How to Remove Red Hair Dye
If you've dyed your hair red and don't like the color, you don't have to put up with it. Contrary to popular belief that red is the most difficult color to remove, it can actually be a relatively easy and quick process. You can remove red hair dye and return to a less fiery color with less hassle than you've been led to believe.
Choosing a new color
Before you even begin to remove red hair dye from your hair, you need to have a new hair color in mind. This is because the process is slightly different depending on which hair color you'd like to achieve. The new shade will fall into one of these three categories:
- Lighter hair color
- Darker hair color
- Same level
In the case of a lighter hair color, you can't just dye over the color in order to remove the red hair dye and lighten your hair. The lightening needs to be performed as a separate step prior to dyeing with the new shade. To achieve a darker hair color however, requires nothing more than the application of a new dye, but the shade chosen needs to be based on correcting the red tone as it darkens to the new color.
What if you don't want to go lighter or darker though? As luck would have it, if you don't want to go lighter or darker and just want to remove the red tone from your hair, this is also achievable. Once you've decided on the color result you'd like to achieve, you can proceed to eliminating the red and transforming the look of your hair.
Achieving a lighter hair color
If you have red hair and you want to go lighter whilst also eliminating the red, you can't simply apply a new shade of hair dye over the red and hope it will work. Hair that has been dyed can't be lightened with more hair dye, and the hair dye itself won't neutralize the red tone if it's the wrong shade.
The first step towards dyeing red hair lighter is to apply hair dye remover to strip out as much as the artificial color as possible. Hair dye remover breaks the artificial color molecules down into a form that can be washed out of the hair, rinsing out permanent hair color. It can't always remove all of the hair dye, but it will save you hassle down the track by removing as much color as possible without damage and making it easier to lighten it further with other methods later on.
Recommended hair dye remover
Bleaching your hair
Following the use of hair dye remover, you will notice that the product itself takes out a lot of the red tone and lightens your hair a little. It won't usually be enough to eliminate the red hair dye entirely; nor will it be able to lighten your hair to a much lighter shade like a light blonde though. If your hair is still too dark for your desired color, the next step is to use bleach to lighten it further.
When applying the bleach, you can leave the product for up to an hour whilst it works. A single bleach process on dyed hair will lift around 3 levels, which is enough to take dark brown to dark blonde, or light brown to light blonde. If you want to lighten your hair more than that, you will need to either bleach it twice or choose a color that requires less lightening to achieve.
You also should only bleach your hair if your hair is in good condition and hasn't been damaged by other chemicals like perms or excessive dyeing. If your hair is damaged, you shouldn't be attempting to go lighter. It's not impossible, and it won't ruin your hair in most cases, but it certainly won't do it any favors in terms of how it looks and feels.
- How to Bleach Hair
If you need more information about using bleach on your hair, this article will help you apply bleach safely and effectively.
The last step between your old red hair color and your new color is to apply a new hair dye to your hair. You absolutely must use an ash shade here. If you don't use an ash shade, the red will not be corrected and will persist in your final color because it is the green tone in the ash dye that will eliminate the red tone from your hair.
The shade you use should also be at least one level lighter than your current level to avoid over-toning as hair that has been through color removal tends to be porous and will absorb more dye than expected. You are using the dye to tone out the red and achieve a neural color, not to actually dye your hair an ash shade. If you use the exact level, your hair can end up gray to greenish instead of natural.
To apply the dye, section out your hair and apply as with any other hair dye. Working quickly is of the utmost importance here in order to achieve an even result. Following application, this process needs to be watched constantly because toning can be quick. You'll get the best results if you rinse it once the red tone is neutralized and you like how it looks.
If you're aiming for a golden or beige shade, this will mean it is washed out sooner, whilst it will have to be left in longer to achieve a natural or ash shade. You don't have to leave it in for the full development time; simply remove the dye when the red is eliminated and you have a color you're happy with.
- How to Dye Your Hair
Need more help to apply and use hair dyes? Find out how to section out your hair, apply dyes, and choose colors...
Achieving a darker hair color
If you'd like to get rid of red hair and the new hair color you want is darker than your current color, this is the easiest way to eliminate red hair. In this process, all you will need to do is apply a darker color. It's the choice of shade that will get rid of red hair dye by neutralizing it.
There is one rule to follow when applying this darker color, and that rule is that you need to use a hair dye with cool tones to counteract the red in your hair. If you don't do this, the red will persist in your new color and make it appear warmer than you intended. The darker the dye is, the better it will cover, but that red tone will never completely be removed.
