Hair Color Removers- Benefits and Limitations

Last Updated on December 31, 2022 by Gaga

What is Hair Color Remover?

An artificial hair color extractor, also called hair dye remover or hair color stripper, is highly effective and one of the least harmful ways to remove artificial color pigments from your hair. If your desire to look like Gwen Stefani’s platinum pixie transformed into a “Yellow Submarine,” then read on!

Stealth Haircare Health: A color stripper is specially designed to remove oxidative (permanent) dye from the hair. Color-removing products generally don’t contain ammonia or bleaching agents. If you select the right brand and only use the product occasionally, it won’t cause significant damage to your hair.

Common Sense about the Scents: Color removers are suitable for use at home, but ensure that you carefully follow the directions and apply the product properly. The strong sulfur smell might be difficult for some people to tolerate.

A girl with wet hair after removing color

When Do You Need to Use a Color Stripper?

1. Color Chaos to Get Rid of Unwanted Color: If you tried a different brand of your desired shade and it came out darker than you wanted, a color stripper is your new BFF! Or, if you dyed your natural blonde hair a darker color, but don’t like the results, consider a color stripper as your rescue ranger! In either case, a hair dye remover is the most effective way to reverse an undesirable color application and achieve a good base for a new color.

2. Pre-treating color remover: This product can be used to remove the build-up of previous color applications, making your hair ready for re-coloring and achieving the shade of your choice.

Color removers without bleach: Color Oops Hair Color Remover, VANISH Color Corrector, PRAVANA Artificial Hair Color Extractor, and Salerm Color Reverse. These products are kinder to your hair than peroxide-containing formulas.

Brands that contain bleach: Some brands like the L’OREAL Effasol Color Remover, Colorist Secrets Haircolor Remover, and Wella Color Charm Color Remover contain bleach in their formula.

Makeover Moments: How Does a Color Remover Work?

During the processing time, the color remover works by 1. Entering the hair shaft 2. Then breaking down the large color molecules that are deposited in the hair by oxidative hair dyes.  The particles of color molecules become small enough to be washed out from the hair. This product will not only remove the synthetic pigments from the last color you applied but also from all the previous dyes, too.

Bleaching Briefs: Dye remover won’t lighten your natural hair color because it doesn’t contain bleach (there are some exceptions). This product is designed to only remove previously applied permanent hair dye pigments, without bleaching.

Here’s a bleaching brief: This product won’t work if you’re trying to restore your original natural color and you’ve used bleach in the past. Color remover won’t restore your hair to its pre-bleached color because the natural pigment within your underlying virgin hair has been lightened and altered. Dye remover will remove all the artificial dye from your hair and reveal the underlying lightened base.

Don’t expect a beautiful color after the color-removal process is completed. However, you can attain the perfect base to dye your hair again to achieve your desired color. That is what this product is designed for.

Color Chameleons: Those who want to return to their natural color may be disappointed by the results. Many people blame their color remover for leaving warm undertones (This is why you hardly ever see a highly-rated color remover). However, these undertones may be the result of the previous dying processes. Past underlying permanent dyes may have lifted some of the natural pigments present in your hair and the color extractor just revealed this unsightly hair.

Color Transformers: Will a Color Remover Strip a Semi-Permanent Color?

This unique product doesn’t work on intense colors such as blues, bright reds, pinks, purples, or greens. It only works on dyes that use peroxide developers, so it’s ineffective at removing direct dyes like henna and other plant-based colors, as well as semi-permanent or temporary colors.

Rainbow guys and gals have color-stripping products formulated for their needs. Direct dye removers help get rid of semi-permanent colors and allow for more experimenting with fashion colors.

To summarize the typical color chameleon facts,

  • The outcome depends on your natural color and your hair coloring history.
  • If you have been dying your naturally brown hair black, it may turn out a reddish-brown.
  • If you have been dying your naturally golden blonde hair a dark brown, you probably will end up with a slightly reddish blonde.
  • If you have been dying your naturally dark hair a lighter shade, a color remover likely will alleviate the artificial dye from your hair and reveal the lightened base.
  • If your hair was partially gray before permanently dying in a darker shade, your white hair will possibly turn orange. You may need help from your colorist to recolor or make the transition to your naturally gray hair.

