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Can you reverse hair dye?

Hair dyeing is a popular way to change up your look and experiment with different colors. However, what happens when you get tired of your new hue or make a dyeing mistake? Is there a way to reverse hair dye and go back to your original shade? Let’s take a look at whether it’s possible to remove hair color and how to do it safely and effectively.

Can hair dye be fully reversed?

The short answer is no, you cannot completely reverse hair dye and go back to the exact original hair color. Once hair is colored, the pigment penetrates and permanently changes the hair shaft. However, there are ways to remove or fade hair dye to make it less vibrant or noticeable.

When dyeing hair, permanent hair color makes permanent changes to the hair shaft. This type of dye uses strong chemicals like ammonia and peroxide to fully penetrate the cuticle and cortex of the hair. Ammonia opens up the cuticle to let color in, while peroxide removes the original pigment and allows new color to deposit. This process can’t be completely undone.

On the other hand, semi-permanent and temporary hair dyes coat the outside of the hair shaft and eventually fade away over time. These types of dyes don’t use peroxide so they don’t fully remove your natural pigment. It’s easier to remove these coats of color versus permanent dye.

Can you remove permanent hair dye?

While permanent hair dye can’t be completely reversed, there are ways to remove or minimize the artificial color:

  • Color removers – Color removing products contain chemicals that shrink color molecules and pull dye from the cortex. This allows some of the artificial dye to be removed.
  • Bleach – Bleach opens the cuticle and destroys artificial pigment in the cortex, letting you go lighter. However it causes damage and doesn’t remove all color.
  • Coloring over – You can apply a new semi-permanent or permanent dye closer to your natural shade to cover the existing color.
  • Fading – Hair dye will fade over time, especially with washing and sun exposure. The color molecules gradually wash out with each shampoo.
  • Cutting – As a last resort, cutting off the dyed portions will eventually remove the color as your natural hair grows in.

While these methods won’t completely reverse dye, they can minimize the color so it’s less noticeable. Be aware that color removing processes will damage and dry out your hair over time. Give your strands a break in between treatments and use repairing masks and oils.

What about removing semi-permanent and temporary dye?

Semi-permanent and temporary hair dyes are much easier to remove from your hair:

  • Shampooing – Regular shampooing will cause semi-permanent color to fade significantly after 6-8 washes.
  • Clarifying shampoo – Use a clarifying shampoo weekly to actively strip color from the hair shaft.
  • Baking soda – Make a paste of baking soda and clarifying shampoo and apply to damp hair. Rinse after 30 minutes.
  • Apple cider vinegar – Rinse hair with 1 part ACV diluted in 2 parts water after shampooing to help remove temporary color.
  • Hot oil treatment – Apply coconut or olive oil to hair, heat with a shower cap for 20 minutes, then shampoo out.
  • Fading – Like permanent dye, semi-permanent and temporary color will fade faster with washing, heat styling, and sun exposure.

These methods remove the coats of temporary or semi-permanent dye without using harsh chemicals. However, it still may take several treatments to fully remove the artificial color.

What influences how long hair dye lasts?

There are several factors that affect how quickly hair dye begins to fade:

Factor Description
Type of hair dye Permanent dye lasts the longest, while semi-permanent and temporary fade faster.
Your natural hair color Dye tends to linger longer on darker shades versus lighter shades.
Frequency of washing Frequent washing causes dye to fade more quickly.
Exposure to sun UV rays speed up fading of hair color.
Swimming Chlorine and salt water strip dye from hair.
Heat styling Tools like blow dryers and curling irons contribute to fading.

As you can see, permanent dye has the most staying power, while temporary coloring washes out quicker. Lifestyle factors like swimming and sunlight also accelerate fading.

Tips for reversing hair dye

If you need to remove hair color quickly, here are some helpful tips:

  • Use a clarifying shampoo 2-3 times per week to actively strip color.
  • Make DIY removal masks with baking soda, vitamin C powder, and anti-dandruff shampoo.
  • Try color-removing treatments monthly to pull out permanent dye.
  • Use hot oil treatments weekly to help lift temporary or semi-permanent color.
  • Avoid chlorine by wearing a cap when swimming.
  • Limit use of heated styling tools to decrease fading.
  • Apply UV protecting products before going in the sun.

Also, give your hair a break by waiting 2-3 weeks between color removal sessions. Reverse dyeing can cause dryness and damage when overdone.

What about natural hair dye removers?

Some natural ingredients can help strip away artificial color without the harshness of bleach or peroxide. Here are some options:

  • Vitamin C – Mix powdered vitamin C with shampoo or hot water and apply to hair. Rinse after 30 minutes.
  • Lemons – Mix lemon juice with conditioner and sit in hair for 20 minutes before rinsing.
  • Apple cider vinegar – Dilute ACV with water and pour over hair after shampooing. Leave on for a few minutes before rinsing.
  • Baking soda – Form a paste with baking soda and shampoo. Apply to damp hair and rinse after 30 minutes.
  • Anti-dandruff shampoo – Contains zinc pyrithione which strips away dye molecules.

While natural removers may be less damaging, they work gradually and require repeated use. Be patient when using natural methods to fade your hair color.

When to see a professional

It’s best to consult a hair stylist if you need to quickly or drastically remove hair dye. Professionals have access to stronger fading products like:

  • Color strippers – Salon-grade removers that quickly pull out permanent dye.
  • Bleach – Stylists can safely bleach hair to speeds up color removal.
  • TONERS – Color balancing toners neutralize undertones and make hair fade faster.

Stylists can also give your hair a break in between treatments and provide conditioning and repair. Seek professional help for dye disasters like unwanted color or banding.


While hair dye can’t be completely reversed, there are many methods to remove or minimize artificial color. Semi-permanent and temporary dyes fade quicker than permanent color. You can use removers, faders, clarifying shampoos, natural ingredients, and bleaching to help eliminate unwanted dye. It’s also important to give your hair a break from processing. See a professional stylist for fast, dramatic color removal or corrections. Just remember, permanent hair dye can’t be completely undone, but you can reduce its intensity and manage regrowth.