Here's How To Remove Semi-Permanent Hair Dye

Sans damage, of course.

Side view of a person with a straight blue bob and bangs
Photo: Getty Images

Experimenting with hair color is fun. Whether you're looking to try out a bold new shade or simply enhance your natural color, semi-permanent hair dye will keep your style fresh. Best of all, it will do so without the damage or commitment that often accompanies permanent hair dye. However, when it comes to removing semi-permanent color, things can get tricky.

To find out safe, easy, and effective solutions for undoing your dye job, we spoke with celebrity hairstylist and owner of Hair Addict Salon Michelle Cleveland and colorists Kaylee Benetua and Lionel Atzas at David Mallett Salon in New York City.

Keep scrolling for our expert-approved methods and tips for removing semi-permanent hair color.

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Removal Methods

Use a Clarifying Shampoo

Semi-permanent hair color is made of small molecules that can penetrate slightly under your hair cuticle, but not all the way into the center (or cortex) of your hair, Cleveland tells us. This means that the dye will eventually wash out on its own. Typically, it will last four to six weeks before fading. Still, there may come a time when you want results, stat. So if you're looking to speed up the process, cleansing with a strong clarifying shampoo will do the trick, says Cleveland.

"Even though [a clarifying shampoo is] meant to remove mineral buildup, such as chlorine and heavy styling products, it will see the direct dyes as the enemy and attempt to release them from your hair," explains Cleveland. Benetua agrees, adding that a clarifying shampoo can strip the hair of unwanted colors depending on the intensity of the color. "You can try putting clarifying shampoo all through wet hair and putting a plastic cap on for ten minutes, then rinse," instructs Cleveland.

See a Professional

In case you're not having any luck with a DIY solution, consider turning to the pros. Your colorist is trained in all things hair dye. "All situations are different, but one method your hair colorist can use is a color remover to remove any unwanted pigment," says Benetua. "Another option could be using lightener to lift any unwanted pigments, like foil highlights or balayage," she adds.

Aftercare

Even though clarifying shampoos are technically a safe alternative to, say, using chemicals to strip your hair of unwanted color, Cleveland says you'll still want to set aside time to follow up the clarifying shampoo with a deep conditioner or restorative hair mask. That's because in removing unwanted color, a clarifying shampoo will also take away the natural oils your hair requires to stay healthy, she points out.

"After washing with the shampoo mixture out, apply a generous amount of the repair mask and allow it to sit on your hair anywhere from five to 15 minutes, then rinse," instructs Cleveland. Her favorite treatment? Wella Fusionplex Intensive Repair Mask ($25), which can help restore hydration. As for Atzas, he recommends first using a super hydrating shampoo, such as David Mallet Shampoo No. 1 La'hydratation ($45). Then follow up with a mask, something like K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask ($75).

Preventative Measures

The number one way to avoid getting stuck with unwanted semi-permanent hair dye? Cleveland and Atzas agree: Don't try a new all-over color before first opting for a strand test. "Sometimes just adding a focal piece of hair with your favorite fun color is more than enough to make you realize it might not be for you," says Cleveland. Testing one strand before going head first (literally) is specifically important when you're going for a bold or vibrant color, adds Atzas. It will also give you an idea of how much the dye will damage your hair — if at all. "Although it is typically safe to go for a bold color on your hair, it is definitely higher maintenance and there's always a possibility of some damage," says Atzas.

There are also some other ways to prevent mistakes, like lightening your hair before adding bright color. "In most situations, the best method is to lighten the hair first to achieve any bright vivid tones like pink and purple," says Atzas. Cleveland even suggests trying out a wig in the color you are considering before going all-in on a new hair dye. She says some hair salons, including her own, even keep some on hand for clients to test out a color prior to their appointment.

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