The 411 About Why Hair Color Fades

Ladies, summer is quickly approaching! Beach days and bar nights are on the horizon.

When all that time, energy, and money goes into creating a hair masterpiece – you must do everything you can to protect it!

In this article, I will discuss the major culprits of your hair color fading. I will then offer 15 ways to protect your beautiful hair color this summer.

What Is Hair Color?

Your hair dye is made up of tiny molecules that penetrate into the cortex of your hair. The time it spends in your cortex will determine the life of the hair color.

In an ideal world, they would all stay and your hair would be shiny and perfect forever.

But the reality is, semi and demi-permanent color molecules go away one by one.

Permanent Dye

Permanent hair color contains ammonia. The purpose of ammonia is to pull apart the hair proteins to allow the permanent hair to penetrate the hair shaft

Permanent color molecules open the cortex of your hair and penetrate it.

They also remove a small amount of existing natural hair pigments in order to leave behind their own new color.

Read more about the composition of a hair shaft in my article Hair Bleach 101

Permanent hair color fades over time but does not fully strip off of the hair. Most clients get their roots touched up with permanent color every 4-6 weeks.

Most stylists will use toner to refresh the mid-shaft and fill what has faded over the last few weeks. It will also add much-needed moisture.

Demi-Permanent Dye

Demi-permanent hair dye does not contain ammonia.

Since ammonia is not used to penetrate the cortex – demi-permanent dyes wrap around the hair shaft. This process will ultimately cause the hair color to gradually wash away over time.

The consensus from the beauty industry is that demi-permanent hair dye lasts about 20-24 washes.

What Causes Hair Color To Fade?

This summer you might find yourself with your hair down enjoying margaritas on the beach, soaking up the sun in your cute Frankies Bikini.

While your mind and body are finally relaxed – your hair is working overtime. Just like a bad bumble date. Sun, salt, and chlorine will leave you high and dry. Very dry.

These three are kind of like the bad triple threat to great color -except it’s not wise to ask for their phone number.


Sunlight will cause a chemical reaction in your hair the same way bleach does.

Like with bleach – the keratin molecules that make hair strong and shiny get broken down through a chemical reaction called oxidation.

It’s through oxidation that natural or artificial color molecules fade.

The UV rays from the sun expose the natural pigment in your hair causing the brassy undertones blondes are constantly at war with.

Just like your skin, harmful UV rays will also burn your hair. I recommend investing in some hair products that contain SPF.

Salt & Chlorine

Salt and chlorine wick moisture from your hair.

Dry hair fades color faster because, without the protection of the cuticle, the color just can’t be contained in the same way.

Chlorine specifically damages the outer part of the hair that is supposed to protect the inner cortex.

That inner cortex, remember – is where natural and artificial colors live.

You should always wash salt and chlorine from your hair before it dries. If the chlorine dries to the hair cuticle it will become very difficult to remove.

I highly recommend saturating your hair with fresh water and applying a leave-in conditioner before jumping into the ocean or pool.

Heat Styling Causes Hair Color To Fade

This is a big one.

It is also the reason many stylists recommend turning the heat down on your hot tool.

Heat opens the hair cuticle, splitting the layers apart and accelerating color fading.

As you have already read, opening the cuticle damages it and allows the dye molecules to pull away from the cortex.
I always recommend using a heat protectant before using hot tools.

Not sure about using a heat protectant? Check out this video Behind The Chair posted showing how effective it is!

15 Pro Tips For Preserving Your Hair Color

My goal is to equip you with the knowledge needed to prolong the life of your hair color.

  1. Choose shampoos that are sulfate and chloride-free.
  2. Don’t shampoo very often. Say 1-2 times per week.
  3. Search for “color-safe” when purchasing shampoo and conditioner.
  4. Purple shampoo will help keep away the brassiness and prolong your hair color.
  5. Avoid showering with hot water. Always rinse with cool water.
  6. Saturate your hair with a leave-in conditioner and wear it in a compact bun before jumping in the pool or ocean.
  7. Red hair dye fades the fastest – rethink this idea during the summer months.
  8. Always use a cream-based heat protectant. One of the best on the market is the Resistance Ciment Thermique by Kerastase.
  9. Purchase hair products that contain some sort of SPF.
  10. Wear a hat or sit under an umbrella if staying in the sun for long periods of time.
  11. Don’t leave your hot tools resting on your hair for long.
  12. Let your hair dry naturally. If you must blow-dry, I recommend the Dyson blow dryer.
  13. Moisturize your strands regularly with quality hair oil.
  14. Avoid hair products that have alcohol as the main ingredient.
  15. Ask your stylist about getting a keratin treatment during your next salon visit. This process will restore keratin levels in your hair and provide strength and shine.

Have you experienced your hair color fading? Let me know in the comment section below.

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