray and dirty up the hair if it’s too clean before spreading the bleach.”

Can Hair Products Interfere With the Coloring Process?

Although grease won’t get in the way (Fe’ says she doesn’t mind if clients go two weeks without washing), be cognizant of hair products. “While dry shampoo won’t interrupt the coloring process, it can change the texture of your hair, and as a result, my technique,” says Fe’. “Try to concentrate dry shampoo at the roots and leave the ends free of product.” 

If you use anti-frizz serums, texturizing sprays or hot styling tools on the regular, don’t decide to all of the sudden go au naturale just because you’re headed to the salon. Fe’ explains that it’s best to go to your appointment with your hair looking like it does every day. “I need to know if you roll out of bed, curl your hair and can keep up with maintenance because it’ll change how I place your color,” she says.

When Can You Wash Your Hair After Dyeing It?

Here’s the thing: Once your permanent hair color has been processed, it’s not going to wash out or fade immediately, so feel free to go from the salon to the gym to the shower. That said, it’s important to use shampoos that are free of sulfates and are formulated for color-treated hair. 

“Using shampoo and conditioner for color-treated hair will help you get more wear out of your color and preserve the tone,” says Fe’. We love using the Garnier Fructis Whole Blends Sulfate-Free Remedy Honey Treasures Shampoo and Conditioner. The products are sulfate-free, defend against breakage and help hair look and feel healthier.

Garnier Fructis Whole Blends Sulfate-Free Remedy Honey Treasures Shampoo
Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

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