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6 best shampoos for color-treated hair in 2021

What hair experts want you to know about shopping for gentle-yet-effective shampoo for your color-treated hair.
Illustration of 6 different shampoo's that treat hair that has been colored
Color-safe shampoo is readily available online and at stores like Walmart, Target and Sephora.Amazon ; Sephora ; Target

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As the Covid-19 vaccine rollout continues across the country, fully vaccinated people are slowly returning to normal. One self-care habit you might be looking forward to post-vaccination is a trip to your local hair salon for a professional color and cut. An easy way to help prolong your fresh color is by incorporating a color-safe shampoo into your at-home hair care routine. Color-safe shampoo helps maintain highlighted and dyed hair, “either passively, by being as gentle as possible, or actively, by returning pigment to your strands,” said celebrity hairstylist Timothy Aylward.

What to consider when shopping for color-safe shampoo

Sulfates help preserve shampoo and minimize the spread of mold, but they can also irritate the scalp and strip the hair of natural oils, hairstylist Vanessa Collington previously told us in our guide to natural hair products. Bobby Eliot, hairstylist to everyone from Maya Rudolph to Sydney Sweeny, told us that both sulfates and parabens (another chemical preservative) “prematurely fade and oxidize the color a lot quicker.”

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a prevalent type of sulfate — it’s in “about anything [that] makes bubbles,” according to Aylward — and it provides a squeaky clean feel to the hair. The biggest caveat with SLS is that “it’s so effective at removing [debris]” that it will often strip your hair color as well, he said. Aylward noted that his general approach to color-safe hair products is “if it bubbles, there’s trouble.” He advised those with color-treated hair to opt for no-suds cleansing conditioners instead. Top rated cleansing conditioner brands include Briogeo, As I Am and UnWash. You can also reach for a sulfate-free shampoo, but you should be cautious of formulas that sud easily.

Best color-safe shampoos

You can find color-safe shampoo (and scalp brushes) at mega retailers like Walmart, Amazon and Target. Color-safe shampoo is also found at popular stores like Nordstrom, Sephora, Ulta and Dermstore. Regardless of your budget, you can likely find a color-safe shampoo for your needs. Drugstore hair care brands like Garnier Fructis and Hair Food offer color-safe shampoo, as well as higher-end brands like Redken, Nexxus and Oribe.

To help simplify your search for color-safe shampoo, we consulted hairstylists for their recommendations and rounded up highly-rated options available at Shopping reader favorite retailers.

R+Co. Analog Cleansing Foam Conditioner

Alyward called this self-foaming shampoo his “all-time favorite shampoo for anyone interested in not overworking their hair or their hair colorist.” He noted it is the ideal consistency to “stay put on your scalp” with a soothing scent of milkweed. “It’s incredibly gentle, which is the only thing that matters with a color-preserving cleanser,” he said. It received a 4.5-star average rating from more than 430 reviews on Amazon.

R+Co Gemstone Shampoo

Eliot prefers the brand’s Gemstone shampoo, which is free of sulfates and parabens. Instead, it boasts vitamin E, which he highlighted is a “natural antioxidant” that offers protection from free radicals, plus “deep conditions the hair and adds shine.” Gemstone Shampoo earned a 4.7-star average rating from more than 510 reviews on Amazon.

dae Daily Shampoo

This Clean at Sephora-approved product is the No. 1 bestselling color-safe shampoo at the retailer and it received a 4-star average rating from more than 410 reviews. It is formulated with a blend of hibiscus flower, aloe and daisy extracts, which together are rich in acids and vitamins to help cleanse the hair and prevent breakage.

Kristin Ess The One Purple Shampoo

This violet shampoo was designed with bleached blondes in mind and received a 4.3-star average rating from 250 reviews on Amazon. Purple shampoo helps protect hair from the elements and sweat, which can turn blonde hair yellow or copper. Kristen Shaw, hair stylist to Busy Philipps, previously called purple shampoo “a great help to balance in between visits to the salon.”

Susteau Moondust Hair Wash

Susteau Moondust hair wash received a 4.9-star average rating from more than 30 reviewers on Sephora. The brand claims the formula is gentle yet effective for those with color-treated hair of all textures — from coily to fine — and it employs aloe vera to help hydrate the hair and scalp. Notably, it is also made with rice protein, which is rich in amino acids to add a glossy sheen to the hair.

Pureology Hydrate Shampoo

This color-safe shampoo from Pureology was designed for those with medium-to-thick hair in mind. It features jojoba oil to help restore hydration, antioxidant-rich green tea to clean the scalp and sage to target dandruff. It boasts a 4.5-star average rating from more than 1,500 reviews on Sephora.

How to wash color-treated hair

At the beginning of your shower, work the shampoo into the scalp with help from a scalp massage brush and “let it marinate while you take care of all your other cleansing concerns,” said Aylward. A scalp brush helps spot clean areas that need the most attention while not overworking the more delicate ends, he noted. Aylward added that you can alternate between a cleansing conditioner and traditional shampoo as needed if you have an oily scalp.

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