How to Remove Black Hair Dye
Black hair dye is one of the most difficult dyes to remove from your hair. Depending on how much lighter you wish to go, it can take several different steps to reach your desired color. However, it is possible to remove black hair dye without causing unnecessary damage. You can strip out the black hair color and reach anything from a brown to blonde color with time and care.
Different Methods to Remove Black Hair Dye
- Clarifying shampoo
- Hair dye remover
- Bleach wash
- Full head bleach
How to Approach Removing Dark Hair Dye
Dark hair dyes are more difficult to remove than lighter dyes, especially in the case of black color which is richly pigmented. In order to remove black hair dye without causing too much damage and wrecking your hair, you need to be systematic and take an approach that is slow, steady, and preferably the least damaging method of hair dye removal that works.
As such, the process begins with the use of more benign methods before moving onto the stronger treatments like bleach. The most common methods used include:
- Clarifying shampoo and anti-dandruff shampoos
- Hair dye remover
- Bleach wash
- Full head bleach
These methods of removing dark hair dye are listed in order of how much skill they require to use and the damage they can potentially cause to your hair. This is also the appropriate order that you should follow when you are removing dark hair dye from your hair at home, exhausting the effectiveness one option before moving onto the next.
Shampooing your hair or using dye remover causes no damage, although it may dry your hair, whereas bleach washes or a full bleach will damage your hair and needs to be used with some caution. I'd recommend not jumping straight to these options first unless you're faced with time constraints and understand the risk involved to your hair's condition.
Clarifying shampoo should always be the first step you take in your pursuit to remove black hair dye. Not only is shampooing your hair not at all damaging, but it can really help to remove the buildup of dye that occurs when you apply a dark color like black to your hair. This gives you a head start because the more color you can remove without resorting to bleach, the better condition your hair will be in at the end.
You simply need to replace your regular shampoo with an effective clarifying shampoo and use it a few times every time you shampoo your hair for the first few weeks before you turn to more drastic measures. If you're in a rush and need to remove black hair dye quickly, you can wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo several times in one day, but you will need to follow up with a good deep conditioner or conditioning treatment to relieve the dryness that occurs.
Look for shampoos that are marketed towards oily hair or product buildup. Clarifying shampoo won't always say what it is on the bottle, but the products used for conditions like oily hair are much stronger shampoos designed to cut through oil and excess hair products. These are almost always clarifying shampoos sold under a more targeted name.
The best way to remove dark hair dye with a clarifying shampoo is to use the shampoo a few times every week until your color begins to fade, before moving onto the next step. However, if you do choose to take a quicker route in removing black hair dye, make sure you always follow up with a good conditioning product to prevent your hair from becoming dry and brittle. After using the clarifying shampoo, you should give your hair a break before you use another method to further remove the black hair dye so that moisture can build back up.
Hair Dye Remover
Hair dye remover is the holy grail of color removal because it reverses the actual process that takes place in your hair when you use a permanent hair dye. It is the oxidation of the hair dye that makes it permanent and traps it in your hair. Hair dye remover breaks the color molecules back down into their previous form so that they can simply be washed out of the hair without causing any damage.
The only drawback to hair dye remover is that the product can have a slight drying effect on your hair like a clarifying shampoo. Dye remover doesn't cause damage however, and you can use it a few times before resorting to bleach in order to cut down on damage. You may not even have to use bleach at all if you're lucky. Any dryness experienced after use can be relieved with a deep conditioner or conditioning treatment similar to what you would have done for the clarifying shampoo step.
How to use the Product
Hair dye remover consists of two separate solutions that need to be mixed first in order to start the chemical reaction that will break the permanent hair dye molecules back down. Mix only as much as you need, and don't mix the products until you're ready to apply the hair dye remover. Otherwise, you will waste any leftover product as it can't be kept and reused later.
Apply the dye remover either by brush or by hand, as quickly as possible to ensure evenness, and leave it in your hair for 20-25 minutes unless the brand you're using has a specific time-frame recommended. The hair dye remover will usually work quickly, and if you were a fairly light color before you dyed your hair black, you may notice your hair lightening rapidly before your eyes.
Even if the color change isn't as dramatic, whether due to excessive buildup or other circumstances, the hair dye remover is still breaking down much of the artificial color in your hair. This will make it easier for bleach to remove the remaining color if you still need to go lighter later on, reducing the total potential damage to your hair.
