How to Prep Hair for Color: Expert Tips and Techniques for Vibrant Results (2023)

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how to prep hair for color

Essential Steps to Prepare Your Hair for Coloring

Preparing your hair before coloring is crucial to achieve the best results and maintain the health of your hair. There are a few essential steps you should follow before applying color:

  1. Trim your hair: It’s a good idea to trim any split ends or damaged hair before coloring. This will ensure that the color looks even and prevents further damage.
  2. Cleanse your hair: Start with clean, dry hair before applying color. This helps the color adhere better to your strands and ensures more even coverage.
  3. Protect your clothes and surroundings: Coloring can be messy, so make sure to wear old clothes and cover any surfaces that may get stained.

Trimming Your Hair Before Coloring

Trimming your hair before coloring is important because it removes any split ends or damaged sections that can affect how the color looks. By trimming away these damaged areas, you create a fresh canvas for the color application, resulting in a more even and vibrant result.

Cleansing Your Hair Before Coloring

Cleansing your hair before coloring is crucial for optimal color absorption. When your hair is clean, free from product buildup or oils, the color molecules can penetrate the hair shaft more effectively, resulting in better color payoff and longevity. Use a clarifying shampoo to remove any residue or buildup on your scalp and strands, then thoroughly rinse out the shampoo before proceeding with coloring.

Protecting Your Clothes and Surroundings

Coloring can be messy, so it’s important to protect your clothes and surrounding areas from potential stains. Wear old clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or consider using a cape or towel around your shoulders to catch any drips or spills. Additionally, cover any surfaces such as countertops or floors with plastic or old towels to prevent staining.

The Importance of Cleansing Your Hair Before Applying Color

Why is hair cleansing important?

Cleansing your hair before applying color is crucial for achieving the best results. When your hair is clean and free from any product buildup or oils, the color can penetrate evenly and adhere better to the strands. This ensures a more vibrant and long-lasting color.

Tips for effective hair cleansing:

  • Choose a clarifying shampoo specifically designed to remove buildup and residue.
  • Gently massage the shampoo into your scalp to thoroughly cleanse both the roots and lengths of your hair.
  • Rinse your hair thoroughly with lukewarm water to ensure all traces of shampoo are removed.

By starting with clean hair, you create a blank canvas for the color application, allowing it to fully express its true shade and potential.

Determining if Your Hair Needs Pre-Color Treatments

Before coloring your hair, it’s important to assess its condition and determine if any pre-color treatments are necessary. Factors such as previous chemical treatments, damage, or excessive dryness can affect how well the color will take and how it will look on your hair.

Signs that indicate the need for pre-color treatments:

  • Uneven porosity: If certain areas of your hair absorb color differently than others, resulting in patchy or inconsistent results.
  • Dullness: If your hair lacks shine or appears lackluster, indicating a need for hydration and nourishment before coloring.
  • Previous color build-up: If you have layers of old dye on your hair, pre-color treatments can help remove or fade them, allowing for a fresh start.

By identifying these signs and addressing them with appropriate pre-color treatments, you can ensure that your hair is in the best possible condition to receive and retain the color effectively.

Choosing the Right Products to Prime Your Hair for Coloring

Before coloring your hair, it is important to choose the right products that will help prime your hair for the coloring process. One essential product to consider is a clarifying shampoo. This type of shampoo helps remove any buildup or residue on your hair, allowing the color to adhere better and last longer. Look for a clarifying shampoo that is gentle and sulfate-free to avoid stripping your hair of its natural oils.

In addition to a clarifying shampoo, using a pre-color treatment can also be beneficial. These treatments are specifically formulated to prepare your hair for color by moisturizing and strengthening it. Look for a pre-color treatment that contains ingredients like keratin or argan oil, as these can help protect your hair from damage during the coloring process.

