Best dandruff shampoo for color treated hair

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I’ve been asked this question a lot recently.

What are the best color safe dandruff shampoos out there?

Regular readers of this site will know that dandruff shampoos and the effects they vary from person to person.  It’s impossible to say a dandruff shampoo is definitively better than another.  Instead, I break down the ingredients in the shampoo and provide you with the tools you need to find your best dandruff shampoo.

The same applies to color safe shampoos.

Some will work better than others on different people with different hair types.  Rather than outright recommend one single color safe dandruff shampoo and expect it to work well on everyone, I’m going to do what I usually do.

I’m going to give you the tools you need to find your best color safe dandruff shampoo.

By the end of this article you will:

  • Know what color safe actually means
  • Look at the common causes of color fade
  • Give you the tools to find your best color safe dandruff shampoo

What is a “color safe” shampoo

On Paula’s Choice, an absolute authority in creating no nonsense skincare, they are very categorical.

shampoos formulated for “color-treated hair are nothing more than a marketing ruse”.  “In terms of ingredients, these are no different from regular hair-care products.”

Paula’s Choice

On the other hand you see a site like and they recommend

“There is actually quite a difference between hair products that are designed for color treated hair and those meant for the everyday hair-washer…. “

“Color-safe shampoos .. are sulfate free and don’t contain any other harsh detergents that strip out the color on each wash.”

Both of these sites sell cosmetics and hair products, so it’s astonishing to see such a polarized response to the same question.

I took this further, to the salons themselves.  The coloring studios.

Pickthorn, a leading hair coloring studio in Brooklyn NY, were unequivocal in their advice.

“Color Safe shampoos are definitely valuable to preserve the color! Especially paraben + sulfate free.”


Julia Agalliu, General Manager of Fox and Jane Salons in NYC echoed these sentiments.

“a color safe shampoo should be free of sulfates and parabens.”

“Sulfates work as scrubbers to remove the artificial pigments we use to create hair color. Color safe shampoos are very real and very important.”

Julia Agalliu, General Manager of Fox and Jane Salons

With such conflicting advice, can anyone genuinely say what a color-safe shampoo is or contains?

The unfortunate truth is that there has been no serious scientific research into the effects of sulfates, parabens, alcohols and other chemicals on colored hair. There actually isn’t a universal definition for color safe.  It’s really up to you to assess what evidence there is and make your own mind up.

I personally think the answer is quite simple.  The gentler the ingredients the slower the fade.

And that’s where this tool comes in…

Dandruff Shampoo Search

A few months ago we released our dandruff shampoo search engine.   That search engine gives you an unparalleled level of control when choosing a dandruff shampoo.  Go see it for yourself at


  1. Simply select what kind of dandruff you have and then
  2. Select what ingredients you wish to avoid  e.g. Sulfates/Parabens/Alcohols.

We created it so you can genuinely find your best dandruff shampoo.  If we’ve missed anything, or you have other buying criteria, then please lets us know in the comments.

When it comes to individual ingredients the scientific community largely admits they have a lot to learn.   There is plenty of other research though.  Research that proves that ingredients aren’t the only reason your color fades.

They aren’t even the main reason…

What causes hair color to fade?

There are two factors that have been scientifically proven to cause color fade in your hair.

  • Water
  • Sunlight

Which is a shame if you live on planet earth!

But all is not lost…


Essentially the more you wash your hair, the quicker your colorant will fade.  This was demonstrated in a study into hair colorants and the effects of water published in 2009.

This study concluded that “The loss of dye hair color typically occurs because of color wash-out during the daily shampooing process or can be initiated by environmental circumstances such as exposure to UV radiation which can break down the color molecule. It was found that the washing process is the most significant factor in the removal of hair color“.

The paper also found a chemical called Polyquaternium-55, “provides a high level of color protection when formulated in a hair color protection regimen with up to 50% color protection”

Polyquaternium-55 isn’t widely used on the market yet.  I’ve yet to see a shampoo with it in, to be honest.

So what can you do?  If you have dandruff you will have to wash your hair.  Period.   However the more you wash it, the quicker the color will fade.

So what are the options?

