First thing: don't fret.

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik and Tessa Petak
Updated May 17, 2021 @ 5:45 pm
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How to Remove Semi Permanent Hair Dye
Credit: Getty Images

OK, so you're interested in trying quarantine's hottest beauty trend: bright and colorfully dyed hair. But let's be honest, it can be tricky to figure out the best way to remove semi-permanent hair dye without completely damaging your hair. So if you're just jumping on this bandwagon now, we've got news for you: the country is slowly but surely re-opening, so there's a good chance people will actually see it this time around (versus last year when we weren't going anywhere).

But hey, we're not discouraging you from making a change if you're in need of something new. Perhaps you're looking to emerge from quarantine with a brand new bold 'do — after all it is "shot girl summer." But it's important to prepared with a few emergency measures in place just in case the dye job doesn't turn out the way you had hoped.

That's why 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 to find out some safe, easy, and effective solutions you can try on your own for a semi-permanent hair dye gone wrong, as well as when it's time to call on the professionals.

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Try Removing the Dye With a Clarifying Shampoo

The first thing you can try to remove dye? A strong clarifying shampoo like Nioxin Clarifying Cleanser, one of Cleveland's favorites, is a good place to start. While she maintains that the important thing to keep in mind is that a semi-permanent hair color — which 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 — is that it will eventually wash out, and a clarifying shampoo will help speed up the process.

"Even though it's 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," she says.

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."

While this step is fairly easy, and can be taken from the comfort (and privacy if you're not ready to face the world with your new hair color) of your own home, if the clarifying doesn't remove the color, it's probably time to call in the pros.

See a Professional to Remove Hair Dye

If you've tried clarifying shampoo with no such luck, it's most likely time to phone a friend: i.e. your hair dresser. That means don't go digging around in your kitchen or googling "homemade remedies." Your professional stylist is trained to find ways to fix hair mistakes like this.

"All situations are different, but one method [is] your hair colorist can use a color remover to remove any unwanted pigment," says Benetua.

But if for some reason that does not remove the dye, do not fret. It's never beyond repair because even if the dye cannot be removed, your hair dresser will be able to come up with some creative ways to cover the bad dye job. "Another option could be using lightener to lift any unwanted pigments, like foil highlights or balayage," says Benetua.

Replenish Your Hair After Dye Removal

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. After all, the shampoo's job is to remove unwanted color, but in doing so, Cleveland says they will also take away the natural oils your hair requires to stay healthy. Her favorite follow-up treatment is Wella Fusionplex Intensive Repair Mask, which can help restore hair hydration.

"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," Cleveland says.

Atzas also recommends some giving your hair some TLC after the treatment, like a super hydrating shampoo (his favorite is David Mallet Shampoo No. 1 La'hydratation) followed by a masque. He suggests the K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask.

"While you're trying [to] strip pigment out of the hair it's also stripping your natural oils and roughening your hair cuticle," he tells us.

Try Before You Dye

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," she says.

Atzas adds that testing one strand before going head first (literally) is specifically important when you're going for a bold or vibrant color. And added benefit of a strand test is seeing 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 possibly of some damage," says Atzas. There are also some other ways to prevent mistakes, like lightening your hair before adding the 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 so clients who are unsure about a new hair color can give it a whirl first.