Damage Control: Is a Dye Remover Damaging to Your Hair?

For the down low on damage control, keep in mind that color strippers remove only the artificial dyes without altering the structure of your hair. Using them is less damaging to your hair than applying bleach or ammonia-based products. However, subjecting the hair to shampooing multiple times and a lot of warm water rinsing can strip natural oils and leave your strands feeling dry. Make sure to do deep conditioning treatment to help your hair to restore moisture and softness. Do damage control to keep your hair on a hot roll!

If you only use a hair color extractor occasionally, you shouldn’t experience any serious damage to your hair. However, overusing color-stripping products can leave your hair dry, porous, and prone to breakage. Another potential unwanted effect is faster color fading because color strippers may leave the cuticles lifted.

To preserve the integrity of your hair, use hair color removers in moderation and choose a brand that doesn’t contain bleach.

How to Use Color Removers

a girl searching for information on her phone

Read the instructions: Read the instruction carefully to get the most out of the product and minimize unwanted effects. Some color removers are supposed to be used in a well-ventilated room. Some others work better in a warm room. So, you must read the instructions carefully to choose an appropriate environment as every product is different.

Protect your skin and your place: Color removers should be applied to dry, unwashed hair. The protective oil coating helps prevent skin irritation. Also, protect your clothing and nearby surfaces as the product could stain them. Always wear gloves and use the applicator bottle provided or ensure that all items used are made of plastic or glass.

Application stage: You need to follow directions and prepare the product in order to cause a chemical reaction that will strip the unwanted color. In this, stage you need to work fast because once the product is activated it will start losing its effectiveness. Using a tint brush immediately apply the mixture to the hair. If you have long hair, you may find it easier to pour the product into your gloved hand and apply it with your fingertips. Use a wide-toothed plastic comb to ensure even distribution.

Processing stage: Once the hair is well saturated with the mixture, put a processing cap over your hair, and leave it as long as directed. If instructions say to apply heat for the recommended time. You can use a blow dryer to keep your hair warm. Applying heat helps open the cuticle and accelerate color removal. If you don’t use the blow dryer, wrap the plastic cap with a towel to keep your hair warm.

The rinsing stage: This is the most important part of the process and must be done properly. During this step, you wash out the color particles from the hair. Shampoo and thoroughly rinse by directing the water into the hair multiple times. Follow each shampoo with a long warm rinse to keep the cuticles open. If you don’t rinse your hair well enough, the color particles that remain in your hair will oxidize in the air and expand again. When you do not completely flush color particles out, you may experience unwanted re-darkening and return to the unwanted color within 24-48 hours after use. The extra rinsing also helps with washing away the strong, unpleasant smell of the product.

Apply conditioner: Your hair will be a bit dry after multiple shampooing, so apply a good amount of conditioner and leave it for several minutes to combat the dryness.


Although the directions on the box say that you can dye your hair the same day, I would recommend letting your hair rest for several days before dying it. If your previous color applications left your hair dry and overly porous, this condition will become even more obvious after using a color remover. If you choose to apply permanent hair dye immediately following the color removal process, you need to select a color that is at least 2 levels lighter than you want, because the coloring of extremely porous hair will produce darker and more intense results than desired.

If you wish to re-color your hair the same day, it is advisable to apply a temporary or semi-permanent hair color closest to your natural shade and wait at least a week before applying a permanent dye. Use this period to recover your high-porosity hair to recover and replenish some moisture.

Use neutral protein filler to seal the cuticles and equalize hair porosity before applying a new color.

If you decide just to wait for the roots to grow out, using a “purple” shampoo will help keep the brassiness away.

attractive woman with ruby hair color

About the author

Dragica Mitrovic Gaga
 | Website

Gaga is a blogger and founder of the Softer Hair website. She often says that insomnia is to blame for her first blogging attempts. Being the night owl, she hated the morning alarm. She left her office job and returned to what she loved most - writing.