Rinsing and Aftercare
After you rinse the product out, shampoo your hair at least two times to ensure you remove all the dye molecules that have been broken down. You need to shampoo your hair as thoroughly as possible or else any dye left in your hair will oxidize again, potentially leading to some darkening in the hours that follow.
After you've shampooed, use a good deep conditioner or conditioning treatment to relieve any dryness and give your hair a rest for a week before you move on to bleach if necessary.
Using a Bleach Wash to Remove Hair Dye
A bleach wash, or bleach bath, is a gentler way to bleach your hair than a full head bleach because the product is diluted when applied to your hair. You can't use a bleach wash to lighten your hair significantly, but you can use it to lighten your hair slightly and remove any dark hair dye buildup that's left after you've used clarifying shampoo and hair dye remover already.
How to Prepare and use the Product
Making a bleach wash is fairly simple and there's less risk of unevenness or irritation compared to a regular treatment.
- Mix the bleach powder and developer in equal amounts. The quantity required depends on the length of your hair, but you will only need about half what you would for a regular application. Developer commonly comes in strengths called volumes from 10 vol up to 40 vol, with a higher volume producing more lightening at the risk of increased irritation. Don't use higher than 20 vol for a bleach wash, it's meant to be gentler on the hair.
- Add shampoo to the mix. You'll need to add roughly the same amount as the first two ingredients so that shampoo forms one third of the total product. Try to use shampoo for normal or oily hair rather than moisturizing products. Avoid any urge to add conditioner, it's oil based and acidic so it impairs the penetration and lightening of the bleach wash.
- Wet your hair and apply the mix with a brush, working quickly. You can work in quadrants or be more haphazard, the fact that your hair is wet makes it simple to spread the product through all hair afterwards so focus mostly on speed rather than precision.
- Massage it through your hair thoroughly from near the roots outwards. Don't massage it into your scalp like you would if you were washing your hair with shampoo though, this will increase irritation.
- The product can be left on for as long as the manufacturer recommends, but for a bleach wash this is more of a maximum possible time-frame and a shorter duration of 10–20 minutes is recommended. Repeat successive treatments after giving the hair a few days to recover, as the condition allows.
A bleach wash is fairly forgiving and you can add more shampoo to dilute the bleach further, or simply use a lighter volume of developer if your hair or scalp are sensitive.
As you are applying it to wet hair, the water in your hair dilutes the bleach down quite a lot. This means that not only is the product weaker than standard bleach, but that the developer used is more similar to a lower volume in terms of irritation and lightening. Use the lowest strength that will be effective on your hair, especially for situations with lots of hair dye buildup that will require multiple washes.
For a more detailed account on how to do a bleach bath, check out this article.
When Should you use a Wash VS a Regular Application?
If you need to lighten your hair a lot to reach your desired shade, you should generally use a full bleach rather than a bleach wash. You should also use the regular application first before a wash if you anticipate you'll need it at all. This will make it easier to judge the condition of your hair and allows you to more readily stop going any further with the process before breakage begins to occur.
If you've successfully removed a lot of pigment with mild treatments like shampoo and dye remover and only need to remove a little more of the black hair dye to reach the shade you want, a bleach wash will be better since it will leave your hair in better condition.
Fragile hair will also benefit from multiple mild bleach washes over time rather than a full application. Use your best judgement, you likely know your own hair pretty well.
How to Use Hair Bleach to Remove Hair Dye
Removing dark hair dye with bleach should only be attempted after you have already used a clarifying shampoo and hair dye remover. Unlike these methods of hair dye removal, bleach is damaging to your hair, and you want to remove as much dye as possible before you decide to use this method. The more color you can remove before bleaching, the less dye left for the bleach to lighten and the less damage and time it will take to finally reach your desired shade.
If you only need to lighten your hair a little more to reach your desired shade, a bleach wash will be a better way to remove the last traces of color. If you need to lighten your hair more than one shade, like up to four shades, a full bleach is the best and most reliable option. However, you should only apply bleach to your hair if it is in good condition. Hair that is naturally fragile or has been bleached previously in the past or dyed extensively shouldn't generally be bleached.
How to use Bleach
- To prepare your bleach, mix bleach powder and developer in a 1:2 ratio in a tinting bowl. The ratio may vary with brand.
