Does It Matter If Your Hair Is Clean or Dirty Before Getting It Colored?

March 13, 2020
Samantha Holender
By: Samantha Holender
should-your-hair-be-clean-or-dirty-before-coloring-dying

When I have a balayage appointment coming up, I stop washing my hair days beforehand — like we’re talking five-day hair full of dry shampoo. If my colorist is going to wash it, 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 color. To find out if it’s better to have trés dirty or freshly washed strands before getting my hair dyed, I turned to Terri Fe, my Washington DC-based colorist. 


Should Your Hair Be Dirty or Clean Before Coloring? 


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. 


What’s more, clean hair can make it more difficult for your hair colorist to tame your tresses, 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 on the bleach.” 


Can Hair Product 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), hair products are something to be cognizant of. “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 and 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 everyday. “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.” 


Can Your Color Wash Out If You Shower Too Soon? 


Here’s the thing, once your hair color has been processed it’s not going to wash out or fade. So feel free to go from the salon to the gym to the shower —  your color isn’t going anywhere. That said, it’s important to use shampoos free of sulfates and 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. “My go-to is Kérastase Sulfate-Free Shampoo for Color Treated Hair because my hair is always dry, and it works wonders when it comes to hydration.” 


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Image: shutterstock

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