There's something incredibly powerful about walking into a salon and knowing your life's about to change. A new look, a new feel, a new me? At least, that's what I'd hope for whenever I went in to dye my hair. I started dyeing my hair in college and became pretty darn passionate about going every couple months for touch-ups, but more likely, something completely different. I spent hours talking to anyone who would listen to me, seeking their advice about what hair color I should get next. Highlights or lowlights? All-over color? Geode hair? Balayage? I mean, there are so many gorgeous hair-color trends!
Throughout my second year of college, I had a guy friend who would always be willing to help me decide on a new color or treatment. "Aren't you afraid your hair's going to, like, fall out?" he asked one day. Although my response was a mere giggle, I couldn't believe I hadn't researched more. Come to think of it, did I need a new look every couple months? That's when I really thought about it. The texture of my hair was different at that point than it had been before I started coloring it. It wasn't as soft or full either. What was I doing wrong?
Well, for starters, I hadn't changed much of my haircare routine since before I had started dyeing it. Instead of consulting with friends about what style to get next, I began researching how to keep my color-treated hair healthy. Fast forward several years, after a ton of trial and error to get back that soft, full, shiny hair I was used to, and I finally have a haircare routine that has worked for keeping my color-treated hair healthy. I have five key rules that have completely saved my hair and make me worry a lot less about frequenting the salon for a new color or touch-up, and I'd love to share them with you!
Buy a Sulfate-Free Shampoo
Sulfate-free shampoo is seriously a lifesaver. Sulfates are chemicals that your hair can really do without because not only can they cause irritation, but they're also terrible for color-treated hair. They can strip away the color and make it fade a lot faster.
Back when I realized this, not a lot of shampoos were sulfate-free, and finding one was no easy task. Luckily, there are tons on the market now. Salons can usually guide you in the right direction for a great sulfate-free shampoo for color-treated hair. But regardless of whether you usually dye your hair at home or at a salon, definitely take a look at the ingredient labels of your shampoos and conditioners to make sure they don't use sulfates.
And a quick FYI: sulfates also cause that foaming action you may be used to, so when switching over, just know that it might not feel like your regular shampoo, but it's still working.
Don't Overclean Your Hair
I quickly learned that washing your hair often does not equate to clean, healthy hair. In fact, sometimes the less you wash it, the better, because shampoo can strip your hair of its natural oils. That oil basically serves as a moisturizer for your hair, meaning that when you wash it out with shampoo, you're allowing it to be more susceptible to dryness and breakage.
I'll wash my hair one to two times a week to help maintain the color and overall health of my hair, but everyone's hair type is different. My hair is a bit thicker and more prone to dryness, so this method works for me. When my hair was thinner and oilier (before I figured out my haircare routine), I had to wash it more often. I can honestly say that giving this method a try for a couple weeks when I thought my hair would be too oily was such a great experiment because I realized just how long my hair could last without a wash.
Bottom line: wash your hair with shampoo as least often as possible for a couple weeks. You might notice a change (for the better!) with its texture and overall health.
Heat Isn't Your Hair's Friend
I love styling as much as the next girl, but on days when I don't have much going on and I don't feel like I need to look all done up, I'll let my hair just be. I remember the days when I felt I had to have my hair perfectly straightened or curled for simple tasks like filling up gas in my car or picking up groceries. That basically meant I applied a ton of heat to my hair six to seven times a week, for at least 20 minutes a day.
But now, to be honest, I don't style my hair more than twice a week and sometimes even less than that. I also let it air dry as opposed to blow-drying after washing it. I've learned to love my natural hair texture, even if it can be a frizzy, wavy mess some days.
Don't get me wrong: I'm still going to go all out when there's a reason to. That means I blow-dry my hair and then do some variation of curling or straightening it. Since heat can be damaging to hair and cause the color to fade, I make sure to set my blow dryer to low or medium heat, depending on how much of a hurry I'm in. Before using my straightening or curling iron, I apply a heat protectant spray to my hair.
Heat doesn't just come from the tools you use after your shower, though. It's also important to not wash your color-treated hair with hot water. Cold to lukewarm works best for me. Not only is my hair less dry afterward, but it's also shinier.
Because dyeing hair can cause it to become drier, keep it away from heat as much as possible to help it stay healthy and keep your color intact for longer.
Oil It Up Before Shampooing
Oiling hair has been a tradition in my family for generations. We come from a more Ayurvedic background, so we've always been taught that different oils are beneficial to our bodies for different reasons. My parents were avid mustard and almond oil users, but I've become more of a coconut oil and castor oil-lover myself.
While coconut oil can help protect hair against damage, castor oil can help it grow. After all the dyeing I've done to my hair, both are necessities in my haircare routine. You can either treat them as a hot-oil treatment by warming them up and then applying to your hair with a 3:1 coconut oil to castor oil ratio (disclaimer: your hair will be supersticky, so wait a few hours or overnight if you're using this method, especially if you have fine hair), or simply apply the oils to the ends of your hair before shampooing. Sometimes when I'm in a rush but need some all-over damage control, I'll warm the oils up in my hands and massage them in.
Oil treatments are great for color-treated hair, and there are so many different kinds to choose from. Experiment and find one that works for you.
Protect Those Luscious Locks
I'm a California girl, so the sun, pool, beach, and I have been friends for a couple decades now. They're not always a friend to my hair though, except when I was in middle school. My friends and I tried a product that smelled like lemons and promised us lighter hair (you know, since none of our parents let us color it back then). All you had to do was spray it in your hair, brush it out, and sit in the sun. During that sunbathing, we would take breaks to swim around in our neighborhood pool, hair still exposed to the elements.
Although none of us saw any real results from the lightening spray, I think back to that time because I've learned how harmful what we were doing was to our hair. Over time, I've noticed that when it's a particularly sunny day, I need to wear a beach hat to protect my hair from those harsh UV rays. That and staying away from chlorine by covering my hair has kept it so much healthier and helped it retain its color longer.
Granted, it took me a while to learn what was best for my hair, but I'm so grateful to have a routine that follows these five rules. I implement them during my breaks from coloring my hair, but they've also helped make my hair so much healthier without having to sacrifice a touch-up or dye job.