Should I wash my hair before foil highlights? It depends, here’s why

washing hair before foil highlights

  • If you washed your hair less than 24 hours ago or your scalp is sensitive, you shouldn’t wash your hair before foil highlights. I’ll tell you why.
  • You shouldn’t wash your hair before foil highlights.
  • However, if you applied natural oils or dry shampoo, you should wash your hair before foil highlights. Otherwise, they could result in uneven bleaching results.


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When you were about to go out to the salon, a question arises:   should I wash my hair before getting foil highlights? 


And you stop as if you’d been struck by lightning.

But, cheer up! Hesitating won’t take you anywhere, especially being just one step away from having your desired highlights.

Many people do their highlights at home, with different techniques, from the classic cap highlights to a bottle applicator.


If you’ve decided to get foil highlights, it’s probably because your colorist recommended it for your dark hair.

Foil highlights are usually for darker hair because the bleach reaches higher blonde levels with the effect of the aluminum foil.


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There may be times when you have to wash your hair before foil highlights, and you may not need to in some other cases.

This isn’t a whimsical question.

Do you want to know why? Read on.


If your scalp is sensitive or you washed your hair less than 24 hours ago, don’t wash your hair before foil highlights

sensitive scalp not washing hair before highlighting

This is very important,  especially if your scalp is very sensitive.  This is more related to health than to hygiene.


Let’s take it one step at a time.

Do you know why stylists recommend washing your hair every two or three days?


The scalp oil protects both the skin of the head, the scalp itself, and the rest of your hair.

If you wash your hair every day, you remove that natural protection. Therefore, your hair will be more likely to dry out.


Now, we’re talking about getting foil highlights.

That means that you’ll bleach some strands of your hair, and you know that bleaching is a very aggressive chemical process.

Also,   you’ll do your highlights with aluminum foil, which heats the bleach. 


Can you imagine how aggressive it could be for your sensitive scalp to wash it before foil highlights?


Obviously,   your scalp will most likely end up irritated or injured. 


So, if your scalp is sensitive, remember not to wash your hair before foil highlights.

That way, natural scalp oils will form a barrier and minimize damage.

I advise you to warn your stylist that your scalp is sensitive if you’ll do your foil highlights at a salon.

Then, the professional will take the necessary precautions to avoid any irritation to your scalp during the highlights process.


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Also,   if you washed your hair less than 24 hours after getting your highlights, you don’t need to wash your hair again.  


If you haven’t used any other hair product after washing your hair, it’s clean.

Why do you want to wash it again? If you wash it, you’ll remove the natural scalp oil. Also, aluminum foil is very slippery, especially on very clean hair.

Do you want me to share a stylist’s secret with you?


“Dirty” hair is easier to manage during foil application.

Now, things can change substantially for other people and that’s what I’ll talk to you about next.


When should you wash your hair before foil highlights?

woman washes her hair before highlights

In my experience, there are three situations in which you should wash your hair before getting highlights:

  •   If you applied natural oils   even two days before doing your highlights.
  •   If you used dry shampoo the day before   or the same day you get your highlights.
  •   You are a fan of the gym   and, you worked out before going to the salon.


Let’s start with the application of natural oils, which can be coconut, argan, linseed, almond, or any other.

Let’s imagine that you apply coconut oil to your hair the day before you do your highlights. Of course, so far it seems like a good idea, because the oil will minimize the damage from bleaching.

  It’ll still be a good idea as long as you wash your hair with sulfate-free shampoo before going to the salon. 


Natural oils always leave residues in the hair.

  •   Thicker oils such as castor and olive oil  prevents foil from adhering to your strands.
  •   Lighter oils, in turn, such as coconut, argan, or linseed   could cause uneven bleaching.


Therefore, if you apply any natural oils before highlights, you should shampoo it twice to remove any oil residue.

I recommend you use a clarifying shampoo, which is designed to remove all traces of hair products that could build up in the hair.


Are you an advocate of dry shampoo?

If I must be honest, so am I. I find it an excellent product for all those who suffer from the discomfort of oily hair.


But,   if you’re thinking of getting foil highlights, forget about dry washing your hair for several days. 


One of the advantages of dry shampoo is that it absorbs the oil from your roots and scalp. So, it’ll clean your hair, but it’ll also leave a residue that’ll turn to product buildup.


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If you wash your hair with dry shampoo before doing the highlights, the bleach will absorb the powder, y  the results may be uneven. 


Let’s say you used dry shampoo two days ago. Then, you should wash your hair with water and regular shampoo before doing the highlights.


Do you go to the gym often? Do you want to set a new Crossfit record?

My advice is to avoid the gym a few days before the appointment at the salon to get your highlights done.

 I believe you need to wash your hair after exercise.  


Scalp sweat is your brain’s ventilation system. Sweat balances your temperature to avoid heat stroke or serious situations such as fainting.

However, it also eliminates the protective natural scalp oils.

This oil is a barrier against the chemicals in the bleach. It also prevents placing the foil in your strands for your highlights.



Now you know when you should wash your hair before getting your foil highlights and when you should avoid it.

If you should need to wash your hair before going to the salon, I advise you not to rub your scalp.

Otherwise, you’ll irritate it and the foils may be uncomfortable in your scalp. It’s also important not to use conditioner during that wash.

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