beauty hair

A Guide to Removing Hair Dye at Home

October 08, 2015Saskia C.

At last, I have re-emerged from the depths of hair bleach land and lo and behold, my precious hair has survived. Pictures of my new colour will follow soon (for a low quality preview, check my Instagram). Removing the purple from my hair was a process that took months and, before I give anyone false hope, it was not entirely successful. Since I have tried every trick in the book the internet that didn't sound like it would instantly burn my scalp off, it seemed selfish to keep all of this wisdom to myself. In this post, I will list of all of the methods I've tried (in chronological order), the type of hair you can use them on (dyed/natural), how (un)successful they were and an estimate of the cost based on the products I could find in Belgium.

(Some) tools of the trade

Bath salts
Dyed hair
What is it? Exactly what it says on the tin.
Did it work? I let my hair soak in the bath salts infused water but didn't see much of a difference. So, no. Maybe it helps to mix it with shampoo and spread it through your hair, but I had run out of bath salts and didn't feel like spending another €7 for something that would probably not work anyway.
Damage: Mild
Cost: It depends on the brand but for someone who doesn't use bath salts regularly, pretty expensive.

Bleaching
Dyed and natural hair
What is it? A mix of bleach powder and cream developer (1:2). Leave in for 30 to 40 minutes. Rinse out thoroughly and use a deep conditioner.
Did it work? Yes. I didn't bleach until I thought my hair had faded sufficiently. The bleach removed most of the purple which meant I was stuck with a very, very stubborn pink. Bleaching three times might have removed most of the pink but I didn't want to damage my hair quite that much.
Damage: Severe
Cost: Buying a bleach kit from a brand like Directions is far more expensive (€10 for a small amount) than buying the products from a hairdresser's shop.

Vitamin C treatment
Dyed hair
What is it? Vitamin C tablets (I used about ten), crushed to powder, mixed with shampoo and a little bit of dish detergent (3:1). Keep this mixture in your hair for a couple of hours, then rinse and use a deep conditioner.
Did it work? For me, this method was the best of all the home remedies for removing hair dye. It made my initially neon pink hair a lot less vibrant.
Damage: Mild, very drying
Cost: Relatively cheap, I spent about €5.

Baking soda and lemon juice
Dyed and natural hair
What is it? Baking soda mixed with lemon juice (1:1) and some shampoo. Leave in for 10 minutes, then rinse and use a deep conditioner.
Did it work? First time I tried it, it failed immensely because the mixture was really difficult to divide evenly through my hair and it also spilled everywhere. The second time I added in some shampoo which helped to even out the mixture. That worked for application but in the end, I didn't see much of a difference and it dried out my hair very badly. Not worth it.
Damage: Mild, very drying
Cost: Relatively cheap, I spent about €5.

Hot coconut oil
Dyed hair
What is it? Coconut oil heated up au bain marie. Spread evenly through the hair and leave in for as long as you like.
Did it work? Yes and no. It didn't lift any colour from my hair. It did, however, greatly improve the quality of my by then quite damaged hair. Now I always melt coconut oil before applying it, it's much easier.
Damage: None at all, on the contrary: my hair is way more healthy since I've started using coconut oil regularly.
Cost: I bought a big container of unscented coconut oil for €5.

Bleach bath
Dyed hair
What is it? Bleach powder, cream developer (1:1), a generous amount of shampoo. You can also add in some conditioner.
Did it work? Yes and no. I know a bleach bath can work wonders if your hair has been dyed only for a short while or if you only have a little bit of your previous colour left. It didn't have any effect on my faded pink hair.
Damage: Mild
Cost: Same as bleaching unless you need to stock up on shampoo and conditioner.

Hair colour remover
Dyed hair
What is it? A milder product than bleach used to remove hair dye
Did it work? Not even a little bit. Generally, these kinds of hair colour removers aren't meant to be used on previously bleached and brightly dyed hair.
Damage: Moderate, not quite as damaging as bleaching
Cost: Expensive if you get it done at a hairdresser's, cheaper (€10) if you do it at home.

Methods that are supposed to work (but that I haven't tried)
Blonde dye high in ammonia: I never got rid of the pink well enough to try this one.
Bleach powder and water (+ coconut oil): Adding water to your powder instead of cream developer is supposed to make this method less damaging.
Laundry detergent: I haven't tried this for obvious reasons. The package literally says to rush to the hospital if the stuff touches your skin. I don't have a death wish quite yet.

Conclusion
Even though my journey wasn't entirely successful, I did learn a few things in the process:
  • Unnatural hair colours are much harder to get rid off than natural colours. Purples, pinks and reds are stubborn jerks.
  • Most of the methods above will probably work if you have dyed your hair in a natural colour, if you haven't dyed your hair for a very long time yet, or if you want to get rid of the final hints of colour in previously dyed hair.
  • Most hairdressers don't know anything about unnatural hair dyes.
  • Coconut oil is a lifehairsaver.
  • If you've had the same (unnatural) colour for a long time, going blonde is quite impossible unless you don't mind severely damaging your hair, or waiting for a long while in between bleaches (and walking around with terrible looking hair in the meanwhile).
  • Stocking up on anti-dandruff shampoo, deep hair conditioner and coconut oil is never a bad idea.
For good quality pictures of my new hair colour you'll have to wait till my next outfit post. In the meanwhile you can hopefully learn from this post and not make the same mistakes that I did. Why yes, I hereby accept martyrdom.
If you have any more tips and tricks for removing hair dyes, let me know in the comments.

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2 comments

  1. Haven't heard of a lot of these, but I've worked as a hairdresser and there really isn't much to be done except go darker. The were hair strippers which were basically bleach, but you had to have a thicker texture... If you had thin hair, it was over. With bleach or the strippers, sometimes the hair got so damaged that it wouldn't take any color at all. I've personally been at that point. The vitamin c method you tried sounds interesting

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  2. I also did not know about a lot of these - then again my hair likes to undye itself within a few washes, even with real hairdye XD this is a great overview though with how much damage it will do as well!

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