How To Make Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Last Longer

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When it comes to tips for maintaining vibrant, long-lasting hair color, there are quite a lot of theories floating around out there. Is it better to come to the salon with dirty hair? (Spoiler alert, it's not.) Should you avoid sulfates in your shampoo like the plague? (Yes, but there are some other ingredients to keep an eye out for, too.) To find out how to make semi-permanent hair dye last longer, Elite Daily spoke with Sharon Dorram, a master colorist with decades of experience. From finding a shampoo that's truly color-safe to properly protecting your hair from color-damaging aggressors like the sun, you'll find everything you need to know about keeping your color looking fresh, ahead.

The Expert

Sharon Dorram is a world-renowned hair colorist. Her endless list of celebrity clients includes everyone from Julia Roberts to Nicole Kidman to Kate Hudson. In 2009, Dorram co-founded Sharon Dorram Color At Sally Hershberger Salon on New York City's Upper East Side.

How Long Does Semi-Permanent Color Last?

Before you get to Dorram's color-care instructions, it can be helpful to know how long you can expect your salon color to last in the first place. "Semi-permanent hair color will typically last five to six weeks," Dorram shares, adding that there are other factors that come into play, too. "In terms of touch-ups, it depends on how fast your hair grows. Some people with fast growth will need to come in monthly for root touch-ups," she says.

How To Make Semi-Permanent Hair Dye Last Longer

According to a master colorist, here are the best ways to make your hair color last longer:

1. Come To The Salon With Clean Hair

"Having dirty hair is an old wives' tale," Dorram says. "Colorists actually prefer clients to have clean hair, that way they can see the true color of the hair," she explains. "When the hair is dirty, there is a build-up of natural oils that coat the hair and the scalp, and that can make hair appear a shade or two darker." You can use your normal shampoo the night before or the morning of your appointment. But if you're someone who uses a lot of product (e.g. dry shampoo) or really stretches out your washes, use a gentle clarifying shampoo like Ouai's Detox Shampoo to make sure you're not leaving behind any residue that can mess with your color.

2. Invest In A Good Color-Safe Shampoo

You've probably heard mixed messages about how long you should wait to wash your hair after having it colored, but for Dorram, it really depends on the individual. "Someone with coarse, porous hair could probably wait four days, whereas someone with fine or oily hair might want to wash whenever their hair starts looking oily," she says.

More important is what you wash your hair with. While there are plenty of shampoos that market themselves as being color-safe, Dorram recommends that you investigate the ingredients for yourself. "Sulfates, parabens, alcohol, and sodium chloride (salt) are the main culprits that will pre-maturely strip your hair of its color," she says, adding that you'll also want to steer clear of charcoal and salicylic acid. "They're lesser known, but equally harsh chemicals to avoid." Amika’s Vault Color-Lock Shampoo (you can find the matching conditioner, here) is one color-safe option that fits the bill, being formulated with color-preserving UV filters and antioxidant-rich ingredients, like sea buckthorn oil, that help to prevent color fading and impart moisture.

3. Switch Up Your Shampoo, Depending On The Season

Just as you switch out your skin care products depending on the season (or current skin care concerns), Dorram recommends rotating your shampoos in a similar way. You'll still want to opt for color-safe formulas, but if you find that your hair is particularly dry in the winter, for instance, you can try something like ColorProof's Super Rich Moisture Shampoo. The formula uses hydrolyzed vegetable protein, panthenol, and sunflower seed oil (one of Dorram's favorite post-color ingredients) to keep hair moisturized, and the brand makes other color-safe shampoos for more specific hair concerns, like a lack of volume or unwanted frizz.

As for how often you should be washing your hair, once again, Dorram says this should be determined on an individual level. "It really depends on a person's hair texture, their level of activity, and the amount of oil on their scalp," she says, adding that she typically recommends washing your hair every other day.

4. Protect Your Hair From The Pool

"During the summer, I also tell clients to stay out of the pool, as chlorine will have a negative effect on [their] color," Dorram says. Chlorine can turn blonde hair green, while darker hair colors may notice their color starting to look dull. And salt water (aka the ocean) can mess with your color, too. Instead of avoiding swimming entirely, wear a swim cap to protect your hair. You can also wet your hair with cold water prior to swimming and saturate it with a water-resistant leave-in treatment, like the Philip Kingsley Swimcap, before pulling your hair up into a bun. This will help to protect your hair from chlorine, salt water, and even UV rays, while also nourishing your hair with ingredients like hydrolyzed elastin, castor oil, and olive oil.

5. ...And The Sun

You already know that you need broad-spectrum sunscreen for your face and body when you go outside, but Dorram explains that your hair needs SPF, too. "Exposure to sunlight will cause your color to fade faster," she says. You may already own a styling product or two that offers some level of UV protection, but for a product specifically developed to shield your hair color from UV rays, heat, and pollution, try Moroccanoil’s Protect & Prevent Spray. The lightweight mist includes ingredients like argan oil, sunflower seed extract, and hydrogenated castor oil to provide UV protection while it simultaneously nourishes your hair.

6. Try A Pigment-Depositing Product

In general, Dorram doesn't recommend going the DIY route with at-home glosses designed to keep color fresh. "I'm not a big fan of at-home rinses and colors," she says. "In my experience, they can do more damage than good. If a client needs a rinse, we always encourage them to come into the salon for optimum care." What she does suggest, however, are color-depositing shampoos. "Purple or blue pigment-depositing ingredients will keep your color from turning brassy," she says. Blondes will want to look for purple pigment shampoos, like Eva NYC's Tone It Down Blonde Shampoo, which is free from sulfates and parabens. And for brunettes, the brand also makes a blue pigment shampoo that will help prevent and neutralize unwanted copper tones.

7. Stay Away From Styling Products With Alcohol

"As with shampoos, alcohol in styling products is one of the worst things for color-treated hair," Dorram says of commonly used products like dry shampoo and hairspray. "It's very drying and will strip the color out of your hair much faster," she explains, adding that aerosol sprays should be avoided whenever possible. ("Aerosol sprays can dull hair color," she says.) ACURE’s dry shampoo is an alcohol-free dry shampoo that effectively relies on plant-based ingredients, like corn starch and arrowroot powder, to absorb excess oil from greasy roots. It's also aerosol-free and USDA-certified organic.

8. Don't Forget To Use A Heat Protectant

One more rule to follow for longer-lasting hair color is to minimize how often you use your hot styling tools. When you can't opt for a heatless styling method, Dorram says it's essential to prep your hair with a heat protectant. Her top pick is Philip B’s Thermal Protection Spray, which is powered by botanical ingredients like safflower seed oil, artichoke leaf extract, and mongongo oil that all help to protect against heat and sun damage while boosting the hair's moisture and shine.


Sharon Dorram, celebrity colorist and co-founder of the Sharon Dorram Color At Sally Hershberger Salon in New York City