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KEEP IT CLEAN, KEEP IT COLORFUL

You wouldn't dream of throwing your favorite silk tank in the washer daily with scalding water and a generous helping of bleach. But many women don't think twice about washing their color-treated locks with harsh detergents, zealous frequency and hot water. Like that silk shirt, color-treated hair needs to be cared for delicately or locks will end up damaged, dried out and dull.

Here's how to care for color-treated hair to maintain shine, bounce and health, as well as my list of the top three shampoos and conditioners for color-treated hair, culled from the brands I tested on my own hair.

Waterlogged

Believe it or not, plain old H2O is one of the main causes of color fade, which is why washing color-treated hair less frequently can result in longer-lasting color. Simply put, even the purest water draws color from hair strands, meaning that each time you forgo a wash, that color you invested in lives another day. (In fact, when color is new, wait two days post-salon visit to wash your hair for the first time.) To minimize color loss, wash your hair three times a week, eradicating oiliness between washes with a dry shampoo.

If spring water can damage color-treated hair, imagine what chlorine can do! While many experts agree that colored hair should be protected from chlorine, the advice most commonly given to protect hair in the pool - wearing a swim cap - is downright laughable. Avoid certain incarceration by the fashion police by skipping the cap and instead wetting your hair before swimming, thereby preventing it from absorbing too much chlorine water. Also, comb a leave-in conditioner through damp locks pre-dip to create a protective barrier around the hair shaft.

Go naked

Finding a great shampoo and conditioner for color-treated hair is all about what not to allow in your hair care products. For starters, avoid harsh detergents, often called surfactants. Other harsh chemicals that may strip color from hair include sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium sulfate and sodium chloride, as well as paraben preservatives.

When in doubt, simply grab my list of the top three color-safe shampoos and conditioners on the market. I kissed quite a few frogs, 41 in total, to find my hair's true loves. I know you'll adore them, too.

Best Salon Collection: Liqwd Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner: It's not cheap - $64 for the pair - but Liqwd's Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner with ColorLife Technology promises to serve and protect color-treated locks from radiant reds to buttery blondes and beyond. UV filters in the products defend color while hair is also shielded against heat, breakage and even frizz. Find retailers or shop online at liqwd.com.

Best Certified Organic Hair Care: John Masters Organics Honey and Hibiscus Hair Reconstructing Shampoo and Treatment: John Masters is often called a pioneer in the green movement, a fitting title for a man who began mixing organic essential oils and herbs in his kitchen sink and went on to craft certified organic skin care, hair care, body care and pet care products that are now sold in more than 20 countries. Safe for color treated hair, the Honey and Hibiscus Hair Reconstructing Shampoo and Treatment boast an abundance of linolenic and hyaluronic acids, paired with soy, rice and oat proteins that repair damaged hair. Get 'em for about $26 each at johnmasters.com and at Bloom Organics in Sarasota.

Best Bargain Buy: Burt's Bees Color Keeper Green Tea and Fennel Seed Shampoo and Conditioner: Burt's Bees' sulfate-free Color Keeper Shampoo won't lather at all because it's free of sodium laurel sulfate, a harsh chemical that can strip hair of moisture and is also responsible for the "bubbling" many of us have become accustomed to. Skip the bubbles, keep the color; the shampoo and conditioner sell for about $8 each at local drugstores.

- Carolyn Brundage is the founder of tampabay.prettycity.com, a guide to all that is hip and happening in local beauty. Need beauty advice? E-mail her at carolyn@prettycity.com.

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