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Tips to Safely Remove Direct Dyes from Your Hair

As promised, the month of May is going to largely focus on hair related topics. Why, you ask? This May I am taking part in a fun, yet meaningful charitable event called Colour Your Hair to Conquer Cancer. This fundraiser is built on a super easy concept – dye your hair, share with your friends, collect money and spread the world. Simple, no? Especially for those of us that have a hair dye addiction, to begin with, and I know that’s a good portion of my readers!

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As someone who does all my own hair dye at home, I get a lot of questions about the different techniques I use, from how I select my colours and what brands of dye I use, to how to make the change from one bold, dramatic colour to another. A year ago, I did a comprehensive post called ‘The Science Behind Unnatural Hair Colours’ that focused on the use of the colour wheel, and how to make the shift safely from one colour to another. As it explained, bad things can happen when you just throw one colour of dye on top of another and hope for the best – unless, of course, you love muddy brownish hair colours? It’s not on the top of my list of fun things to do!

Before making a shift in colours, you first need to take the time to remove your current dye. If you believe the best option is to run to your local beauty supply store and grab everything needed to bleach out your hair STOP! Did you know that bleach can actually cause direct dyes to stain your hair? This is a super common mistake, and can leave you stuck with your current colour until such time that you physically cut it out of your hair… This doesn’t mean you can’t remove colour, but there are better and safer options to remove colour safely and effectively.

Let’s begin by addressing expectations. If you have been fading your hair out for a considerable amount of time and most of the dye is gone, you may be able to get away with one removal treatment before dying, but in most cases, this isn’t going to be an overnight fix.  Removing colour can be extremely taxing on your hair and should be done with caution if being done at home. If you are looking for a more dramatic shift, I suggest talking to a haircare professional.

There are a number of products out there designed to remove dye if you have access to a store that carries them. Remember, however, that many of these products are bleach products and can be extremely hard on your hair. Furthermore, some of these products are designed specifically for chemical dyes and therefore aren’t effective on direct dyes like Manic Panic and Arctic Fox.

Instead, I am going to share a few ‘at home’ treatments that have worked for me over the years. There are MANY more out there, so take the time to do your research and give them a try. When you find the technique that works best for you, hold onto it. Everyone’s hair is different, so what works for me may not be the best option for you and visa versa.

Vitamin C Powder

This is a method that is often brought up in the rainbow hair colour groups I belong to on Facebook. Crush up a number of vitamin C tablets mixing them with shampoo. It is believed that it is the main ingredient from the vitamin C, ascorbic acid, that actually fades and removes the colour.

Simply mix 15-25 tablets of vitamin C with ¼ – ½ cup of shampoo (the amount will be determined by how much hair you need to cover). Mixing the two ingredients together you will create a paste. If you notice it is a little too watery in texture, add more vitamin C tablets to the mix. Apply this paste to your hair carefully saturating every strand before placing a shower cap over your head and allowing it to sit for at least 1 hour.  

When the time comes to remove it, wash your hair in hot water for a minimum of 5 minutes. It’s important to take the time to thoroughly wash your hair and get everything out including both the paste and the dye it has lifted from your hair. Condition as usual. If you aren’t happy with the results, wait a few days to give your hair a break before repeating the process again.

Dandruff Shampoo and Baking Soda

This is another popular method and is the option I use most often. Dandruff shampoos have a high pH level, while baking soda is a natural bleach. When you combine the two it’s a super easy and effective way to lift even the most stubborn and difficult hair dyes (and let’s be honest, some colours are FAR harder than others to get rid of).  

I use Head and Shoulders, creating a paste out of a 1:1 ratio of baking soda and shampoo. Get your hair wet with hot water, then apply the mixture to your hair, lathering it up as you would when washing your hair. Once it is thoroughly lathered and covering every inch of your hair, leave it to sit for approximately 20 minutes. If you are looking to get stuff done during this time, I simply slip a plastic shower cap over my head and go about my daily tasks. After the time has passed, wash it out with hot water and condition well (this process is incredibly drying). This can be done daily for approximately 3-4 days before you need to give your hair a chance to recover.

Katie’s Direct Dye Fading Treatment (KFT)

This is one of the most talked about methods that I have come across in hair dye groups, although I will admit that it is one I haven’t personally tried. That being said, with all of the buzz and the number of people that I know personally who swear by it, I couldn’t avoid sharing this as an option!

This is a technique created by Katie Siepierksi, and has been shared across the internet in a number of forums, websites and Facebook groups. It is said that this is the most effective method and is generally the first method introduced anytime that someone states they are looking to remove colour regardless of the brand of direct dye that they have been using. With experience being in the salon herself, Katie used the chemistry behind the dyes in order to create a strategic scientific approach. In her original posts, she reveals that she spent approximately 8 months getting this treatment right through her own trial and error. She claims it will remove most colour in approximately 1-2 applications, although some people will require more.

To begin, apply pure, unrefined coconut oil to your hair, ensuring that you cover your whole head. Allow this oil to soak into your hair, absorbing for approximately 2 hours. After this time, mix 4 oz of clarifying shampoo, 1 oz bleach powder, 1 tsp organic olive oil and 1 tsp coconut oil. Apply this mixture to your hair on top of the coconut oil that has already absorbed into it. Work it through your hair as if you are exfoliating before applying a shower cap. Using a hair dryer on warm, apply heat to your hair for approximately 5-10 minutes.

Shampoo your hair thoroughly, washing everything out in hot water. Afterward, apply either Olaplex or a silicone free conditioner to your hair in order to provide it with the necessary moisture removed during the process. Rinse the hair with an equal mix of 1:1 regular white vinegar and water.

If you do have to do the process multiple times, as many will, wait for the natural oils to build back up in your hair before doing it once again.

What techniques do you use to remove your direct dye? Have you tried any of these options? Is there another option that I didn’t mention that you find effective?

24 thoughts on “Tips to Safely Remove Direct Dyes from Your Hair”

  1. [ Smiles ] I didn’t know that the combination of dandruff shampoo and baking soda can be used to remove dyes from one’s hair (I certainly learned something new today).

    1. There are a lot of tips and tricks for making your hair colour last – I actually did a whole post about that awhile back too. I don’t use permanent dyes so I have to work extra hard to keep it lol

  2. I don’t have the confidence to pull off vibrant colours… the brightest I’ve gone was red and it looked so bad on me…

    I’ve given up dying my hair after going blonde (at the hairdressers) and came out looking ridiculous with florescent yellow hair… NEVER AGAIN!!!

    Your hair is amazing though and I love seeing what colour you decide to go next, its interesting to see there are ways to get rid of the colour you have on, I thought you just had to dye over it or let it grow out!!!

    1. I’m sure there are amazing colours out there for you too, it can just be hard to find the right one sometimes. Sorry you had such a bad experience with the hairdresser, that never should have happened!

  3. Awesome tips. I am considering a color change. Been rocking blonde on vibrant purple for years. The stuff I use stays in for a long time. So if I wanna switch up I usually have to wait until it fades. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this! I’ve been looking for home remedies to do this myself but haven’t felt comfortable doing it. My friend and I will be trying some of these on Monday in preparation for my purple hair!

  5. Reading this even in 2023 and its STILL a life saver. Massive shout out to Britt for making the world a safer, happier, healthier place!

    1. I’m glad it is helpful for you! I have seen far too many people fry their hair in an attempt to remove dye… so, I hope this can help prevent that.

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