The Best Shampoos for Color-Treated Hair, According to Experts

Colorists reveal why you need to be using a shampoo specifically formulated for color-treated hair, plus share their favorite product picks.

a model with color-treated hair posing
Photo: Maria Maglionico/EyeEm/Getty

It doesn't matter whether you visit the salon regularly or go the DIY route — if you've made the commitment to coloring your hair, you're undoubtedly going to want to make your new hue last for as long as possible. And while there are many different things that can go into safeguarding your shade, the shampoo you use is one of the most important.

TL;DR: You definitely should be using shampoo for color-treated hair if you are, in fact, coloring your hair. Ahead, experts explain exactly why and share their favorite product picks.

The Causes of Color Fading

First and foremost, it's important to note that it's actually water (and not shampoo) that is color's number-one worst enemy, says colorist Kristen Fleming, color director at Chicago's 3rd Coast Salon. Hair color fades when the cuticle — the outermost layer of the hair — is open and the dye molecules can essentially slip out, she explains. The hotter the water is in your shower, the more it will open your cuticle and the more you'll see color changes, explains Guy Tang, colorist and founder of hair color brand Mydentity. The minerals found in hard water can also fade your color.

So, before talking about shampoo, keep in mind that the best way to preserve your color is to try and stretch the amount of time between washes (hello, dry shampoo) — and when you do wash, keep the water cool to warm, advises Tang. And, you guessed it, make sure you're using shampoo for colored hair.

How Shampoos for Color-Treated Hair Are Different

This isn't just marketing hype, according to the experts interviewed. Rather, there are legit differences in the formulations between these shampoos and others. First, "color-safe shampoos don't contain sulfates — the main ingredient you want to avoid because they're the harshest cleansing ingredients that can strip out the dye," explains Fleming.

Secondly, they're usually more moisturizing since they contain ingredients such as vitamin B5, coconut oil, and argan oil to help add moisture and may contain proteins to help strengthen the hair. Why does that matter? It goes back to that open cuticle principle. Hydrated hair will have a tighter, more closed cuticle so the color is less likely to slip out, says Fleming. Similarly, stronger hair will also better be able to hold onto color. Finally, shampoos for colored-treated hair are specially formulated at a pH level to ensure that the cuticle remains closed and the color molecules stay in, notes Tang.

Why You Need a Shampoo for Color-Treated Hair

Shampoo specifically for color-treated tresses can go a long way in helping you keep your shade fresh and vibrant, ultimately even helping you go slightly longer in between colorings. It is worth noting, however, that if your hair is bleached or highlighted, it's a little bit of a different situation. "Highlighted hair isn't colored hair. You've removed the color so there's nothing to preserve," says Fleming. In this instance, you want to seek out more reparative, hydrating formulas to help combat some of the damage that the lightening process causes in the hair. That being said, if you are adding any kind of color, stock a shampoo dedicated to fighting color fading in the shower and thank the experts later.

Expert-Approved Shampoos for Color-Treated Hair

Without further ado, check out the best shampoos for color-treated hair, below.

Best Moisturizing Shampoo for Color-Treated Hair: Milbon Moisture Replenishing Shampoo

photo of milbon plarmia moisture balancing scalp shampoo

This under-the-radar salon brand may not be super well-known among consumers, but it's a longtime staple for pro stylists. This pick is great because it both safeguards color and also imparts tons of moisture, notes Tang. Also nice? "It creates a really nice lather that sometimes you don't get from color-safe shampoos," he adds.

Best Drugstore Shampoo for Colored Hair: Nexxus Color Assure Sulfate-Free Shampoo

product photo of nexxus color assure sulfate-free shampoo

Per Fleming's point about colored hair benefiting from a protein boost, this formula offers exactly that. It contains a combo of elastin and quinoa protein to add back lost nutrients and strengthen strands, as well as boost the vibrancy of your color. So much so, in fact, that it claims to extend color for up to 40 washes — which makes it a clear winner for the title of the best drugstore shampoo for colored hair.

Best Shampoo and Conditioner System for Color-Treated Hair: Pureology Hydrate Shampoo and Conditioner Duo

product photo of pureology hydrate shampoo and conditioner duo

If you color your hair, the shampoo you use is undoubtedly more important than the conditioner you use — but if you're one of those people who prefers to always have a matching set in their shower, try this duo. "The lather, slip, and hydration both products deliver make your color look reflective and the hair feel healthy," says Tang. The set gets bonus points for the invigorating minty-herbal scent, a nice pick-me-up on sleepy mornings.

Best Strengthening Shampoo for Color-Treated Hair: Olaplex No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo

product photo of olaplex no. 4 bond maintenance shampoo

"This is the shampoo I recommend the most," says Fleming. That's not surprising, given that it's the at-home shampoo variant of a hugely popular protective in-salon treatment which is often paired with coloring services. "Not only is it sulfate-free, it also helps repair the bonds in the hair that are broken during coloring. This in turn allows the strands to hold onto the color longer and generally makes the hair healthier at the same time," she explains. Sold.

Best Shine-Enhancing Shampoo for Color-Treated Hair: Shu Uemura Color Lustre Brilliant Glaze Shampoo

product photo of shu uemura color lustre brilliant glaze shampoo

The shinier your hair, the better your color will look, which is why Fleming also loves this pick. She lauds it for containing goji berry extract, which offers antioxidant protection that helps protect against fading and adds a mirror-like shine and vibrancy to strands. It also contains musk rose oil, a good ingredient for lightweight hydration, adds Fleming.

Best Color-Depositing Shampoo for Color-Treated Hair: dpHUE Cool Brunette Shampoo

product photo of dphue cool brunette shampoo

A little different than the rest of the options on the list, a color-depositing shampoo can be a good way to ensure your tone stays true and vibrant, says Fleming. (Because no matter how well you take care of your hair, the color will inevitably start to change and fade over time.) Opt for using one every five shampoos, she recommends. As the name suggests, this one is ideal for brunettes, thanks to its cool blue pigments that work to neutralize unwanted orange, red, and brassy tones.

Best Vegan Shampoo for Color-Treated Hair: R+Co Gemstone Color Shampoo

product photo of R+Co Gemstone Color Shampoo

For those seeking a vegan option, this pick is ideal for protecting and conserving color, says Fleming. It's sulfate-free and says it prolongs vibrancy for up to 10 washes. Plus, it has the added benefit of containing protective antioxidants (think: vitamin E and lychee extract) along with sunflower sprout extract to moisturize and tamp down errant frizzies.

Best Universal Shampoo for Color-Treated Hair: Redken Color Extend Shampoo

product photo of Redken Color Extend Shampoo

Fleming lauds this fan favorite for relying on gentle cleansing agents coupled with plenty of moisturizers to leave hair feeling soft and the color extra shiny. There are also UV filters in the mix, which are great to look for in a color-safe shampoo, given that sun exposure can cause unwanted color fading and changes, she adds.

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