How To Wash Hair After Highlights (Easy Guide)

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Want to know how to wash hair after getting highlights? Don’t worry, we have you covered. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything about the process and the products to use.

How To Wash Hair After Highlights

When washing your hair after highlights, using color-safe products and a leave-in conditioner is key, as well as avoiding clarifying, dandruff, and sulfate products. It’s also important to wait for a period of time following highlights before you wash your hair. Keep reading to learn the specifics of washing your hair after getting highlights. 

Reasons to Wash Hair After Highlights

First, you should understand the importance of properly washing your hair after you get it highlighted. 

Proper washing can prevent highlights from fading and changing color, thus helping you to get your full money’s worth. 

It Preserves the Color

The first reason to properly shampoo and condition your hair following highlights is that it will preserve the dye color. 

If you choose the wrong shampoo with the wrong chemicals, for example, you might alter the color of the highlights, especially soon after your appointment. 

This is going to be a big letdown and could mess up your hair coloration for a long time unless you can afford to get back in the salon soon.

It Prevents Highlight Fading 

Just as the wrong type of hair washing or wrong timing of hair washing can change the color of your new highlights, it can also fade your highlights. 

You ideally want your highlights to look as vibrant and bright for as long as possible. Therefore, you need to wash your hair properly and use water that’s cool enough to avoid fading. 

It Saves You Money 

And of course, preventing color changes and fading is important to most people who see money as an object. Highlights can be pretty expensive – on average, basic highlights packages cost around $70-$100. 

So, if you go home after your appointment and immediately wash your hair with chemical-rich shampoo or piping hot water, for example, you’re essentially washing your money down the drain with that fresh new hair color. 

How to Wash Hair After Highlights

How to Wash Hair After Highlights

First, let’s go through the step-by-step instructions for shampooing and rinsing your hair after you get highlights. 

There’s a proper way to rinse – including water temperature and technique – as well as a proper way to shampoo and lather to preserve the presence of new hair dye. 

What You Will Need

Before you hop in the shower or dip your head under a faucet to wash it, gather the following:

  • A gentle, color-safe shampoo tailored to your new highlight colors
  • Your hands 
  • A faucet or showerhead 

Step-by-Step Instructions

Once you are ready to carefully shampoo and rinse your hair, take the following steps:

  1. Turn on your water and let it warm to a lukewarm temperature before wetting your hair (hot water is too harsh after getting highlights)
  2. Put your hair under the faucet or showerhead and rinse until your hair is thoroughly wet
  3. Squeeze a small amount of shampoo into your hand (about an inch-wide dollop or however big the shampoo directions suggest)
  4. Gently lather the shampoo into your hair, sticking close to the roots and massaging
  5. When you’ve finished shampooing, adjust the water temperature to cold
  6. Put your head back under the water stream and gently massage the shampoo out of your hair as you rinse
  7. Keep rinsing until your hair is clean 

How to Condition Hair Post-Highlights

Proper conditioning is just as important as proper shampooing. An initial deep conditioning treatment, followed by less frequent treatments, is the way to go with highlighted hair. 

This will help to keep your hair moisturized amidst the new dryness that occurs when your hair’s cuticles get penetrated by highlighting dye. 

What You Will Need

Start with the following basic supplies to condition your hair:

  • A color-safe, sulfate-free, non-dandruff conditioning hair mask
  • Your hands
  • A faucet or showerhead
  • A wide-toothed wet comb

Step-by-Step Instructions

Then, take the following steps for treatment:

  1. Condition before your hair dries, following the shampoo and rinse
  2. Apply a deep conditioning mask generously to your wet hair
  3. Gently comb the mask through your hair, from your crown to your ends
  4. Make sure that the distribution of the product is fairly even throughout your hair
  5. Let the mask sit on your hair for a period of 5-10 minutes for it to take effect
  6. Turn on your faucet or showerhead to cool-lukewarm
  7. Thoroughly rinse the conditioning mask out of your hair

Best Shampoos and Conditioners to Use After Highlights 

Best Shampoos and Conditioners to Use After Highlights

Before we discuss the key benefits and potential risks of washing your hair after getting highlights, we want to suggest some ideal shampoo and conditioning products. 

Shampoo Products

As previously mentioned, a shampoo that says “color-safe” or “post-color” on its label is the best place to start. 

These products are specially formulated to protect colored hair from fading and damage, whether you’ve just recently gotten highlights or did so a few months ago. 

You also want to look for products that do not contain sulfates (look for “sulfate-free” on the label). Sulfates strip hair of its natural oils that keep it moisturized and protected against damage. 

