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Can you color remove permanent hair dye?


Permanent hair dye can last for months without fading, which is great when you love your new hue. But what if you change your mind and want to return to your original shade? Is it possible to remove permanent color without damaging your strands? The short answer is yes, you can remove permanent hair dye, but it requires a process to lift or strip the artificial pigment from your hair.

How Does Permanent Hair Dye Work?

Permanent hair color uses oxidation, which opens the cuticle layer to deposit dye inside the hair shaft. Ammonia and peroxide work together to swell the cuticle and alter the natural pigment. As the cuticle closes over the new color, it becomes trapped inside the strand until the hair grows out. This makes the color highly resistant to fading or washing out.

Permanent hair dye is longer-lasting than semi-permanent or demi-permanent hair color. The peroxide levels are higher, allowing deeper penetration of artificial pigment. Common types of permanent hair dye include:

  • Permanent cream hair dye
  • Permanent liquid hair dye
  • Permanent powder hair dye

All permanent hair dyes use a similar process of opening the cuticle and depositing internal color. This makes removing permanent dye more challenging than stripping out semi-permanent or demi-permanent hair color.

Can You Fade Permanent Hair Dye?

While permanent hair dye is designed to resist fading, there are some things that can help speed up the fading process slightly:

  • Washing frequently with clarifying shampoo
  • Swimming in chlorinated water
  • Using hair dye remover
  • Bleaching over permanent color
  • Dying hair a lighter shade
  • Using anti-dandruff shampoo
  • Using vitamin C treatment
  • Using baking soda and anti-dandruff shampoo
  • Exposing hair to sunlight

However, these techniques will likely only fade permanent dye slightly. To fully remove permanent color, you need to use a process that will penetrate the cuticle and extract the trapped pigment.

Can You Remove Permanent Hair Dye Completely?

Yes, it is possible to completely remove permanent hair dye, but it requires determination and potentially multiple treatments. Here are some of the most effective ways to remove permanent color:

Use Color Remover

Hair dye removers, also known as color strippers or color dissolvers, work by swelling the cuticle layer so the permanent dye particles can escape. Popular products include:

  • Color Oops
  • Color Zap
  • Scott Cornwall Decolour Remover
  • L’Oréal Paris Colorist SecretsTM Effasol Color Remover

Follow the product directions carefully. Apply the remover evenly from roots to ends and leave on for the recommended processing time. Rinse thoroughly. You may need to use color remover twice to fully strip permanent color.

Bleach Hair

Bleach works by forcibly opening the cuticle layer and oxidizing the natural and artificial pigment inside the hair. With enough bleaching sessions, you can fully remove permanent dye. However, this is damaging to hair so deep conditioning treatments are needed.

Use Vitamin C Treatment

A vitamin C treatment can help extract permanent color over time. Crush vitamin C tablets into a fine powder and mix into a thick paste with hot water and shampoo. Apply paste to damp hair. Put on a shower cap and leave on for 1-2 hours before rinsing out. Repeat weekly.

Visit a Salon

For the most effective removal of permanent dye with the least damage, visit a professional salon. A stylist can perform a bleach bath or use professional-grade lightener and toner to safely lift out the artificial color. This gets better results than DIY bleaching.

Things to Consider Before Removing Permanent Hair Dye

Here are some things to keep in mind before attempting to remove permanent color:

  • It can be a lengthy, multi-step process.
  • Removing dark permanent dye is more difficult than lighter shades.
  • All methods may damage hair to some degree.
  • If you want to go lighter, removing old dye is necessary.
  • Go slowly and avoid overprocessing to limit damage.
  • Deep condition hair after each removal session.
  • Consider getting a professional removal at a salon.
  • Your hair may not return to its exact natural shade.

What’s the Safest Method for Removing Permanent Hair Dye?

The gentlest method is to gradually fade permanent color over several months using clarifying shampoo, vitamin C, and occasional lightening treatments. However, this will take patience and discipline.