- Your hair needs to be properly sectioned out to make the application quick and even. You can do this by parting it down the middle from your forehead to neck and then parting it again from ear to ear into four quadrants.
- When applying bleach, you will take thin layers of hair from the top of a section, moving towards the bottom, and then proceed to the next section and continue until your hair is completely covered.
- After you apply your bleach, you will need to check the product every 10 minutes for up to an hour while it processes. The maximum time you can leave the product in also varies by brand so be aware of that. If it reaches your desired lightness in less time, rinse it out at that point. Even if it hasn't become as light as you want by the maximum recommended duration, remove the bleach. By this time, the bleach is mostly exhausted anyway and any further lightening will be minimal.
For a more detailed account on how to bleach hair, check out this article.
The volume of developer to use with your bleach can be anything from 10-30. You should use the least concentrated developer that will give you the necessary results. As a general rule, 10 will lighten one level, 20 will lighten two levels, and 30 will lighten there to four levels.
It's also important to note that some brands of bleach powder contain boosters and should not be used with more than 20 vol. Read the product directions to confirm this prior to use for your own safety.
Up to 1 level
3 - 4 levels
A number of alternative methods can also be used to remove hair color with mild and varying efficacy. As this article pertains particularly to black hair dye, which is intensely pigment, these options are either too weak to place much consideration into, or a better similar option already exists. Nevertheless I'll list them here:
- Baking soda
- Dish soap
- Vitamin C
How to use Baking Soda to Remove Hair Dye
Baking soda is a natural product used for many things from cleaning to baking, as per the name. In some cases, it can help with your efforts to remove color from your hair. This is possible because baking soda is alkaline so it forces the hair cuticles open, allowing more pigment to be rinsed out during shampooing. It enhances the action of shampoo rather than acting on its own.
- Mix baking soda with a small amount of shampoo to form a runny paste. If the paste is too thick, you can add a little water to thin it out.
- Lather the mix into wet hair and let it sit for a few minutes so that the alkaline environment is produced.
- Rinse the product out thoroughly and follow up with a good conditioner to seal the hair again. You may prefer to add a little white vinegar to your conditioner to enhance this as open cuticles cause the hair to feel rough, frizz easily, and not handle humidity. Vinegar is acidic and will neutralize any leftover baking soda but won't smell or linger after drying.
How to Remove Hair dye With Dish Soap
Dish soap is pretty good at cleaning and it has a similar effect if used on hair. As it doesn't typically contain any kind of moisturizing ingredients or the like, it will dry your hair more than any shampoo.
If you want to try it on your hair, you can use it in place of shampoo, but I'd personally recommend just sticking with the real thing because it does a good enough job on its own already without drying your hair to the point of brittleness.
This one is actually less crazy than it sounds. Vitamin C acts as a reducing agent, which happens to be how dye remover works so it acts like a very mild version of this. As the remover performs the same function with incredibly higher efficacy, there's no real reason to use this, though I personally agree with the premise of how it works.
Toning Your Hair
After you have removed your black hair dye, regardless of what method you used, you will likely need to tone your hair to reach the final color that you want. When you lighten your hair, warm tones are revealed. This will occur with the use of hair dye remover and bleach. To neutralize these and reach a natural color, you will need to tone these warm tones out with another hair dye.
To decide which hair dye you use, find the exact shade you want and use an ash tone in this color. For example, if you want a light brown color, you would use a light ash brown. The ash tones won't dye your hair light ash brown, they cancel out the warm tones leftover from the dye removal process. This will allow you to reach a more neutral color.
If you want a warmer color, you can simply rinse the ash dye out sooner in the development process rather than waiting for the neutral color. If you want an actual ash color, use an intense ash dye rather than a regular ash dye and leave this in for the full development time. It is perfectly fine to wash the color out at any point when you reach a tone you like.
Note: Depending on your hair porosity you may want to consider using a shade lighter than your intended shade, especially if your hair has been subjected to a lot of bleaching as it will likely absorb a lot of pigment and could turn out darker than expected.
As with any hair dye removal, it is important to take your time and care for your hair while you remove the dye. Rushing into the process without taking all the proper steps and limiting the need for bleach is detrimental to the condition of your hair. If you remove hair color correctly, you'll have healthier, more beautiful hair for a long time to come.
Do you have a question about removing black hair dye or an experience to share? Leave a comment for tailored advice and share your insight with other readers.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Maffew James