Review of the Best Shampoos for Colored Hair

Published on Jul 11, 2015 in Bath & Body

Seventy-five percent of American women color their hair, but how many maintain it properly? One of the easiest ways to maintain and prolong the vibrancy of colored hair is to use a color treated shampoo. I’m personally familiar with just about every color retention trick in the book, and average 4-5 weeks between my color reapplication. As part of my hair care routine, I make sure to use shampoos and conditioners that are safe for color-treated hair.

From shampoo targeted at redheads, to purple shampoo for brassy hair, there is something on the market for every hue and shade. Many brands market their shampoos as color safe, but few of them actually contain ingredients that protect color and increase longevity.

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What’s the Best Way to Cut Through the Garbage?

This woman could use some shampoo for colored hair.

This woman could use some shampoo for colored hair. The simple truth: many color safe shampoos and conditioners are formulated the exact the same way as ‘regular’ hair care products. The only difference is in the marketing and product positioning.

Well, I decided to review two popular color protecting shampoo products in order to test each company’s claims. These two salon-level shampoo products are Pureology Nano Works and Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging. Be informed: My hair type is slightly dry and somewhat difficult to manage (although this natural conditioner is helping me changing that). I do demi-permanent hair colorings every 4-5 weeks.

Choosing the Right Shampoo for Colored Hair

As with all hair care products, one of the most important indicators of quality and effectiveness are the ingredients. It’s easy for a company to make claims, but it’s hard for them to hide contradicting ingredients.

Whether you have a temporary, semi, demi, or completely permanent hair color, it’s important to avoid shampoos that contain ingredients that may harm colored hair. This means avoiding harsh chemical compounds and sulfates because they reduce the sheen and vibrancy of color. Unfortunately, most shampoos and conditioners contain sulfates, which are cleansing compounds that can dull, and damage your hair.

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Maintaining Color Treated Hair

It’s no secret that high-heat hair care tools, UV rays, and over washing dull colored hair.

Colored hair requires a lot of attention for retention.

Colored hair requires a lot of attention for retention.

Choosing a good shampoo while neglecting other key factors during your prep process can lead to unsatisfactory results. During the course of my testing, I made sure to be as careful as possible when handling or caring for my hair. I did this to ensure that any results would be solely due to the shampoo itself, and not other factors.

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The Review Categories

I will be reviewing Pureology Nano Works and Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging in five different categories:

  • Ingredients.
  • Scent.
  • Consistency/texture.
  • Results.
  • Value.

These categories will help me create an accurate profile for each product. After comparing them, I will determine the ultimate winner!

Pureology Nano Works for Aging & Color-treated Hair


Pureology Nano

Pureology is the self-proclaimed #1 color care brand. Some of their proprietary technologies include ZeroSulfate cleansing, and AntiFadeComplex. The ZeroSulfate cleansing formula is free of sulfates and helps provide both cleansing and anti-aging properties. The AntiFadeComplex helps maximize color retention.

Nano Works is vegan and cruelty-free.


The Nano Works shampoo contains a long list of ingredients. Because it is not advertised as a natural product, I won’t be covering each one; rather, I will list and explain those that may help shed more light on the science behind what enables Nano Works shampoo to be effective.

  • Ammonium Cocoyl Isothionate
  • Cinnamidopropyltrimonium chloride
  • Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
  • Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E)

Ingredients: The Breakdown

Ammonium Cocoyl Isothionate is derived from coconut oil. It is a fatty acid that acts as a surfactant, allowing water to mix and rinse away oil, dirt and buildup in the hair. One of the specific color-protecting ingredients in Pureology’s Nano Works shampoo is cinnamidopropyltrimonium chloride. Studies have shown that cinnamidopropyltrimonium has the ability to protect hair against Ultra Violet Rays which can cause hair damage and dull color treated hair.

