Which shampoo is best for dyed hair?

If you have a killer dye job, not all shampoos are created equal.

Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar
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Whether it's their first time getting their hair dyed, or they've tried out every shade in the rainbow, people are always on the hunt for tips and tricks that will help their dye job stay bright and colorful for a longer period of time.

In an informal survey of the office, the two most common pieces of advice I heard were: "Wash your hair in cold water," and "Use a sulfate-free shampoo." While the first piece advice made me shiver in my boots (I don't tolerate cold very well.), the second piece of advice made me curious. There are tons of shampoo brands and out there, and all of them make one or more types of shampoo that claim to help maintain your dye job, with or without sulfates. So which one is the best?

The Contenders

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

Olaplex No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo — A slightly more expensive but extremely well-reviewed shampoo found at Sephora. Its formula is sulfate-free, paraben-free, and pthalate-free—a selling point because these ingredients are three of the big no-nos when it comes to makeup, skincare, and haircare. No.4 Bond Maintenance is often used in conjunction with the No.3 Hair Perfector and the No.5 Bond Maintenance Conditioner.

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

Dove Nutritive Solutions Color Care Shampoo — One of the less expensive brands that you can easily buy in a drug store or a super market. This Dove shampoo contains sodium laureth sulfate, which is one of the sulfates that is supposed to cause your dye job to fade faster. This shampoo has a companion conditioner, Dove Nutritive Solutions Color Care Conditioner.

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

Nexxus Color Assure Shampoo for Color Treated Hair — A mid-range brand that can be found at Ulta Beauty and at salons across the country. Its formula is sulfate-free. Its companion conditioner is Nexxus Color Assure Conditioner for Color Treated Hair.

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

Pantene Radiant Color Shine Shampoo — A less expensive brand commonly found at drug stores and super markets. Like the Dove shampoo, this Pantene shampoo also lists sodium laureth sulfate as one of its ingredients. Its companion conditioner is Pantene Radiant Color Shine Conditioner.

The Experiment

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Melissa Rorech

Not your usual testing material: swatches of blonde human hair.

For some reason, no one was willing to dye their hair a variety of colors and then wash it with four different shampoos, so I bought some blonde human hair off of Amazon (and tried not to feel like a serial killer).

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Melissa Rorech

These blonde test swatches were dyed with a 1:1 mixture of AGEbeautiful Gentle 30 Volume Creme Developer and either Ion Permanent Brights Creme Hair Color in Radiant Orchid or Ion Permanent Liquid Hair Color in Medium Intense Brown.

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Melissa Rorech

For each shampoo, we dyed six swatches of blond hair: three were dyed purple and three were dyed dark brown.

I then dyed six hair swatches for each shampoo—three in purple and three in brown. I let them sit for 30 minutes, then rinsed the dye out in cold water, and air- and towel-dried each swatch.

hair_dye_shampoos_before
Credit: Reviewed.com / Melissa Rorech

Each glass contained a mixture of shampoo and water.

As for the shampoos, I combined 1 tsp of each shampoo with 1/3 cup of water into a glass, then mixed them thoroughly. Each shampoo got two glasses, one for each dye color.

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Melissa Rorech

Each hair swatch was swished in a glass of shampoo and water for 5 seconds.

Then came the time of reckoning: I swished two of the three swatches dyed with the same color into each glass for five seconds, leaving one swatch that didn't get shampooed as a control. Afterwards, I rinsed the shampooed samples in cold water (keeping an eye on any further dye runoff), squeezed out the excess water, and then let them air dry overnight.

The Results

I judged the final results based on the following:

  • How much dye was left in each glass after the swatches were swished after the first wash. The less dye there was in the glass, the better.
  • How much dye runoff I noticed during the post-shampoo rinse. The less runoff, the better.
  • How much the color in swatches had faded after five shampoo-and-rinse sessions, compared to the non-shampooed swatch. The less fading, the better.

How much dye was removed during the shampooing process?

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Melissa Rorech

For the purple hair swatches, Dove and Nexxus removed the least amount of hair dye.

For the purple dye creme, Dove and Nexxus removed the least dye from the swatches. You can tell because the color in the glasses is much brighter and more vivid with Olaplex and Pantene.

