Nikki Grebel
Updated on September 17, 2021

Should you wash your hair before coloring it and why would you care about whether your hair is freshly washed before a hair color appointment at all? If you have missed the debate over having your hair clean or dirty for the color service and right after it, you are at the right place to clear things up from the very beginning.

As a hair color specialist, I’ve seen both nightmares and success stories when it comes to color maintenance. Read on to know the ways you can get and keep those beautiful colors you’ve always wanted, straight from the source.

Is It Better to Dye Your Hair Dirty or Clean?

Back in the day, hairstylists would tell their clients that dirty hair was best when it came to hair coloring. Hair color was loaded with tons of ammonia, so it could break through any product buildup or natural oils.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is a big, fat LIE. Color companies use new technology in most of their products now. This means that hair color has become gentler on both the hair and scalp, and it may not break through the 3 days’ worth of dry shampoo stuck to your oily roots. Go to the salon with clean, washed hair, or you may be sacrificing gray coverage.

Having dirty hair during your consultation with your stylist can be confusing for them, as your strands can appear darker than usual. This can further lead to incorrect formulation to get you to your inspiration photo. This means that you are in jeopardy of getting a shade you didn’t ask for.

Hair Color Appointment with a Stylist

Instagram / @skyparlorsalon

Prevent these hair nightmares by using a gentle clarifying shampoo followed by a light conditioner the day of (or the night before) your salon appointment. I like Redken’s Detox Hair Cleansing Cream and Redken’s Extreme Conditioner.

Should I Wash My Hair Before Bleaching It?

For those of you that get bright highlights or a blended balayage, dirty hair could mean an inconsistent end result. The oil within your scalp can block the lightener from lifting the hair, and hair that doesn’t lift properly can turn splotchy or orangey (us hairstylists call this “blorange”).

Stylist Explaining How to Get Ready to Bleaching and Color Service

Instagram / @kinnorthamerica

For those of you that get your roots bleached using an on-scalp lightener, you may want to avoid coming with freshly washed hair. Instead, wash your hair at least 24 hours prior to bleaching it. Remember that fun fact about ammonia breaking through hair color? On-scalp lightener is typically full of ammonia. You want your natural oils to protect your scalp so the bleach doesn’t eat away at it, especially if you have a sensitive scalp prone to irritation.

Rather than using a clarifying shampoo the day prior to coloring hair using bleach, I recommend something moisturizing, like Verb’s Hydrating shampoo and conditioner.

Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner to Use Before Dyeing Hair

Instagram / @verbproducts

Can You Dye Your Hair Wet?

Water can create a barrier on the hair, complicating the color process. Many times, the color will still work, but it can be unpredictable. For this reason, I blow dry my clients prior to coloring when they come in with wet hair for the color service.

Some color companies have created toners and glosses that can go on wet hair, but this is the only exception in my book. If you are dyeing your hair at home, do start with dry clean hair.

Can I Wash My Hair After Dyeing It?

Short answer? NO.

The way that most hair color works is by penetrating the outermost layer of the hair, known as the cuticle, and pushing dye molecules in to react with the pigment in each strand. It takes 72 hours for the cuticle to close completely. Washing your hair prior to that means that color molecules are going to escape your strands and color will fade quickly.

I speak on behalf of all hairdressers when I say this: PLEASE, skip a few regular wash days and wait the three days for long-lasting color.

Tips on Washing Color-Treated Hair

Now that it’s been three days and you’re allowed to wash your hair, I’ll let you in on some of the best ways to maintain it.

  1. First things first, use whatever shampoo your colorist recommends. They know your hair best. Their hands are in it. A drugstore shampoo can create buildup, cause hair loss, and cause chemical reactions during the color appointment. I personally recommend color-safe lines, like Redken, Living Proof, or R+Co. Every shampoo by any of those companies is safe for color-treated hair. Most of these have UV protection technology in it to help protect your color from the sun. This is major!
  2. Wash one to three times a week in lukewarm water. Hot water will open the cuticle of the hair and help your color pour out of it! As a result, you might need to schedule a new color service sooner than expected.
  3. If you are a brunette going blonde, you might consider using a blue shampoo to remove orange tones. For a blonde that is trying to stay bright, I recommend a purple shampoo or a violet-toned mask. Do not use either of these products more than once a week: over-toning your hair can complicate the coloring process in the future. Overusing these toning shampoos can also cause dryness in the ends of the hair.
Toning Shampoos to Maintain Hair Color

Instagram / @redken

I will add a bonus hot tip here: consider purchasing a shower head filter to remove hard water and other impurities from your water. Your water can be causing dry scalp, brassiness, and brittle hair.

Are you ready for the best hair of your life? Follow me on Instagram @hairsoakedinbleach for color inspo and tips on keeping your hair color as healthy and vibrant as possible!

Washing Hair Before Dyeing ItHair Color Appointment with a StylistStylist Explaining How to Get Ready to Bleaching and Color ServiceHydrating Shampoo and Conditioner to Use Before Dyeing HairToning Shampoos to Maintain Hair Color