For faster results, visit a salon for professional color removal. A skilled colorist can limit damage by:

  • Assessing your hair’s current state
  • Selecting the least damaging lightener
  • Applying product carefully from roots to ends
  • Thoroughly rinsing hair
  • Neutralizing undertones
  • Providing conditioning and repairing treatments

While pricey, professional services offer the safest, most effective permanent hair dye removal.

What Are Home Remedies to Remove Hair Dye?

Natural ingredients may help fade permanent color gradually over time. Try these home remedies:

Baking Soda and Shampoo

Make a paste with equal parts baking soda and clarifying shampoo. Apply thoroughly on dry hair. Leave on for 1-2 hours under a shower cap then rinse. Repeat 1-2 times per week.

Lemon Juice

Squeeze fresh lemon juice into hair and massage it in. Sit in the sun for 30 minutes. The sun and acidity help break down dye molecules. Rinse hair thoroughly. Repeat a few times per week.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Conditioner

Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and conditioner in a bowl. Apply this to your hair and allow it to sit for 20-30 minutes under a shower cap. The peroxide will lighten your strands. Rinse out thoroughly.

Ascorbic Acid Powder

Mix vitamin C powder with an equal amount of conditioner or coconut oil. Apply it evenly on hair and leave on for 1 hour before rinsing. The vitamin C will help lift permanent pigment.

Clarifying Shampoo

Washing with clarifying shampoo 2-3 times a week will help fade color faster. The deep cleansers strip dye molecules each time.

What Happens if You Re-dye Hair After Removing Permanent Color?

You can re-dye your hair immediately after removing permanent color, but consider these factors:

  • Hair may still have dye residue, causing the new color to look muddied or muted.
  • Cuticle damage from dye removal can cause uneven dye absorption.
  • Lightening hair first allows the most true results from new dye.
  • Permanent color may grab differently to freshly stripped hair.
  • Using a semi-permanent or demi-permanent dye gives better control.
  • A deep conditioning treatment is helpful before re-dyeing.

When re-coloring after permanent dye removal, go slowly and start with a strand test to check results. Allow some time between removal and applying new permanent color for best outcomes.

How Long Should You Wait Between Removing and Re-Dyeing Hair?

Most experts recommend waiting 2-4 weeks after removing permanent dye before applying new permanent color. This gives your hair time to recover and allows any hidden pigment to fade.

Here is a general timeline:

Time Since Dye Removal Recommendation
48 hours Use semi-permanent dye for subtle, even results
1 week Try demi-permanent color for low commitment
2 weeks Use permanent dye for grey coverage and long lasting color
3-4 weeks Use permanent dye for full, true color results

As you move further from the dye removal session, permanent hair color will take better and last longer. But you can experiment with temporary options before committing.

What Are the Dangers of Removing Permanent Hair Dye?

While permanent hair dye can be removed, the process carries risks of hair damage. Potential dangers include:

  • Overprocessing leading to chemical burns
  • Cuticle damage from swelling and rough treatment
  • Weakened, stretchy strands prone to breakage
  • Loss of protein and moisture leading to dry, brittle hair
  • Lighter layers or splotchy spots from uneven lifting
  • Over-dryness and frizz from multiple treatments
  • Increased tangling due to raised cuticles

To limit risks, have removal done slowly and carefully by a professional. Avoid over-washing or repeating treatments too frequently. Use plenty of deep conditioning masks during and after removal to nourish hair. And take a gentle approach by fading dye over several weeks when possible.


While permanent hair dye is designed to last, you can remove it if you change your mind about the color. Using hair dye remover products, vitamin C treatments, clarifying shampoo, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide can help strip out the trapped pigment. Bleaching is also an option but damages hair significantly. For safe, effective removal, visit a salon professional. Allow 2-4 weeks after removing permanent dye before applying a new permanent hair color. Take great care to limit damage to your strands throughout the removal process. With patience and the right techniques, you can successfully remove unwanted permanent hair dye.