Many people decide to dye their hair different colors as a fun way to change up their look. However, after some time, they may wish to return to their natural hair color. The process of reversing hair dye and going back to your natural shade can take time and patience. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help fade hair dye and grow out your natural color again.
How Hair Dye Works
Before discussing how to reverse hair color, it’s helpful to understand how hair dye works in the first place. Permanent hair dye makes a few key changes to the structure of your hair:
- It opens up the cuticle, or outer layer, of the hair shaft so dye can penetrate into the inner structures of the strand.
- It swells the hair strand so dye can fully saturate it.
- It uses ammonia and peroxide to remove your natural pigment so new color can deposit inside the cortex of the hair.
- It deposits new dye molecules that combine with keratin amino acids to create a new color.
Semi-permanent dyes work a bit differently. They do not penetrate as deeply into the hair shaft. They mainly coat the outside of the hair with color that eventually washes out over 4-12 weeks.
Can You Completely Reverse Hair Dye?
Once permanent hair dye has altered the natural pigment inside your hair, it cannot be completely reversed. However, you can take steps to help wash out artificial dye molecules and gradually let your natural color grow back in.
The time it takes to see your natural shade again depends on factors like:
- Your natural hair color – Darker shades may show through sooner than lighter tones
- How often you color your hair – Frequent dyeing makes reversal more difficult
- Hair length – Shorter hair will grow out faster than long locks
- Type of dye used – Permanent dyes are harder to remove than semi-permanent options
Have realistic expectations about how long it might take to fade your dyed hair and see your original color. On average it can take 6 months to a year or longer for permanent dye to grow out.
Ways to Fade and Remove Hair Color
While you can’t instantly reverse your hair color, here are some techniques that can help speed up the fading process:
Stop Coloring Your Hair
To enable your natural color to grow back in, it’s essential to stop coloring your hair. Put down the box dye and step away from the salon for a while. Resist any urges to touch up your roots or refresh the dye.
Use Clarifying Shampoo
Clarifying shampoos are formulated to thoroughly cleanse hair and strip away buildup. Using a clarifying shampoo 1-2 times per week can help remove some of the artificial dye molecules coating your hair.
Try Fading Shampoos and Treatments
Look for shampoos, conditioners, and other treatments designed specifically to remove unwanted color from hair. Many contain antioxidants and sulfur that help lift and wash out dye.
Bleach baths can rapidly lighten hair color, but they are harsh on your hair. Mix a bleaching powder with shampoo and apply it very briefly – no more than 5 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. Only attempt 1-2 times spaced far apart.
Use Vitamin C
Make a paste of vitamin C powder and an anti-dandruff shampoo and massage it into your hair. Let it sit for 30-60 minutes under a shower cap before rinsing. Vitamin C works to oxidize dye molecules.
Get a Cut
Getting a shorter haircut can accelerate the grow-out process. Trim off treated hair so that new, untreated growth is more visible.
Tips for Managing Grow-Out
As your hair grows out, it will go through some awkward in-between stages before your natural color returns. Here are some tips for styling during the transition:
- Use root touch-up powders or sprays to blend regrowth.
- Try balayage highlights around the face to blend new growth.
- Use Olaplex or hair masks to reduce damage from lightening.
- Style with hats, headbands, and clips to disguise roots.
- Embrace the grow-out phase and the chance to try new looks.
What About Semi-Permanent Dye?
Semi-permanent hair dyes involve less of a commitment than permanent options. Since they do not alter the natural pigment as drastically, they fade out within weeks to months.
To speed up removal of semi-permanent dye:
- Wash frequently with clarifying shampoo.
- Use dandruff shampoo to help lift color from the hair shaft.
- Try swim in chlorinated pools.
- Use hot oil treatments to draw out dye.
- Bleach baths can also lighten semi-permanent color faster.
What About Natural and Temporary Dyes?
Natural hair dyes made from ingredients like henna last longer than semi-permanent options but still fade over time. Temporary rinse-out dyes wash out in just one shampooing.
To remove natural dyes and temporary colors, simply shampoo frequently and avoid reapplying the products. The dyes will gradually wash away.
When to Seek Professional Help
If you want to speed up the hair color removal process, see a professional stylist, especially if you:
- Need to lighten multiple shades to reach your natural tone
- Want to avoid damage from DIY lightening
- Are unsure how to use products like vitamin C and bleaching
- Have sensitive scalp and need personalized guidance
With professional products and expertise, a skilled colorist can help you fade dye faster and more safely.
Although permanent hair dye cannot be instantly reversed, you can take proactive steps to help fade color and grow out your natural shade again. Have patience, enlist some product allies, and get creative with your style as your hair transitions.
|Let roots grow in and refrain from touching up
|Gradual over weeks
|Use 1-2 times per week to strip dye
|Gradual over weeks
|Contains sulfur and antioxidants to lift color
|Dramatic lightening in 1-2 sessions
|Mix bleach powder and shampoo, apply briefly
|Vitamin C treatment
|Gradual lightening over multiple uses
|Mix with shampoo, let sit 30-60 before rinsing
|No effect on process, speeds up appearance
|Trim length so new growth is more visible
This table summarizes different methods for removing hair dye and how long each takes to see results. Talk to your stylist to develop a personalized plan to fade your color.