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Colour-care shampoo

We put 23 shampoos for coloured hair to the test. Which give a longer lasting colour?

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Supermarket shelves are full of shampoos for coloured hair making claims such as “helps fight fade out”, “keeps colour looking vibrant”, or “helps prolong colour”. Your hairdresser has probably recommended using an expensive colour-safe shampoo to prevent your colour fading. But do colour-care shampoos make a difference? You might be surprised at our results.

If you spend money on hiding those annoying grey hairs or want to liven up your do with a new hue, you want the colour to last as long as possible. So it makes sense to buy a shampoo specifically for coloured hair … and many of us do. According to figures from the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association, Kiwis spend at least $3.1 million a year buying shampoo for coloured hair.

To find which shampoo gives a longer lasting colour, we put 23 shampoos for coloured hair to the test. We also included TRESemme Deep Cleansing Shampoo (a shampoo for all hair types), Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and water.

What we found

Despite the marketing hype, we were surprised to discover washing your hair with water is the best option for maintaining freshly dyed hair. Our test using water – with no shampoo – caused the least colour change after 12 washes.

Left to right: the original unwashed hair; hair washed with water 12 times; hair washed with a shampoo for all hair types 12 times. The rest are washed with colour care shampoos 12 times.
Left to right: the original unwashed hair; hair washed with water 12 times; hair washed with a shampoo for all hair types 12 times. The rest are washed with colour care shampoos 12 times.

Allan Blackman, professor of chemistry at Auckland University of Technology, wasn’t surprised by our findings. “Shampoos contain surfactants (which clean your hair) and surfactants are designed to remove both water-soluble and organic-soluble compounds. Hair dyes, while water soluble, are also organic molecules so repeated washing with shampoo will remove small amounts of dye each time,” Professor Blackman says.

Of course, sometimes water won’t cut it when you need to clean your hair. But even then, coloured shampoos didn’t shine. After 12 washes, none performed better than the all-round TRESemme Deep Cleansing Shampoo or the Johnson’s Baby Shampoo.

Paying more for shampoo doesn’t mean a better result. Whether you’re shelling out $10 per 100ml for a salon product or less than $1.50 at the supermarket, all were equivalent at preventing colour fade. If you really want a colour care shampoo, buy on price.

Coloured shampoos share a common ingredient – a UV filter – which slows down the rate the sun bleaches the hair dye. But even figuring in UV protection, none of the tested products appear to offer any specific benefits compared with water.

We asked some of the shampoo companies to provide evidence to support their claims. At time of publication, none had responded.

We say

  • It’s the surfactants in shampoos that lead to your hair colour fading. Washing your hair as little as possible minimises colour fade.
  • You don’t need a special colour-care shampoo. If you really want one, buy on price.

Report by Belinda Castles.

About our test

We sent samples of 23 shampoos for coloured hair, one shampoo for all hair types, and one baby shampoo to an independent laboratory.

The lab tested each shampoo on samples of blonde human hair that were dyed using three commercial red hair dyes.

To test the effect of washing, each hair sample was washed 12 times with each shampoo or water. The colour intensity was measured using a spectrophotometer before and after washing.

To test the effect of UV exposure, each hair sample was exposed to the equivalent of six weeks’ summer daylight. The colour intensity was measured before and after exposure.

Colour care shampoos tested

Products[sort;asc] Size (ml)[sort;asc] Price/100ml ($)[sort;asc]
TRESemme Colour Revitalise Colour Vibrance Protection for Colour Treated Hair 900 1.33
Organic Care Colour Shield Ultra-Protection Shampoo 400 1.50
Sunsilk Co-creations Vibrant Colour Protection 400 2.00
Schwarzkopf Extra Care Hair Repair With Liquid Keratin Ultimate Colour Shampoo 400 2.00
Herbal Essences Colour Me Happy Vibrant Colour Shampoo 300 2.16
Pantene PRO-V Colour Therapy 350 2.17
Dove Hair Therapy Colour Radiance Shampoo 320 2.34
Garnier Fructis Fortifying Shampoo Colour Last Revives Colour 250 2.40
L'Oreal Elvive Colour-Protect Protecting Shampoo 250 3.20
Ecostore Dry, Damaged, Coloured Shampoo 220 5.11
DeLorenzo Instant Rejuven8 Shampoo 375 7.17
Matrix Biolage Colour Last Shampoo 400 7.50
Juuce Protect Colour Vamp Shampoo 345 7.54
Fudge Colour Lock Shampoo 300 7.67
John Frieda Brilliant Brunette Colour Protecting Moisturising Shampoo 250 8.00
Alchemy Ylang Ylang Shampoo 225 8.88
Pure Colour Angel Anti-Ageing Colour Fade Defence 300 9.60
Paul Mitchell Colour Care Colour Protect Daily Shampoo 300 10.00
Joico K-Pak Colour Therapy Shampoo 300 10.67
Wella Brilliance Shampoo for Coloured Hair 250 10.80
KMS California Colour Vitality Shampoo 300 10.83
Goldwell Dual Senses Colour Fade Stop Shampoo 250 11.20
SP System Professional Colour Save Shampoo 250 14.40

Guide to the table
Price/100ml based on a price survey in August 2015.

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