Hair Color Removers- Benefits and Limitations

What is Hair Color Remover?

Woman wit desired hair color

An artificial hair color extractor, also called hair dye remover or hair color stripper, is very effective and one of the least harmful ways to remove artificial color pigments from your hair. 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.

Color removers are suitable for use at home, but make sure to follow directions and apply the product properly. The strong sulfur smell might be difficult for some people to tolerate. Washing your hair multiple times during the rinsing stage takes away most of the smell.

When to Use a Color Stripper?

Woman experiencing an unwanted hair color

1)To get rid of unwanted color: If you tried a different brand of your desired shade and it came out darker than you wanted. Or, you dyed your natural blonde hair a darker color, but you don’t like the results. In either case, a hair dye remover is a safest and most effective way to reverse an undesirable color application and get the perfect 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.

How does a Color Remover Work?

During processing time the color remover works by entering the hair shaft and 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.

Dye remover will not lighten your natural hair color because it doesn’t contain bleach. This product is designed to only remove previously applied permanent hair dye pigments, without bleaching.

This product won’t work if you are trying to restore your original natural color and you have 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.

Some brands like the L’Oreal Professional Techniques Core Haircolor Remover, Colorist Secrets Haircolor Remover, and Wella Color Charm Color Remover contain bleach in their formula.

Pravana Artificial Hair Color Extractor, ColourB4, and Color Oops Hair Color Remover don’t contain bleach, so these color removal products are less harsh on your hair than peroxide-containing formulas.

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 will be ineffective at removing direct dyes like henna and other plant-based colors, as well as semi-permanent or temporary colors.

You may read some reports about the successful removal of semi-permanent fashion colors using artificial hair color extractors although they are not designed for that use. A possible explanation is that significant fading of vivid colors may be caused by shampooing multiple times with a clarifying shampoo and rinsing the hair with very warm water, more than by the action of the color remover.

What Results to Expect?

Color remover
Color Oops Color Remover (Product from Amazon)

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

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 lifted some of the natural pigments present in your hair and the color extractor just revealed this unsightly hair.

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 will remove the artificial dye from your hair and reveal the lightened base.

If your hair was partially gray before permanent dying in a darker shade, your white hair will turn orange. You may need help from your colorist to recolor or make the transition to your naturally gray hair.

Is a Dye Remover Damaging to Your Hair?

Color strippers remove only the artificial dye without altering the structure of your hair. Using them is less damaging to your hair than using bleach or ammonia-based products. However, subjecting the hair to shampooing multiple times and a lot of warm water rinsing can deplete your hair of natural oils, leaving your strand feeling dry. Using a conditioner afterward is a must. A deep conditioning treatment should be done to help restore moisture and softness.

If you only use a hair color extractor occasionally, you won’t experience any serious damage to your hair. Overusing color stripping products can leave your hair dry, porous, and prone to breakage. Since hair color extractors leave a raised cuticle layer, you may experience faster color fading after stripping your hair.

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

Suggested Use

Be aware that a cold and drafty room is not an appropriate environment for using a day remover. Also, make sure to protect your clothing and nearby surfaces as the product could stain them. Always wear gloves and ensure all items used are made of plastic or glass.

Step 1- Shampoo your hair twice with a clarifying shampoo. Rinse and towel dry your hair as it should be clean and damp prior to application. Some products (such as the JoBaz Hair Color Remover) should be applied to dry hair per instruction. Your hair must be perfectly clean in both cases.

Step 2- Dye remover kits come in two separate bottles containing the acid solution and the sulfurous reducing agent. You need to follow directions and mix them together to cause the chemical reaction.

Step 3-  In the application stage, you need to work fast because once the solutions are mixed together the product starts 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 with fingertips. Use a wide-toothed plastic comb to ensure even distribution.

Step 4- Once the hair is well saturated with the mixture, put a processing cap over your hair and apply medium heat for 20 minutes. 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.

Step 5- The rinsing stage 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. Each shampoo should be followed by a long warm rinse to keep the cuticles open. If you use cold water, the product won’t work. 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.

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. A neutral protein filler should be applied to seal the shaft back.


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 extremely porous hair will produce darker and more intense results than intended.

If you wish to re-color your striped hair the same day, it is advisable to apply a temporary or semi-permanent hair color closest to your natural shade and tone and wait at least a week before applying a permanent dye. This will allow the porosity of your hair to decrease a bit.

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

21 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.

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