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What shampoo will strip color?

When you color your hair, you want the color to last as long as possible. However, there are times when you may want to remove the color more quickly. Using a clarifying or color-stripping shampoo can help remove hair color faster than just regular shampooing. Here’s what you need to know about using shampoo to strip color from your hair.

How shampoo strips color

Shampoos that are formulated to remove color contain stronger detergents and surfactants than regular shampoos. These ingredients bind to the hair dye molecules and allow them to be rinsed away. Clarifying shampoos tend to be stronger than color-stripping shampoos. Here’s a brief overview:

  • Clarifying shampoos deeply cleanse hair by removing buildup from styling products, hard water minerals, chlorine, and more. They may contain ingredients like sulfates to break down and remove residue.
  • Color-stripping shampoos are designed specifically to fade hair dye. They are usually sulfate-free but contain chemicals like sodium chloride or citric acid to target hair color molecules.

Using an anti-dandruff shampoo may also help strip color more quickly because these shampoos tend to be stronger and have a higher pH. However, they are not formulated specifically for color removal like clarifying or color-stripping shampoos.

How often to use a stripping shampoo

When using a shampoo to remove hair color, follow the product directions carefully. Using a clarifying or color-stripping shampoo too often can damage your hair by over-stripping the natural oils. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Clarifying shampoo – Use once a week or every other week.
  • Color-stripping shampoo – Use 2-3 times per week.
  • Anti-dandruff shampoo – Use 2-3 times per week.

Pay attention to how your hair looks and feels. If it starts to become overly dry or brittle, cut back on how often you use a stripping shampoo. You want to avoid protein or moisture overload.

Tips for using stripping shampoo

Follow these tips to safely and effectively use a clarifying or color-stripping shampoo:

  • Shampoo your hair as usual first, then follow up with the stripping shampoo. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes before rinsing.
  • Use cool or lukewarm water, as hot water can open the hair cuticles and allow more color to be stripped.
  • Rinse hair thoroughly after using the shampoo to remove all traces.
  • Use a deep conditioning hair mask after to help replenish moisture.
  • Wear gloves when applying the shampoo to avoid staining your hands.

Best shampoos to strip hair color

Here are some top-rated clarifying and color-stripping shampoos:

Shampoo Key Features
Redken Hard Water Shampoo Deep cleansing clarifying shampoo for hard water and chlorine damage
BIOKAP Color Thief Sulfate-free shampoo with citric acid to remove direct dyes
L’Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Brass Toning Purple Shampoo Tones down brassiness while gently cleansing
Malibu CPR Hard Water Wellness Shampoo Removes well water metals, minerals, and chlorine
MATRIX Total Results So Silver Shampoo Neutralizes brassy, yellow tones in gray, white, and blond hair
Klorane Shampoo with Centaury For grays and whites, with blue-violet pigments to brighten

Other ways to strip hair color

In addition to using a clarifying or color-stripping shampoo, you can speed up color removal with these methods:

  • Baking soda – Make a paste with equal parts baking soda and anti-dandruff shampoo. Apply to damp hair, focusing on the most vibrant areas of color. Leave on for 2-5 minutes before rinsing. The baking soda will help lift cuticle scales so color molecules can escape.
  • Vitamin C – Crush vitamin C tablets into a fine powder and mix with shampoo. The acidic vitamin C helps break down hair dye pigments. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before rinsing out.
  • Hot oil treatment – Coat hair with coconut, olive, or argan oil. Apply heat with a shower cap and blow dryer to open cuticles and release dye. Rinse after 20-30 minutes.
  • Clarifying rinse – Mix equal parts lemon juice and water and rinse through hair after shampooing. The citric acid helps remove residual dye molecules.
  • Chelating shampoo – Use a shampoo with EDTA to remove metallic salts and minerals that can interact with hair pigments. It allows deeper cleansing to strip color.

What to avoid when stripping color

While using harsh shampoos and at-home treatments can strip hair color quickly, they can also damage your hair. Here are some things to avoid:

  • Over-washing hair – Limit stripping shampoo to 2-3 times per week max.
  • Brushing wet hair – Wait until hair is at least 50% dry before brushing to avoid breakage.
  • Hot water – Stick to lukewarm or cool water when washing and rinsing hair.
  • Harsh ingredients – Avoid shampoos with sulfates or high alcohol content.
  • No conditioner – Always use a hydrating conditioner or mask after stripping shampoo.
  • Permanent dyes – Stripping shampoo works best on semi-permanent or temporary colors.
  • Bleach – Don’t try to strip bleached hair as it will already be very porous.

Maintaining hair health

When using shampoos or treatments to aggressively strip color, it’s important to take steps to keep your hair healthy and conditioned:

  • Use a moisturizing mask weekly, leaving on for at least 5-10 minutes before rinsing.
  • Avoid using heated styling tools daily – allow hair to air dry when possible.
  • Apply a smoothing serum or split end treatment to help strengthen and protect hair.
  • Get occasional trims to remove damaged ends and keep hair healthy.
  • Use a moisturizing or bond-building shampoo and conditioner for regular washing.
  • Consider taking hair supplements with biotin, coconut oil, folic acid etc to nourish hair.
  • Use a microfiber towel or old t-shirt to gently blot wet hair – avoid rubbing.

When to see a professional

Removing hair color at home can be damaging if overdone. See a licensed stylist for help with:

  • Removing multiple layers of color buildup
  • Lifting or removing demi-permanent or permanent color
  • Color correction if unwanted tones develop – e.g. green or orange cast
  • Bleaching to lift stubborn dark colors
  • Avoiding a blotchy or splotchy outcome
  • Using professional-grade lighteners and toners safely
  • Treating hair before and after the color removal process

A professional can help assess your hair’s condition and what methods are safest for removing the existing color. Leaving it to the experts also reduces the risk of a hair disaster!


Removing hair color with specialty shampoos allows you to transition your look at home gradually and gently. Clarifying and color-stripping shampoos use stronger detergents to fade hair dye faster than regular shampoo. However, overuse can damage hair so it’s important not to overdo it.

Using stripping shampoos a few times a week, along with other techniques like vitamin C or baking soda treatments, can help speed up color removal. But know when it’s time to see a stylist for a major color correction so that your hair stays healthy. With some care and patience, you can strip unwanted dye and maintain shiny, conditioned locks.