If you're on Instagram or Pinterest, you've undoubtedly encountered the pastel hair trend that's been around for a few years now. And if you've had your hair colored before, you know that the more you wash it, the less vibrant it looks. Well, the same goes for non-natural colors like pastels and rainbow-brights, especially when you have dark hair that had to be bleached beforehand to achieve a super-pigmented hue. When you're into fitness, hair-washing on the reg is pretty important, although you probably know to use dry shampoo as a substitute as much as possible. So if you work out almost daily, can you participate in this now-ubiquitous hair trend? We got input from color experts to find out.
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What to Do About Washing
According to experts, hair washing is the main culprit behind color fade, whether you're a bleach blonde, redhead, or fantasy color enthusiast. "I always suggest my clients wash their hair every three to four days and use a dry shampoo between washes," says Jenna Herrington, a hairdresser who specializes in avant-garde hair and barbering in Austin, Texas. "This will save your color! If you feel like you cannot make it three to four days without washing, be sure to use a color-protecting shampoo and also refrain from washing your hair with hot water, as heat will strip your color." Another option, according to Herrington, is to use a color-depositing conditioner, which actually drops more color into your hair every time you use it. Herrington recommends Overtone, which comes in a variety of colors and helps keep your locks vibrant. One tip that's important to remember when using this kind of conditioner, says Herrington, is to always towel dry before applying so that the color can deposit properly.
The Story on Sweat
It's natural to wonder if sweat has the same effect on pastel hair as washing, since in a really intense spin or boot-camp class, your hair is definitely getting wet. "Our sweat does contain a little bit of sodium, which will affect your color and can cause fading," explains Jan-Marie Arteca, a colorist at New York City–based salon Broome and Beauty. "It won't cause as much fading as washing every day would, and you don't have to worry about running three miles and having your pink hair run down your hairline, but over time the combo of sweating and washing will cause fading." So yeah, you're going to have to re-up your color pretty regularly, but your sweat sessions are not likely to have a major effect on your unicorn-worthy tresses.
What Else to Avoid
"Two other factors that can affect hair color are swimming pools and salt water from the ocean or salted pools," says Brock Billings, colorist at Marie Robinson Salon in New York City. If you decide to go for this trend, try to avoid exposing your hair by wearing a swim cap. "To keep your hair from soaking up the minerals and altering your color, always pre-wet and put conditioner in your hair before going into pools or the ocean," says Billings. Or use a shine and color-protecting oil treatment like Christophe Robin Lavender Oil—Billings' go-to before going in the ocean. Another potential source of damage? The sun. "I would suggest if you're an outdoor runner to protect your hair with SPF just like you would your skin," says Nick Stenson, chief artistic director of Ulta Beauty. A hat or headscarf works for this, too. (Check out our favorite stylish running hats here.)
Of course, heat is another major culprit—and that goes for every hair type and color. "Make sure before you dry your hair to apply a heat protectant," says Herrington. Her personal fave is Oribe Balm d'Or heat styling shield. Another option is to invest in color-safe styling tools, like the blow-dryer and flat iron from the Bio Ionic line, since they actually work to condition your hair while you're using them, and get the job done super quickly, meaning you incur less damage overall. (BTW, here are the best hair products on the market right now, according to our beauty editors.)
A Color Alternative
So what can you do if you're not ready to commit to all that upkeep? If you're not really into the idea of bleaching your hair or being extra careful with your mane, check out Splat Midnight hair dye, which comes in three shades and can give you a bold color on top of dark hair (shown below). While it won't be as vibrant as pre-bleached hair, you'll still get a fun effect that will last for six to eight weeks. As with any other hair dye, you want to wash your hair as little as possible in order to get the longest color life.
The Bottom Line
Pastel hair is totally attainable as long as you're willing to deal with the upkeep of visiting your colorist every four to six weeks and seriously cut back on washing your hair. "Vivid hair color is fresh, on-trend and fun and can work for all types of people, so long as they take the right steps to protect it," says Jim Markham, the founder of ColorProof Evolved Color Care, a line that's dedicated to keeping colored hair healthy. So if you're ready and willing, just go for it.