12 Tips for Hair Dye Removal and Colour Correction

The Expert Guide to Using Hair Colour Removers

New hair colour not quite what you were hoping for? Before you reach for the hair dye remover, read these expert tips to make sure you colour correct like a pro.

1. Hair Colour Removers and Hair Colour Strippers Are Very Different

A colour remover contains a reduction agent, which works only on destroying the artificial colour molecule so that it can be flushed from the hair; it cannot affect the natural pigments in the hair.

A colour stripper contains an oxidation agent and is designed to gently remove both natural and artificial pigments, so you can re-colour immediately to a different or lighter permanent shade.

2. Wash Your Hair Repeatedly to Fade Dark Shades

If you have applied a colourant and the result is too dark, wash the hair in baby or clarifying shampoo immediately, several times. Most home hair colours contain an after-colour conditioner, which is designed to help the colour molecules settle inside the hair. If you’re not sure you are happy with the colour, washing it will remove any barriers from the conditioner and unsettle the new permanent colour.

3. Act Fast to Remove Dark Colours

If a colour is too dark, try to remove it immediately or within 48 hours. The fresher an artificial colour is, the easier it will be to remove it from the hair, especially if you have already washed it several times with baby or clarifying shampoo. Newly applied darker hair colourants that you want to correct will only require a hair colour remover – they shouldn’t need a hair colour stripper.

4. Be Patient With Colour That’s Too Light

If a colour has come out too light for your liking, try to do the opposite and wait at least 48 hours before attempting to re-colour; ideally, wait one week before you make any changes. Lightened hair can look brighter when first coloured, and will often calm down over the following days, so give it time and reserve your judgement before attempting to go darker.

5. a Warm Shade Isn’t Necessarily the Wrong Shade

If a shade has come out too warm, golden, coppery or gingery, there are two possible causes – and you need to identify the source to fix it. You need to work out whether you have applied a colourant which contains gold, copper or red as one of its tones, or whether your hair has lightened in the colouring process and ‘kicked up’ your natural warmth.

If you have applied a neutral or ash-based colourant and are seeing warmth, it’s because your natural shade was too dark for the colourant applied, and possibly needed pre-lightening or stripping first.

6. Use Colour Remover to Remove Unwanted Tones

If you have established that it was the shade that has caused your hair to go warm, golden, copper or red due to the secondary tones featured in the product, applying a hair colour remover should rectify this issue.

7. Strip or Switch to Balance Natural Warmth

If you have established that your hair has gone too warm, golden, copper or red due to the lightening of your natural shade, you have a choice as to how you fix it. You can either strip the hair and apply the desired shade again (onto a lighter base), or you can switch to a slightly darker shade which would cover the unwanted warmth.

8. Hold Back on Using Peroxides After Colour Removal

Do not apply a peroxide-based colourant immediately after using a hair colour remover. The chemistry of colour removal and peroxide contradicts, so you need to leave the hair to normalise before attempting to apply a peroxide-based colourant; ideally, wait for one week.  However, you can use peroxide-free semi-permanent colourants and toners, such as Colour Restore, immediately after using a hair colour remover.

9. Stripper Creates a Blank Canvas for Recolouring

Hair that has been stripped has had both natural and artificial colour pigments removed, therefore you should always have your chosen hair colour/shade at hand to achieve your desired result after the stripping process.

10. Retain a Good Base Shade for Great Colour

The key to successful hair colour is achieving a good base shade. If you are looking to go blonde, obtaining a dark blonde base shade can prove a good canvas for highlights. If you prefer darker or brunette hair, always ensure you only apply colourants to your regrowth and do not apply throughout the hair – this will prevent colour build-up. Using toners and colour-enhancing shampoos will also retain your shade.

Timing is also key; do not attempt to conduct several permanent colour processes on your hair within a one-month period. Frequent exposure to peroxides, ammonia and PPDs can cause the hair to become very porous and damaged. Once hair becomes damaged, it is then difficult to achieve a good colourant result, as the shade could grab initially and appear too dark or patchy, and then fade fast over subsequent washes.

