Photographed by Christelle De Castro.
Every summer, it's the same thing: My hair color gets ravaged by sun, wind, salt water, chlorine — the list is endless — and I'm tasked with getting it good as new again. Imagine what would happen if you dunked your favorite pair of Alaïas in salt water and chlorine, and then laid them out in the sun.
Well, that's (sort of) what you're doing to your $200 highlights. Most women don't really know — or believe — that these things can wreak havoc. While training to be a colorist, a chemist once told me that 50 hours of sun exposure was the equivalent of 30 minutes of bleach! Whether it's lemon juice, sun exposure, or peroxide, it's all the same chemical process on the hair. But, destroying your hair every summer doesn't have to be inevitable. Your hair color and texture can look as stunning as the day you walked out of the salon, but you're going to have to put some work into it. And, just shampooing, conditioning, and running out the door won't cut it.
Photographed by Mark Iantosca.
1. Sulfates are the detergents in most shampoos that cleanse away dirt, oil, and other impurities from your hair. Unfortunately, they also wash away color molecules and fade highlights. After sun exposure, frequent shampooing is the second biggest fader of hair color, so be sure to use a shampoo and conditioner formulated for color-treated hair: They'll contain low amounts of sulfates while boasting some super-moisturizing elements. And, try to go two to three days without shampooing. Instead, sub in a dry shampoo like this one from Oscar Blandi Pronto. After all, your scalp's natural oils are Mother Nature's deep conditioner: It'll save your color, your blow-dry, and the health of your hair.
2. While it sounds a bit crazy, you should use a sunblock for your hair every time you wash it — especially if you're going to be in direct sunlight and can't cover your head with a scarf or a hat. Try this pick that's specially formulated for the hair.
3. Heat styling fades your hair color in exactly the same way that your black or bright-colored clothes fade in the dryer. If you use heat styling tools on the regular, use a thermal protector like this one from It's A 10: It's also a leave-in treatment with crucial protein and vitamins. And, as a general rule, stay away from metal brushes. The bristles conduct the heat from your blow dryer and practically become an iron. Sure, your hair dries in a flash, but you're sacrificing the brightness of your hair color while risking tons of breakage. Always use a natural bristle brush that polishes the hair, not snaps it. The barrel of the brush can be wooden, ceramic, or even plastic — but never metal.
Photographed by Amelia Alpaugh.
4. Salt water and chlorine will not only fry your hair: They'll turn your blonde locks into orange straw. And, while the cuticle of a healthy strand of hair is smooth, cuticles from damaged hair have holes where color molecules can slip out. To keep your hair from absorbing the chlorine from a pool into these holes, layer your hair with an oil that contains an SPF like this one from Phytoplage. If you do get chlorine deposits on your hair, you can remove them with a clarifying shampoo like Ultra Swim. For an easy, at-home solution, try an apple cider vinegar rinse, which won't just rinse out any chlorine deposits, but will also remove highlight-dulling product build up, remove dead skin cells, and unclog hair follicles. Always follow any clarifying treatment with a deep conditioner to replace any lost moisture. I love heating up coconut oil in the microwave for 15 seconds & sleeping with a mask in my hair. Just be sure to wrap your tresses in a scarf so the oil doesn't seep into your pillow cases.
5. Along with rusty pipes in old Manhattan buildings, impurities in the water we shower with can change our hair color — sometimes drastically, especially for those who are very blonde. If you head to a summer home that uses well water (or, if you have hard water), I strongly suggest you install a filtering system. The folks at T-3 came out with a shower filter that you simply screw on; it removes 95% of chlorine and other chemicals, improving hair health, hair color retention, and a host of other benefits.
6. Just like everything else, healthy hair starts from the inside out. Make sure you're eating a balanced diet full of vitamins and nutrients, and if you're still not seeing results, try a hair vitamin like Biotin. Phyto also makes a vitamin complex pill that contains biotin and fish oil. Just make sure you check with a doctor before adding any supplements into your regimen!