How to Remove Color From Your Hair
Experts weigh in on safe ways to strip your hair of color.
Hair color experimentation is practically a rite of passage, and especially in the times of COVID-19 and quarantine, going for a bold color was encouraged. In fact, it was practically the norm — just look at all the celebrities who experimented during quarantine.
But whether the experimentation goes awry or you're just sick of the color, there's a pretty good chance you're not going to want the color to last forever. And the good news is, it won't. But for those times when you just can't rid your hair fast enough of the color, there may be a few ways to partially or fully remove the hair color. Read on for expert tips and DIY treatments to remove color once it's lost its shine.
Is It Possible to Remove Hair Color?
The answer is — and I know this isn't what you wanted to hear — it depends. Professional colorist and Matrix brand ambassador Rachel Bodt says it depends on the type of product used to color your hair. She says that henna and some boxed color stains can be very difficult to lift from the hair because of where they sit on the hair shafts, while temporary colors and glosses are easier to remove. She adds that it also comes down to the type of hair you have.
"It depends on how porous the hair is and how many coats of color you are trying to remove," she tells InStyle. "I would also suggest staying away from removing color with bleach at home."
She also strongly urges not attempting to dull it with a lighter box color. But there are some products you can use that are much safer and more effective. You should also be cognizant of your hair texture before getting aggressive with your treatment. Pick products that are gentle, yet effective, to avoid causing further damage.
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How Do I Remove Hair Color?
Again, it totally depends on the type of product used and hair that you have, but according to Bodt, there are some methods you can try. She suggests using a product that contains vitamin C or sulfate to "loosen the color." Try the Oribe Color Power drops ($58; nordstrom.com) which contain vitamin C, and the Sulfur-8 Deep Cleaning Shampoo ($8; walmart.com).
"These help open the hair up so the color starts to fade naturally," she tells us. If you have textured hair, try a clarifying shampoo, like the Pattern Clarifying Shampoo ($20; ulta.com) for a gentle yet deep clean that will help lift hair.
In a previous interview with InStyle, colorist Kaylee Benetua at David Mallett Salon said that 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."
Bodt warns, though, that you will need to follow with some T.L.C. for your hair since these treatments can be extremely harsh. A hair mask is always a great treatment to moisturize your strands and bring them back to life. Try this deeply hydrating Amika Soulfood Nourishing Hair Mask ($28; sephora.com), which is packed with vitamins and nutrients to replenish hair after any kind of damage, or the Pattern Treatment Mask ($25; ulta.com) for soft yet strong curls or coils.
Again, Bodt stresses that you should definitely not further bleach or lighten your hair in any way. If the above steps aren't cutting it, it's probably time to seek out professional help. In fact, the stylist says it's always smart to get an expert's opinion first before acting. But if you're trying to avoid spending money, she says you can receive a free consultation at your salon first before going in blind.
What To Know About At-Home Hair Color Removal
If you're looking to avoid the salon and save money on products, you can purchase vitamin C powder that you can simply mix with your existing shampoo. If you don't have powder, you can even try crushing up tablets.
Mix one part of the vitamin C powder and two parts shampoo and mixed it into a paste. Then wet your hair and lather the paste onto your strands. Once your whole head is lathered and covered, put on a shower cap, drape a towel around your neck (to catch any drippage), and chill for about an hour.
Why does it work? To my understanding, most hair color (or at least the permanent kind) uses oxidative dyeing. The dye penetrates the hair shaft and polymerizes into larger molecular units, wedging itself in between hair cuticles and onto the cortex. This makes the dye chemicals more resistant to removal. You know how ascorbic acid oxidizes quickly? Putting an acid like vitamin C on hair that's been dyed loosens these molecular units, giving dye the chemical heave-ho.
The bottom line is you shouldn't be afraid to experiment — it can be fun to play around or switch things up. But it is always important to keep the health of your hair at the top of mind (pun intended). Use gentle solutions, and when in doubt, seek a professional's opinion. That's what they're there for, and in the end a consultation could save you much time and money than dropping your whole paycheck on products that might remove color.