11. Fashion Colours Can Be Difficult to Remove

Be aware that fashion colours such as pink, blue and purple, and often bright red, do not work on oxidation (peroxide) technology to evoke a long-term result; instead, they are a ‘direct dye’ which creates a temporary stain on the hair. If the hair is bleached, these direct dye molecules can deeply stain the hair and make the shade impossible to remove.

A hair colour remover is not designed to remove direct dyes.  A stripper colour cleanse treatment can remove direct dye, but always strand test first to make sure the hair is healthy enough to withstand the treatment.

12. Clarify Your Hair to Improve Colour Results

Prior to any hair colour removal, stripping or correction, be sure to clarify the hair fully. Even if you have just conditioned the hair, there may be a barrier on the surface which will prevent removal, stripping or correction from working effectively.

If you see absolutely no hair colour change from a removal or a stripping treatment, it’s possible that your hair has silicone damage; this means the hair has been encased in a silicone which quite often has been moulded to the hair by heat.


8 thoughts on “12 Tips for Hair Dye Removal and Colour Correction

  • Hello, I would really appreciate your advice on changing my color. I decided it was a good time to let my roots grow out and recolor. I am a light copper red naturally and have been using dark red brown violet. I bought color oops and 7rc medium copper blonde. Should I buy purple shampoo to use after the remover or after the color in case its too orange. I don’t want orange hair, and don’t know what to do. Thank You

    • Hi Leann, It is certainly worth you having a purple shampoo to hand. However, you might find the exposed underlying colour isn’t that bad. If you are naturally a copper 7 and you have been colouring your hair with a red-brown, I would predict the peroxide in the developer of the colourants applied, will have lightened your natural shade a little. Therefore, someone who is naturally a 7/Copper would find their hair is like a warm sandy blonde. Therefore, using the purple shampoo (as you considered) is a good idea, as it will kick out any lingering orange tone and get you to a good shade.

      Remember, the more you use purple shampoos, the cooler your hair will become. So you might need to build the neutralisation up. Best Scott

  • Avatar

    Bridie Kelly-Doyle

    Hello Scott,
    Someone recommended your colour remover to me today,
    My hair is coloured a dark Brown, which was my colour year’s ago. Due to the pandemic my hair is growing out White/Grey 🙈, I am 57 and I’m now seriously thinking of letting my natural White/Grey shine through.
    If I use the colour remover will my hair go orange? My long term plan would be to try lighten it and to help the process of growing it out to Grey, is there anything I can do to make the transition easier with a metallic colour or something, I’m not in favor of bleach if I can avoid it at all costs, as I had a frizz ball a few years ago and I think it may have broken my hair .
    I hope you can advise me, as I don’t want to buy product s that are not right for me.

    • Hi Bridie. Since lockdown, I am now asked this question a lot, so I will write a full article on the subject of growing colour out to grey.

      In answer to your specific question, if you used Decolour Remover on your hair, you would see warmth, and I here’s why. Grey hair is formed from a mixture of white hair and naturally dark hair. Permanent colourants contain hydrogen peroxide in varying strengths, but often in a strong enough volume to lighten hair by a couple of shades. When the artificial colour molecules are deposited in the hair, you tend not to see this lightening. However, once you remove the artificial colour, that lightning can be seen, and it often looks warm. The hair looks warm because the hair’s underlying natural red and gold pigments were exposed by the lightening action of those previous permanent colourants applied. Also, when natural white hair is treated with hydrogen peroxide (as found in colourants), it decolourises this white hair to yellow.
      Therefore, when people with grey or white hair use a hair colour remover, they do not expose the grey, but instead, tend to get a blonde or warm blonde result.

