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What color does hair color remover leave your hair?

Hair color remover is a product that can remove permanent or semi-permanent hair dye, taking your hair back to its natural color. But what color does it actually leave your hair? The answer depends on a few factors.

How Hair Color Remover Works

Hair color remover contains strong chemicals that break down the artificial pigments in hair dye. This reverts the hair back to its natural underlying pigment. However, it does not remove all traces of color, so your hair will not be completely stripped. The final result depends on:

  • Your natural hair color – dark hair will be left darker than light hair after color remover
  • The original shade of dye – darker dyes leave more residual color
  • How long the dye has been in your hair – the longer it’s been, the more it will penetrate
  • How many times you’ve dyed your hair – repeated dyeing leaves more residual pigment

In most cases, hair color remover will leave your hair 1-2 shades lighter than the original dyed color. But let’s look more closely at what colors you can expect for different starting shades.

Light Brown to Blonde

If your natural hair color is light brown to blonde, a color remover will take you back to a warm medium golden blonde or light brown. Any ashiness from toner will be removed, leaving behind the natural warmth. You can then dye to your natural shade if desired.

Dark Brown to Black

For darker shades, color remover works differently. A black or dark brown dye contains a higher concentration of pigment that penetrates more deeply into the hair shaft. This means more residual color will be left behind after stripping.

Color remover usually removes enough warmth from dark hair that’s been dyed an unnatural shade like burgundy or blue-black. It reveals an ashy, murky grey-brown color resembling the underlying cool pigment in naturally dark hair.

To get back to your natural warm dark brown or black, you would need to color correct after stripping. Otherwise, expect to see a medium to dark ash-brown color.

Unnatural Colors: Blues, Greens, Purples

For vibrant fashion shades like blue, green and purple, color remover removes some but not all of the artificial dye. It will take your hair to a more muted, grimy version of the original color.

For example, expect forest green hair to become swampy, khaki green after stripping. Royal blue likely turns a grayish pale blue. Faded shades like pastel pink or lilac will be almost completely removed, revealing a very light ash blonde in most cases.

Red and Copper

Removing red shades like fire engine red or copper can be tricky. The artificial red pigments tend to stick stubbornly to hair proteins.

You’ll usually be left with a significant amount of warm orangey color after stripping red dyes. It may reveal a natural level 6-7 medium golden blonde if your hair is light, or a bright orange-copper if your natural hair is dark.

To neutralize the unwanted copper and oranges tones, you would need to re-color with an ash shade right after using the remover. Otherwise, expect warm red-orange hues to linger.

Factors That Affect Results

Now that we’ve gone over some general expectations, keep in mind your individual results can vary based on:

Your Natural Hair Color

Natural Hair Color Likely Result After Color Remover
Blonde Pale yellow to light golden blonde
Light brown Medium golden brown
Dark brown Cool ash-brown
Black Dark ash-brown or murky grey-brown

As you can see, natural hair color makes a big difference in the end result when stripping dye.

The Original Dye Color

Darker shades don’t budge as easily. If you’ve been dyeing your hair black or brownish-red for a long time, expect more residual pigment than if you recently dyed it a light blonde.

Number of Times Dyed

The more times you’ve dyed your hair, the deeper the pigment penetrates into the cortex of your strands. Color remover will take out the buildup located close to the cuticle layer, but can’t remove accumulated pigment in the center of the hair shaft.

Porosity of Your Hair

Hair with higher porosity absorbs color more readily. This also makes it harder for color remover to take out all the pigment. People with damaged or frequently bleached hair will likely see more leftover dye color.

Using Color Remover Correctly

To get your best results, it’s important to prep your hair properly and use the color remover as directed:

  • Wash with a clarifying shampoo before stripping to remove product buildup
  • Start with freshly washed and towel-dried hair
  • Separate hair into four sections for easy application
  • Vigorously shake the bottle before each use
  • Saturate hair evenly from roots to ends
  • Let it process for the full development time
  • Rinse thoroughly until water runs clear
  • Shampoo and condition as usual after rinsing

This ensures you remove as much fake color as possible. Still, some dye molecules inevitably remain trapped in the hair, leaving subtle discoloration.

What About Bleach Baths?

Bleach baths are another method sometimes used to strip hair dye. However, they are much harsher on your strands than color remover.

Bleach destroys artificial pigment through extreme oxidation. This damages your hair significantly. Color remover works differently by shrinking dye molecules so they leach out of the cuticle layer.

While bleach baths lift more color initially, they leave hair very compromised and prone to breakage. Too much bleaching can even melt and deform the keratin fibers.

If you use bleach after color remover, your hair likely will become a pale banana yellow with lots of damage. It’s better to do a bleach bath first if you must incorporate bleaching, then use dye remover afterwards.

What About Natural Methods?

Some natural approaches like vitamin C treatment or clarifying washes may strip a small amount of color, but cannot remove permanent dye completely. These are better for fading freshly dyed hair, not removing old buildup.

Dish soap, lemon juice, coffee, sea salt spray, vitamin C powder, baking soda, and anti-dandruff shampoo will only lift a fraction of stubborn artificial pigment.

While these can be drying, their gentler action may be preferred for maintaining vivid dyed colors. But for complete dye removal, a chemical process like color remover or bleach is required.


Hair color remover does not completely remove dye, rather it takes your hair to 1-2 shades lighter than the original color. Expect subtle undertones to linger after the stripping process, especially warmer pigments on darker hair.

Factors like your natural color, hair porosity, and number of dye jobs impact results. To reveal the most natural color, prep hair properly and follow directions. But some residual artificial pigment will likely remain.

For dramatically lighter hair, combine stripping with bleach – but not without causing serious damage. Or better yet, transition gradually with lots of conditioning treatments. This allows you to go slowly enough to keep your strands healthy.