If you can live with a little warmth in your new color as opposed to your previous red color, this won't matter and you can simply use the exact shade you want, or at least a shade that is slightly cooler. If you don't want even a hint of red left in your golden brown, it's best to mix your color with a cooler shade.
To do this, all you need to do is mix your desired shade with the corresponding ash shade. Iif you wanted to go from a light red blonde to a medium natural brown, you wouldn't use the medium natural brown shade by itself as the excess red in your hair will result in your color looking warmer than intended. Mix 1/4 medium ash brown into the shade and you will prevent this from happening.
In most cases, mixing your desired shade with 1/4 of the same ash shade will be enough to take away any excess red. The darker you are transitioning from your starting color, the less you will need to add. If your new color is only slightly darker than you started, you will need to add more ash to counteract the red.
Tone-on-tone dyeing for a same-level result
If you don't want to go lighter or darker and just want to remove red hair dye from your hair, you might think this is impossible. The popular conception is that red hair can only be removed by bleaching your hair extensively or covering over it with a dark color.
All hair color tones follow the same rules that color theory is based around. Tones opposite to each other on the ubiquitous color wheel neutralize each other, and you can see this process at work in the toning of blonde hair with violet shampoo. The violet tone counteracts a gold tone in blonde hair because the colors themselves, when combined, form a neutral shade.
The red tone is subject this rule of toning too, and by looking at a color wheel you can see that the color directly opposite to red is green. In order to remove red hair dye, you need to add green tone to your hair to correct the red tone. You can do this by using green-based ash hair dye.
Toning dark red hair
Hair color is based around a level system where the first number used to identify the dye allows you to decipher how dark the shade is. These levels range from a level one, which is black, to a level 10, which is the lightest blonde. Red hair fits into one of these levels depending on how dark it is.
If your hair is a bright red color for example, it may be a level 7 in the system, characterizing it as a medium red blonde. For all intents and purposes, this color isn't blonde as most people would understand it. What makes it a medium blonde color is how dark the actual shade is. In this sense, even though it looks like a cherry red color, it sits on one of the blonde levels. If you were to neutralize the red tone in your hair to a natural tone, you would actually be left with a blonde color.
The process of toning red out of your hair is easiest when your hair is in the brown range of levels. Shades from a level 5 to a level 3 correspond to light brown through to dark brown, and the ash dyes available in this level range all contain green pigment which will counteract the red in your hair. All that is required in this case is to apply an ash dye one shade lighter than your current level to neutralize the red tone and take you back to a natural brown.
Wella Koleston 8/2 Light Matte Blonde dye can be used to eliminate the red from red hair that is a level 7, toning it to a natural medium blonde.
Toning bright red hair
If your hair is a brighter red color in the blonde range of levels, you'll find that ash dyes in this level range no longer contain green pigment. Once you reach the blonde range, ash dyes have switched to a blue primary tone, and then to a violet-blue tone as you get lighter towards level 10 lightest blonde .
Some brands, like Wella Koleston, produce a separate ash blonde line containing green tone, which is actually designed to neutralize red tones in blonde hair when lightening natural hair or performing a color correcton on dyed hair. These dyes shouldn't be used on most blonde hair, but for eliminating red and toning your hair back to a natural blonde color, they are perfect.
If you don't know what dyes to look for to tone out the red from your hair, you can use the table below. To use this table, match your bright red hair to the red color on the left and then choose one of the hair dyes listed that can be used to tone the red out of your hair. For the best results, use a shade that is one level lighter than your current level to avoid over-toning your hair. These ash dyes are intense in pigment and you don't need to use the same level as your hair to tone with them.
Choosing a toner
Iso I.Color dye
6 Dark red blonde
7ag Medium blonde
7/2 Medium blonde
7AA Medium blonde
7 Medium red blonde
8ag Light blonde
8/2 Light blonde
8AA Light blonde
8 Light red blonde
9ag Very light blonde
9/2 Very light blonde
9AA Very light blonde
Once you've eliminated your red hair, it's important to look after your color. All hair dyes fade, including permanent colors, and your new color will look best when it's properly maintained. If at any point your color fades substantially over time, you can use color refresher shampoos to return it to a more vibrant appearance. By looking after your hair and caring for your color, you will guarantee that your hair looks great now and well into the future.
Do you have a question about removing red hair dye? Need help to eliminate the red from your hair? 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.