Dealing with Dullness? Here Are Our Top Tips for How to Keep Hair Color from Fading

Hate to see your hair color getting dimmer, darker, duller every day? We’re with you. At Color Wow, we’re obsessed with tracking answers to the questions on everybody’s mind:

  • How long does hair dye last?
  • Why does hair color fade so quickly?
  • And what can we do to keep our hair color looking as fresh and pure as it did on day one?

    No denying: great glossy, saturated hair color is a MAJOR beauty and mood boost. Yep, everything in life is better when we’re lovin’ our color! And at Color Wow, we want to keep those fresh-color good feels going.

    So we’ve made it our mission to ID the world’s worst color-killers and to shut them down. We’ve created a whole arsenal of products that not only up your styling game, but preserve, protect and extend your hair color in ways that will surprise you.

    Read on to learn more about hidden color-killers lurking in places you might never suspect! First, though, we’re starting with the basics of hair dye and which colors will fade the fastest…

    How Long Does Hair Dye Last?

    hair dye being applied to a person's hair

    The longevity of hair dye depends on several factors, including the type of dye used, your hair care routine, and the natural texture and condition of your hair.

    Generally, hair dye can be categorized into three main types, each with its own expected lifespan:

    • Semi-Permanent Dye: This type of dye doesn't penetrate deeply into the hair shaft and typically lasts for about 4-12 washes. It's ideal for those looking to experiment with color without a long-term commitment or for adding subtle tones to the hair.
    • Demi-Permanent Dye: Demi-permanent dyes penetrate the hair shaft more deeply than semi-permanent dyes but don't contain ammonia, which means they can't lighten your hair. They usually last between 12-24 washes, gradually fading with each shampoo.
    • Permanent Dye: As the name suggests, permanent hair dye is designed to last until the hair grows out or is cut off. The dye penetrates the hair shaft and changes the color permanently. However, the color can fade over time, especially without proper care, and regrowth at the roots will require touch-ups, typically every 4-6 weeks.

    What Hair Color Fades the Fastest?

    rainbow of different hair colours

    Red tones, pastels, and unconventional hair colors like blues and purples tend to fade the fastest. This is primarily due to the size of the color molecules and how they interact with the hair shaft.

    Here's a closer look at why these colors fade quickly:

    • Red Tones: Red hair dye has the largest molecules, which don't penetrate the hair shaft as deeply as other colors. This superficial placement means red tones can wash out more quickly, requiring more frequent touch-ups to maintain their vibrancy.
    • Pastels: Pastel colors are typically applied to bleached or very light hair bases. Because the hair has been lightened, it can be more porous and less able to retain color, leading to faster fading. Pastels also have a lighter pigment concentration, which naturally fades quicker than deeper, more saturated colors.
    • Blues and Purples: Like pastels, blues and purples often require a lighter hair base for the colors to show vividly. These unconventional colors can fade quickly due to their molecular size and the porosity of the bleached hair they're usually applied to.

    Why Does My Hair Color Fade So Fast? Here Are 7 Possible Causes

    Environmental Factors

    1. Hard Water

    shower iconHere’s a common source of color-dulling you might not realize: hard water (or well water) that contains a heavy concentration of minerals can warp your hair color and make it look dull, dingy, brassy. 

    When you’ve got minerals like calcium, lime, magnesium in your water supply, they build up in your hair. And while the effect can almost go unnoticed day-to-day, over time the negative effect on your color can be dramatic.

    But we’ve got a solution to “hard water hair” that works in under three minutes – and the effect is equally, if not MORE dramatic. Just spray Dream Filter Pre-Shampoo Mineral Remover on dry hair.

    Leave it for a few minutes, while it works like a magnet to lift away dulling mineral deposits. Then shampoo, and voilà! Your first-day fresh color is revealed…. back and bright as ever!

    2. Sun Exposure

    sun peeking from behind the clouds iconSun exposure plays a significant role in the fading of hair color, much in the same way it can damage your skin.

