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How to Moisturize Color Treated Hair

• Oct 18, 2011

By Audrey Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care

When it comes to maintaining healthy hair, most folks will tell you— moisture is the key. In fact, “moisture, moisture, moisture” is one of the first things we learn as hair care newbies in this big strange world of hair regimens and hair care. And let’s face it— when your head is home to one of the most amazing (and yes, thirstiest) types of hair on the planet, you quickly learn the value of moisture. Certainly, water is not the enemy— or is it? Besides the common battles we all face with dew points, rain and humidity—water enjoys the villain role in another area of hair care. Color preservation.

If your hair is color-treated and you are interested in keeping it fresh and vibrant, water is more like a “frenemy.” Although water (and other moisturizing products) is a primary requirement for the maintenance and stability of our hair fibers, it always works against color retention. While permanent colors resist fading much longer than other types of color— even they are no match for water exposure over time. No color can remain as true as it was on Day 1.

So when does water’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act really kick into high gear?

When You Are Cleansing Too Often

Actually, I should probably say— when you are cleansing too often to maintain high impact color, because “too often” is relative depending on whether your goal is hydration or color safety. The primary way that water works against color fastness is through regular cleansing, especially if you are using the wrong products (i.e, harsh shampoos/weak conditioners). Daily rinsing and washing the hair more than 2–3 times per week rarely results in lasting color, although it may be perfectly timed to maintain the hydration you need.

No matter which type of hair color you have used (i.e., permanent, semi-permanent or temporary), each wash session swells the fiber and pulls a little color from the hair. Temporary colors are always lifted fastest because they are superficially deposited on the hair fiber. Reds give the brightest punch out of the bottle, but are the fastest colors to fade because the pigments are small and leech easily from porous hair. For best results, allow your new hair color to settle at least a day or two after the initial color job before introducing water via your shampooing and conditioning process.

When Your Water is Too Hot

Not only is hot water drying to textured hair (color-treated or not), but hot water leads to hot hair which also fades and leeches color. Always cleanse and condition your color-treated hair in warm to cool water. After conditioning the hair, do a final rinse in the coldest water you can stand. This final rinse will seal the cuticle and impart amazing shine to your strands. If color preservation is your goal, avoid long trysts under the dryer— what did we say about hot hair again? Hot hair=Bye bye bold color! Color-treated hair is already somewhat porous if it accepted your color in the first place, so most conditioners won’t need extra antics to work well on this type of hair. In fact, conditioners always work better on color-treated and other “damaged” hair types.

When Your Water is Hard

Shampooing and conditioning your hair in hard water or water that is partially chlorinated will also strip your hair color. Hard water loads the hair fiber down with metal ions and scale that can quickly evaporate your shine and vibrancy— not to mention dry your hair out to a crisp. If your water is hard, or if you are a regular swimmer, consider purchasing a chelating shampoo for regular color maintenance. For longer-term results, a good water filter (although expensive) may buy you several more weeks of vibrant hair color.

Although water definitely works against color preservation in a number of ways, it is certainly a necessity in any color-treated hair care regimen. Maintaining a proper moisture/protein balance with color-treated hair is critical—especially when the hair is color-treated to the lightest colors of the hair color palette (the honeys, golds, blondes and ambers). Check out The Science of Black Hair (pp. 181–192) for specific ways to preserve your color-treated hair with strategically placed protein and moisture deep conditioning treatments.

Ladies, how do you maintain the color/moisture balance in your hair?

Audrey Sivasothy is a Houston-based freelance writer, health scientist and author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care (available on & Barnes&

For more insight from The Science of Black Hair— relaxed, natural or in between, visit us on the web at and on facebook & twitter.

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19 Comments on "How to Moisturize Color Treated Hair"

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I LOVE her hair color. I’ve been wanting to color but am a little hesitant for fear of damage. Great article…maybe just maybe I’ll give it a go.


wow, i am loving that color on you, it looks absolutely amazing with you complexion!!!


Great article. Esp since I just used semi-perm color this past weekend


just colored and i soo regret it. 🙁


i got color in may of 2010 and noticed that it was harder to keep it moisturized. i thnk that deep conditioning and protective styling really helped it maintain its color. as much as it straightened my hair, i loved the color and what it changed to over the course of time. now i’m getting an itch to henna… lol

good luck to all of you contemplating coloring. just make sure you know what it can do to your hair. 🙂


Just did highlites in the front of my head. Love it! It made me love being natural again…dont judge me, I get bored easily 😉


No judgement here sister! I got highlights this past summer and I loved it! I went dark again for the fall, and I now miss my bolder color. So, I am itching to do it again come next spring. I went to an Aveda salon to have it professionally done, so I have some peace of mind. I moisturize daily and DT weekely, so I am trying to maintain my moisture levels.


What hair type do you have? and how were the salon with washing and treating it after the colour?


I’m crazy excited!!! I just colored my hair (Dark and Lovely’s Brown Sugar) and I love it! I wish I bought 2 boxes instead of 1, but it’s okay next time. Plus I used my fingers instead of a comb so i have a mixture of my natural color (jet black) and the brown, which is nice! 😀

Question: When is is safe to color my hair again? Is it two weeks? Or more than that?


I only color every three to four months. I definitely wouldn’t be coloring my hair more often than that, certainly not within a matter of weeks.


I would just caution everyone to think about it wisely. I went to a Loreal salon & had my entire head dyed with blond highlights. It definitely stripped my hair of its elasticity & moisture. That was in April/May of this year. It caused so many different types of split ends & breakage. It’s just now starting to forgive me. So be cautious ladies & pay very close & special attention to your hair. I still love color, but maybe I wouldn’t did as much as I did at once.

Dougla T.girl

What is the name of this color??????????????????????? anyone knows??? please tell me!!!!!!!!!!


I just got my hair colored at my stylist’s salon. I just showed her the color and she mixed it for me. It is about that same color, highlights and everything except the platinum ones. If you take it to a professional, they may be able to do the same for you


I colored my hair the same day I BCed, so I’ve never had natural hair without color. Coloring has never damaged my hair and I do it myself and use a box color. I just make sure to keep it moisturized just like everyone else. I spritz it every other day, seal with coconut oil/shea butter, deep condition weekly.

Everyone’s hair is different but thankfully, mine is in pretty good shape and my color is about as light (if not a lil lighter) than the lady in the picture.


I have to agree with Shannon. I’ve been coloring my hair with box color forever. My hair is just strong I suppose. I never have any damage. I condition, moisturize and seal it does well. I bleached my hair not too long ago. It made my ends a little straight but they are all good now.


The article is titled, “How to moisturizer color treated hair” and then speaks at length about maintaining the vibrancy of your color.
I just can’t with BGLH


I know right. I thought I was gonna be able to get new ways to keep my color moisturized and keep damage away and its a completely different topic.


For anybody who wants to start out with permanwnt hair color, try Shea Moisture colors. Even though no hair color is perfect, I appreciate that their colors lack suflates and parabens. I had a Dominican blowout for three weeks, then my aunt (hair stylist) applied the color. She didn’t like that I hadn’t washed it the day before, but the color I used (bright auburn) came out perfectly with my 4b hair! However, I warn that your curl pattern could loosen in some places.

This article helped me experience on moisturizing techniques for my hair.

Vee Coily

Umm the title is misleading.

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