I’ve been coloring my hair since I was, well, much younger than I am now. My mom also colors her hair. So does my best friend…so do all my gal friends, come to think of it. Many of my guy friends get their hair colored and highlighted too. I suspect this is because freshly colored hair is an instant self-confidence booster—and I have already told my best friend that when I die, I'd better not attend my own funeral with any gray roots showing! However, it’s also worth mentioning here that too-frequent color sessions can make a noticeable dent in the wallet. So whether you do your hair color at home or have a stylist apply your color, these tips can help you get the most wear possible out of your color between sessions!

1. Prep your hair like a pro

There are a few ways to get your hair prepared to best hold the new color application. The first is also the simplest—go in unwashed. My stylist always asks me to refrain from washing for a couple of days prior to my appointment to let the hair oils build up. This helps color cling to strands. You can also go the extra mile and do a deep condition or hair oil treatment for extra long-lasting color.

2. Pick a color that’s close to your natural hair color

This is one of the best ways to extend the life of your color—if you can swing it (I personally can't, since my natural color is gray at this point). By picking a slightly more or less vibrant shade than your natural hair color, you can wait longer in between touch-ups. Another way to achieve this is to add in highlights or lowlights that can mask your roots as they grow in. The general rule of thumb here is, the more movement in your hair color, the less noticeable emerging roots will be.

3. Opt for highlights instead of all-over color

Highlights have endurance powers far beyond that of all-over color. If you can manage it, opt for highlights rather than a full-on color session.

4. Apply a glaze or gloss at home, or ask if your stylist can offer you one free

You can find an inexpensive glaze or gloss at most drugstores, and often stylists will include one free of charge (after all, the better your color looks, the more referrals they’re likely to get). The glaze or gloss will help your hair lock in the new color (many drugstores have glosses as inexpensive as $3-$5).

5. Skip a wash…or two

Our culture is quite shower-happy. We are also very bath-happy. While warm showers and baths undeniably feel good, they don't do our freshly colored hair any favors. If you can, skip every other time you would have washed your hair and let your hair's natural oils do their work to keep your strands healthy and color-rich. If you must wash (e.g., you have worked out and your co-workers would definitely notice!) try just rinsing with water, adding in a bit of conditioner, then drying as usual. Or—this is one of my favorite quick fixes—wash only your bangs or very front sections of your hair and leave the rest alone.

Note: This will also help lower your water bill and save on shampoo and styling product costs!

6. Avoid the direct spray

When you do shower, remember this key (courtesy of Allure magazine) to making your color last—water is the number one agent that fades color! So—when showering, stand in such a way that the water spray doesn't blast directly onto your roots. Also, use warm water—if you really like it hot, make sure you keep your hair away from the water. If you happen to have a low-flow or massage filter on your showerhead, this can also help preserve color.

Note: Every few washes, if you do a simple rinse with club soda, you can remove the heavy metals found in the tap water in many cities. If you already have a filter on your shower head, however, this may not be necessary.

7. Protect your head from the sun, sand and surf

Whether you choose to use a hat, spray-on sunscreen, or conditioner (or some combination thereof), the salt and sand at the beach and the UV rays of the sun can act as fading, drying agents when it comes to hair color. The more you protect your color, the longer it will last.

Note: To protect your color from the chlorine in pool water, smooth on some all-over conditioner, wear a bathing cap, and/or dab on baby oil just prior to swimming. Rinse off when you’ve finished your swim. If this doesn't work and your light hair still looks greenish, do a V-8 rinse to neutralize the green (this is what hair experts recommend).

8. Moisturize and condition hair well between color sessions

Adding color dries out your hair. You may notice you have extra body and fullness and that your hair doesn't seem to get dirty as quickly—these are both the effects of color's drying properties. So keep conditioning, and once per week try to do some kind of deep condition or oil treatment to enhance the life of your color.

9. Use temporary helps between color sessions

Here are a few great, cheap, temporary fixes that can extend your color's life:

  • Change your part or your style: Often roots can be disguised with a crisscross part or simply by changing your part to an area where you’re less gray. You can also use clips, bands and other accessories to disguise roots.
  • Curl or back-brush your hair: The more "lift" you can add around the roots, the less noticeable the roots themselves will be. Root-lifting sprays and volumizers can also help disguise roots.
  • Brush on temporary color: Whether you use one of the new line of temporary hair powders or brush on a color-matching shadow onto roots, these color helps are cheap and can be life-savers if you have something special to go to (many drugstores have temporary color for prices as low as $5-$8—these bottles are good for many applications).

10. If you style with heat, prep your hair using a heat protectant

Heat dries hair and strips color. There are many great products—sprays, gels and creams—that can form an invisible barrier between your hair dryer, flat iron, or curling iron, protecting your color and your strands from the heat these devices emit.


How to Make Your Hair Color Last Twice as Long