No matter what any department-store saleswoman tries to tell you, there are a lot of things in beauty you can afford to skimp on. Mascara, for one. Sheet masks, for another. Oh, and definitely hairspray — if there's a better one on this planet than Elnett, we've yet to discover it. But, with that said, it is generally wise to pay a little more for your hair color if you can. A full consultation, carefully studying your hair type, history, and routine before reaching for the foils: That's a service only an experienced colorist can offer. Yes, it's definitely more expensive than a shade of brown out of a box, but you do wear your hair every day.
For example, if you want to try something new but don't have room in your budget (or schedule) for frequent salon visits, your colorist should take that into account and give you something with minimal regrowth. Been box-dyeing your hair since you were 13? If your colorist doesn’t even ask about your hair history, please hang up your gown and walk away, because goodness knows what could happen when they put the bleach on. The same thing goes for color fade — a lot of it is down to miscommunication between the client and the colorist.
Colorist Jenny Richards, of FOUR London, says that you shouldn't expect to see real fade for at least six weeks; anything before that means something's not right. Hair color is a huge process, and it's important that your colorist knows your history, especially if you're seeing someone new. "With blondes going brassy, for example, it's usually down to a colorist not taking into account the current condition of the hair, how it's responded to color in the past, and the natural undertone of your hair underneath any dye," Richards says.
But as far as what happens once you're out of the salon chair, aftercare matters — a lot. When it comes to blondes especially, Richards says to be wary of anything that claims to "revive" your color. "Quite often, they actually have some color pigment in them, and while that sounds like a great idea, it'll just tamper with your professional-applied color, and could lead to random color deposits over our head," she warns. "I'd prefer my blonde clients use a gentle purple shampoo."
And if you're a bottle redhead and often feel your color vanishes faster than the good bottle of Prosecco in your fridge, you're not wrong. "The red hair molecule is larger than other color molecules, so it doesn't penetrate the cortex of the hair as deeply as other colors do," Richards says. "Therefore, since it isn't as deep, it can wash out easier." She recommends clear vegetable glosses to keep all hair colors looking shiny and fresh, but redheads might find them especially useful. Most colorists will be able to tailor a bespoke color to send you home with to brighten and refresh your dye, but you can also try Rita Hazan's Ultimate Shine Gloss in Clear for an over-the-counter solution that really does the trick without depositing any color.
As for brunettes, your best bet is using a good sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, along with an at-home gloss. Richards recommends Kérastase Bain Chromatique Sulfate-Free Shampoo & Conditioner for all shades of colored hair, and a regular dose of Olaplex No.3 to keep strands strong and healthy. These products don't come cheap, but when you fork out for salon color only to use the wrong products to maintain it, you're essentially rinsing all that money down the drain. "Sulfate-free is the main thing," Richards emphasizes. "Harsh shampoo will only strip your color aggressively."
Equally important is to always use heat protection when styling your hair, even when you're just rough drying — heat attacks your color as well as your hair texture. "Modern hairdryers get super hot, which is great for speed drying but can be very harsh on the hair," Richards says. So the secret to long-lasting hair color isn't some kind of in-salon sorcery reserved for the rich and famous: It's a simple process of taking care of your color from the second you sit down in the chair to the next time you're back in it. Which you will be — because proper maintenance is the most important step of all.