Do shampoos for colored hair actually work?

by Gio
how shampoo for coloured hair work

Are shampoos for coloured hair really different from regular shampoos? Or is that an “excuse” brands use to sell you another shampoo you don’t need?

I’ve tried my fair share of shampoos for coloured hair back in high school, back when I was a blonde. I can’t say they did anything special for me.

But times are a-changing. These days, some shampoos can help your new colour last longer. Here’s how shampoos for coloured hair work:

Most shampoos for coloured hair don’t claim to add color, just to enhance its appearance

The first thing to do when purchasing a shampoo for colored hair is to read the label carefully. You’ll see that most products claim to “enhance or revitalize richness and depth and add shine”, not to “add color to your hair”. What does this mean?!

Simply put, these products contain ingredients, like silicones and other conditioning agents, that’ll make your hair shiny and moisturized, keeping it looking and feeling great. And when hair is in good condition, your hair looks better and shinier.

They do what they say on the tin. Just not in the way you were expecting…

What about shampoos for coloured hair that contain dyes?

Some shampoos for coloured hair contain dyes that are supposed to stick to your hair, helping to renew your colour so that it lasts longer.

Obviously, the color of the dye matches that of the color the product is targeted to: yellow dyes are added to products for blondes and usually have a honeyed color, while brown dyes are included in shampoos for those that have brown hair and they are very dark in color.

But do these dyes work? Most of the time, they don’t. They are simply added to make the product look nicer and give it a certain colour, but won’t stick to your hair and provide any colour enhancing benefits for your locks.

The problem with dyes in shampoos is that these are in rinse-off products. When you rinse off your hair, the dye, instead of staying on your hair, will go down the drain.

Of course some shampoos can perform slightly better than others and contain stronger dyes so that a little bit of it may actually stuck to your hair and add a subtle hint of colour. The difference is barely noticeable.

One more thing: be careful when using these kind of products because even if the dyes don’t stick too well on your hair, their dark colour can stain your towels and bathroom.

P.S. Lakme Teknia has a range of shampoos enriched with dyes that really work. I use them to cover my grey hair. Problem is, it’s hard to apply it evenly – some silver strands still shine through.

Pay attention to harsh cleansing ingredients

Another trick to make your hair colour last longer is to pay attention to the cleansing ingredients in shampoos.

Truth is, even shampoos that are marketed for coloured hair can contain strong surfactants like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, TEA-dodecylbenzenesulfonate and C14-16 olefin sulfonate that’ll strip your hair color off!

Instead opt for mild or extra mild shampoos with gentler cleansing ingredients like Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Cocamidopropyl Betaine.

While you’re at it, shampoo your hair less often. The more frequently you wash your hair, the sooner the dye will fade.

The Bottom Line

Save your money. Shampoos for coloured hair aren’t different from regular shampoos. Even when they have added dyes, they won’t stick well enough to your hair to make your hair colour last longer. Worse, shampooing too often or with the wrong shampoo can fade away the colour faster!

Do you use shampoos for coloured hair? Share your experience in the comments below.

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Dee August 20, 2010 - 6:35 pm

I dyed my hair about 10 years ago in middle school and those colored-treated shampoos did not work for squat. My color washed out after a month and it cost me a bundle cause of my long hair, lol.

beautifulwithbrains August 20, 2010 - 7:25 pm

Dee, that’s too bad! Unfortunately these kind of shampoos are just marketing hype, they don’t really work and some of them can make color fade even faster. Companies are coming out with better products though so one day we may see shampoos for colored hair that work.

Anastacia August 21, 2010 - 2:05 am

Thank you so much for this information! I’m about to coloring my hair and this is so helpful!

beautifulwithbrains August 21, 2010 - 9:32 am

Anastacia, you’re welcome. I’m glad I could help. 🙂

Pinch August 21, 2010 - 4:55 pm

Thanks a lot, gio! Your posts are always so helpful and informational 🙂 I don’t use shampoo for coloured hair even though I colour my hair every once in a while 🙂

beautifulwithbrains August 21, 2010 - 6:05 pm

Pinch, you’re welcome and thank you. I do my best to write post that can interest and help people and set the record straight on all those hyped-up and misleading advertising claims. And good for you, there’s no money wasting time on products for colored-treated hair since they aren’t any different from the regular ones. 🙂

TeacherFirst July 12, 2011 - 3:04 pm

Shielo shampoo locks in my color so well that i never have to do any touch ups during the month. it gets rid of build up and leaves it soft and shiny.