Ascorbic acid and Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E) are two other ingredients in Nano Works shampoo that help protect against fading. Ascorbic acid is a derivative of vitamin C and is known its many protective benefits. As a powerful, naturally occurring antioxidant, vitamin C can be used topically to help UV damaged skin cells. Tocopheryl Acetate, a very stable form of vitamin E, is an antioxidant that can reduce the formation of free radicals and provide an extra layer of protection against UV rays. This form of vitamin E easily penetrates cell membranes; improving hair stands luster and fullness.

Summary: Pureology Nano Works shampoo contains the ingredients necessary to help prevent color treated hair from fading.


Nano Works had a very light, flowery scent that was barely detectable after my hair dried. I’m a fan of lightly scented hair care products so long as they don’t clash with other fragrances I’m wearing.

Summary: Light, sophisticated scent that doesn’t linger too long.


Pureology’s Nano Works formula is perfect. It lathered beautifully and felt very silky during application. I didn’t have to use more than a pea-size amount. A little bit goes a long way. Rinsing was no issue at all. I have nothing bad to say about the consistency and texture.

Summary: The formula applies and rinses well. Only a small amount of product is needed to get the job done.


After 2 weeks of using Pureology’s Nano Works shampoo, I was happy with the results. My hair felt consistently healthier and had no residue buildup. I was extremely pleased with the sheen and color of my hair after each wash (once every other day). The Nano Works formula also addressed the aged appearance of my dry ends which now look much livelier. My coloring did not fade, or look duller after washing. Based on the results I got, I could easily go 5-6 weeks between color treatments.

Summary: My hair feels softer and my ends look livelier. Most importantly, the shampoo did not dull my color and helped improve vibrancy.


Pureology’s Nano Works Shampoo cost $46.14 for 8.5 ounces, or $5.43 per ounce. There are other size options that increase the cost by $40-60. This is one of the most expensive shampoos I have ever laid eyes on, yet alone used! I was very satisfied with the results, but I’m not yet sure how practical it is as a long-term solution.

Summary: Pureology Nano Works shampoo is very expensive but delivers results. I’m not sure if it is a good long-term solution.

Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Shampoo


Alterna Caviar Anti Aging Shampoo

Alterna Haircare is a company that prides itself on being pure, proven, and professional. They claim to use natural ingredients and a proprietary method of enzyme delivery they call “Enzymetherapy.” They claim this method improves absorption and help create support keratin production.

Their Alterna Caviar anti-aging shampoo is supposed to protect colored and aging hair from environmental aggressors. One of the standout ingredients in this shampoo is caviar. Yes, like the food. Caviar is rich in vitamins A and D, as well as the amino acid arginine. Arginine is said to help promote faster, healthier hair growth. It seems to have a place in this shampoo, although the level of purity is not mentioned.


Similar to Nano Works, Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging shampoo contains a large variety of ingredients. Alterna doesn’t advertise their conditioner as being natural, so I’m only listing ingredients that are indicators of quality, and help show what’s going on behind the scenes.

  • Soy Amino Acids
  • Citric Acid
  • Caviar Extract
  • Phospholipids

Ingredients Breakdown

Alterna’s Caviar shampoo contains soy amino acids derived from the soy protein plant. Hair care products are often infused with proteins and amino acids because hair is mostly made of proteins. These amino acids help create a protective film on the hair strands and provide conditioning and emulsifying benefits as well. Citric acid is found in citrus fruits. It enhances the effectiveness of other antioxidants and is beneficial for the skin. In this case, citric acid plays a role in helping provide the hair with luminous shine.

One of the most unique ingredients in Alterna’s shampoo is caviar. Caviar is known for being rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals. However, Alterna, and most cosmetic companies for that matter, don’t say how pure their extract is.

This makes it difficult to determine how beneficial it really is Phospholipids are a combination of lipids (fats) and proteins that form a protective membrane around cells. The ingredient can be obtained from several natural sources such as pure olive oil. What makes this ingredient unique is that it acts as a protective layer once applied to the skin or hair. This layer can help protect and prevent free radical damage. There are also indications of phospholipids acting as antioxidants, which help prevent UV hair damage.

