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How to Fix Your Roots

If you color your hair—at a salon or at home—you get roots. Some people love them, and even accentuate them: Many of the chicest variations on ombre are essentially grown-out roots. If you don’t love roots, however, they are fairly painless to erase—as is the fading that is also part and parcel of having your hair colored.

If you go to a colorist, ask her/him for shade (and brand) recommendations first; some salons create special roots-fixing kits for each individual client; others will recommend over-the-counter products. “You want professional guidance, in terms of shade and in terms of how often you should be re-applying color, emphasizes Marie Robinson of New York’s Marie Robinson Salon

Fix ONLY the Roots

Whether you color your hair in a salon or at home, you’re going to get roots—and touching them up shouldn’t involve re-coloring all your hair, for several reasons. Your roots are a different shade than the rest of your hair, points out Clairol color director, James Corbett, of New York’s James Corbett Studio salon. “You think you want it all to match, but since the base color for roots isn’t the same as the already-colored part of your hair, they won’t match. Recoloring the whole head is the number one mistake women coloring their hair at home make.”

Color on top of color also dulls and flattens the look and texture of your hair. Redken celebrity colorist Tracey Cunningham points out that over-dyed roots can cause dark shades to go darker than they’re supposed to: “You’re essentially layering color on top of color,” she says. “If you’re blonde, re-coloring too often causes breakage.” Just fix the roots and leave the rest as long as you can, period.

Pick the Right Color

Go lighter on root touch-up shades especially around the face, says Cunningham: “Always do a lighter color around your hairline. Otherwise it starts looking really dark because the hairs around your face are like facial hair and the color absorbs differently.”

Your choice of all-over haircolor seriously affects how often it has to be touched up, notes Robinson: “If you’re a busy working mom, going pale blonde can be more high-maintenance than is ideal.” Red, which fades the quickest, is another not-for-the-extra-busy option.

Treat Fade (a.k.a. That Irritating Red/Orange/Brassiness)

That said, all permanent haircolor fades, losing its initial luster. Whenever you color hair—even a dark color—the process involves some initial bleaching to get the color to go inside the hair shaft. As the color slowly leeches out of the hair, what’s left is lighter than your original shade. “Darker colors like black fade violet-red, dark brown fades reddish, brown fades orange, and blondes fade from orange to very gold—brassy,” explains Robinson.

Fade Fix #1: Start With “Ash” Family Colors

You’ll notice most box haircolor is labeled “ash” or “warm”/”golden.” Warm and golden have more red in them; if red or oranginess bugs you, start with ash. All colorists will doubtlessly be aghast at this last statement, but the only people we’ve met who want more red in their hair are pretty clear about it, while most people who don’t want red, don’t understand that “ash” is (generally) the antidote. If you’ve a got a colorist to advise you, listen. But if you’re standing in the haircolor aisle at the drugstore and you don’t want reddish fade, start with ash.

Fade Fix #2: Glosses

Salons treat fading with glosses—essentially semi-permanent color that temporarily adjusts the tone (getting rid of the color-fade effect) and increases shine. Cunningham says she treats clients to Redken’s Shades EQ Gloss (go to their site for salons) when color starts to fade, prolonging the time in between haircolorings and keeping hair as healthy as possible. A gloss usually lasts between 12 and 20 shampoos, depending on your hair and how you treat it. You can create a similar effect with semi-permanent color at home, says Corbett, who likes Clairol Natural Instincts (about $7, drugstores), but gives this advice no matter what brand you use: “Pick a shade that’s on the lighter side of what looks right for the first time. If you don’t get enough tone correction with that shade, go a shade darker the next time you do it.”

Fade Fix #3: Avoid Pools and Sun

“The worst!” says Corbett. “Especially the combination of the two! If you’re going to be in a pool or hot tub at all, wet down your hair, then seal in the water with conditioner or oil before you go in the pool. Think of your hair like a sponge: You want to fill it up with plain water before you go into anything chlorinated—chlorine is bleach—so it won’t absorb the chlorine as much. It’s really worth the extra step, every time.”

Fade Fix #4: Think Before You Shampoo

Washing your hair—especially with detergent (most shampoos that lather are made with detergent, aka SLS)—strips and fades color. Think about washing it less often; think about using SLS-free formulas (we only sell SLS-free shampoos on goop); think about using lots of conditioner to build back in softness and shine. You can also address color with shampoo, says Robinson: “Generally, to correct brassiness, a purple-based shampoo counteract, orange and yellow or blue/violet; green based-shampoos help counteract red and orange.” Purple is great for blonde shades, green more for brown ones.

Temporary—But Really Effective—Fix: Eyeshadow for Hair

Color Wow makes compacts ($34.50, that look like especially luxe eyeshadow palettes that dispense kind-of-amazing powder that sticks to your hair, looks totally natural, and comes out only when you wash it. You smooth the powder on with a brush—it’s both invisible and totally effective. Everyone should have one in their shade for emergencies, but we know one editor who uses it all the time. As in, she never touches up her routes with actual dye. “It’s definitely less damaging, and it literally takes me two minutes,” she says.

Photo by David Stesner/The Licensing Project

Rule for All Color Hair: Never. Stop. Conditioning.

Below, the very best, totally clean and utterly hydrating conditioners we know:

  • Rahua Conditioner

    Rahua Conditioner


    A fantastic double-duty product that works as a thick, nourishing conditioner and a medium-hold styling cream, this strengthens weak and damaged hair, moisturizes the scalp, and leaves hair soft, manageable, and full of shine. Sustainably sourced from deep in the Amazon, the hair-nourishing rahua and ungurahua oils that create the base for the formula have been used by indigenous women to treat hair for centuries—it’s ideal for all hair types, including color-treated.

    Shop Now

  • Josh Rosebrook Conditioner

    Josh Rosebrook Conditioner


    Nut, seed, and plant oils, plus proprietary herbal infusions, fatty acids, and active phytonutrients create a super-hydrating treatment for normal to dry hair and scalp conditions. It leaves hair healthy, full, and shiny by stimulating circulation, strengthening, and intensively moisturizing.

    Shop Now

  • Reverie Nude Conditioner

    Reverie Nude Conditioner


    A brilliant every day cream rise, this super-hydrator is made with sweet almond oil, zinc, neroli, vanilla, cardamom, and a host of other amazing essential oils. It leaves hair bouncy, manageable, and gleaming with health.

    Shop Now

  • Lavett & Chin Hair Moisturizer/Conditioner

    Lavett & Chin Hair Moisturizer/Conditioner


    A luxurious mix of coconut oil, rice extract, spirulina, rosemary, geranium and fennel, this ultra-nourishing hydrator seriously increases shine and manageability, leaving hair smoother, softer and healthier. It smells and feels fantastic, and works brilliantly for everyday.

    Shop Now

  • Grown Alchemist Conditioner
  • Beautycounter Rinse Everyday Conditioner

    Beautycounter Rinse Everyday Conditioner


    This weightless formula is meant to prep hair with a nourishing mix of vitamins and fatty acids to better handle everyday stressors. It’s lightly scented, too, which is pretty essential for a conditioner.

    Shop Now

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