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Which Color-Extending Products Work Best?
New color-extending shampoos and conditioners promise to prolong the life of color treatments. But which ones really do the job? The products fall into two categories, color-depositing products (shampoos, conditioners, and treatments that leave dye on the hair) and non-depositing ones (products that seal the cuticle of the hair so it better holds on to the dye you already have; many of these also protect against UV fade). To find out if these newcomers do a better job of color protection than regular shampoos, the experts at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute rolled up their sleeves and invested more than 500 hours in testing nine brands (including 24 products). The 220 swatches of human hair we used had to go through three steps:
Step 1: Using demi-permanent dye (which is meant to last through 28 shampoos), GHRI colored the hundreds of swatches three different shades: Light-brown swatches became dark brown; brown mixed with gray also became dark brown; and a blond-gray mix became darker blond.
Step 2: Each of the swatches was shampooed and conditioned with one of the brands to simulate four weeks of washing and was placed under UV light to mimic an hour's worth of sunlight per day.
Step 3: GHRI examined the swatches both visually and with a Chroma Meter (a device that measures color intensity), and compared them to swatches that had been washed with regular, noncolor-extending shampoo and conditioner.
The verdict: Most of the color shampoos did help the dye last longer; those listed below are our winners. Which type color-depositing versus non-depositing is right for you? One way to pick: The depositors essentially re-dye the hair a tiny bit each time you wash. So if you're wary of having your color even slightly altered (always a possibility, since the shampoo and conditioner won't be depositing your exact shade), you might prefer the products with the cuticle-sealing technology.
- Best for all shades L'Oréal Professionnel Colorist Collection Shampoo ($15) and Conditioner ($17, lorealprofessionnel.com)
-- Recommended for blond-gray mix In a tie, Marc Anthony True Professional Brilliant Color Color Lock Shampoo and Conditioner ($8 each, Ulta) and Wella Professionals Color Preserve Hydrating Shampoo ($13) and Conditioner ($14, wellausa.com)
-- Recommended for brown-gray mix Redken Color Extend Shampoo ($11.50) and Conditioner ($13.50, redken.com
-- Recommended for brown hair dyed brown Tresemmé Color Thrive Shampoo, Conditioner, and Daily Color Lock In Spray ($4 each, drugstores)
Quick Fixes for Roots & Strays
Overdue for a dye appointment? The whole world doesn't have to know. Here's how to eliminate telltale signs...
In minutes: Don't worry about coloring your whole head when it's touch-up time. Dyeing just the roots does the job and protects the ends of your hair from damage. If you're doing it at home, Min Kim, senior colorist at Butterfly Studio in New York City, suggests combining the tube of color and bottle of developer in a bowl and then using a toothbrush (or fine-tooth comb) that makes it easier to apply the mix only to the base of your strands. Or make it extra simple with Clairol Nice N' Easy Root Touch-Up ($7, drugstores), which comes with a specially designed root-reaching tool.
In seconds: For an ultrafast solution, try a "targeted" product, designed to help you apply a bit of color just where you need it. These ingenious fix-its allow you to instantly disguise obvious regrowth or strays (of course, the color washes out in your next shampoo). Our favorites: 'Tween Time Temporary Haircolor Touch-Up Stick ($6, Sally Beauty Supply), a special crayon that "colors" problem pieces; Quick Tint ($12.50, quicktint.net), which is basically waterproof makeup for your hair with an easy-to-use pen-like delivery system; and ColorMark ($20, colormarkpro.com) temporary dye that you dab on with a precise sponge-tip applicator. Or if you're a brunette, cover up grays with just a swipe of black or brown mascara.
3 Ways to Shower-Proof Your Color
1. Shampoo less. Try for three times a week, maximum even if you use color-extending products. "Cleansing agents, even the ones designed for color-treated hair, can lift up the cuticle layer of the strands, fading dye to some degree and leaving color looking dull," says colorist Min Kim.
2. Condition more. Once a week, use a deep-treatment mask in place of your regular conditioner to really seal the outer layer of the cuticle. Try Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask ($7, drugstores) or Frédéric Fekkai Technician Color Care 3-Minute Mask ($35, Sephora).
3. Upgrade your water. Additives (such as chlorine) that make tap water safe can also strip dye. New: showerheads designed to remove color-dulling agents. Try iWater Shower Purification System ($50, myiwater.com) or Jonathan Beauty Water Shower Purification System ($95, Sephora).
The Power of Shine
"When hair is glossy, it fools the eye into seeing color as fresher than it is," says Kim. Boost shine with an at-home kit like Clairol Shine Happy ($9, drugstores). In a GHRI test last January, Shine Happy amped up shine and smoothness in just 10 minutes. For a bit of extra color in addition to the gleam, try John Frieda Luminous Color Glaze Treatment ($10, drugstores), which leaves behind a dose of sheer brown, blond, or red to subtly warm up your overall shade. (Bonus: It also blends in roots, making them less noticeable.)