How to Make Your Hair Color Last and Prevent Fading

Fight faded hair color and potential discoloration with these expert-backed tips.

person's head with red hair in pigtail buns from the back
Photo: Adriana Duduleanu/EyeEm/Getty Images

If you snap hundreds of selfies immediately after getting your hair colored, that's completely justifiable — after all, your color begins to fade (ugh) from the first time you step in the shower. Water opens the cuticle — the scale-like outermost protective layer — of hair, allowing pigment molecules to seep out, according to celebrity colorist Michael Canalé. Plus, minerals in your water (in addition to UV rays outside) can cause hair color to oxidize, resulting in an unintended yellow or orange tint.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep faded hair color at bay between appointments or at-home dye sessions without compromising the health of your hair. Here are four of the best ways to avoid faded hair color and keep your strands looking vibrant, according to pro colorists.

Do a Gloss Treatment

One of the best ways to stretch out the time between coloring, a hair gloss treatment is a semi-permanent process that can make your strands shinier and color brighter. You can choose between either a clear gloss, which just adds shine, or a color gloss, which can add a subtle change in shade. The color option can be useful in correcting the tone of your color, says Brittany King, a colorist based in NYC and Los Angeles.

"With a lot of brunette clients who have highlights, I'll suggest coming back to get a gloss in two to three months," she says. "It keeps [their color fresh] and they're not damaging their hair from getting highlights all the time," she notes. Unlike typical permanent dyes, gloss treatments don't involve ammonia or peroxide, chemicals that can leave hair more susceptible to damage. And, on top of preventing faded hair color, they also coat each strand of your hair, shielding them from environmental factors such as UV rays.

Switch up Your Shower Routine

There's nothing like a relaxing, warm shower after a grueling workout. Even better? Giving yourself a soothing scalp massage while you shampoo. Sure, it may feel great, but regularly scrubbing and soaking your hair can wreak havoc on your hair color. That's because the more water your hair absorbs, the more the strands stretch and swell, ultimately causing the cuticle to open up and allowing the dye to seep out. So if you color your hair, you might not want to wash it every day but rather every three to four days. And you might also steer clear of warmer water to prevent faded hair color: For one, heat tends to open the cuticle even wider. Second, hair strands are coated with a protective layer of lipids, which slow down how fast hair absorbs water. Heat can wear away at these lipids. With that in mind, resist the urge to crank the heat when you are in the shower, advises Canalé.

And when it comes to choosing a shampoo and conditioner, at the very least, you should be using formulas that are labeled "color-safe," says Canalé. They tend to be free from harsh detergents sometimes used in other products and also have a lower pH (vs. a high pH, which can also cause the cuticle to open). If you're looking to correct your hair's hue, you can try a "color-depositing" shampoo or conditioner to tone your hair. For example, a purple-tinted product such as Christophe Robin Shade Variation Hair Mask in Baby Blonde (Buy It, $53, can cancel out yellow tones while a blue product such as Joico Color Balance Blue Conditioner (Buy It, $24, will counteract brassiness.

Hide Roots with a Concealer

"Roots are in right now," says Canalé. "But if you want to hide them, use a concealer; don't damage your base color," he advises. Designed to hide regrowth between coloring sessions, root concealers act superficially and don't penetrate the hair shaft, so they don't cause damage in the same way that chemical processes (such as dyeing) do.

All you have to do is apply it — either as a powder or a mist — whenever you want to hide your roots, then wash it off at the end of the day. Color Wow Root Cover Up (Buy It, $35, is a powder option that's sweat-resistant but washes out with shampoo. For a mist alternative, Canalé likes Oribe Airbrush Root Touch-Up Spray (Buy It, $34,

Fight Buildup

Hair products, chlorine and minerals (i.e. copper, iron) in water, and pollutants (such as soot and dust) can all accumulate on your hair, causing dullness and discoloration. "You naturally get buildup on your hair that creates that weird cast over your hair," says King. "Removing it restores hair's vibrant color," she adds. Okay, but how can you remove it? Shampooing can help break down the buildup, but incorporating a regular detox in your routine can do that and more by also helping you maintain shine and brightness.

Not sure where to start? King frequently recommends Malibu C Hard Water Wellness Hair Remedy (Buy It, $4, to her clients looking to fight faded hair color. Each packet contains crystals that you dissolve in water and then leave in your hair for five minutes to break down buildup.

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