Recommended Products:

  • Gentle clarifying shampoo
  • Sulfate-free clarifying shampoo
  • Pre-color treatment with keratin or argan oil


  1. Avoid using any styling products before applying the clarifying shampoo.
  2. Follow up with a deep conditioning treatment after using the clarifying shampoo.
  3. Choose a pre-color treatment that matches your specific hair needs (e.g., hydrating, strengthening).

The Significance of Deep Conditioning Before Coloring

Deep conditioning your hair before coloring is crucial as it helps nourish and strengthen your strands, making them more resilient to potential damage caused by the coloring process. Deep conditioning treatments are typically richer and more intensive than regular conditioners, providing deep hydration and repair.

Prior to coloring, apply a deep conditioning treatment to your hair and leave it on for the recommended amount of time. This will help restore moisture, improve elasticity, and create a protective barrier between your hair and the coloring chemicals. Look for deep conditioning treatments that contain ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, or avocado oil for added nourishment.

Recommended Products:

  • Intensive deep conditioning mask
  • Deep conditioner with shea butter or coconut oil
  • Leave-in conditioner for extra hydration


  1. Apply the deep conditioning treatment at least a day before coloring to allow enough time for absorption.
  2. Cover your hair with a shower cap or wrap it in a towel while the treatment is on to enhance its effectiveness.
  3. Rinse out the deep conditioner thoroughly before applying color to avoid any interference with the coloring process.

Methods and Techniques for Prepping Your Hair for Color

Before coloring your hair, it is important to properly prepare it to ensure the best results. One method for prepping your hair is to clarify it with a clarifying shampoo. This will remove any buildup or residue from styling products, allowing the color to penetrate evenly. Another technique is to deep condition your hair a few days before coloring. This will help to moisturize and strengthen your hair, making it more receptive to the color.

To further prepare your hair, you can also consider using a protein treatment. This will help to repair any damage and strengthen your hair strands, making them less prone to breakage during the coloring process. Additionally, it is recommended to avoid washing your hair immediately before coloring as this can strip away natural oils that protect the scalp and provide a barrier against irritation.

Using Clarifying Shampoo

Clarifying shampoos are specially formulated to remove product buildup and impurities from the hair. They contain ingredients that effectively cleanse the scalp and strands without stripping away essential moisture. When using a clarifying shampoo, make sure to thoroughly massage it into your scalp and work it through the lengths of your hair. Rinse well with warm water before proceeding with other pre-coloring steps.

Benefits of Deep Conditioning

Deep conditioning treatments are designed to provide intense hydration and nourishment to the hair. They often contain ingredients like shea butter, argan oil, or keratin that help restore moisture and improve overall hair health. Applying a deep conditioner a few days prior to coloring can help replenish any lost moisture and strengthen the hair fibers, resulting in better color absorption and longer-lasting results.

Tips to Protect Your Scalp During the Pre-Coloring Process

When preparing your hair for color, it is crucial to protect your scalp from potential irritation or damage. One tip is to apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or a barrier cream along your hairline and around the ears. This will create a protective barrier and prevent the color from staining your skin.

Another important step is to perform a patch test before applying the color all over your hair. This involves applying a small amount of the dye mixture behind your ear or on the inner part of your elbow and leaving it for 24-48 hours. If you experience any adverse reactions such as redness, itching, or swelling, it is best to avoid using that particular dye.

Using Petroleum Jelly as a Scalp Protector

Petroleum jelly can be an effective way to protect your scalp from hair dye stains. Apply a thin layer along your hairline, focusing on areas where the color is most likely to come into contact with your skin. Be careful not to get any petroleum jelly on your actual hair strands as it may interfere with the coloring process.

The Importance of Patch Testing

A patch test is essential before coloring your hair, especially if you are using a new brand or type of dye. It helps identify any potential allergic reactions or sensitivities to the ingredients in the product. To perform a patch test, mix a small amount of the dye according to the instructions and apply it to a small area of skin. Leave it undisturbed for at least 24 hours and monitor for any signs of irritation or discomfort.