40 thoughts on “Hair Color Removers- Benefits and Limitations”

  1. I’ve only dyed my hair once. I’m naturally a medium brown color, and I died my hair black about 3 months ago. I used permanent dye, but I haven’t retouched it yet (I only dyed it the original time). I’m sick of the color, and I’m really hoping I can get close to my natural hair color because I’ve only dyed it once. Any suggestions?
    (I’m also trying to avoid a red tint)

  2. A color remover wouldn’t resolve the problem except you plan to dye your hair again. Consider consulting an experienced colorist.

  3. Yes, you can remove it my hair is naturally medium brown color I dyed it burgundy to black I used color oops the first time it took all the black out and my hair was burgundy since I had dyed it that color before the black I used color Oops Hair again and it came back to my natural hair color with no red tints but just make sure you rinse your hair completely to remove all the color. Since you’ve only dyed it once it’s less color to remove and not layers on top of layers.

  4. My hair is naturally medium to dark blonde. A couple of weeks ago I tried box dying it lighter blonde because in the winter my natural lighter highlights fade and it looked more brown than blonde.
    Anyways this golden blonde L’Oreal box dye turned my lighter blonde hair orange and my darker blonde hair red. I went to an Aveda salon and asked for them to fix the red/orange and I wanted a natural blonde look with highlights and lowlights.
    They told me they couldn’t fix the orange/red immediately, and they did this:
    -they highlighted my hair (to break up the red)
    -and then toned/added a gloss for about 8 minutes to counteract the red

    One thing I noticed was the stylists said my hair “took” really well to the highlight and it brought some neutral blonde tones, which I like. However, other than that, my hair is still orange/red.

    What I would like to know is:
    1. Did the salon do the best they could to remove the red/orange, or were they being too conservative with my hair? If so, what should I ask to be done at another salon to achieve the best and quickest results possible?
    2. I tried buying purple shampoos and toners and nothing seems to be working on my hair! Should I try using a color stripping treatment like Pravana? Given my situation, would that only make my hair more orange/red, or would it help to remove that artificial color to my natural dark blonde?

  5. No; I haven’t asked her yet to remove the color. Also, on the downside, she just started being a hairdresser.

  6. I use a color remover to get the ginger color out of my dark blonde hair. It worked pretty well but is still a little red/gold. I’m going to dye over it, but I’m not sure what developer to use. 10 or 20? Any suggestions?

  7. Hello everyone, my Asian hair was bleached back in 2014. then used medium brown to cover my white hair. If I use color remover, is it correct that my hair will go back to the color when I bleached it (which is orangey goldy-ish)? If yes, I am also looking at using toner instead, because I want to go blonde and then silver-white then transition to gray-white. I want to stop using hair dye after I have achieved the silver or white color on my hair. Any thoughts? I learned a lot from this forum. Super thanks for sharing!

  8. hello!
    I am naturally brunette, I bleached my hair around 6 months ago, by professionals. yesterday, I decided to box dye my hair brown again. I fully regret it, so I was thinking of using a hair color remover. I’m not sure how it will turn up, and I want to go back blonde too if possible. any suggestions would be good. thanks!

  9. Hi~
    I’m trying not to damage my hair too much so I waited for like one more for the second bleach. and another month for color application.
    however, the color wasn’t up to expectations.
    my normal hair color is black.
    after first bleach it became brown.
    after the second bleach, it became light brown.
    after applying a light pink dye, it became dark rose gold.
    if I use bleach on this color, will it go back to light brown? or will it be even lighter?

  10. I suggest consulting an experienced colorist in your area to ensure you are using the best lightening solutions and determine what is the right base for your desired color.
    You can strip golden rose color using hair color remover and then continue with lightening sessions until you reach the right base for the color you want. If you are not sure that you have made the right choice of color, use semi-permanent color until you are ready for permanent coloring.
    If you’re getting your hair colored at the salon, choose a salon that uses a bond-building product like Olaplex to reduce the damaging effect of bleaching and coloring.

