Whether you started coloring at home for the first time during COVID-19, or you’ve been coloring for years, you probably already know that color-treated hair requires a little more TLC than virgin hair—hair that hasn't already been dyed, highlighted, or bleached. What’s more, if you use hot tools on top of coloring, and wash your hair (too) often (don’t worry, we all do it!), you might notice the damaging effects on your hair really start to pile up.
The bottom line? If you want your hair to look and feel its best, it’s helpful to stick to a hair care routine that includes plenty of hydrating, color-safe products with nurturing ingredients. A consistent routine will help with everything from color fade to split ends. Think of it as similar to sticking to a nightly skincare routine— but much easier, as most of these steps aren’t necessary every day.
Hair Care for Colored Hair
So, where should you start? You’re in luck—we put together a little cheat sheet to jumpstart your new routine. Follow these five steps below to learn which products you should be using, in what order, and how frequently. Here are our best hair care tips to not only maintain your colored hair but keep it looking healthy and gorgeous.
The Perfect Routine for Color-Treated Hair
Step 1: Color
Whether you color at home weekly or monthly, we promise the Color + Gloss technique (or what we like to call the Perfect Pair) is the best way to keep all of your hair, from roots to ends, looking its best. With this technique, every time you color, you’re applying a gloss instead of permanent hair color on your mid-lengths and ends.
Because, if you keep applying permanent hair color to your mid lengths and ends every time you just want to just touch up your roots—your hair will eventually become dark and dull. Which is why we invented our unique at home 2-step salon-based system: Madison Reed Permanent Hair Color for root coverage and Madison Reed Color Reviving Semi-Permanent Hair Gloss to freshen up your mid-lengths and ends and give it back its shine. When you’re applying this 2 step process—don’t worry if the color and the gloss overlap a little—it’s all part of the coloring process. You can be confident that your whole head of hair, from roots to the ends, looks like you just stepped out of the salon!
Step 2: Protect
Frequent shampooing, salt and sun, swimming, tight hair ties, hair dryers, flat irons, and more all take their toll on color-treated hair. And while we can’t eliminate many of those things altogether, we can take steps to protect your color and prevent further fading and damage.
Be patient. If you can, wait a full 48 hours (after the initial post-coloring wash) to lather and rinse your newly-colored locks. This will give your hair’s cuticle time to recover from being opened during your color treatment.
Always use a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. Sulfates can dry out hair, strip color molecules, and accelerate color fading. Our Color Protecting Hair Care Set has everything you need, and it also contains UV protection.
Don’t shampoo too frequently. Shampoo can strip the natural oils from your hair, leading to overproduction from your oil glands as they try to compensate. Try replacing one of your regular washes with dry shampoo. The less you sud up, the less risk of fading. As a bonus, colored dry shampoo can help mask grown-out roots until you’re ready for another color treatment.
Watch your water temperature. We all love a hot shower, but we love that fresh, vibrant hair color even more. Have mercy on your hair by using cool water to wash and rinse it. Even if you can’t stand cool water for your whole shower, at the very least, finish up your shower with a cool rinse on your hair to help close the cuticle after washing. If you have curly hair, fill an empty spray bottle with water to spritz your curls every morning. (This hair care tip packs a double punch—cooler water is way better for your skin, too.)
Turn down the heat. Water temperature isn’t the only thing you’ll want to dial back. You’ll want to be mindful of how often you heat style your hair, too. Turn your blow dryer to a cooler setting, if possible, and limit your use of high-temp flat irons and curling tools. If you must use heat styling tools often, consider applying our Madison Reed styling and smoothing cream, Tame, formulated with argan oil, keratin and ginseng root. And be sure to see your hair stylist for regular trims to eliminate any split ends caused by flat irons and other heat tools.
Step 3: Treat
So, you know that feeling when your hair just needs…something? Maybe your strands feel too dry, look a little dull, or break off more when you brush? If that sounds familiar, it could be time to try deep conditioning or protein treatments.
A good deep conditioner or protein treatment (with ingredients like keratin or hydrolyzed rice protein) can put moisture back into your hair and restore its strength after a color treatment. A professional-strength hair treatment like Pro Boosts makes it easy to give your hair the deep conditioning it craves.
Use these five-minute conditioning treatments in place of a regular conditioner either after you dye your hair or once a week. Choose between Hydrate to fight frizz, Shine to add radiance and smooth your locks, Strength to repair damage and fortify your hair, and Seal to help lock in color and prevent fading.
Step 4: Mask
Once you try a color depositing hair mask, you’ll never go back. Our Color Therapy hair mask works like magic to fight color fade and keep your dyed hair looking fresh.
Color Therapy is a color-enhancing hair mask that adds intense hydration and deposits color where your hair needs it most. It’s easy to use—in fact, you can use it instead of your conditioner in the shower and just let it sit for a bit longer.
If you’ve ever used purple shampoo to fight brassiness in your hair, our Color Therapy hair mask is a step up from that. If faded color (and not brassiness) is more of your problem—Color Therapy is also the easiest way to refresh your color-treated hair between color treatments.
To fight brassiness in highlights, blonde, or red hair color, choose a shade that neutralizes brassiness—Caffe for brunettes and Perla for blondes. Or bring back those warm tones from your original color with a shade that adds warm chestnut or golden honey tones (Castagna or Dorato). Not sure which shade to choose for your at-home hair mask? Consult with a professional colorist and get the results you want on the first try.
Use this in-shower treatment every second or third time you shampoo instead of a conditioner. The more often you use it, the more color is deposited into your hair. Just wait 5 minutes for rich, natural-looking color and shine, rinse it out, and you’re done!
Step 5: Style
Your hair feels healthy and your color looks great. Now it’s time to take your hair to the next level with this optional fifth step—styling!
Use styling products made specifically for color-treated hair that are gentle on your color and don’t contain sulfates and parabens. Here are some of our favorites—all developed specifically for color-treated hair:
If you want to meet your new best curl friend: Use LET’S BOUNCE™, our curl-defining cream for soft, frizz-free flexible hold. Work a quarter-sized amount through damp hair before drying with a diffuser or before air-drying.
If you want to smooth things over: try SLEEK ATTACK™, our smoothing, conditioning styling cream for soft, touchable hold and style. Add a quarter-sized amount to your hair before blow-drying with around brush for straight, silky results.
So there you have it! Your five-step routine for keeping your color-treated hair looking fresh, vibrant, and healthy. What will you add to your at-home hair care routine? Let us know in the comments. Or, share a hair care tip that works for you and your hair color. We’re dye-ing to hear… ;-)
Originally Published: September 2015
Updated: July 2021