Summary: Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Shampoo contains some interesting ingredients, but it’s difficult to determine how effective the shampoo will be based on the ingredients alone.


Alterna’s Caviar Anti-Aging shampoo had an acidic, citrusy scent. It was very noticeable when applying in the shampoo in the shower, but it dissipated around 30 minutes after my hair dried. It should pose no problem for anyone who is sensitive to scented shampoos.

Summary: Moderate citrusy scent. Does not cling to the hair for very long.


I found Alterna’s formula to be a tad too thick, and although it lathered and applied well, I was not overly enthusiastic about the texture. Like the Nano Works shampoo, this one was also very concentrated, so I only had to use a small drop. During the application, my hair felt smooth, and the shampoo rinsed without a problem.

Summary: Formula is a little thicker than I would have liked. This did not prevent the shampoo from lathering, applying, and rinsing properly.


This shampoo surprised me. I was not expecting it to make a noticeable difference after the first few uses. It did a great job moisturizing and adding shine to my hair without adding any weight. I did not detect any difference in my color-treated sections over the course of 2 weeks, so I feel safe saying this shampoo will not prematurely dull my color. In terms of its “anti-aging” properties, it helped me gain softer, silkier feeling hair. This my with course ends much easier to deal with.

Summary: I was impressed with the results. My color did not dull, and my hair was soft and silky after use.


Alterna’s Caviar Anti Aging Replenishing Moisture Shampoo cost $20.49 for an 8.5 ounce bottle. That’s $2.41 per ounce, making it less much expensive than Pureology Nano Works Shampoo (less than half the price). There is also a 67 ounce bottle available for $65.21. As far as premium salon shampoos go, Alterna’s Caviar Anti Aging shampoo falls into a sweet spot. The results are great, and the price is good.

Summary: This shampoo cost $20.49 for 8.5 ounces which is less than half of Pureology’s Nano Works.

So, Which Shampoo is the Best for Color Treated Hair?

After testing both Pureology Nano Works and Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging for 2 weeks each, the results were very close. Both brands seemed to leave my color intact while adding a nice shine. They addressed my aged looking ends. Having said all that, I choose Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging because it provided me with great results at half the cost of Pureology Nano Works.

My specific reasoning is as follows:

  • Did not dull color
  • Improved the appearance and manageability of my aged-looking ends
  • Silky and smooth feel
  • Added nice sheen to my hair
  • Provided nice moisture
  • It cost less than Pureology and gets the job done just as well

I am occasionally willing to pay a premium price for top-quality products. However, that is only when there is a large difference between the results.

In this test, Pureology Nano Works did not overshadow Alterna by a large enough amount to make me believe it was worth the higher price. The shampoo wasn’t perfect (too thick), but it gets the job done and will allow me to protect my color worry-free. That’s good enough for me.

2018 Update: My Thoughts on Using These Products Up Until Now

After making my decision to stick with the Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging shampoo, I’ve moved back and forth between different shampoos since having written this article. While this is isn’t necessarily what I’d recommend for you as readers – suggesting that it is usually better for your hair when you stick to one product for a long period of time, the nature of my job requires me to test out different brands of shampoo and conditioner in short spaces of time.

There isn’t anything particularly bad about switching shampoos regularly, but your hair stands a better chance at regulating itself (the oils on your scalp) when it adjusts to a certain wash-cycle and a certain product. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few favorites that I find myself returning to more often than not and in this case, I have always turned to the Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging shampoo after dyeing my hair because of the fantastic results that I know I can expect from this outstanding product.

Smooth, silky, natural hair with lasting color protection

So it’s been a while since I really thought about this product (around 2 years to be exact) and now that I revisit it, I’m reminded of just how awesome it is. In terms of value for money – there are very few products that can compete with the Caviar Anti-Aging Shampoo.