Wash less.  Yes, by washing less, your hair coloring agent will last longer.  Fact.

If that fills you with dread, there’s a pragmatic way to do that…  Dry shampoos.

Unfortunately, they are no dry dandruff shampoos on the market.  We’re going to have to get creative here.

As part of our regime, I always recommend using a gentle non-medicated shampoo for in between washes.  Simply replacing this gentle non-medicated shampoo with a dry shampoo will prolong your colorant.  We haven’t done too much research into dry shampoos, however, there are three we recommend you look out for.

Batiste Dry Shampoo, Clean and Classic

One of the first dry shampoos and still one most highly regarded by a company who specalize in nothing but dry shampoo technology

Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk

Another dry shampoo specialist, Klorane has added oat meal extract in this formulation.

Aveeno Active Naturals Pure Renewal Dry Shampoo

Aveeno have added seaweed extract to their dry shampoo. This is probably my personal favorite of the three.


All three dry shampoos definitely worth checking out.  Although I haven’t used them myself, excessive use of dry shampoos can cause build up.  They can also cause a dry scalp.  In some cases they have caused cysts and pimples on the scalp.   But some people absolutely love them.

If you want to prolong the color in your hair, washing your hair less will dramatically help prolong that color.


Sunlight is the second greatest factor in causing your hair coloring to fade.

There’s been a number of studies on the effects of sunlight on your hair in recent years.  A report in 2005 found that color fading occurs much faster if the hair is exposed to both water and sunlight.

But what is it about sunlight that causes color to fade?  Ultraviolet radiation.

There has been an overwhelming number of studies into the damage UV Rays do to the hair and how UV protection will help.

There are now a number of products on the market that provide UV protection.

Two that particularly interested us are UV Protecting Conditioners and Sprays.  Both will allow for the use of regular dandruff shampoos, gentle shampoos, dry scalp shampoos or dry shampoos.

UV Protecting Conditioners

Be extra vigilant when buying these or any other conditioner.  Despite what they say on the label, many of them contain sulfates and other contact allergens that you see in the shampoos.  We do recommend checking out something like:

Hugo Naturals Color Protecting Conditioner

As well as providing a level of uv protection, is sulphate, paraben and alcohol free and all in all is a really well formulated conditioner.

UV Protecting Sprays

If conditioners aren’t your thing then there’s always UV Protecting sprays too.  There’s no shortage of these sprays on the market.

PHYTO PHYTOPLAGE Protective Sun Veil

A lightweight sun protective mist to protect hair and guard color from UV damage

Paul Mitchell Sun Shield Conditioning Spray

Sun Shield Conditioning Spray helps shield locks from damaging UV rays, prevent color fade.

Fekkai Pr-Soleil Hair Radiance and Protection Mist

Minimize hair color fade and dehydration with this mist which contains an invisible UV filter and is infused with lush sunflower seed oil.

Color Depositing Conditioners

A bit of a cheat for some people is to use a color depositing conditioner.  You’re not actually prolonging the life of your color at all, but supplementing it after every wash.  Be careful to get the right color though.  It’s worth getting the exact shade of color that your colorist has used.  And be careful to avoid the harsh contact allergens that can instigate your dandruff again.

Davines Alchemic Red Conditioner

The Davines range are both highly used, highly recommended and contain few harsh ingredients.

It’s worth noting that excessive use of color depositing conditioners can cause product build up.  Be aware of this when using it.

So that’s it in a nutshell.  Although there aren’t many dandruff shampoos labelled color safe, it doesn’t mean we can’t protect our hair coloring and effectively control our dandruff.

It just takes a little research.


  • The site owner. I founded, and have ran this site for too many years now. I have extremely sensitive skin, have suffered from seb derm for all my adult life and this site is my way of doing something about it. Check out my sister site at

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3 thoughts on “Best dandruff shampoo for color treated hair”

  1. Dry shampoos strip colour out worse than normal washing. Just wash your hair less. You shouldn’t wash your hair every day anyway, it strips the natural oils and makes it go greasy more quickly. Once every 2-3 days is perfectly sufficient. Your hair colour will last longer and your hair will be in better condition.


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