Should I Wash My Hair Before I Dye It? What You Need To Know!

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Hair coloring has long gone from its old purpose of covering the grays. It’s now a widely followed fashion trend that turns your hair from blah to ooh la la.

Is this your first time joining the hair dye fun?

cheerful girl with closed eyes washing hair on yellow background

There are some things to consider before coloring. Consider the right color, type of hair dye, hair condition, and also basic questions like, “Should I wash my hair before I dye it?”

We searched high and low for answers. And now, we’re ready to tell you the difference dirty or clean hair would make to your hair dye result.

Can I Wash My Hair Before Dyeing It?

The best way to answer this age-old question is this:

Don’t dye dirty hair!

Back in the day, hair colorists advised their clients to come to the salon with dirty hair. But, it’s not because dirty hair can make the color process faster. 

The real reason was coloring products used to be made with harsh chemicals that can be really damaging to the hair. And, the dirt on your hair can lessen the harmful effects.

Now, hair dyes are made with more gentle formulas. As a result, colorists recommend washing the hair to remove the grime before coloring, because the excess buildup might result in an uneven dye job.

The best way is to wait for at least 24 hours after washing before dyeing your hair.

How to Shampoo Your Hair Before Coloring

Following the answer to your worry, if you’re supposed to wash your hair before dyeing it, you should also know how to properly wash it.

First, use a gentle shampoo. We recommend sulfate-free products for gentle cleansing. It’s also best to avoid clarifying shampoos as they can be drying.

Here are our top picks for shampoos that will clean your hair in a gentle way:

L’oreal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Repairing Shampoo
Best Overall
  • Caring, weightless formula
  • Cleans and repairs damaged hair
  • Has a sophisticated floral scent
Redken All Soft Shampoo
Budget Pick
  • Softens and adds shine
  • Contains argan oil that replenishes dry hair
  • Perfect for all hair types
Tea Tree Special Shampoo
Premium Pick
  • Deep cleans and refreshes the scalp
  • Leaves hair locks healthy and full of shine
  • Color-safe, vegan, and paraben-free

Next, shampoo well if you’re a fan of using hair sprays, dry shampoo, or hair oils. Just make sure to be gentle when scrubbing your scalp.

Prepare Your Hair Before the Coloring Process

Hair dye products include damaging chemicals like hydrogen peroxide and ammonia. They can cause your hair to become frizzy and brittle.

That said, your hair should be in good condition before you color it to minimize the damage.

Here’s how you can prepare your locks:

  • Avoid using heat-styling tools.
  • Use a deep conditioner or treatment at least 3 days before dyeing your hair.
  • Don’t wash your hair the same day as your coloring appointment.

Is It Better to Dye with Clean or Dirty Hair?

If you’re wondering if you can dye your hair without washing it, you need to consider a few factors.

The hair preparation factors are:

  • Hair color
  • Coloring technique
  • Hair dye products

The Problem in Dyeing with Dirty Hair

Dirty Is Different from Oily

Hair can be dirty if it goes more than 3 days without washing. It has gathered a lot of hair product residue and environmental pollutants.

Whereas hair becomes oily after 1-2 days of no washing. It becomes coated with natural oil that gives it shine and smoothness.

Dirty Hair Can Confuse Your Hair Colorist

Light or blonde hair can appear darker when it’s dirty. So, when you have dirty hair during your salon consultation, you might not get your dream shade.

That’s because your colorist may not correctly evaluate your true hair color and they might end up using an incorrect color formulation.

On the other hand, clean hair shows your most accurate natural hair shade. This will help you find your best hair dye match.

That’s why it’s ideal that you wash your hair the night before your salon appointment.

Dirty Hair Can Cause Uneven Coloring

Too much dirt and product build-up can make it difficult for the hair dye to penetrate the hair cuticles. This can result in patchy hair color.

If you’re using a product with no ammonia or a low-volume developer, the dye may not break through the dirt stuck to your hair.

closeup view of young woman having her colored hair washed in a beauty salon

Squeaky Clean Hair When Dyeing Is a Big No

Cleaning your hair before coloring can ensure that there’s no dirt to prevent the hair dye from being absorbed into the hair shaft. 

However, washing the hair right before dyeing can cause more damage as the hair and scalp are drier than usual.

Plus, freshly washed hair can make things difficult for your stylist when doing hair painting techniques such as balayage. This is because recently washed hair has more flyaways.

To achieve the perfect hair condition before coloring, professionals suggest that you skip shampooing at least 24 hours before the hair dye process.

What About Washing Prior to Bleaching?

If you’re planning to have an extremely light color like platinum blonde, you can skip 2 washes before going to the salon. 

During that time, the body will produce sebum or natural oil that can nourish your hair and scalp. 

It’s as if you’re preparing your mane for battle. The more oil there is to your hair, the more protection there is against breakage and irritation during the bleaching process.

The Power of Sebum

As we’ve explained, not shampooing for 1-2 days allows sebum to build up on your scalp. It moisturizes the hair and serves as an extra coating.

So, when the hair dye breaks down the cuticle, there is less damage.

Sebum can also help protect your scalp. There will be less tingling when using bleach and less staining for hair dye.

Aside from hair and scalp protection, the oil makes it easier to divide the hair into sections when coloring.

Oily Hair Strands Won’t Ruin the Hair Dye Process

Coloring can add pizzazz to your locks. However, it can also add damage. So, make sure to prepare your hair for its first hair dye experience.

Take note that neither dirty hair nor freshly-washed hair is good for coloring. Shampoo your hair 1-2 days before your color service to let natural oils work their way to your hair.

This will create a shield between your scalp and the harmful chemicals in hair dyes to prevent burning and itching. It also helps minimize hair damage.

young woman with colorful hair and stylish eyeglasses on pink

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to have clean or dirty hair before coloring?

It’s better to go between clean and dirty if you’re going to color your hair. Too clean hair can be drying and too dirty can cause a sloppy hair color.

The best period of cleanliness is just when the natural oils have started to build up. That’s 24 hours after your last wash.

If my hair is greasy, do I need to wash my hair before I dye it?

We suggest having a little grease on your hair before coloring. But take note of the word little. If your locks are too greasy after 4 days of no shampoo, dyeing it can be pretty challenging.

Can you use box dye on dirty hair?

No here. Just like professional salon hair dye, using box dye on dirty hair can also produce patchy or uneven results.

Stick to washing your hair 24 hours before coloring with box dye.

Go ahead and try your first hair color change!

Here are some color options we suggest:


  • Rachelle Velasco

    Rachelle, is a sought-after freelance hair and makeup artist, shines particularly in the world of hair color. From subtle ombres and balayages to vibrant hues and intricate root work, she crafts unique styles tailored to individual preferences. Beyond her artistic talents, Rachelle also holds a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, showcasing her diverse skill set and dedication to learning.

  • Madeline Hall

    With ten years in hairstyling, Madeline Hall has trained with elite colorists Naomi Knight and Lupe Voss and assisted celebrity stylist Alex Chases. From building a solid clientele at San Francisco's Code Salon to impressing Nashville's finest, Madeline is a force in the industry. Passionate about educating clients and staying updated on trends.


  1. How do I find penny red hair dye? It disappeared long ago! why? I want to buy it now!!!!!

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