I would recommend their Shielo Color Protect Line to any one with color treated hair, but if you also have DRY hair, you can use their Shielo HYDRATE line which also protects color treated hair, but also adds a touch of moisture if you need it. Amaze!

I have red hair and as you know that is the toughest color to maintain. But Shielo shampoo helps protect it from the sun the wind and any other element’s. A little goes a long way. A 1 liter bottle will last me a good 6 months.

If your an animal lover you will happy to know that Shielo is also cruelty free.

beautifulwithbrains July 12, 2011 - 5:38 pm

TeacherFirst, thanks for your comment. I’m glad this brand is working so well for you. 🙂

Christina @ Hair Romance January 19, 2012 - 8:38 pm

This is a really good post, it’s definitely about checking the label and washing less often to help your colour last longer

beautifulwithbrains January 19, 2012 - 9:12 pm

Christina, I completely agree with you. 🙂

Milo December 20, 2012 - 4:53 pm

I got to tell you that I have seen a total difference using regular products than color-treated ones.
I mean, there’s a noticeable difference using a bastard bottle of pantene than a bottle of kérastase choma riche. You cannot expect a 5 bucks product do the job.
Shampoos can really make your color last longer, but that doesn’t mean you are then able to go into the sunlight 12 hours a day or go into a pool.

Hope someone soon invents a way to really dye hair, not only coating as we actually do.

beautifulwithbrains December 20, 2012 - 8:48 pm

Milo, I too hope that one day someone will invent a hair dye that lasts a lot longer and can withstand frequent washing, sun exposure etc. But I don’t agree with you about not having to expect a lot from a 5 buck product. There are a lot of cheap hair care products that work well and a lot of expensive ones that are disappointing and vice versa. And at the moment, we don’t really have the technology to make shampoos that will dye hair or something. We can only formulate them with the mildest surfactants so they won’t strip too much dye and thus the colour will last longer.

Harriet January 2, 2013 - 5:23 pm

This is an amazing, informative article! Thank you so much!
I use gloss colour on my hair- every 6-8 weeks at the salon and my lovely hairdresser tries to sell me ‘colour protect’ shampoo every time, which I politely decline. But I wanted to check that I’ve been making the right decision- this article confirmed that I’m making the right hair care choices.
I use organic shampoo and conditioner that are sulphate free, and work a treat!
Harriet (London, England)

beautifulwithbrains January 3, 2013 - 10:37 pm

Harriet, you’re welcome. I’m glad you’ve found it useful. And you definitely made the right choice. A lot of hairdressers try to sell those products in good faith, as they believe the marketing claims too, but the truth is that they don’t really work.

A sulphate-free shampoo that won’t strip as much colour during washing works a lot better!

NYC maven March 15, 2013 - 6:15 pm

If you have color treated hair – you MUST use a sulfate free shampoo, because the sulfates will stip the hair color. I have color treated hair, and I have tried many, but Shielo’s Color Protect is the BEST! The Shielo Shampoo leaves my hair shiny, soft and keeps my color extra long. . .and its sulfate and chemical free.

beautifulwithbrains March 15, 2013 - 7:35 pm

NYC Maven, I agree that sulfate-free shampoos are best for colour-treated hair as they won’t strip as much, if any, colour. However, if you use a lot of styling products or have very oily hair, they may not be strong enough to remove all the excess oil and buildup. But I’m glad you’ve found something that works so well for you.

Flora2 August 17, 2014 - 3:48 am

I have tried countless shampoos, whatever the cost, on my thick, dry, frizzy, color treated red hair and have found few that do much other than clean. Some are better than others at not stripping red color, but the Shielo Color Protect Shampoo left my hair in BETTER CONDITION after one washing than I have ever encountered before. My hair is incredibly smooth and shiny, which is remarkable. I would recommend Shielo for anyone with dry frizzy hair whether color treated or not. FYI- I also used the conditioner.

Gio August 17, 2014 - 6:21 am

Flora, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m glad you’ve found something that works well for you.

Charles October 30, 2015 - 6:36 pm

Hair and skin are an organ of elimination. The hair eliminates impurities up to 7 times faster than your skin. You wash your skin every day. As a hairstylist for many years I was frequently irked when someone would tell me they go extended periods of time without shampooing their hair. Find a shampoo with a ph of around 5 or so and condition after. No, I do believe color shampoos are of any real benefit for color treated hair.

Gio October 30, 2015 - 7:20 pm

Charles, thanks for your comment. I agree, shampooing our hair is definitely something we should all do often.


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