The best shampoo for color-treated hair is no shampoo at all. But fear not, that doesn’t mean not washing, it means washing it differently – and without detergent, that little devil.
Imagine that your hair is a piece of clothing made of an exquisitely delicate fabric. Attached to it is a label attached that reads: This garment is hand-woven and individually dyed, Do not machine launder; hand-wash in cool water with garments of similar color. Do not wring out water to avoid distressing fibers. Do not tumble dry. Air-dry only. Do not iron. (Alongside the text would be a series of little icons that nobody can really decipher.)
It’s a useful analogy because our hair actually is a delicate fabric like silk or cashmere (which actually is animal hair). And when it gets dyed, the following happens:
Semi-permanent color adds color without changing natural color dramatically and may last up to a dozen washings. It contains tiny molecules that enter through the cuticle (like scales on a fish or shingles on a roof) and into the cortex (the core fibers) without interacting with natural pigments. The molecules’ small size allows them to exit the hair shaft over time, leaving the hair as it was before treatment with no visible difference between colored length and new growth.
Demi-permanent color lasts through about 2 dozen washings. Pre-color molecules enter through the cuticle into the cortex where they interact with the natural color to create medium-sized molecules. Their larger size means they take longer to wash out. They do not contain ammonia so the natural pigment can’t be lightened. However, they may contain a small amount of peroxide to create a subtle color enhancement.
Permanent color is much harder to wash out, and is required for more significant color changes by using both ammonia and peroxide. Tiny molecules enter into the cortex where they react and expand to a size that is unlikely to escape. They lighten natural pigment to form a new base to accept new permanent color; the result is a mix of natural pigment and the new chosen shade, which is why the same formula may appear differently on different people.
If you’re blonde, for example, and going to brown, permanent color uses the interaction between the ammonia and the peroxide to create a new base color in the shaft. If you are going more than 3 levels in the opposite direction – from brown to blonde, say – there’s an additional step called a double-process where bleach is used to strip existing color first so that the ammonia-peroxide reaction deposits new color in the shaft, or lays it on the surface if a semi-permanent dye is used.
In other words, your cuticle that is your protective layer is chemically forced open into an unnatural position, and then coaxed shut again to protect the color deposited within. It’s a delicate operation that can leave hair stressed and fragile.
So after all these efforts of chemical creativity, that last thing you want is to see your color at your feet in the shower. You want to see it on your head in the mirror. Here’s how to be sure that happens:
Traditional, detergent-based shampoo can work too well. In fact, the very act of washing – no matter what you do or don’t use – contributes to the fading of color. Anything that swells the hair shaft – and causes the cuticles to lift – can allow the color you’ve just enclosed in the cortex to escape.
A shampoo labeled as color-safe generally means formulation with a less aggressive detergent that disturbs cuticles less, It is also likely to contain extra conditioning agents, proteins, or other supplemental ingredients for color “support,” aka masking the damage by detergent.
To spare your hair, one beauty blog suggests “Mixing conditioner with your shampoo to create a milder cleanser.” Another prescribes, “Coconut oil on your ends before shampooing to protect it.” Both have their heads in the right place, but our brains invented another, easier, better, smarter way.
Cleanse Consciously. Detergent – sulfate-based or otherwise – is the enemy of color-treated hair, virgin hair, curly hair, straight hair, fine hair, thick hair, baby hair, gray hair – any kind of hair, not to mention the skin on the scalp. That is why we built our company around New Wash – an Aloe- and essential oil-based cleanser with no detergent whatsoever – that leaves your cuticles in their natural, smooth, flat state, and leaves color untouched. It preserves your natural oils that are nature’s best conditioners, and it moisturizes while cleansing to the ideal degree.
Plus, if you’ve ever been bleached, you may have felt the burn scalp-wise. New Wash harnesses the power of Aloe Vera juice both as a cleansing agent and an anti-inflammatory salve.
So to protect your color investment, wash the New way and top the best-tressed list every season.
(Pssst: Looking for new color ideas? You’ll love this.)