Should I Wash My Hair Before Coloring It?

A hairstylist explains.

woman with cropped 4C blue hair
(Image credit: Getty)

When you're looking to color your hair, you are, of course, looking to do it right. And for that reason, hair stylists and experts recommend that you use your go-to shampoo and conditioner combo before you dive into that new hair color. But before you lather up your favorite shampoo for colored hair, you might ask yourself: Is it necessary to wash your hair before coloring it? If so, why, and how should you best go about it?

For that reason, I asked Allison Gandolfo, a celebrity hairstylist and designer colorist at the Zahir Ziani Salon, and she broke down everything there is to know about the best pre-coloring routine.

Why You Should Wash Your Hair Before Coloring It

Gandolfo begins by clarifying that washing your hair before your color appointment is something of a non-negotiable.

"If your hair is dirty, it is highly recommended that you wash before coming for a hair color treatment," she ascertains. "The only exception is if you have a sensitive scalp or sensitivity to hair dye." In that case, ask your trusted colorist or trichologist for how to best soothe and cleanse your sensitive scalp before you begin coloring your hair. 

But why is washing your hair pre-coloring so important? According to Gandolfo, hair cleanliness impacts the effectiveness of your coloring.

"The natural oils from a semi dirty scalp will protect you from the hair color applied directly to the scalp," she explains, "and highlights start at the scalp, so it really is best to wash your hair in order to get the best coloring experience."

If you're worried about how washing your hair can impact your color saturation or your hair's dryness, she assuages, "Washing hair before coloring it does not affect the color."

The verdict? She concludes, "If your hair is dirty, and you typically are not sensitive to hair dye, wash your hair 12-24 hours before the color appointment."

How To Wash Your Hair Before Coloring It

You may already be comfortable with how to wash your hair or how to co-wash your hair. But is this routine any different before a hair color appointment? 

To begin with, Gandolfo says, "It’s important to make sure the hair is wet in all places before applying product. If hair is thoroughly wet, this will allow the product to go on smoother and lather up easily to ensure cleaner scalp and hair." 

Therefore, it's especially important to find a high-quality shampoo that lathers well and thoroughly cleanses, such as a clarifying shampoo. Gandolfo agrees, saying that "silicone-free and clarifying shampoos are the formulations to look out for."

And when it comes to conditioners? She reassures that "conditioner does not affect hair color," explaining, "It’s shampoo that cleanses your hair and strips away dirt and oils."

Meet the Expert

Allison Gandolfo
Allison Gandolfo

Allison Gandolfo is a hairstylist and designer colorist Zahir Ziani Salon, which is located in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel in New York City. 

Gabrielle Ulubay
E-Commerce Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things beauty, sexual wellness, and fashion. She's also written about sex, gender, and politics for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal since 2018. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, including two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.