Skip to Content

Will Dawn dish soap strip hair color?

Dawn dish soap is a popular cleaning product made by Procter & Gamble that is commonly used for washing dishes, removing grease, and general household cleaning. Many people wonder if using Dawn to wash hair can strip artificial hair color like professional hair dyes or semi-permanent colors. Here is a detailed look at whether Dawn can remove hair dye.

Can Dawn Remove Hair Dye?

The short answer is yes, Dawn dish soap can potentially strip some types of hair dye, especially with frequent or prolonged use. However, the effect Dawn has on colored hair depends on several factors:

  • Type of hair dye – Permanent dyes are more resistant while semi-permanent and temporary colors are easier to strip.
  • Time since application – More recently applied colors are more vulnerable to removal.
  • Frequency of use – Using Dawn repeatedly strips more color than occasional use.
  • Contact time – Leaving Dawn on hair for extended time can increase color removal.
  • Dilution – Using Dawn full strength removes more color than diluted.
  • Hair porosity – Color adheres less to porous, damaged hair.

Overall, permanent and demi-permanent hair dyes bind to the hair shaft making them harder to strip. But semi-permanent, temporary, and highlight colors coat the outside of hair and can be stripped with repeated washing with clarifying shampoos like Dawn.

How Dawn Removes Hair Color

Dawn contains surfactants like sodium laureth sulfate that are designed to break down oils and grease. When used on hair, these surfactants can dissolve hair dye molecules and cause color to fade. The alkaline pH of Dawn (around 9) also causes hair cuticles to open, allowing more dye to be removed. Lastly, vigorous scrubbing when shampooing with Dawn further helps lift color from the hair.

Tips to Prevent Hair Color Stripping

To help minimize stripping of hair dye when washing with Dawn, here are some tips:

  • Avoid getting Dawn directly on colored hair by shielding with a shower cap.
  • Dilute Dawn with water 1:1 ratio before application.
  • Only wash hair with Dawn 1-2 times per week at most.
  • Rinse hair thoroughly with cool water after using Dawn.
  • Apply a deep conditioner after to smooth and protect hair cuticles.
  • Get hair re-colored every 4-6 weeks to maintain vibrancy.

Alternatives to Dawn for Colored Hair

For those worried about stripping of hair dye, consider these gentler detergent alternatives to Dawn:

  • Baby shampoo – Extra mild formula is non-irritating.
  • Sulfate-free shampoo – Lacks harsh surfactants that remove color.
  • Dry shampoo – Cleans by absorbing oil vs. detergents.
  • Vinegar rinse – Closes cuticles to lock in color.
  • Color protecting shampoo – Contains polymers to prevent dye loss.

Should You Use Dawn on Color-Treated Hair?

While Dawn is an effective degreaser, frequent use on colored hair is not recommended. The detergent action can cause significant fading, especially on fashion shades like reds, pastels, and blondes. However, occasional use of diluted Dawn is unlikely to strip most permanent hair dye. To keep hair color vibrant, stick to professional color-safe shampoos and limit washing with Dawn to only when necessary.

The Effect of Dawn on Different Hair Dye Types

Not all hair color is equally prone to stripping from Dawn dish soap. Here is how Dawn typically affects different kinds of hair dye:

Hair Dye Type Effect of Dawn
Permanent dye Resists removal due to penetrating hair shaft
Demi-permanent dye Moderate resistance to stripping
Semi-permanent dye High risk of color removal from detergent
Temporary dye Easily stripped with mild shampooing
Highlighting products High risk of color fading from washing
Natural dyes (henna) Some loss over time but less prone to stripping

As shown, permanent and demi-permanent dyes bind inside the hair making them harder to strip, while semi-permanent, temporary, and highlights coat the outside of the hair making them more prone to fading from detergents.

Research Studies on Hair Dye Stripping

Several scientific studies have looked at how shampoos and detergents can remove artificial hair color:

  • A study in the International Journal of Trichology found sodium lauryl sulfate shampoo stripped 17.5% of color from dyed hair after 1 wash and up to 40% after 10 washes.
  • A study in the Journal of Cosmetic Science found repeated shampooing removed more cherry red dye from hair than a single wash.
  • A study in the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists tested different surfactants and found sodium laureth sulfate stripped the most dye from pre-colored hair swatches.

Overall, research shows that frequent washing with detergent shampoos like Dawn can cause measurable fading of artificial hair colors, especially shades like reds, pinks, and blondes.

Tips for Keeping Dyed Hair Vibrant

To keep colored hair looking its best, here are some top tips:

  • Use color-protecting shampoo and conditioner.
  • Wash hair less frequently (every 2-3 days).
  • Use cool water and limit shampoo to roots.
  • Blot wet hair instead of rubbing to dry.
  • Avoid chlorine and salt water which strips color.
  • Apply glossing treatments between dye jobs.
  • Avoid heat styling which fades color.
  • Get a trim every 6-8 weeks to remove faded ends.

What About Using Dawn on Natural Hair?

For those with natural, uncolored hair, using Dawn likely has less risk of color stripping. However, the harsh detergents can still be drying and damaging over time. Sulfate-free shampoos are gentler on hair and preserve moisture. But occasional use of diluted Dawn to clarify natural hair and scalp should not cause significant damage.


Dawn dish soap has excellent degreasing power but the same surfactants that cut through grease and oils can also strip hair dye, especially with repeated use. To maintain vibrant hair color, permanent and demi-permanent dye products are more resistant while semi-permanent and temporary dyes are at high risk of fading. Minimizing direct contact of Dawn with hair and using only occasionally diluted can help reduce stripping. For routine washing, a color-protecting shampoo is best for keeping dyed hair looking its brightest.