Does hair dye lighten after a few days and washes?

  • Yes, dye will lighten as days go by and you wash your hair.
  • Dye finishes settling into your hair fiber about 3-4 days after using it on your hair. The pigments that your hair doesn’t absorb in those days will end up fading.
  • After those first few days, the dye will continue to lighten, more or less depending on how often you wash your hair and which hair products you use.


hair expels excess pigment

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“I dyed my hair and after a few days, my color is lighter!” This is one of the most frequent complaints I get at the salon.

But, there’s an explanation for everything. Do you know why this happened? Because the dye continues to work on your hair, even a few days after you applied it and rinsed your hair.


Let’s take a look at how dye works once you’ve applied it to your hair. Dye is made up of two primary elements: peroxide and ammonia.

  • 20 volume peroxide, also known as developer, opens your hair cuticles.
  • Ammonia sets the color in your hair fiber.


Then, your hair fiber does all the work, by absorbing the pigment and retaining it.

You’re probably asking yourself: “Why is it that if the fiber absorbs and retains the pigments, the dye lightens?”


Hair fiber has a limited ability to absorb pigments, which is also related to your history of dyeing your hair.

That means that virgin hair is different from hair that you’ve bleached before, or even hair that is already a color with a lot of pigment, like red.

Yes, as you can see, coloring your hair is a science and everything you’ve done to your hair before matters.


 For that reason, hair fiber expels the excess pigment for about 72-96 hours after you first apply the dye to your hair, which is the amount of time it takes for the dye to settle in your hair. When you hair fiber has expelled all of the excess pigment, the color is set, and that’s when you might notice: the color is lighter. 


Actually, what happens is that your hair is less saturated with pigments, so you might notice a slight difference in the color of your hair the first day you have the new dye as compared to the third or fourth day.

So, that’s what happens with the chemicals of the dye inside your hair. Now, what role does how often you wash your hair play in making the dye look lighter after a few days?


It plays an important role, so don’t move from your seat because I’ll tell you:

  • Why dye lightens as you wash it
  • How to stop your dye from lightening as much and make your color last longer

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Why dye lightens as you wash it

pink tiles

Like I told you at the beginning, hair products make dye degrade quicker, and the worst culprit, even though it tries to feign innocence, is shampoo.

Shampoo contains, among other ingredients, sulfates, which are the chemicasl in charge of washing your hair fiber.

Do you know what other products contain sulfates?


Dish soaps.

Yep, the very same product is in both your shampoo and your dish soap, but in different concentrations.

 As you’ll see, sulfates are corrosive chemicals that degrade the pigments in your dye with each wash. 


And you can also find them in conditioners and some hydrating masks, although usually in smaller quantities.

Hydrating masks are designed to penetrate the deepest part of your hair fiber and moisturize your hair.

Of course, your hair fiber absorbs the moisture and nutrition, making the mask mix with the dye pigment.

What happens when you rinse the mask, then?


Bye, bye dye pigments!

Well, in truth, a good amount of the dye pigments go along with the mask when you rinse it out.

And if that weren’t enough, when you hydrate your hair with the mask, your hair cuticles turn extremely porous which encourages the expulsion of the pigment.

Are you freaked out?


Don’t be: There are simple ways to fix this and make your color last longer.


How to stop the dye from lightening and make your color last longer

shampoo and conditioner

The first thing you need to do is take a look at the products you use to wash your hair. So, go get your normal shampoo and conditioner. Do you have it on hand?


Read the label. Look at the part where it specifies what the ingredients are.

 If it says “Sulfate,” “Sodium Laureth Sulfate
or “Sodium Lauryl Sulfate,” you should get rid of that shampoo or conditioner, because those corrosive chemicals are effectively what will make you dye lighten as you wash it. 

So, you’ll need to replace your shampoo with one that doesn’t contain sulfates, which usually is a clear one that doesn’t have a scent and won’t damage your hair.


It’s easy to find sulfate-free shampoo and you’ll be able to use it without worrying about it lightening your dye. Sulfate-free conditioner is harder to find, but you can always find one if you go to a specialized hair care store.

If you can’t find a sulfate-free conditioner, don’t worry because conditioner contains fewer sulfates than shampoo.

 So, you can use a sulfate-free shampoo and a normal conditioner with extra keratin hydration so the dye doesn’t lighten so much in the first few days. 


  • Did you wash your hair the day after you dyed it? No, no, no! Please don’t do that!

Don’t wash your hair for at least three days after using dye because remember that you need to let the dye settle into your hair fiber.


 If you wash your hair before then, you’ll run the risk of the chemicals in your hair washing products taking the pigmentation out of your hair fiber. 

And lastly, hydrating masks are great, but don’t overuse them.


  • It’s important to limit your usage of hydrating masks.

I know that we all dream of bright, soft and flowing hair, but masks can also damage dye pigments, lightening your color.

It’s ideal to use a mask once a week and replace them with coconut or argan oil which deeply hydrate your hair without damaging your color.


Do you love homemade masks?

If so, I’ll leave you a recipe for a homemade mask that will leave your hair feeling wonderful.


Homemade mask for dyed hair


  • An avocado
  • Two tablespoons of honey


Preparation and use:

  • Scoop all of the “meat” of the avocado into a bowl and add the two tablespoons of honey.
  • Mix the ingredients until you have a smooth consistency.
  • Use the mask on your hair, starting at the ends, and finishing at your roots.
  • Leave it in your hair for two hours.
  • Finally, rinse your hair with plenty of water and use your sulfate-free shampoo to get rid of all of the remnants of the mask. You don’t need to use conditioner afterward.


You’ll see that your hair is shiny and totally hydrated and your dye color won’t have changed at all.



Dye always tends to lighten in the first few days. That’s because two or three days after you use it, when you wash your hair, you’ll get rid of the leftover pigments that your hair fiber couldn’t absorb because it is saturated with color.

If you want it to lighten less, wash your hair every three or four days using a sulfate-free shampoo and use a hydrating mask once a week maximum.

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