Home Hair Should I Wash My Hair Before Foil Highlights?

Should I Wash My Hair Before Foil Highlights?

by Gabbi

Bleach can help lighten the hair a few levels and give dimension to drab strands. It’s also the most intimidating product to use during a highlight or lightening session because of its strength.

Healthy hair may have an easier time taking bleach because excessive damage could lead to limp or over-processed strands. You may associate healthy hair with freshly washed strands free of oil, but it may hinder the results of your highlights. What’s the secret to a successful color service?

Should you wash your hair before foil highlights? While it may sound counterintuitive, it’s best to avoid washing your hair immediately before a color service, including highlights. The hair will be more manageable and increase product absorption.

Foil highlights are a traditional and time-consuming service. Clean hair can be challenging to work with because it has no grip and can often slide around on the foils. However, the hair shouldn’t be overly dirty or oily either.

Your hair may also take differently to color than bleach. Foil highlights are often performed with bleach, but in some cases, you may choose a color to lighten the strands.

So, how else can you prepare your hair for a highlighting session at the salon? Well, read on!

Can You Dye Freshly Washed Hair?

Is it ideal to come into your salon appointment with freshly washed hair? It will most likely depend on your color service. Sometimes, clean hair can provide a better canvas for color to adhere to evenly and achieve an opaque finish.

Highlights may benefit from your scalp’s natural oils. Bleach can be pretty irritating, and these oils can create a protective barrier. If bleach is applied to the scalp accidentally or for too long, you may risk a chemical burn or breakage.

Having clean but not too freshly cleaned hair before your appointment is ideal, and it shouldn’t be overly oily or dirty. However, freshly cleaned hair may improve your results with traditional color rather than bleach.

However, if you plan on getting bleached highlights, you may want to wait a day or two. 

Should I Wash My Hair Before Going To The Salon?

It may not be wise to wash your hair before you have an appointment. However, if your hair is particularly dirty, oily, or contains a lot of product build-up, it could benefit from a quick wash. 

You can also consult your stylist to ensure you get the best color results.

Whether you wash your hair before a salon color appointment can vary by service. Slightly lived-in or oily hair can provide a barrier against bleach, and the hair will be more manageable for foils. Hair that’s too clean can easily slip around.

You may want to wash your hair before an appointment if you’ve participated in activities like swimming or exercising, but it never hurts to double-check with your stylist.

When Is The Ideal Time To Wash Your Hair For Highlights?

You may want to prepare for your highlights by washing your hair a few days before your appointment. This will ensure your hair isn’t so clean that it’s challenging to the lay on the foils, but it isn’t too dirty that it can prevent achieving an even application.

It’s a misconception that the hair must be overly dirty or oily to take well to color/bleach. It does help to have some natural oils, but it shouldn’t be excessively greasy, especially if you’re getting highlights done up to the roots.

It’s ideal to wash your hair one-two days before your highlighting session. This will ensure you have the perfect middle ground of clean and “oily” hair.

How To Prepare For Foiled Highlights

To wash or not to wash? Consulting with your stylist is crucial to ensure your desires are communicated and you can achieve your dream hair. You may even discuss how to prepare for highlights, including when you should wash your hair.

Some examples may include arriving with dry hair or removing product build-up. It’s essential to understand what types of foiled highlights you’re receiving, like a full head, partial, or balayage.

Avoid Damp Hair 

Whether you wash your hair before your appointment or not, you’ll want to avoid entering the salon with wet or damp hair. Highlights and other color services are applied to dry hair so the bleach/dye can be fully absorbed into the cuticle.

Wet or damp hair can prevent an even application because the water will most likely be absorbed first and can dilute your color mixture. In addition, it may potentially cause harm to the strands, significantly if the hair is already compromised.

Your stylist will have to take time out of their schedule for any unnecessary blow-dry that may or may not be an extra charge. If you do have damp hair, call your stylist ahead of time to see if you can dry your strands.

Rinse Out Styling Products

We’ve mentioned it’s ideal to wash your hair before highlights one or two days before your appointment. You may take this time to either exfoliate your scalp or use a clarifying shampoo to remove any product build up leftover from styling.

Styling products can create a film or barrier preventing an even color application. Taking the time to wash your hair generously will ensure it’s a clean slate so your highlights can absorb fully and look uniform.

Also, it will be helpful to minimize or cease the use of styling products until you get to your appointment. Then, your hair will also have time to relax and build up natural oils before your highlighting.

Arrive With Dry Strands 

Semi-clean, dry hair will provide the perfect canvas for highlights. Arriving with dry hair is ideal so you and your stylist can immediately prepare for your service. There won’t be a need to blow dry or style before applying bleach to the strands. 

Your stylist may dry cut an inch of hair off before you start to avoid damaged ends. If you plan on making a drastic transformation, they may cut even more hair off to prevent using excess product or further damaging split ends.

Dry hair will ensure your hair can fully absorb bleach and provide the healthy results you desire. 

Not Too Clean, Not Too Dirty

The ideal balance for highlights is having hair that’s not too freshly clean or too greasy. Both have their disadvantages. Clean hair has little grip and can easily slip around, which may not be ideal if you’re working with foils.

Dirty or overly greasy hair can create an uneven application or pose a barrier, especially if you plan to place bleach right at the root. 

Semi-clean hair is clean enough that you’ll receive an even application and have your scalp’s natural oils.

If you have an oily scalp, you may benefit from washing it a day or two before your appointment. More dry scalps can potentially wash even earlier, like three or four days prior.

Consider What Highlights You Want 

Foiled highlights are very traditional, but they also have multiple variations. Full highlights will cover your whole head, and the bleach is usually applied from root to tip. However, other variations include a partial highlight too.

A partial will only cover the top section of hair or half a section of your head. A balayage also uses foils, but the stylist avoids applying bleach right at the root and will create a gradient look instead.

Highlights can also be applied with color rather than bleach. These are all crucial factors to consider to decide when is the ideal time to wash your hair. Color can react differently to your hair than bleach. 

Semi-clean hair is excellent for balayage where the natural scalp oils pose a barrier, and the bleach won’t reach the roots.

Consult With A Stylist 

Consult your hairstylist if you are still feeling unsure about when to wash your hair before highlights. A consultation will be beneficial, so the stylist is aware of your hair’s state and characteristics so they can carry out the service properly.

Your stylist can even recommend the best time to wash your hair that’s ideal for your hair type and what highlight service is in question. You can communicate together to bring your highlighted hair dreams to life. 

A consultation is a great time to conduct a test strand to see how well your hair will bleach or color and how to adjust the service. This can also help you to decide when the perfect time is to wash your hair. 


Highlights can be a tricky service, so you’ll want to prepare your hair. 

It’s ideal to wash your hair a day or two before your appointment. However, if your scalp is drier, you may want to wash it earlier. Semi-clean hair will provide the best canvas for bleach.

Clean hair has little grip and may be challenging to lay on the foils, but dirty hair can make it challenging to achieve a uniform bleach application.

Consulting with your stylist will always help to clear up any confusion and ensure you’re washing your hair at the right time. 

For aftercare tips, take a look at this video from ellebangs on YouTube.

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