Should You Wash Your Hair Before Coloring It? Experts Share Tips

Celebrity hairstylists Yusef and Brian O'Connor settle the debate.

Coloring your hair can be a big commitment. The daily maintenance and routine touchups alone are crucial, but the way you prep your strands is just as important if you want the best results. (Seriously, who wants to deal with the aftermath of a bad dye job?)

If you’re not sure whether you should wash your hair before the coloring process, it’s a common step to be confused about. In order to settle the debate, Bustle tapped two celebrity hairstylists — Yusef and co-founder of Good Dye Young Brian O’Connor — to break it all down.

Should Your Hair Be Dirty Or Clean Before Coloring?

The short answer is clean; both Yusef and O’Connor advise that it’s better to color clean hair if you want your new shade to be vibrant and adhere better. “Product and metal and mineral buildup could interfere with the process and cause a chemical reaction,” explains Yusef. “This can end up causing uneven color and lift.” He likes to use a detoxifying shampoo (like the K18 Detox Shampoo) to get rid of any buildup and create a clean canvas for hair color.

“Semi-permanent dyes sit on top of the hair cuticle rather than inside as a permanent dye does. When you have natural oils or products like conditioner on the hair, it actually creates a barrier between the hair cuticle and the dye which causes the dye to not take as well as it could,” adds O’Connor. He does say that if you’re just planning to lighten your hair color, it can be better to do so on dirty hair as the natural oils can help protect your scalp from the irritation that can come with hair lighteners. If you want an in-your-face, vivid color, he says it is best to apply on clean, unconditioned, and dry hair.

What Happens If You Dye Dirty Hair?

As mentioned above, both experts say that hair color adheres better on clean strands as there is nothing blocking it from directly attaching. Yusef says that product buildup can prevent color from reaching the hair, and emphasizes that keeping your locks healthy will help prolong your new hue’s life.

Which Products Interfere With The Hair Coloring Process?

O’Connor says that any conditioner or oil can create a barrier between the hair cuticle and the color. Therefore, while he recommends washing hair before dyeing it, it’s best to stay away from conditioning and styling products. Yusef warns that products like heavy dry shampoos, texture sprays, and hair oils may also cause uneven color results.

If you have henna-based hair color (a more natural hair dye option that is known for its vibrant color), O’Connor advises against using any type of lightener as it interacts poorly with henna and can cause serious damage.

How Soon Can You Wash Your Hair After Coloring It?

O’Connor says it's best to wait at least 24 hours (though, he does say longer is better) to wash your hair after it's been dyed. When you do finally wash hair, he says to use salon-quality and color-safe products like Good Dye Young's WASH and RINSE as they are formulated without sulfates or parabens, two ingredients that are known to cause hair color to fade.

For upkeep, he also recommends using a color-depositing hair mask to maintain the shade in between salon visits and keep your strands looking fresh.