Red hair is one of the most eye-catching shades you can ever use to dye your hair. From auburn to burgundy hair, from highlights to single-process color, there is a range of red shade options to help you live your best ginger life. But once you find your favorite hair color, what’s the best way to help red hair color look vibrant over time and how to maintain red hair from fading?
We know that redheads want to help keep their head-turning hair color once they’ve achieved their desired final look. The goal is visibly shiny and healthy-looking hair, regardless of if you’re dying hair red for the first time or you’ve had a trademark auburn hair color for decades. Ahead, we explore the reasons why red hair dye does in fact fade faster than other hair color shades, and what you can do to keep hair color longer. Spoiler alert: With a little TLC and some color care tips, you’ll be loving your red hair color shade.
Why Does Red Hair Dye Fade Faster?
It’s not your imagination — red hair dye does fade faster than other hair color shades. Whether you’re a lifelong faux-ginger or considering making the plunge to chocolate cherry hair color, it’s helpful to understand the science behind those gorgeous red locks.
The issue goes all the way down to the molecule, which means that red hair color may fade faster regardless of the color kit brand or manufacturer. The red hair molecule is larger than other color molecules, so it doesn’t penetrate the cortex of the hair as deeply as other color molecules. Therefore, since it isn’t as deep, it can wash out easier.
Red hair dye may be more inclined to fade, but it can also be one of the most vibrant, unique ways to color your hair. There are plenty of ways to help maintain your red hair color vibrancy. With a little TLC, you can love your hair color.
How Can I Help Reduce Fade of Red Hair Dye?
Red hair dye may have a penchant for the short-term, but there are plenty of steps you can take to help maintain hair pigment. Patricia Slattery, Assistant Vice President of Hair Color Education, Training & Testing at L'Oreal, weighs in on how to help maintain your vibrant red hair color.
Slattery’s first tip may be one you’ve heard before, and it’s a classic for a reason. She advises that anyone who uses red hair color kits should “wash hair less often, or alternate shampoo days.” (Pro tip: Dry shampoo can help extend the length of time between washes!) Slattery knows that some people prefer to shower and wet their hair daily, so in those cases, she suggests “alternating the days you use shampoo.” Your new regimen should be “on one day, use both shampoo and conditioner. On the next, simply condition it and skip the shampoo.” On the days when you do wash with shampoo, try to use cool water to help hair look shiny and help maintain that vibrant color. Help care for your red hair color by reducing your use of shampoo, conditioner, and water more than what is necessary.
Slattery also advises redheads that less is more when it comes to summertime water activities. “Less contact with water” is one way to help maintain color pigment, says Slattery. As for pools that may expose your hair to chlorine, there are a few steps you can take to help your hair dye. Before you dive in, Slattery recommends you “wet your hair with tap water and condition your hair.” This simple pre-pool conditioner can help protect hair color, she says. “Your hair acts like a sponge, soaking up the tap water so less chlorinated water gets in,” says Slattery. “Plus, then you can create a barrier of conditioner, so that it is more difficult for the chlorine to get in.” Even if you don’t have time for a pre-pool rinse, there is a simple way to help protect your color by literally covering up your hair. “A swim cap really helps, especially if you’re swimming laps often,” says Slattery. Even hairstyle can play a role. If you don’t have a swim cap or prefer not to cover up all the way, she suggests braiding hair or styling it in a top knot after conditioning.
If you don’t have the time to prepare before you dip into the pool, you can still help color after pool time. “Act quick after chlorine exposure,” says Slattery. She recommends rinsing hair thoroughly and shampooing with a product formulated for colored hair. Pro tip: Stick a bottle of shampoo and conditioner that are each formulated for colored hair in your beach bag and leave it there all summer, so you won’t forget to take a rinse. Even better, stock up with a swim cap so hair is totally covered — any funny looks you get will be totally worth it when you remove the cap to reveal the appearance of gorgeous, shiny and bright red hair.
Another pro tip is to lessen the amount of heat and apply sun protection on your red hair color. Slattery advises that redheads avoid the sun as much as possible and use products that are designed to help manage sun exposure to hair. Style hair in a way so that not all of your hair gets exposed to the sun. Slattery suggests a braid, top knot, or an updo to put some of your hair out of the sun’s rays. Remember to bring a hat with you as well!
Heat exposure may also be harmful to color-treated hair. “Use in moderation” is the key phrase when it comes to heat styling. Slattery recommends “avoiding heat tools like straighteners or curling irons, or even your blow dryer.” Pro tip: Tie your hair up in a towel to let it air dry, then wear it out in beachy wave or up in a ponytail or braid. “Day 2” hairstyles can make these easier, says Slattery. If you do use a hot tool one day, give your hair a break on Day 2 with a simpler style like a ponytail or topknot. If you styled your hair with a curling iron, rock the boho look on day 2 when curls fall flat or loosen up.
Even in the winter, it’s helpful to manage hair exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Add a hat and scarf to your look to keep you warm and an extra layer between your hair and the environment. Since there is less moisture in the air in general in winter, Slattery recommends opting for deep hair treatments throughout the season. Deep conditioners can help lock in moisture and help hair look healthy and fresh. Slattery says deep conditioning color-treated hair is important, “especially one week before you’re ready to recolor.”
Find the Best Red Hair Dye For You
Whether you’re looking for auburn hair, burgundy hair, or another favorite red hair shade, there are dozens of red shades to choose from. Once you’ve found the perfect hair color for you, make sure to shampoo your hair — although not too often! — with a range of products for colored hair that work to help cleanse hair and help maintain color pigment. Follow up your specialized shampoo and conditioner with a hair treatment mask that helps illuminate the appearance of your hair. A little work goes a long way in helping to maintain colored hair.