How To Make Your Hair Colour Last Way Longer

Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Any busy colourist will tell you that one of the biggest considerations when deciding on the best hair color for a client is the maintenance level they're comfortable dealing with. At the Oscar Blandi Salon, I see about 16 to 20 clients a day, and it never ceases to amaze me how many women don't realise that how long a shade lasts, how well it wears, and even how healthy their strands remain greatly depends on how well they care for it. I do all I can to use the best products, latest techniques, and technology, but once you leave my chair, it's in your hands until your next appointment.
Not every colour requires the same amount of upkeep, and if you're thinking about changing things up, it might be helpful to know how much effort you should put in. I put together a guide to the factors that determine how much maintenance different colours require. No need to dive into a new hue and discover it's a part-time job you never applied for.
The three main factors are:
How Fast Your Hair Grows
Average growth is 1/2 inch per month, but some people's grows at twice that rate, while others only see a 1/4-inch growth in a four-week span. Your metabolism, diet, and other factors unique to your genetics affect growth speed.
How Different Your New Colour Is From Your Natural Shade
If your natural colour is dark brown, and you opt for platinum-blonde highlights, then you'll see dark dots of regrowth in approximately one week. If you're naturally light and closer to a dirty blonde than a brunette, then you might not notice roots for two months.
How Much You Dislike Seeing Roots
I've actually had clients ask me many times to leave roots when I'm coloring their hair. I think dark roots can look cool, but gray roots not so much.
Depending on the colour you choose, there may be more specific requirements. Based on years of professional experience, I've put together a guide and timeline for maintaining three of the most commonly requested hair colors. Pay attention to these, and you'll keep your mane looking great for as long as possible.
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Blonde is usually the hardest on your hair's health. That's because in order to lighten hair you have to strip pigment from it, and that requires ammonia and peroxide — two of the most damaging chemicals in hair dye. The more solid your blonde, the faster you'll need to return to the salon. I often recommend blonde highlights, which are more manageable.
Shampoo your hair two days after you get this colour. This will allow time for your cuticle to close and give your scalp's natural oils a chance to return. It will also return your hair's natural pH levels to normal.
To prevent damage, one week after dying your hair, do a deep-conditioning treatment; continue to do so on a weekly basis. My favorite deep conditioner is coconut oil. Simply take a tablespoon and heat it in the microwave for 10 seconds, and then run it through your hair. Fifteen minutes is enough time for it to be effective, but if you can, let it sit overnight and wait to shampoo it out in the morning.
By the fourth week, you'll want to boost shine and neutralize unwanted tones with a gloss. You can have this done in a salon or at home, but, either way, it should be tailored to your specific needs. This means: If your blonde gets brassy, then use a cool gloss that kills yellow. But, if your blonde gets white and ashy, then use a gold gloss that adds warmth. A clear gloss is a great option for adding shine and vibrancy.
Six weeks after going blonde, if you're still reluctant to go to the salon for a touch-up, you'll need a shampoo like Clairol Shimmer Lights that kills brassy tones and revives faded highlights. You should wash with it once a week until you redo your colour. If the formula's purple hue scares you, try diluting it with your regular shampoo, and if you like the results, you can use it full-strength next time.
About two months after you go blonde, you'll probably want to head to the salon. Before your appointment, however, I recommend doing a clarifying treatment to remove colour-dulling product build-up. There are lots of easy DIY ways to do this. I like a simple apple-cider-vinegar rinse that helps even out your hair's pH levels, and works to have colour take better and more evenly. Always follow any clarifying treatment with a conditioner, like that coconut oil.
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Since little-to-no lifting of your natural colour is required when going brunette, this colour is the least damaging and the most low-maintenance. I almost always use ammonia and peroxide- free dyes when dying hair darker, because the practice involves mostly depositing (not stripping away) colour or covering small amounts of gray.
As with going blonde, you should wait two full days until you shampoo your new brunette 'do.
After four weeks, get a gloss — salon or DIY — that's tailored to your specific needs. Brunettes tend to get brassy with frequent shampooing. Some great at-home ways to kill orange tones are with a coffee rinse or grape Kool-Aid. I'm not kidding! Simply comb the coffee or Kool-Aid through your hair, and leave it on for up to 15 minutes before shampooing out.
If by week six, you're more than 30% gray, you may need a touch-up. If you're less then 30% gray, then evaluate again at eight weeks. Women with no grays can normally go about 12 weeks before retouching.
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Because red fades the fastest (red is the largest colour molecule, so it slips out of hair with every washing), this is the shade that requires the most effort and maintenance. Don't wash your hair until a week after you go red. I suggest only weekly shampoos after that. You can use a dry shampoo throughout the week if you feel oily — rinsing with water is okay, too. And, every other time you wash your hair, use a red-enhancing shampoo to keep your colour on point. Be sure to get a recommendation from your colourist to ensure you use the appropriate one.
If you use high-heat styling tools on a regular basis, then be sure to use a thermal protectant, like It's a 10 Miracle Leave-In spray. Also, avoid metal brushes, which get hot as irons when used with blowdryers. In the same way that your bright clothing fades under the heat of a clothes dryer, your red hair will fade with frequent high-heat styling.
Three weeks after you've gone red, do a gloss to revive any fading. Rita Hazan and John Frieda both make great at-home red glosses.
Four weeks is the longest a redhead can go without a touch-up — or she'll have to just deal with a faded colour until she can get to the salon.
As you can see, there are no hard rules when it comes to maintaining your hair colour — just suggestions. I have some clients who are quite particular, and never want their roots to show, while others don't mind going a little longer between touch-ups.
But, no matter how often you visit the salon or dye your hair at home, don't forget the importance of caring for it between colourings.

More from Hair

R29 Original Series