Maintaining Your Hair Color

Catherine Q. O'Neill, Allure magazine

Gossip Girl returned last night-and with it, my complete obsession with Blair Waldorf's perfect, chocolatey-brown hair color. Let's just say that it wasn't a coincidence that I recently booked an appointment with colorist Kyle White at the Oscar Blandi Salon (Mariah Carey flew this guy to Capri to touch up her highlights-he's that good), where he took me from blonde to full-on brunette. And I absolutely love it. But there's one problem: I'm terrified to wash my hair.

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Five full days have gone by since my last shampoo, and I know it has to happen tonight. So I called White to find out how to keep my beloved new color from washing down the drain. Here's what he recommends to his celebrity clients:

Cleansing: Only shampoo one to three times a week using a color-safe formula, White says. Sulfate-free shampoos might be all the rage in this category, but they don't work for everyone. "They're not great cleansers," says White, who doesn't suggest them to people with thick or oily hair. If you must use a medicated shampoo (like Head & Shoulders), only apply it to the scalp and use your color-safe shampoo on the rest of your hair.

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Conditioning: In addition to conditioning when you shampoo, maintain shine and luster by applying a deep treatment once a week and a gloss once every two weeks. And don't forget about your scalp, which can take a bit of a beating during the coloring process. White tells his clients to pierce two Vitamin E capsules and massage the oil into your head and hair to prevent dryness flaking.

Styling: Flatirons and styling tools will strip your hair of color and shine at twice the rate of natural oxidation, White says. If you must use them, always prep the hair with a thermal protectant. If you don't have one on hand, you can also rub a couple drops of castor oil between your palms and smooth it over the hair first. The fatty acids in the oil prevent damage and boost shine, White says.

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Sun protection: UV exposure is the absolute worst thing for hair color, White says. "Imagine if you dipped your favorite dress or Manolos in chlorine or salt water and then laid them out in the sun," he says. "Why would you do that to your hair?" If you have to be outside for an extended period, use a light filtering treatment, such as Kérastase Soleil Huile Céleste, and wear a hat if possible.

Treatment: All this shampoo-skipping and heat protectant-spraying will inevitably lead to build-up, but traditional clarifying shampoos can be stripping. For a quick at-home solution, crush a single aspirin into a tablespoon of shampoo. "The salicylic acid in the aspirin restores shine and removes excess coating on the hair," White says.

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