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Melissa Rorech

For the brown hair swatches, Olaplex and Dove removed the least amount of hair dye.

For the liquid brown dye, Olaplex and Dove removed the least dye from the swatches. You can tell because the colored water in the glasses is much darker with Nexxus and Pantene.

How much runoff was there during the post-shampoo rinse?

Purple Dye
Olaplex: a lot of runoff
Dove: some runoff
Nexxus: little/no runoff
Pantene: some runoff

Brown Dye
Olaplex: little/no runoff
Dove: some runoff
Nexxus: a lot of runoff
Pantene: a lot of runoff

How much had the color faded after the swatches were shampooed, rinsed, and dried five times?

Despite the fact that I noticed dye runoff after the first shampooing session, to my eye, there wasn't a color difference between the control hair swatch and the washed hair swatch. However, it was a different story after I'd washed one of each color hair swatches that had already been shampooed an additional four times.


Nexxus

Nexxus_experiment_results
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

Experiment results for purple (left) and brown (right) dyed hair washed with Nexxus shampoo. The leftmost hair swatch in each group wasn't washed at all, the middle swatch was washed once, and the rightmost swatch was washed five times.

Purple: Minor fading after five washes (rightmost purple swatch)
Brown: Minor fading after five washes (rightmost brown swatch)


Pantene

Pantene_experiment_results
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

Experiment results for purple (left) and brown (right) dyed hair washed with Pantene shampoo. The leftmost hair swatch in each group wasn't washed at all, the middle swatch was washed once, and the rightmost swatch was washed five times.

Purple: Noticeable fading after five washes (rightmost purple swatch)
Brown: Noticeable fading after five washes (rightmost brown swatch)


Olaplex

Olaplex_experiment_results
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

Experiment results for purple (left) and brown (right) dyed hair washed with Olaplex shampoo. The leftmost hair swatch in each group wasn't washed at all, the middle swatch was washed once, and the rightmost swatch was washed five times.

Purple: Very noticeable fading after five washes (rightmost purple swatch)
Brown: Very noticeable fading after five washes (rightmost brown swatch)


Dove

Dove_experiment_results
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

Experiment results for purple (left) and brown (right) dyed hair washed with Dove shampoo. The leftmost hair swatch in each group wasn't washed at all, the middle swatch was washed once, and the rightmost swatch was washed five times.

Purple: Very noticeable fading after five washes (rightmost purple swatch)
Brown: Very noticeable fading after five washes (rightmost brown swatch)


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Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

While all of the shampoos caused some degree of fading after five washes, the purple hair swatches that had been washed with Nexxus showed the least fading.

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

Results were similar with the brown dyed hair. The swatches that had been shampooed five times with Dove, Olaplex, and Pantene all showed similar degrees of fading, and were noticeably more faded than the Nexxus swatches.

The Winner

Based on this experiment, it seems that Nexxus Color Assure Shampoo for Color Treated Hair is the best shampoo for dyed hair. The hair swatches that were dunked in the Nexxus shampoo experienced the least fading over five washes. While Nexxus's initial results for the brown hair dye were not so promising, in that there was noticeable runoff after the first wash, it easily outshone the other shampoos when it came to minimizing fading after multiple washes.

Even better, Nexxus performed similarly well for both the purple dye and the brown dye, meaning that you can get a bright or a dark dye job (or both at the same time), and it will help your hair to stay the color you dyed it for a longer period of time.

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Jackson Ruckar

Nexxus works just as well on real hair. Sam Gordon got a fresh dye job and used Nexxus shampoo to preserve her brand new dye job (left) after one wash (middle) and after five washes (right).

To double check our results, we tested out Nexxus with hair that we didn't order from Amazon. Samantha Gordon, our Ecommerce Editor here at Reviewed, used Nexxus to help preserve a purple-y blue dye job. After five washes (rightmost image), the hair dye appears to have faded very little, even with 3-4 days between washes. Sam said that she saw a noticeable improvement in the preservation of her hair color (the exact words were "omg it is LIFE CHANGING") over other shampoos she'd used previously.

Take a bow, Nexxus. You've earned it.


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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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