Avoiding Certain Styling Products or Tools Prior to Coloring Your Hair

Prior to coloring your hair, it is advisable to avoid using certain styling products or tools that can interfere with the coloring process or affect the final results. One product category to steer clear of is silicone-based styling products. These can create a barrier on the hair shaft, making it difficult for the color to penetrate evenly.

Additionally, avoid using heat styling tools such as flat irons or curling wands in the days leading up to your color treatment. Excessive heat can cause damage and weaken the hair, making it more susceptible to breakage during the coloring process.

Avoiding Silicone-Based Styling Products

Silicone-based styling products, including serums, leave-in conditioners, and some hairsprays, often contain ingredients that create a coating on the hair shaft. This coating can prevent the color molecules from fully penetrating the hair cuticle and result in uneven or patchy color. It is best to avoid using these products for at least a week before coloring your hair.

Limiting Heat Styling

Heat styling tools like flat irons and curling wands can cause damage to the hair if used excessively or at high temperatures. Prior to coloring your hair, it is recommended to limit or avoid using these tools altogether. Heat can weaken the hair strands and make them more prone to breakage during the coloring process. Opt for air-drying or gentle heat-free styling methods instead.

The Role of Hair Porosity in Preparing for Color Treatment

Hair porosity refers to how well your hair absorbs and holds moisture and chemicals. Understanding your hair’s porosity level is crucial when preparing for a color treatment as it affects how well your hair will take up and retain the dye. High porosity hair tends to absorb color quickly but may also fade faster, while low porosity hair may require more time for color absorption but tends to hold onto it longer.

To determine your hair’s porosity level, you can perform a simple test. Take a clean strand of hair and place it in a bowl of water. If it sinks quickly, your hair has high porosity. If it floats for a while before sinking, your hair has low porosity. Understanding your hair’s porosity can help you choose the right coloring techniques and products for optimal results.

Testing Hair Porosity with Water

To determine your hair’s porosity level, fill a bowl with room temperature water and take a clean strand of hair. Place the strand in the water and observe its behavior. If the strand sinks immediately, it indicates high porosity as the cuticles are more open and absorbent. If the strand floats for an extended period before sinking, it suggests low porosity as the cuticles are tightly closed and less absorbent.

Adapting Coloring Techniques to Hair Porosity

Once you have determined your hair’s porosity level, you can adjust your coloring techniques accordingly. For high porosity hair, consider using a shorter processing time or opting for semi-permanent dyes that fade gradually. Low porosity hair may benefit from slightly longer processing times or using heat during the coloring process to help open up the cuticles and allow better color penetration.

Natural Remedies and DIY Options for Prepping Hair Before Coloring

If you prefer natural remedies or want to save some money, there are several DIY options available to prep your hair before coloring. One popular method is to use apple cider vinegar as a clarifying rinse. Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water, then pour it over your hair after shampooing but before conditioning. This will help remove buildup and restore pH balance.

Another natural option is to create a homemade deep conditioning treatment using ingredients like avocado, coconut oil, or honey. Mash an avocado and mix it with a tablespoon of coconut oil or honey. Apply this mixture to your hair, focusing on the ends, and leave it on for 20-30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

To create an apple cider vinegar rinse, mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water in a spray bottle. After shampooing your hair, spray the mixture onto your scalp and lengths. Massage it in gently and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing with cool water. This rinse will help remove product buildup, restore shine, and promote overall scalp health.

DIY Deep Conditioning Treatment

Create a nourishing deep conditioning treatment by mashing one ripe avocado and adding a tablespoon of either coconut oil or honey. Mix well until you achieve a smooth paste-like consistency. Apply this mixture to damp hair, focusing on the ends where dryness is most common. Cover your hair with a shower cap or towel and leave the treatment on for 20-30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly with lukewarm water.

In conclusion, properly preparing the hair before coloring is crucial for achieving desired results and maintaining its health. By following the recommended steps, such as deep conditioning, avoiding excessive heat styling, and conducting strand tests, individuals can ensure a successful and long-lasting color transformation while minimizing damage to their hair.

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