They’ve also been linked to hair fragility and increased dryness. 

Thus, when your hair is freshly highlighted, it’s prone to a lot of damage because it’s dryer, so avoiding sulfates will reduce the likelihood of dryness and damage.

You also want to avoid dandruff shampoos, as they contain sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, and sodium chloride (salt). 

Each of these chemical ingredients is known to strip dyes out of colored hair, often resulting in highlight fading. 

In short, these anionic surfactants remove dirt and grease easily, but unfortunately remove color too and thus should be avoided.

Conditioning Products

When you buy conditioners, you also want to look for the words “color-safe” on the label. 

Deep conditioning treatments that you use only about once a week are best, but if you have particularly dry hair and need to condition regularly, look for sulfate-free for all the same reasons mentioned before. 

Most hair conditioning products have sodium lauryl sulfate, so you have to watch out for that one on the ingredient list.

You also want to use a quality leave-in conditioner if you can, as it will provide extra moisture and protection to your fragile hair following color treatment. 

Benefits of Properly Washing Hair After Highlights

The benefits of washing and conditioning your hair after you get any kind of coloring done – whether that’s professional salon highlights or box dye highlights, include the following:

  • You are keeping your hair and scalp clean and free of dirt and excess sebum
  • Conditioning provides essential moisture and barrier protection to hair after dying penetrates the cuticles
  • You can prevent your hair from drying out excessively, which makes it fragile

Risks of Washing Hair After Highlights

However, there are potential risks you encounter when you wash and condition your hair after getting highlights. If you don’t take the right steps with the right products, you could:

  • Cause your new highlights to fade out and look wonky
  • Cause your new highlights to change color and lose the vibrancy they originally had
  • Cause yourself an expensive trip back to the salon for color correction
  • Strip your hair of its natural oils when you use the wrong products

Tips for Washing Hair After Getting Highlights

Keep in mind the following tips and suggestions when you start shampooing, rinsing, and conditioning after getting highlights. These will save you money and minimize the frustration that can ensue. 

Proper Water Temperature

There are two things to note when it comes to water temperature as you wash your hair. Number one – make sure that you don’t rinse highlighted hair with scalding hot or even mildly hot water. 

These temperatures will lift the color right out of your hair and leave you enraged as you watch the dye trickle down the drain. 

Instead, use lukewarm water before you add shampoo and lather. 

Number two – use even cooler water (preferably cold water) when rinsing the product out of your hair. 

Cold water rinses actually moisturize hair better than warm water rinses do because they cause your hair cuticles to close, thus locking in moisture and protection.

Skip Shampoo But Not Conditioner

If you’re going to skip a step in your hair washing cycle, make it the shampoo step rather than the conditioner. 

Conditioning is far more important when you’re protecting a fresh set of highlights because of all the moisture your hair needs. 

In fact, too much shampooing following highlights – even with a sulfate-free, color-safe shampoo – can strip and damage your hair in its fragile state.

Wait Before Washing

As a rule of thumb, don’t ever wash your hair on the day of when you’ve had any kind of color treatment done to your hair. 

This is too soon, as it doesn’t give your hair nearly enough time for the dye to set in and take hold. 

Final Thoughts – How to Wash Hair After Highlights 

After you get your hair highlighted, you need to be careful about how you wash your hair, what you wash it with, and how frequently you do so. 

Be sure to stick to color-safe products that are free of common sulfate ingredients, and do deep conditioning treatments to protect your hair from dryness and damage. 

Follow our steps above to get the perfect wash following a highlighting session, and make sure that your water is at the right temperature, too. 

Good luck sealing in and protecting those highlights, and be careful with your wash sessions so that you can get your money’s worth!

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

How long should you wait to shampoo after highlights?

Most salon professionals recommend waiting for a minimum of 48-72 hours after a highlighting appointment before you use shampoo or other hair products. 

How often should you wash your hair after highlights?

You only really need to shampoo your hair about 2 or 3 times each week after first getting highlights. Too much shampooing can strip hair of moisture and healthiness.

How often should you condition your hair after highlights?

You should only use conditioner a few times a week at most after getting highlights. Deep conditioning masks/treatments should get used about once weekly. 

How long do highlights last in hair?

If you’re taking proper care of your highlighted hair – including proper washing and conditioning – they should last a few months, on average. This time frame can vary according to the quality of the salon you go to, as well.

References

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Dee

Dee is the founder of Loved By Curls and in-house Curly Girl expert. She loves natural haircare and has tried and tested her share of CGM products. She's always happy to recommend you her favorites.