      If you are not a fan of bleach and want to get the artificial colour out and transition to grey, I would recommend you use Decolour Remover.
      Do not worry about initially exposing warmth from a removal. The exposed warmth is a secondary matter on which I will advise. In the first instance, get a good amount of the brown colour removed from the hair. When exposing natural white hair, you will generally need two Decolour Remover applications one week apart. You tend to need two applications because (over time) artificial colour pigments in darker hair colourants can build up on the hair. Therefore, you will likely require two Decolour Remover treatments to get the pigment build-up out of the hair. You do the two removal treatments seven days apart because this will allow the hair chance to normalise after the first treatment making the second treatment able to work at the correct level within the hair.

      Now, onto the exposed warmth. Firstly, switch to using only a blue shampoo as your regular cleanser. You will need to use such a shampoo once you are grey/white anyway. Next, I would recommend you apply Colour Restore Lilac Grey to the hair. As you have said, using a Metallic colour will help transition you. Colour Restore Lilac Grey can only display as ‘Lilac Grey’ on white hair; if someone with warm hair uses it, the hair will take on a cool-muted tone. Therefore, it’s a perfect product for using after Decolour Remover. In addition, applying the Colour Restore Ash Spray ‘Instant Toner Spray’ as your regular leave-in conditioner Ash Spray Instant Toner Spray will add further cool tone to the hair.

      When trying to expose natural white/grey you need to be mindful that you may not be completely white or silver throughout.
      Many people are very grey around the front and believe they are this silver colour throughout. However, when they remove they discover they are not as grey as they thought they were. The key to this is how coppery your hair looks when it removes. Generally, very grey hair will tend to look a faded nicotine yellow when you remove, whereas less grey hair will look a rusty or coppery brown. Both ways can be toned, but the removal aspect has to be the indicator to what level of grey/white you have. Often, when people remove they find the hair looks as though it has been highlighted, which can be a positive to work with.

      Please let me know if you have anymore questions. Best Scott

  • Hello,
    Desperately needing your advice. My strawberry blonde/red headed daughter decided to put a supermarket permanent brown dye in her stunning hair. We are urgently trying to lighten it as it is very very dark. Normally she has a beautiful light red. I’ve bought your hair stripper but now am unsure if I need the stripper or remover.
    Thsnk you

    • Hi there. You need Decolour Remover, not Decolour Stripper. However keep hold of Decolour Stripper as it could come in useful later on. Firstly, get your daughter to do a bicarb rinse on her hair. I have written an article about this, but it will destabilise the dark colour molecules and make them more prone to fading and removal.

      Next, apply Decolour Remover onto your daughter’s hair and it should get all the dark out. However, redheads tend to suffer the most from re-oxidation (due to the sulphur content in their hair), therefore it is possible she could see some shadowing of the darker colour re-appearing. At this point you can either do a second Decolour Remover or apply Decolour Stripper. But firstly apply Decolour Remover and wait a few days to see if any re-oxidation does occur. If it does reoxidise, come back to me and I will tell you what to do next. But generally, on a lighter natural base you obtain get a full return of the original colour using Decolour Remover. Best Scott

  • Hi, I just did a strand test with the Decolour hair colour remover super strength remover. I bought two boxes as the strand colours on the box should that first it would go a ginger shade, so the second box should remove all of it. I used a natural black die about 6 months ago and I want to go back to my natural. I have 2 inches of my natural colour showing. I left the product on the strand test for 1 hour then rinsed. Nothing had happened at all, the strand was still they exact same colour as the surrounding hair.

    • Hi, it’s good you did a strand test because it sounds to me as though your hair could have a build-up of silicone or product residue that is making a barrier on the hair and preventing Decolour Remover entering and evoking change. Therefore, I would recommend you try a Bicarbonate of Soda Deep Cleanse as I describe in my article. This should remove any build-up from the hair. Next repeat your strand test and you should see removal. If you do not see any removal on the second strand test, come back to me and I will advise further. Best Scott


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