True or False: Should I Wash My Hair Before Dying It?

Should you wash your hair right before your color appointment? You may have heard conflicting things over the years. Some stylists say they’d never dye unwashed hair because it can prevent the color from taking, while others recommend leaving some oil on your scalp to ease any dryness or discomfort that can be caused by the dye. Both things are true, so it boils down to what you’re getting done. Allow us to explain.

Meet the Expert:

If you’re getting a single-process color (aka all-over color):

Avoid washing your hair right before your appointment. “Single-process color is applied directly to the head and scalp,” Hazleton tells us. “If you wash your hair the morning of your color appointment, you remove all the excess oils, which act as a protective barrier and help reduce any scalp irritation or itchiness during your treatment.”

If you’re getting a double-process color (aka a bleach and tone):

Come in with unwashed hair. As Hazelton explains, “It is essential to have dirty hair, or else the bleaching process can be unbearably uncomfortable for many people.” Again, the natural oils act as a barrier between the bleach that’s required to lighten your hair and your scalp.

If you’re getting highlights or balayage:

Come in with clean hair. “Unlike single- or double-process color, highlights aren’t applied directly to the scalp, so it’s OK to wash your hair the morning of your color appointment,” says Hazelton, adding that she actually prefers that her highlight clients come in with clean, detangled hair rather than hair that hasn’t been washed in multiple days. “It gives your colorist a better sense of how the color grew out and how much it’s oxidized. Greasy hair always appears much darker than it actually is, and if there is loads of dry shampoo or build-up in the hair, it can it harder to comb through when highlighting,” she explains.

The one exception:

Regardless of which color service you’re having done, if you’re someone who uses root concealers to hide grays in between appointments, you should make sure you give your hair a thorough shampoo before going to the salon.

“Some root concealers coat the hair so much and have a waxy or even tacky texture that’s hard to remove with just one wash using a regular shampoo,” says Hazelton. “Leaving the residue can prevent the grays from getting properly coverage during your appointment,” she adds.

The solution? Use a clarifying shampoo (or, at a minimum, lather up twice) to ensure that all root concealer products are removed from your strands.

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...