Even as it’s price has gone up a little over the years (due to the varying nature of economics), it’s still a good $10-$20 cheaper than most of the other shampoos in it’s category in terms of the results it provides. It’s like buying a top-quality product on sale every time! What’s better than that?

I considered using the Pureology Nano Works colour treatment shampoo after dyeing my hair last summer as I needed a drastic treatment, but fell back on the Caviar Anti-Aging shampoo instead and am pleased to report that I still got excellent results. Thankfully, Alterna haven’t changed the formula or ingredients much so you can be sure that you’re still getting the same goodness with each wash – every time.

I was also very pleased to see that Alterna added a few new products to the line (or perhaps I didn’t notice them last time) that will all help to provide you with better hair and more efficient color protection over time.  When you consider retaining hair color and preventing dryness and frizziness over time, there a re a lot of factors to take into consideration.

One of the most important variables that most people tend to overlook is the weather. During a warm, dry summer or for those of us who use heat styling techniques – our hair tends to loose it’s moisture a lot quicker when it’s heated which can result in brittle hair that breaks easily and color that fades more quickly.

So to help counter this, Alterna have created the  Caviar Repair Multi-Vitamin Heat Protection Spray which helps to nourish and revitalize the hair follicles, whilst locking in moisture and keeping your hair protected against the elements or the effects of heat stealing such as blow-drying or flat-ironing.

It’s an invaluable addition to your hair care collection  and can make all the difference between have soft, silky colorful hair and dry, bland and faded hair. Even with the additional cost, the total still comes to around the same price as the Pureology Nano Works line and the results have been nothing but positive for me.

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A New Contender In 2018: Bumble & bumble Color Minded Shampoo Review

I’ve been grateful to find more products on the market these days that cater for the ‘holistically minded’ out there. The new Bumble & Bumble Color Minded Shampoo is exactly one of these products and it’s slowly been climbing up my list of recommended shampoos for color sensitive hair. I’ve covered Bumble & bumble in the past and this new shampoo has only built up my opinion of the brand.

The product has been carefully formulated to be as mild as possible on the hair and is free of many of the harmful chemicals that tend to cause hair to fade with continual use.

Bumble and Bumble have managed to create a formula that is both effective at keeping your hair clean, soft and smooth whilst avoiding things like sulfates, alcohol-based solvents, ‘fragrances’ and parabens. These chemicals are often directly linked to hair loss, dry, irritable scalps and color fading – so avoiding them is essential to making your color last.

After having used both the Color Minded Shampoo and both of the other color-sensitive shampoos mentioned in this article, I can safely say that Bumble & Bumble have created a worthy contender in the color treatment range. The shampoo is well priced for the amount you get and it’s quality is well worth every penny.

It’s a good shampoo for general use – but it’s exceptional when it comes to protecting your hair’s color and sheen.

So if you’ve recently dyed your hair, or are struggling to maintain your color – but don’t want to spend too much or too little on a good shampoo, then this is for you. While it is true that the Alterna’s Caviar Anti Aging Replenishing Moisture Shampoo is still better priced and just as effective, the Color Minded Shampoo certainly gives it a run for it’s money.

It’s the perfect in-between alternative for those who can’t decide between the Caviar Anti Aging Replenishing Moisture Shampoo and the Pureology Nano Works Shampoo.


So if you’re thinking of dyeing your hair or you’ve already dyed your hair and looking for a way to ensure that your color stays and your hair doesn’t dry out or become brittle, then I’d definitely recommend sticking with the Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging shampoo – or their entire caviar range for that matter.

It’s a cost effective alternative to most of the other shampoos in this category and will give you salon quality results, in the comfort of your own home at a fraction of the price. Repairing damaged and brittle hair is a lot harder than preventing it from becoming dry and brittle, so I’d definitely recommend getting your hands on these products sooner rather than later.