Beauty clinic: Colour-protection products for hair

Q. I spend far too much time and money refreshing my hair colour. Can you recommend some colour-protection products that actually work?

A. Washing itself does more to diminish colour than the products you use, as dye’s solubility in water is far and away the greatest cause of fading. 

Wetting hair less frequently and using products that suit your type (rather than those specified for coloured hair), are the most likely precursors to good hair days.

Unsurprisingly, your hair’s quality plays a starring role in its ability to maintain colour. 

Dry and damaged locks are more porous, allowing dye molecules to leak out easily during the washing process, so treating this type with appropriately gentle, emollient products is important.

Prolonged UV exposure can damage colour.

While many styling products contain sun protection now, they are unlikely to be as effective as their skincare counterparts.

Shielding your ‘do with a hat or silk scarf is safer and far less trouble. 

High heat-styling is also very anti-colour, no matter how much you spend on heat-protection spray.

Sulphates, the widely-used cleansing agents, are often wrongly accused of colour-fading. Unless a shampoo includes sodium lauryl sulphate (which can sensitise and irritate the scalp), you should not worry about using it on dyed hair. 

Sulphate-free formulas still employ detergent cleansers and the impact of the water used during your wash will be the same.

Colour-depositing conditioners can refresh your look nicely. 

John Frieda and Aveda make great options for most shades. 

Obversely, and like the protein ingredients in volumising treatments, the deposits can build up and weigh hair down over time.

Stacks of products promise to sustain your shade but independent research on the protective properties of their ingredients is scarce.

A study featured in the March 2009 Journal of Cosmetic Science suggests that shampoos and leave-in treatments (as distinct from wash-off masks/conditioners) containing Polyquaternium-55 significantly decrease colour fade over the course of ten washes, especially when compared with two popular colour-care “systems” (shampoo, conditioner, styling product) formulated without it.

Polyquaternium-55 is one of a family of film-forming compounds that loves hair in a binding, smoothing way. 

Alterna CC Cream 10-in-1 Leave-In Hair Perfector, €25.30 at, lists it as a major ingredient and is a brilliant leave-in conditioner generally. 

Bumble and Bumble Colour Minded Shampoo, €31 at SpaceNK, also contains a significant amount.


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