    When your hair is exposed to the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, these rays can penetrate the hair shaft and break down the chemical bonds that give your hair dye its color.

    3. Heat Styling

    hair straightener iconRegular use of heat styling tools, including hair dryers, straighteners, and curling irons, plays a significant role in the fading of hair color. These tools generate high temperatures that can cause the hair's cuticle—the outer protective layer—to lift or open.

    When the cuticle is raised, the hair dye molecules, which reside within the hair shaft, become more susceptible to being washed out during shampooing.

    4. Chlorine & Salt Water

    mini swimming pool iconSwimming in chlorinated pools or salt water is another common culprit behind the fading of hair color. 

    Chlorine, a chemical disinfectant used to keep pools clean, is particularly harsh on hair. It not only has the capability to strip away the hair's natural oils, which are essential for maintaining moisture and shine, but it can also lead to the loss of hair dye. 

    The chlorine reacts with the hair dye, breaking down its molecules and causing the color to fade or even change—blondes might find their hair taking on a greenish tint, for example. Find out how to protect hair from chlorine here.

    Similarly, salt water can also be detrimental to hair color. While not as chemically aggressive as chlorine, the high salt content in ocean water can draw moisture out of the hair, leaving it dehydrated. Dry, brittle hair is more porous, making it unable to hold onto color effectively, which results in a faster fade.

    Product Choices

    5. Shampoo 

    icon of a woman lathering shampoo on her hairShampoo seems innocent enough, and we often take for granted that it’s giving our hair the TLC it deserves. But all shampoos are not created equal…

    There are actually three major rules when choosing a shampoo for color-treated hair:

    Rule #1: *Never* buy a shampoo that isn’t sulfate-free. Sulfates are harsh detergents that can dehydrate hair and strip color. Yikes!

    Rule #2: Avoid formulas that contain ingredients that stay behind and stick to your hair (we’re talking conditioning agents, silicones, natural oils, pearlizing agents, thickening agents). These leave a film on your strands, resulting in color dulling.
    color wow dream filterRule #3: Don’t try to “fix” dull looking hair with a clarifying shampoo. These are very harsh and will strip away your hair’s essential moisture….and probably pull out color molecules as well.

      A better option? Dream Filter Pre-shampoo Mineral Removing Spray.

      color wow shampooAnd what’s your best shampoo choice for healthiest hair and freshest color?

      Color Wow Color Security Shampoo. Its gentle, sulfate-free, 100% clean formula doesn’t contain any ingredients that don’t rinse off completely. It simply cleans... as all shampoos should! PLUS, it’s been proven to prevent color fade for up to 20 washes! Definitely your hair color’s BFF. 

      1 shampoo to preserve your hair color up to 20 washes coming right up! 🎨 Color fade? We don't know her with our Color Security Shampoo 💁‍♀️ @alexmsmith1 #colorwow #shampoo #haircolor #salonhair #hairsalon #haircolortips ♬ original sound - Color Wow Hair

       6. Conditioner 

      icon of a hand holding conditionerYou might be thinking, “what does conditioner have to do with my hair color??” A lot, actually, if the formula contains ingredients made of nitrogen groups that oxidize, turning hair color yellow or brown.

      Another no-no? Opaque conditioning agents. Similar to residues for shampoos, they leave a film on your hair that hides your hair’s vibrancy.

      color wow conditioners rangeOur go-to? Color Wow Color Security Conditioner for its translucent, non-color-corrupting formula. 

      Available in both Fine-to-Normal and Normal-to-Thick hair types, with 3 levels of heat protection built in.

      7. Hairspray

      hairspray bottle iconThe biggest styling mistake people make is using a hairspray that contains typical ingredients (like fragrances) that yellow, darken, or even dull your color.

      At Color Wow, we’ve banned over 70 ingredients (contained in many popular hair products) because they can actually ruin your hair color.

      color wow cult favoriteOur Color Wow Cult Favorite Firm + Flexible Hairspray is a clear favorite among celeb stylists.

