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How do you strip hair dye out?

Having brightly colored or vibrantly dyed hair can be fun and expressive. However, as trends and personal tastes change over time, you may eventually want to remove or strip out that bold hair color. Thankfully, there are several effective methods for removing and stripping semi-permanent or permanent hair dye.

Preparing to Strip Hair Dye

Before using any stripping agents or treatments, it’s important to properly prep and protect your hair. Consider the following tips:

  • Wash hair with a clarifying shampoo to remove product buildup
  • Deeply condition hair to add moisture before the stripping process
  • Trim any split or damaged ends which will be more porous and prone to damage
  • Protect your skin and clothes by wearing an old shirt and covering your neck and forehead
  • Work in sections to thoroughly saturate and process each section of hair

It’s also helpful to understand the type of hair dye you used – whether it’s semi-permanent, demi-permanent, or permanent – as this will impact how easily it can be removed. Semi-permanent dyes coat the outside of hair strands and wash out within 4-8 shampoos. Demi-permanent dyes penetrate slightly deeper and can last up to 24 shampoos. Permanent dyes open the hair cuticle to deposit color inside the strand, making them the most difficult to remove.

Using Vitamin C to Strip Hair Color

One of the most popular methods for removing hair dye at home is using vitamin C powder. The acidic properties of vitamin C work to break down and oxidize the pigment molecules in hair dye. It’s especially effective at removing semi-permanent or demi-permanent colors.

To use vitamin C powder to strip hair dye:

  • Mix 1-2 tablespoons of vitamin C powder with 2-3 tablespoons warm water to form a paste
  • Apply paste thoroughly to damp hair, focusing on dyed sections
  • Allow paste to process for 30-60 minutes
  • Rinse hair and shampoo as usual; repeat as needed

Vitamin C is gentle enough for frequent use but can dry out hair with repeated applications. Using a deep conditioner after each treatment will help counteract the drying effects.

Anti-Dandruff Shampoo to Lift Hair Color

Anti-dandruff shampoos that contain pyrithione zinc or selenium sulfide can help lift and strip artificial color from hair. These ingredients help remove dyed pigment from hair strands through a process called chelation. They grab onto the hair dye molecules and wash them away.

To use anti-dandruff shampoo to remove hair dye:

  • Wet hair thoroughly and apply shampoo directly to dyed sections
  • Massage shampoo into hair and allow it to process for 5-10 minutes
  • Rinse thoroughly and follow with a hydrating conditioner
  • Repeat daily as needed to gradually lift and strip color

This method may require several applications over a few weeks to fully remove permanent dyes. Using a clarifying shampoo once a week will also aid the color removal process.

Bleaching to Strip Hair Dye

Bleaching is an intensive chemical process that can quickly and dramatically strip artificial dye from hair. It works by oxidizing the hair’s natural pigment and deposited color molecules. When used correctly, bleaching can remove even the most stubborn permanent hair dyes.

There are a few options for bleaching your hair at home:

  • Whitening shampoo: Gradual lightening by using a whitening shampoo with low levels of bleaching agents 1-2 times per week.
  • On-scalp bleach: Mixing bleach powder, developer, and conditioner and applying it directly to hair for 30-45 minutes before rinsing.
  • Foil highlights: Applying bleach in foil strips only to the most dyed sections for targeted lifting.

It’s crucial to follow all instructions when bleaching and avoid overprocessing, as this can damage hair. Using a purple shampoo and deep conditioner after bleaching will help maintain tone and restore moisture.

Removing Dye with Color Strippers

Color strippers, also known as dye removers, are formulated products designed to remove the artificial color molecules deposited on and within the hair shaft. They work by swelling the hair strands and rinsing out the color pigments.

To use a hair color stripper:

  • Shake bottle to activate chemicals and apply evenly to towel-dried hair
  • Cover hair with a provided cap or plastic wrap
  • Process for time indicated on product, usually 20-60 minutes
  • Rinse thoroughly until water runs clear; shampoo and condition as needed

Color strippers work best on semi-permanent or demi-permanent dyes. Multiple applications may be needed to fully remove permanent hair color. Always perform a strand test first when using chemical strippers to check for hair damage.

Other Methods to Remove Hair Dye

In addition to the most common techniques, there are a few other options that may help strip out unwanted artificial color:

  • Apple cider vinegar rinses: The acidic vinegar can help break down hair dye molecules over time with repeated use.
  • Baking soda scrubs: Forming a gritty paste with baking soda can help abrade and lift dye from the hair’s outer cuticle.
  • Clarifying shampoos: Regular use can help fade color faster by deep cleaning the hair shaft.
  • Hot oil treatments: Oils like coconut or olive oil can help break down the hair dye when applied before shampooing.

While these household methods are lower cost and chemical-free, they tend to be less effective at fully removing permanent dyes compared to the stronger stripping agents.

Removing Hair Dye from Different Hair Types

The process of stripping hair dye can be affected by your natural hair type and texture. Here are some special considerations for different hair types:

Curly or Coily Hair

  • Use lots of conditioner before and after stripping to prevent dryness
  • Apply products in small sections to thoroughly coat strands
  • Rinse well and repeat conditioning to avoid product buildup

Thick or Porous Hair

  • May require a longer processing time for stripping products to fully penetrate strands
  • Use higher volumes of product to ensure full saturation
  • Evaluate hair health frequently to avoid overprocessing

Fine or Color-Treated Hair

  • Use lower concentrations of bleach/stripping products to avoid damage
  • Process for shorter time intervals
  • Rinse thoroughly and use bonding treatments if hair shows signs of damage

Maintaining Hair Health After Stripping

The process of removing dye from your hair can be taxing and cause damage like dryness, breakage, or porous strands if not done properly. Here are some tips to help keep your hair healthy after stripping out color:

  • Use a weekly nourishing hair mask or deep conditioning treatment
  • Avoid heat styling and additional chemical processing for 2-3 weeks
  • Get regular trims to snip any damaged ends
  • Use a bond-building or strengthening shampoo and conditioner
  • Apply a daily leave-in conditioner or hair serum
  • Protect hair from sun exposure with hats or gentle styles

When to Seek Professional Help

While it’s possible to strip hair dye at home, professional help is recommended in some circumstances:

  • You are removing multiple permanent color applications
  • Your hair is resistant to lifting even after multiple treatments
  • You want to avoid damage from DIY methods
  • You need your hair re-colored immediately after stripping
  • You have sensitivities requiring a personalized formula

Salon professionals have access to stronger lighteners, toners, and conditioning treatments to effectively strip color while keeping your hair healthy.


Removing artificial dye from your hair can allow you to change your look, go back to your natural color, or restart with a fresh canvas. While the stripping process can be drying or damaging if overdone, taking it slowly and caring for your strands will let you safely lift out that bold dye job.

With techniques like vitamin C, anti-dandruff shampoo, bleaching, color strippers, vinegar rinses, and more, you can find an effective option for your hair type and color. Just be patient, consistent, and gentle as you work to remove the dye for the best results.

Method How it Works Best For Things to Note
Vitamin C Acidic properties break down dye molecules Semi-permanent and demi-permanent dyes Can dry out hair with repeated use
Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Chelating ingredients grab onto and remove dye All dye types May require multiple applications
Bleaching Chemical process oxidizes and lifts color Stubborn/permanent dyes Can damage hair if overprocessed
Color Strippers Swell and rinse out artificial dye molecules Semi-permanent and demi-permanent May require multiple tries for permanent dye