Eco Beauty & Fashion

5 Tricks to Make Hair Dye Last Longer

brunette woman smiles into cameraI know the health risks associated with hair dye. I’ve written about the FDA’s warnings that hair dye can lead to respiratory problems, hair loss and skin irritation. And for the past few years, I’ve been fine with plucking the occasional gray. But there’s nothing like a change of color to upgrade your mood, and last week I desperately needed a mood upgrade. So I went dark—by about four shades—with a temporary hair dye color. Then I found a few tricks to make it last.

When it comes to toxic chemicals in hair dye, the point is to minimize your exposure. You minimize your exposure by using less hair dye. And you use less hair dye by making your new color last. Here’s how. When it comes to hair dye, there’s no getting around the fact that it contains toxic chemicals. In conventional hair dyes, you can find coal tar, peroxide, ammonia and benzene—just to name a few. And yes, you can use truly natural henna, but even “natural” ammonia-free hair dyes can contain hydroxytoluene and aminophenol, among others, which rank “6” on the Skin Deep Database because of concerns about allergic reactions and cancer.

When it comes to toxic chemicals in hair dye, the point is to minimize your exposure. You minimize your exposure by using less hair dye. And you use less hair dye by making your new color last. Here are my new favorite tricks:

1. Use sulfate-free shampoo. In general, shampoo removes hair dye from the hair; sulfates speed up the process. (My absolutely favorite shampoo is Alaffia Everyday Shea Shampoo, which is inexpensive, fair trade, organic and hands-down my secret to good hair.)

2. Condition with a combination of 1/3 apple cider vinegar— I like this organic apple cider vinegar from Bragg—and 2/3 conditioner. The vinegar actually helps the hair dye to remain bonded to the hair, according to my awesome stylist Viviane of Marina Beach Hair. Shout out to Viv, woot!

3. After using hair dye, wait 72 hours before washing. Yes, you will need a hat or at least a headband—I’m partial to these velvet bands from Sparkly Soul. If you wait three days to wash your hair after using hair dye, the color will last longer.

4. Once your ‘do is in regular rotation, wash only every 48 hours. Again, shampoo is the enemy of hair dye. Try using it only every other day.

5. On the off day, rinse your hair with hot water to combat oil, and/or use a natural hair powder like this organic one from Lulu Organics, which I’ve been using for years—as you can see from the video below, in which I am dated by 1. EcoStiletto, which is no longer (sniff), 2. Less wrinkles and 3. Bangs, which I kind of love. (Seriously, should I bring those back? Tell me in comments, below!)


  • Kim

    Thank you for the tips! ☺️ You may want to edit the instructions to say “1/3 vinegar and 2/3 conditioner” as you intended to write. And yes I too think your are beautiful either way.

  • Tamara Pemberton

    I absolutely love Lustrous Henna – Brown by Saba Botanical. I’ve been using it for a year and a half now. I looked at the ingredients and it doesn’t have the 2 you said unless it’s a different name. I have to do it every 3 weeks as it fades. I sometimes wait 4 weeks. If anyone knows if any of the ingredients are bad for you please let me know. They are: Indigofera Tinctoria,Lawsonia Inermis, isatis Tinctoria, bacopa munnieri,eclipta prostrate,acacia concina, azadirachita Indica, coffea arabica.

    • Rachel Sarnoff

      Thanks for the head’s up I’ll have to take a look at that one! I love my henna too :-) I would recommend not doing your whole head every 3-4 weeks as it can build up on ends, but doing just your roots. On the ends it shouldn’t fade at all. None of these ingredients flag me as toxic. Thanks for sharing, Tamara!

  • Karen

    I’ve been dyeing my hair for long time now and I a reaction with boxed hair dyes I have gray hair but nothing seem to cover them right…but when it’s time to wash my hair the dye comes out so really the dye stays in till I wash..So I can’t use box byes what would you recommend to colour my hair…I have brown hair but when I dyed my hair it went black..and what would you recommend to cover the gray hairs

    Thank You

    • Rachel Sarnoff

      Karen I would highly recommend henna! It doesn’t cover the white hairs completely, but it does turn them into highlights–an added bonus :-)

  • Laura

    The vinegar data point was interesting, thank you. I took a break from Henna/Indigo, as the red really stands out as additional applications build up over time. The first 4-5 treatments to medium brown went great, and then I started to have color variances, and the red was fugly. I went back to a chemical dye, so I would not look like a freak of nature. Henna isn’t 100% risk free, just because it’s a plant. I did lots of due diligence (used international scientific data points). There are a lot of bad stuff in nature. Bottom line is, aging sucks. I try and keep fit,and I plan on a face lift, but man this hair roller coaster sucks.

    • Rachel Sarnoff

      Oh I hear you! For example my indigo mix is now “reading” really dark, so I’m trying a dark blonde alternating with dark brown. But other than environmental, the problem I have with regular dye is that it strips the natural color out so I end up with brass, no matter what color I use. So henna doesn’t do that which is great! Thanks for sharing Serena

      • Laura

        Does Indigo make your hair so dark, it drowns out your complexion? Does the dark blonde alternative balance out the Indigo?
        I read that if I applied henna (straight), then did a henna/indigo mix 3 days later, I could get back to my medium brown w/ red highlights, but I am so sick of the whole henna thing. I know being at higher risk for Breast Cancer breast (density, age, and exposure to plastics and pesticides) I need to use less risk products, but henna is a chemistry lesson in itself. Vinegar is such a great suggestion, btw. I’ll try it. Thank you Rachel.

        • Rachel Sarnoff

          Ooh two step process now we’re getting fancy! I prefer the blends so I don’t have to depend on my own ratios. Not sure what the actual blend is of the dark brown I’m using but I know there’s indigo, henna and amla in it. Thanks for being so aware and taking steps to protect your health, Laura!

          • Laura

            Anthony, the Henna Genius/Mentor of Mocorro Method says the two step process is the only way to calm down the red. Red cancels the red, although counterintuitive. It came from his video. I really like him. He really knows his Henna Chemistry.

            • Rachel Sarnoff

              I will check him out, but also look at Henna Color Lab because their blends are really good, the dark brown especially has very little red.

              • Laura

                Thank you for the lead, Rachel. Multiple data points are always advisable. A good henna blend is hard to find. I might go back to henna later this year, but I was in need of a “stat” fix. I looked like Madonna in her wild youth .lol Now I look reasonably sophisticated. Thanks again.

  • Delores Lyon

    Thanks for sharing these tips! I’m about to get my hair done in a few days, and i want to make sure the color lasts! It would be nice to actually keep the color I like for more than just a few months! Hopefully the vinegar and conditioner will help do the trick. Thanks again!

    • Rachel Sarnoff

      Cool, let me know if it helps! I’m also looking into henna, so keep an eye out for that post, coming soon :-)

  • Theresa

    Great tips! I’m still plucking those grays, trying to stall the coloring until I’m 50! I love your darker color! You look so pretty! You look great with or without bangs but I prefer without on you.

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