How Make Your Hair Color Last Longer When You Sweat a Lot

Playing in the sun, sweating, and swimming are all mortal sins when it comes to your hair color. Don't stop doing any of these things, but do follow our tips to protect your tint.

pastel hair
Photo: Shutterstock.

Many things can trigger the release of pigment molecules from your strands, and that makes your color become dull. The top two offenders? Water and harsh chemicals. Every time you wet your hair (even by sweating), moisture causes its outer cuticle layer to swell and lift a bit, which lets color molecules escape when hair is washed or rinsed, says Christine Thompson, a co-owner of Spoke and Weal salons in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Water can also contain metals like copper, "which can penetrate the hair and cause your color to oxidize," says Rolanda Wilkerson, Ph.D., a principal scientist at Procter & Gamble. Worse yet is pairing moisture with sun. "If your hair is wet and you add sun to the mix, then you end up with a naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide [a bleaching agent] in your hair," Thompson says.

Chlorine is a known color killer, but the lathering agents (surfactants) in some shampoos can also increase your rate of oxidation. That said, both Wilkerson and Thompson maintain that not all surfactants are equally harsh. For example, some brands, like Aveda, use coconut-derived surfactants that are gentler to hair, while others, such as Head & Shoulders, blend their surfactants with conditioning ingredients to offset any potential damage they may cause.

"I want to avoid the sun and water," said no one ever. Happily, there's plenty you can do to offset their effects so you can play all day.

Get in condition.

Thompson tells swimmers to wet their hair and distribute conditioner through it and then slip on a swim cap. This keeps chlorine from being absorbed through the cap. (You can also follow these steps for even more protection.)

Lube up.

"Oil keeps moisture out of hair," Thompson says. So before hitting the beach, use an oil-based protective spray, such as Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil ($28; Christophe Robin, a French celebrity stylist and the creator of the eponymous line, says you can use lavender oil in place of a commercial product.

Wash less.

"Two things get into your hair: sweat and oil," Thompson says. "Sweat doesn't make your hair oily, so if you work out daily, just rinse with water afterward to remove sweat, and condition the ends, which can get dry." After two or more days, you will want to wash. Go for a single shampoo rather than the popular double cleanse. (These tips can help you break the shampoo cycle.)

Be gentle.

"You wouldn't wash your cashmere or silk shirts with regular laundry detergent. It's the same with hair. Color makes hair more fragile, which means it's even more important to handle it with care," Robin says. Keep your eyes peeled for labels that say "color-safe," "color-protectant," or "safe for color-treated hair." These formulas are designed to help color stay inside the hair fiber, which results in longer-lasting, more vibrant color. Try Phyto Paris Phytocitrus Color Protect Radiance Shampoo ($21; Some even contain antioxidants to guard against oxidation from metals, Wilkerson says.

Treat yourself.

Hair that's well moisturized has a more intact cuticle layer. Once a week, use a deep-conditioning treatment, such as Nexxus Humectress Ultimate Moisture Masque ($20; to nourish your locks.

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