  11. have naturally black hair that I had gotten it done by someone who I don’t think used bleach. She had dyed streaks of red and brown to my hair and I realized that I don’t like it and I want my natural color back without waiting long for it to regrow. I searched for many remedies to remove artificial hair color but always was scared that I would lose all my hair. I found color oops and read many reviews, some said it was great, some hated it and I am scared if I buy it and then it breaks off all my hair. I have straight to wavy hair and it is long. I don’t know if I should try it but at the same time, I don’t want to re-dye it. Is it safe? Will it remove all the artificial so I am back with my natural black hair? Since I didn’t use bleach, will it go back to its original color?

  12. If you follow instructions and Color Oops will not damage your hair. Color Oops takes out the last color and makes your hair absorbent to another color. The product will remove hair dye but not your natural color. You will get a base to re-color and you can choose a shade closest to your natural color. Consult ann experienced colorist in your area. Since your hair is black and you don’t want to go lighter you might don’t have to use color remover at all.

  13. I’ve been getting highlights for many years to my thin mousey brown shoulder-length hair. My hair can be broken in some areas but not too bad. Sometimes they would give me brown lowlights, or brown roots. In between highlights. Then I had the salon dye my brown. The dark brown dye she used was a demi. But it looks black and washes out my face. It’s been around 2 1/2 weeks and I hate it. In my situation what would the nonbleach color remover do to my hair? The colorist suggested using it. But colorist has ruined my hair in the past. I need to get back to brown hair with a lot of highlights.

  14. You can use a color remover to remove artificial pigment. You will get a good base for applying a new shade. To get back to brown hair with a lot of highlights you need to re-color. You might want to find a hair professional that you will trust.

  15. Would a direct dye lifter such as Malibu C DDL and 20 developer work on removing temporary colors? I have gray hair and I want to fast track my transition by using Malibu C DDL. I realize I may need a toner afterward, but I wanted your thoughts. Also, would adding Olaplex No. 1 to the mixture help protect my hair in the stripping process?

  16. I did use a color remover on my hair which was a dark brown color which I didn’t like think it provoked color remover and the underlying color was kind of a mousey blonde my hair felt softer too saves dying my hair again

  17. My natural color is a medium brown, and I was dying My hair red for a while.
    I used a color strip , and it turned my hair to a yellow and orange color.
    I put a soft lavender brown color on my hair.Im very pleased with the out come..The purple reacted and got rid off all the brassy.My hair is a ash blonde now..I will add that I washed the lavender out and conditioned it heavily to wash it out..In other words I didn’t let it set.

  18. I am a redhead in my fifties, and have been covering white for several years with a copper blond color, and more recently with rose gold which is lighter. My roots now are almost pure white, so I am thinking of “going natural”, since white hair is popular. I tried Color Oops and it did pull out a lot of the color, but not all. My hair now is a yellowish blond, not bad, but not the white that I have in my new growth. I used purple shampoo to calm that a bit, but I don’t honestly know if all of my hair is white like the top, or if some of it still retains color. Would trying Color Oops again remove the remaining color and actually let my base white color show?

  19. no this isn’t true!!! it does remove the pigment from your normal hair !!! I use color remover to lighten my hair because it damages wayyyyyy less than bleach and my hair is like dark brown and curly .

  20. LOL sorry i take that back idk how to delete it . i used a different one from the ones you listed my bad . but! it doesn’t damage my hair nearly as much as when i’ve bleached it and it feels really good :))

  21. Hi, my natural hair colour is mousy blonde and the past 3.5 years I have been colouring my hair black but now I want to go back to my natural colour or to dye it back to blonde, what is the best colour remover can I use to get rid of the black please, oh at the beginning it was bleached black but after few months I have been using Garnier Belle color permanent black, help needed thanks

  22. my hair has been dyed alot. the last one is black with blue undertones. i hate it.
    my roots are a bit lighter blue.
    all salons are closed right now. i just bought 2 bottles of loreal paris colourist secrets hair colour remover. will this work on it.
    i want to eventually go to ash blonde or ash to start for summer

  23. You need to color asap after using color remover and the one you mentioned is not gentle. Why not try some temporary solution until you will be able to visit the salon? There is a range of temporary root concealers to fix your roots if the roots are a concern. Also, color styling mouses can even your color and add texture and shine. They are just a temporary solution but are convenient to use and wash out with shampooing. They also provide conditioning benefits to colored hair, like yours. My latest post was about color styling mouses. I hope this will help.

