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Hair Color Maintenance

May 3, 2018


Verna Meachum

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Last Updated on January 19, 2022 by Verna Meachum

I will be getting a touch up on my color near the end of this month and want to lighten the color so even though I’ve touched on how I prepare my hair for color,  I did more research and thought you’d like to know too. I want to start off by talking very briefly about what hair goes through when it is bleached or a permanent dye is applied. 

Due to modification of the hair to the surface of the hair fiber, the hair will go through changes that modify the feel and texture. Because permanent color chemicals must break into the cuticle layers and disrupt their flattened state to introduce pigments, color treated hair tends to feel drier and coarser than hair that has not been chemically treated.

When the cuticles are lifted, uneven and chipped, they do not reflect light well. Hair has difficulty maintaining a proper moisture protein balance. Hair often loses “weight” due to the loss of internal sulfur bonds and the breakdown of critical proteins in the fiber. A majority of damage from coloring comes from permanent processes, which affect the hair’s natural protein structure in order to deposit color deep into the hair. Research has shown that permanently coloring hair leads to hair fiber swelling, cuticle detachment and eventually complete exposure of the cortex. When textured hair is color treated, getting maximum moisture into the fiber and holding it there is critical. Color treated hair needs a healthy dose of protein conditioning as well. 

Before You Color

Before you attempt to color your hair, talk with your colorist so that a thorough evaluation is in order, particularly if you plan to color lighter. Those who are contemplating using color rinses and glazes should always remain aware of their hair’s condition prior to rinsing. In fact, if your hair is lacking protein support, a rinse or glaze will actually improve the hair by reinforcing and protecting the cuticle.

For those who are permanently coloring or bleaching their hair, your hair’s integrity should be taken into account prior to undergoing these processes. If the strands are breaking, damaged, or the scalp is shedding hair excessively, or your hair is still in transition, coloring may not be the best option at this point in time. You should avoid coloring previously colored hair or hair that has recently been stressed from a relaxer in the preceding two weeks. Never treat hair that is in questionable condition with permanent color. Stressed hair will simply fall out by the handful if additional chemical processing is inflicted on the hair’s fiber.

Preparing Hair For Color

Take at least two weeks before the scheduled service to deep condition the hair with indirect heat using both a protein conditioner or protein filled deep conditioner and a moisturizing deep conditioner. I also like to clarify my hair to remove any build up or residue to help ensure I get a more accurate color (Malibu C gel treatments). I also usually use Olaplex no. 3 to prep for color, but this time I will skip it. If you are shampooing and conditioning once a week, these two pre-coloring weeks should at least provide at least two opportunities for you to deep condition and treat your hair with moisture and protein. Emphasis should be placed on the moisturizing component of this preparation. Hair can be treated with protein/moisture combo at once (see hair Tip in my Instagram bio. to understand which should come first) or by alternating each conditioner type at each wash. Hair that is thoroughly deep conditioned with both moisture and protein intact, is better suited to undergo the coloring process.


For color treated hair, avoid shampoos that strip the hair of natural oils. This rule is even more significant with chemically treated hair. Shampoos that are specifically formulated for color treated hair are your best bet. (See end of blog).

Each shampoo should be followed by 15-30 minute deep conditioning with either protein or moisture. The choice of moisture or protein depends on the wet hair assessment analysis. Color treated hair is more likely to vary widely from one protein or moisture extreme to the other. Its high porosity causes it to feel limp one minute and rough the next. Wet assessing is key for chemically processed hair. If the strands feel strong with little to no breaking, you will likely want to go with moisture conditioning. If your strands feel weak, limp and mushy, you will probably need to add protein conditioning. If you’re unsure, mix the two types together.

If you will be coloring your hair yourself, before you do you it perform strand and allergy tests. These tests are usually done two days prior to coloring and are quite important. Allergy tests ensure you won’t develop skin rash, peeling or irritation after using color. Strand tests confirm your expected processing time and final color results. Follow manufacturers guidelines.

Caring for color treated hair on a daily basis can be challenging. Hair breakage and dryness are common battles. Managing color treated hair really requires that you get a true understanding of moisture and protein balancing. Putting together a dedicated regimen of regular moisture and supplemental protein products in the early weeks following a color session is important. Conditioning from this point should concentrate on your individual moisture and protein needs.

Ingredients To Look For In Order To Protect The Color In Your Hair

Mild detergents: sodium lauroyl methyl isethionate, sodium cocoyl isethionate, cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, decyl glucoside. These cause hair not to swell as much. Swelling is what allows water to have access to the dye molecules in your hair to leach them out.

Color protecting conditioners use ingredients to prevent swelling in hair and help manage porosity like Polyquaternium 55, hydrolyzed proteins, amino acids, UV protecting ingredients (like Polysilocone 15, will wash out with a mild shampoo) and oils.

Look for products that contain these ingredients to help manage your hair’s porosity so you don’t lose color in your hair easily and to protect your color from the sun.

What is most important is preventing hair from swelling rapidly with water when it gets wet so you want those conditioning ingredients in a shampoo–If it doesn’t make your hair limp or you might want to condition your hair before shampoo and then rinse, shampoo and condition again to protect your hair and keep the porosity under control. A well formulated shampoo and conditioner for dyed hair will make a difference.

FYI: if your hair does not tolerate a lot of protein watch out for that. If you’re doing highlights, your hair may tolerate extra protein.

Sources: “Elasticity and Tensile Properties of Human Hair: Single Fiber Test Method”. Journal of Cosmetic Chemistry.
“Amino Acid Analysis of Cosmetically Altered Hair”. Journal of Cosmetic Chemistry.
“Amino Acid Composition of Human Hair”. Textile Research Journal 40.
“Quantification and Prevention of Hair Damage”. Journal of Cosmetic Chemistry.
“An Ultrastructural Study of Hair Fiber Damage and Restoration Following Treatment with Permanent Hair Dye”. International Journal of Dermatology.

Curl care

 We treat our blog with a curious, open-minded, and customer-focused attitude. We ask lots of questions about everything.

We think that people should take what information they need and leave what they don't. We suggest things we enjoy and believe are worth your attention.

Above all, we value your trust above anything else. We're so glad you’re here!

Hi,I'm Verna

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