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Between opening up the hair cuticle and vacuuming out the protein inside, coloring hair is brutal to your strands. To give processed hair a break, a number of “color-safe” shampoos claim to eschew sulfates, which chew up hair color, and clean hair with gentler formulas.
As it turns out, sulfates aren’t the only factor you have to worry about. Oily hair, sensitive skin, and a visceral dislike of shampoos that don’t lather can complicate the search for the right color-safe shampoo. Luckily, you don’t have to choose between a shampoo that leaves your color alone and one that’s effective. Read on for the top shampoos for colored hair.
Best Overall: Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo
Olaplex, simply put, is the gold standard of hair color aftercare. Equally as popular at the No. 3 hair treatment, this sulfate-free, reparative shampoo rebuilds hair bonds that are damaged during the color process to strengthen brittle, dry hair and protect against future damage. The No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo still foams, creating a luxurious lather that dutifully cleans hair without stripping the life out of it.
Best Drugstore Option: L’Oreal EverStrong Thickening Shampoo
Don’t let the price tag fool you: This sulfate-free shampoo is far from abrasive. It gently cleanses colored hair while adding subtle volume, all with a minty, rosemary scent that reviewers found refreshing. Another surprise? For a color-friendly shampoo without any sulfates, it conjures up a rich foam with barely any effort, which is good news if you’re unnerved by the lack of suds in most sulfate-free shampoos.
Best Sulfate-Free: Verb Hydrating Shampoo (sulfate free, suds up nicely)
Sulfate-free shampoos often sacrifice cleanliness in favor of polite formulas that do little to remove buildup, but not this ultra-gentle Verb shampoo. Quinoa protein and pro-vitamin B5 pop up in the ingredients list, supposedly to help strengthen hair and replenish some of the amino acids lost during the color process (though the research isn’t conclusive.) Nonetheless, reviews said the Verb Hydrating Shampoo cleansed, moisturized, and soothed hair all while leaving hair color intact, with none of the oily gunk other sulfate-free shampoos tend to leave behind. For handfuls of cloudlike foam, a dime-sized amount of product is all you need.
Best Budget: Tresemme Color Revitalize Shampoo
Heads up: This pick from Tresemme does contain sodium laureth sulfate, one of the sulfates flagged as a potential irritant, so it could be worth patch-testing if you don’t react well to surfactants. But, if you can tolerate sulfates, according to reviews, this drugstore option removes buildup without stripping moisture, shine, or color. Between the generously sized bottles (with a convenient pump), weightless formula, and a pleasant, luxurious scent, the Tresemme Color Revitalize Shampoo is a worthy alternative to pricier color-safe shampoos.
Best for Dry Hair: Living Proof Restore Shampoo
The Restore Shampoo features Living Proof’s “Patented Healthy Hair Molecule,” the reparative compound created by MIT scientists that is pretty much the reason all Living Proof products exist. Packaged in what looks (endearingly) like a color-blocked milk bottle, the citrusy formula leaves hair shinier, bouncier, and healthier-looking without ruining your hair color. It won’t undo existing damage to hair, but it’ll help you hold over until your next appointment. Like the other products in this list, the sulfate-free Restore Shampoo does work up a nice foam, but since the consistency is on the rich side, so be judicious or risk limp strands.
Best for Oily Hair: Matrix Biolage Scalpsync Cooling Mint Shampoo
Your natural hair oils are, to an extent, good for you. But as people with oily hair know all too well, that threshold is very, very thin. Luckily, this minty shampoo from Matrix contains soothing mint leaf to balance the scalp without stripping hair color. The Biolage Scalpsync Cooling Mint Shampoo removes build up without that dreaded squeaky feeling, leaves hair hydrated and healthy, and according to reviews, even helps with dandruff and flakiness.
Best Purple Shampoo: Amika Bust Your Brass
Blonde hair, unfortunately, is prone to turning brassy—encounter a little chlorine or hard water and you might find your hair pulling too yellow-green, even orange as time goes on. To remedy this, try this purple shampoo. This offering from sea-buckthorn-obsessed brand Amika contains nourishing avocado oil and (of course) sea buckthorn berry as a gentler update on Clairol Shimmer Lights. The “ultra-violet” shampoo dispenses a rich purple product that isn’t too runny, which helps with application control, and even softens stressed-out strands.
Our writers spent 55 hours researching the most popular shampoo for colored hair on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 19 different shampoos overall, screened options from 15 different brands and manufacturers, read over 65 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 2 of the shampoos themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.