  24. I have been coloring my hair with Wella 12N (giving me a brassy golden blonde) and every other color use a toner as well. My hair is very dark brown at root. I want to go back to natural color, will the stripper help?

  25. Yes and no. You will not get back to your natural color just by using a color stripper. But you can get a good base to apply a shade that is close to your natural color to make the transition easier. Your colorist will help you choose the right shade.

  26. Hi, I have been coloring my silver gray roots for years with a medium dark brown box color. I was wondering if using a color remover to start the transition to gray would be an option. I have very long think hair. I’m looking for a gentle transition. So would a color remover and then use of a to ing shampoo be an option? I really don’t want want to cut all of my hair off.

  27. No, a color remover will not be a solution if you are not planning to apply the color again. A lot of unwanted undertones will show up. I suggest a consultation with a skilled hair colorist to start the transition. You want to know you are in good hands before starting.

  28. I find so many of the bad reviews are because we’re all conditioned to the important part of the process being when it’s sitting in your hair. Unlike dye, all the magic in color strippers, just as you said, is in the tedious rinsing/washing stage. You can always tell the people who are impatient & don’t read or follow directions thoroughly, but it’s the product’s fault, of course!

    What I’m wondering, is how long of a window do you have from when you begin rinsing to the dye oxidizing again if you don’t get it all rinsed out? Obviously the 30 minutes, but does it stop once the hair is out of warm water or once the product is washed off & you’re done rinsing? I’ve seen people advise to keep washing over the next several days, but why bother if the only thing it’s accomplishing is drying your hair out?

  29. I can not find the info I need anywhere on the internet and can not go to a salon. I hope you can help!
    My hair was bleached 2 years ago to almost platinum, to accommodate pastels. 6 months ago I used a semi red for base (like a manic panic) and then a semi brown. Which turned very dark. And has never washed/faded out.
    Can I use a colour remover at this point and what remaining colour could be expected, if I use it correctly? So I can anticipate what to do for the next step.
    Thank you in advance!

  30. You should use an appropriate color remover for a semi red and semi browm color. The remover should be formulated to remove semi-permanent dyes. Your hair is probably very porous when it holds the semi-color for so long. Sometimes it is a challenge even for professional colorists to remove the semi-permanent color from overly porous, bleached hair. Shampooing with a clarifying shampoo might help a little. There is no guarantee that color remover will remove all the color, but there are chances that you get an acceptable base for a new color shade. Consider using a clear protein filler prior to the next coloring to even hair porosity and get more consistent results.

  31. I don’t understand the part where they say that it won’t damage your hair. It does. It made mine insanely dry. Thankfully already bought things to deal with this because I knew it would happen. But I don’t understand why this ‘point’ would be in the article when it isn’t true.

  32. A month or so ago I got a keratin straightening (NAK)
    Will using Color removers, remove the treatment? Thanks for your time!

  33. I naturally have light brown hair, dyed it red last year with box dye, then like two weeks ago I decided to go black with box dye, decided I didn’t like it and kept it for a few days, used a color remover and I didn’t do it right so it didn’t work good, then dyed it red again on top of that, the red turned out dark almost black, then used color oops the correct way but I don’t know how long I should wait before dying it red again.. so far I been waiting for a week. My hair is currently like a light ginger color, but when it’s wet it looks dark and idk if that’s normal because my hair hasn’t been this color. Is it safe to put red box dye on it after using a color remover after a week of waiting?

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