The Truth About Color Protecting Products

color protecting products

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If you pay big bucks for your hair color, you obviously want it to last (and last and last) as long as possible. Ask any hairstylist for longevity advice and they all say one thing: color protecting products. Whether in shampoo, conditioner or gloss form, all are touted to prevent fading. But how exactly do these products work? And can we really count on them? We caught up with some experts to unearth the truth.

Many factors contribute to hair color fading—sunlight, the health of each strand, water and excessive washing. It turns out, color protecting formulas help to prevent all of them.

But how? To start with, it has to do with how hair responds to water.

“Hair is most susceptible to loss of color when it is exposed to water,” says Nexxus scientist Diane Minar. “When you wet your hair, it swells and the cuticle lifts, enabling water to get into the fiber. Hair dye molecules, which are trapped inside the fiber, can then be dislodged and come out of the fiber and into the water.” Products, such as the Nexxus Color Assure Pre-Wash Primer ($17.99), form a barrier to prevent water from entering inside the cuticle. This helps to keep the color vibrant.

Next up: washing. These formulas not only prevent excessive water damage, but they’re also more gentle in general. “The benefits of using color shampoos is that they have fewer sulfites and detergents in them,” says Tommy Buckett, Garnier Celebrity Stylist. “These chemicals can strip or oxidize color faster or make hair brassy or too raw looking.” Sulfates also open up the hair cuticle and strip color molecules.

The healthier the strand, the longer the color lasts. “These formulas usually moisturize hair more than typical cleansing shampoos,” says Buckett. “They make hair shinier and healthier which results in the hair holding onto color longer.”

When it comes to sun damage, some color protecting formulas contain UV filters. Consider these sunscreen for your colored hair. Garnier Fructis Color Shield Complete Defense ($3.99) contains UV-barrier technology that helps prevents fading.

The upshot: believe the hype. These products do protect your color and are gentle on your hair. “Using these products consistently could make hair color last up to three weeks longer than normal,” says Buckett.

However, don’t feel like you need to use one if you have colored hair. If you have another concern—let’s say, fine hair or undefined curls—just look for a sulfate-free version of that specialty formula. Alternate with a dry shampoo every other day and limit heat styling. Your colorist will, no doubt, be impressed.

More from Daily Makeover: The Truth About What Volumizing Products Really Do to Your Hair