There's really no way around it: Summer is the absolute worst time of the year to dye your hair. Thanks to culprits like chlorine, salt water, and excessive sun exposure, it can seem practically impossible to keep color looking fresh.
But, summer also happens to be the most carefree time of the year, when we feel the most inspired to experiment with our looks—meaning we're more prone to booking an appointment with a colorist or reaching for some Manic Panic during the months of June, July, and August.
However, with a few tips and tricks (and a couple products to add to your arsenal), you can help fight the fade and keep up the shine—which is why we turned to colorists extraordinaire for their expert advice. Whether you're a year-round hair dye aficionado or just looking to have a bit of summer fun, look no further than the below for how to maintain your strawberry blondes, peaches, blues, and more, all summer long.
Start prepping at the salon
Before you even set foot at the pool or beach, Pamella Gonzalez, colorist at Benjamin NYC, suggests prepping your hair color for summer at the salon. "Booking a hydrating treatment during your color service is a good way to ensure that your hair color will hold much more vibrantly," she says. "Also, glossing in-between color services is another option to keep color looking fresh through the summer."
Soak your hair beforehand
If you're planning to go for a swim (and go underwater), it's inevitable that some form of fading is going to occur—and that goes for both chlorinated pools and the ocean. "Both can definitely wreak havoc on colored hair," says Jennifer Covington-Bowers, freelance hairstylist and colorist at Hairstory. "The hair shaft is already altered from being colored, so exposure to salt water or chlorine can change the tone of it."
While we don't expect anyone to stay out of the water entirely, you can minimize salt and/or chlorine absorption by soaking your hair with fresh water first, as colorist Hannah Edelman, otherwise known as Hannah The Painter, suggests. "Your hair will soak up innocent fresh water, and with some luck, it will avoid sucking up junk from the pool or ocean," she says.
Gonzalez agrees, suggesting taking an extra step and covering hair with a conditioner or cream before taking a dip. "Put a cream or conditioner on your wet hair—filling your hair follicles with a moisturizer of some sort will help to create more of a barrier to avoid any chemicals or salt getting involved [with your color]."
Be mindful of how you clean your hair afterward
It's summertime, which means it's pretty inevitable that your hair is going to be exposed to chlorine and/or salt water. With that said, how you care for your hair after a day by the water plays a major role in how your hair color keeps, according to Covington-Bowers:
You don't want to use any harsh products—shampoo in particular, which contains detergent—because then you're causing double the damage. You are already compromising the hair—and color—with the water elements, so you don't want to then strip the color further with shampoo. Try a gentle, oil-based cleanser, like New Wash—its goal is to clean without stripping and it's extra conditioning, which helps combat fading and dryness.
Additionally, you might want to make some changes to your conditioners too. Alex Brownsell, co-founder and creative director of Bleach London, recommends ramping up your conditioning routine during the summer months. "This will help combat the drying factors your hair experiences during the summer," she says.
Brownsell points out, too:
Swap your usual conditioner for a hair mask every time you wash your hair. Also, think about using as many moisturizing products as possible, such as oils and leave-in conditioning treatments. Whichever way you would care for your skin in the summer, take the same approach on how to care for your hair... it's all about replenishing moisture and not staying out in the sun too long.
Use your hot tools sparingly
Another culprit of hair color fading (and general hair damage) are our hot tools, which we tend to rely on more often when the weather gets humid or when we wash our hair more often. "Heat is a two-headed monster," says Edelman. "The hot weather makes us want to wash our hair more, which drives us to heat style more often. Keep your irons at 350 degrees or lower, and try your hardest to use them sparingly."
Don't forget your SPF!
Don't forget, the sun is just as bad for your hair as chlorine and salt water. Therefore, just like SPF is a must for your skin, it's a must for your hair and scalp, too.
To protect the delicate skin of your scalp from harmful UVA/UVB rays and to protect your colored locks from fading and drying out, Edelman stresses the importance of SPF products—and they don't necessarily have to be meant for your hair. "When it comes to products, I like to use all natural sunscreen that's formulated for skin on my hair," she says. "I try to look for formulas that aren't too heavy with oil or thinned out with a ton of alcohol. That way I can spray it everywhere and feel good about protecting both my skin and hair. Try to do this at least 20 minutes before you go in the sun and water."
Put a hat on it
Regardless of what body of water you're frequenting (if any at all), Edelman suggests protecting your hair from the sun by wearing a hat. Bonus? You'll protect your scalp and face, too.
It just takes a bit of TLC
Unfortunately, there really isn't a dream product that will prevent fading altogether if you're planning to take part in any summer water activities. As Brownsell explains, "So far, there isn't a fail-proof product that will completely stop hair from fading in water. Getting your hair wet opens the cuticle layer of the hair, which means the pigment has a better way of escaping. So, if you're intent on keeping the color from fading, try to avoid going underwater."
So, while summer and all of its various activities may not be the most conducive for dyeing your hair jet black, slime green, or whatever you can dream of, with a little TLC (and a couple products), you can at least slow down the fading process and keep your hair healthy. Below, the experts name the go-to products in their summer hair care arsenals that offer everything from SPF protection to nourishing, conditioning benefits.
Bleach London, Rosé Shampoo, $26.50, available at Amazon.
Brownsell considers Bleach London's Rosé Shampoo (as well as its other color shampoos) to be shower heroes to refresh pastel hair colors post-swimming and sun exposure.
Bleach London, Restore Treatment Shot, $9, available at Bleach London.
Brownsell recommends Bleach London's Treatment Shots, including the above Restore, as the perfect travel companions to soothe dyed hair, whether used as a leave-in treatment, a pre-shampoo treatment, or added to your favorite mask post-shampoo.
Supergoop!, Sunnyscreen 100% Mineral Spray, $26, available at Supergoop!.
This may be marketed as a child-friendly SPF spray, but Edelman recommends using natural and light sunscreens formulated for the skin, like this one, on your locks.
Aveda, Sun Care Protective Hair Veil, $29, available at Aveda.
Both Edelman and Covington-Bowers recommend this as a summer must-have.
Hairstory, New Wash (Deep), $40, available at Hairstory.
Covington-Bowers recommends this deeply cleansing—yet detergent-free—hair wash to clean the hair while keeping color intact.
Hairstory, Hair Balm, $36, available at Hairstory.
Gonzalez loves this moisturizing balm for air drying hair during the summer months.
May 11, Hair Oil 30ml, $38, available at May 11.
Gonzalez recommends this hair oil for its natural SPF and its versatility. "It's very moisturizing and helps to bring out the hair's natural texture," she says.
Christophe Robin, Regenerating Mask with Rare Prickly Pear Seed Oil, $68, available at Amazon.
Gonzales considers this regenerative mask (and its shampoo counterpart) a go-to for keeping hair color intact, as well as healthy and nourished.
NYLON uses affiliate links and may earn a commission if you purchase something through those links, but every product chosen is selected independently.