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Color Crisis? Here’s How To Remove Hair Dye

Here’s how to get back to your roots.
  • Nikhita Mahtani
March 18, 2024

Before coloring your hair, there are a few things you should do. You’ll want to stock up on color-safe products designed to protect your hue, of course, and maybe look into heatless hairstyles that you can turn to when your strands need a break. But we’d argue that it’s also important to ensure you know how to remove hair dye in case things go awry (or you find yourself in need of a change).

While removing hair dye isn’t quite as straightforward as applying color, it is possible—and you don’t need to hit the salon to make it happen. Here, we’ll teach you how to use hair color remover to help fade unwanted color and share some of our tried-and-true tips for getting back to your roots (without unnecessary damage).

Does Removing Hair Dye at Home Work?

We’ll be the first to admit that removing hair dye at home isn’t always easy, especially if you’ve used an intensely pigmented permanent color (looking at you, boxed black hair dye). Semi-permanent and temporary dyes only deposit color onto the surface of your hair, so they tend to be easier to remove. Permanent dyes, on the other hand, deposit pigment inside the hair’s inner cortex. This is what makes permanent dyes last so long, but it also makes them more challenging to remove. The good news is that it can be done—so long as you have the right products on hand.

How To Strip Hair Color

What you use to remove your hair color will depend on the type of dye you used in the first place.

How to remove semi-permanent hair color

Semi-permanent dyes usually last between six and eight washes and gradually fade over time. But if you’d like to speed up the process, here are some things you can try:

  1. Use an at-home hair dye remover.
  2. You can remove semi-permanent hair dye with an at-home hair color remover, such as L’Oréal Paris Colorist Secrets Haircolor Remover. Keep in mind that while hair dye remover will remove artificial pigment, it won’t restore your hair to its natural, un-dyed color. Instead, it prepares your strands for re-coloring so that you can achieve an even application (of a color you actually like). If you’re looking to return to your natural shade, we suggest stripping your hair color with the dye remover mentioned above, and then using a permanent hair dye, like L’Oréal Paris Excellence Creme Crème Permanent Triple Care Hair Color, to re-color your hair. Pick a shade that closely resembles your natural hair color for an easier grow-out process.

  1. Consider letting the hair dye fade on its own.
  2. Semi-permanent hair dye typically only lasts for a few weeks, depending on how often you shampoo. If you’re able, consider letting it fade on its own. You’ll save yourself the hassle of trying to remove color from your hair—as well as the potential damage that can occur from repeated chemical processing. Consider lathering up every day to help speed the fading process along.

  3. Use a clarifying shampoo.
  4. When you do later up, do so with a clarifying shampoo. These deep-cleansing formulas are designed to remove buildup from the hair and scalp and may aid in fading your color faster (just be sure not to choose a color-safe variety, as these are specifically designed not to strip color).

How to remove permanent hair dye

As we mentioned above, permanent hair dyes can take some elbow grease to remove effectively. Here are our tips for restoring your strands to their original color (or something close):

  1. Go to the salon.
  2. Generally speaking, removing permanent hair dye requires a trip to the salon. A professional colorist should know how to remove hair dye with minimal damage, and they can help correct any color mistakes (like orange hair) that may arise from the removal process. If you’re worried about potential damage and hair breakage, ask your colorist to do a test strand. They'll test a small strip of hair at the nape of the neck to see how it reacts to the hair dye removal before applying the solution to your entire head.

  3. Consider the color you used.
  4. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but some hair dye options can’t be removed. Permanent black hair dye, for example, is notoriously difficult to remove, though a professional colorist may be able to lighten it some. Bleach, meanwhile, can’t be removed since there’s no pigment to lift (you can color over it, though).

Hair Type Considerations

While most of the tips above can help remove hair dye, your hair type and condition can also affect the outcome. As a general rule of thumb, thicker and coarser hair can withstand stronger hair color stripper, whereas those with more sensitive scalps and thinner hair may be more prone to damage or breakage. To help avoid unintended damage, we suggest starting with the most conservative approaches first, and ensuring your hair is in good condition before reaching for any color remover. Consider using bond-repairing products, like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Bond Repair Shampoo with Citric Acid and L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Bond Repair Conditioner with Citric Acid, to help rebuild and strengthen weak, brittle strands.

How Long Does It Take to Remove Hair Dye?

Removing hair dye is a process, but it really depends on the type of dye you’re trying to remove. Hair gloss or semi-permanent and demi-permanent hair dye that typically fades away after four to twelve washes are going to be easier to remove than a permanent dye. The same applies to temporary root touch-up sprays and color sprays: those wash out when you shampoo your hair.

Permanent hair dye, on the other hand, can take a few sessions with color remover to fade. Black and red hair dyes are particularly challenging to remove entirely. For these reasons, it may be worth considering an alternative approach.

3 Additional Ways To Get Back to Your Natural Hair Color

1. Grow out your hair

Growing your hair out is both the most effective and least damaging way to return to your natural color (though, depending on how quickly your hair grows, can take some time). If there’s a harsh line of demarcation between your new growth and the dyed portion of your hair, consider using an ammonia-free hair color, like the L’Oréal Paris Colorista Hair Makeup Temporary 1-Day Hair Color Spray or the L’Oréal Magic Root Cover Up, to cover and blend your roots until your hair is grown out and you’re ready for a cut.

2. Dye your hair—again

If you’re in search of a quick fix, permanent dye in a shade that closely matches your natural hair color is the way to go. With this method, you’ll essentially be faking it ‘til you make it. For this, the L’Oréal Paris Excellence Creme Universal Nudes is an amazing find, as it offers rich, natural-looking color in a gentle, ammonia-free formula. Choose the right shade, and you’ll hardly be able to tell where the dye ends and your roots begin.

For more dramatic color changes—think dark brown to red—it’s a good idea to visit a professional colorist for assistance. They know how to remove hair dye

3. Opt for a short hairstyle

If you find yourself feeling impatient as you wait for your dye job to grow out, consider chopping your strands and taking short hair for a spin to help speed up the process. (The shorter your hair, the less growing out you’ll have to do.) The good news is that there are plenty of gorgeous short hairstyles to choose from, ranging from chic buzz cuts to pixie styles—and once you cut off all the color-treated hair, your new strands will grow in as a total blank slate.

Next Up: Should You Wash Your Hair Before Dyeing It?

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