      You can’t use too much! And its clear formula is a must for keeping your color true and bright. Bonus: Cult Favorite even gives you a glossy finish!

      How to Keep Your Hair Color from Fading

      Our best products for preventing color fade:

      1. Color Security Shampoo

      color wow shampooChoosing the right shampoo is essential for preventing color fade. Color Security Shampoo is formulated specifically to prevent color fade. Our biochemist, Dr. Joseph Cincotta explains:

      “Many shampoos, even those claiming to be sulfate-free, contain detergents (like sulfates) that penetrate hair, causing color-treated hair to swell excessively."

      "This can lead to color fading. Our Color Wow shampoo uses low charge density (LCD) cleansers to minimize swelling, reducing color loss even after 20 washes. Clinically tested, it's as gentle on hair color as washing with water.”

      2. Color Security Conditioner

      color wow conditioners range

      Dr. Joe also explains that, "Color Wow conditioners feature a special blend of positively charged conditioning molecules that form a protective layer on every hair strand.

      "This, along with our low pH formula, seals the hair surface, reducing porosity and preventing color from leaching or fading."

      3. One Minute Transformation

      color wow one minute transformationAnother top recommendation from Dr. Joe is this leave-in moisturizing and styling treatment. 

      He explains: “It contains a potent sunscreen that will protect your hair from UltraViolet rays from the sun known to quickly fade artificial color. A must especially in summer or on a tropical vacation.” 

      Our best products for fighting dullness:

      1. Pop & Lock

      color wow pop and lock glossing serumWe love using Color Wow Pop & Lock ultralight smoothing + glossing serum.

      This not only instantly revives dull, faded hair color but calms frizz and transforms your dry, dehydrated hair into silky, sleek strands – and importantly, acts as a UV filter to help protect against color fade when you’re in the sun.

      2. Extra Mist-ical Shine Spray

      color wow extra mist-ical shine sprayFor that extra measure of shine, spritz on some Color Wow Extra Shine Spray.

      This lightweight, non-greasy shiner has a crystal-clear formula, so you get ultra shine and your color stays intact. Pro tip: use a flat iron over Extra for intense shine

      Here are some more lifestyle tips to help prevent color fade:

      1. Avoid Sulfates: Sulfates are harsh detergents found in many shampoos that can strip color from your hair. Look for sulfate-free products to keep your color from fading.

      2. Turn Down the Heat: Hot water can open up the hair cuticle, allowing color to wash out more easily. Wash your hair with lukewarm or cool water instead, and finish with a cold water rinse to help seal the cuticle.

      3. Use products with heat protection. All Color Wow products contain at least one level of heat protection in them except our shampoos and our pre-shampoo, Dream Filter.

      4. Limit Heat Styling: Heat styling tools like hair dryers, straighteners, and curling irons can fade your hair color. Use these tools on a lower heat setting and always apply a heat protectant spray before styling.

      5. Protect Your Hair from the Sun: UV rays can bleach your hair, causing the color to fade. Wear a hat or use hair products with UV protection when spending extended time in the sun.

      6. Swim Smart: Before swimming in a chlorinated pool or saltwater, wet your hair with clean water and apply a leave-in conditioner like Money Mist. This can help prevent your hair from absorbing harmful chemicals or salt. Consider wearing a swim cap for additional protection.

      red headed woman with volumized hairUltimately, the key to preventing your hair color from fading lies in a balanced approach to hair care. It's about making smart choices—selecting the right products, being gentle with your hair, and shielding it from potential harm.

      By doing so, you ensure that your vibrant color remains as striking as your confidence, day after day.


      Learn more about color care and hair maintenance on the Color Wow Blog:


      Dr. Cincotta holds a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the City University of New York, and is currently VP of Research + Development at Color Wow.

      View all articles

      Shop This Blog Post