Does Color Remover Damage Hair? + 10 Facts You Need To Know

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When escaping a horrifying hair color nightmare, the first option we run to is the internet. 

Aside from hair bleach, one more product will emerge on top of your searches: hair color removers. 

Back of woman wearing gray dress while touching her hair isolated in a gray background

And as inviting as this may sound, these products come with specific techniques and different precautions you must follow. 

For now, let’s go through the different facts about hair color removers and answer that one question that’s bugging your right now: “Does color remover damage hair?”

The Wonders of Hair Dyes

Before we hit reset, let us talk about the root of it all: hair dyes.

In order for us to do a breakdown of things we need to understand about hair color removers and what they exactly do, we must first know the different aspects of hair and hair colors. 

The hair strand is comprised of three layers: the cuticle, cortex, and medulla. And the most common hair dye types are permanent, semi-permanent, demi-permanent, and temporary.

The cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair, made of fish-scale-like overlapping cells that protect the hair shaft. This part is where you’ll find temporary dyes sitting. The color pigments mainly coat each cuticle and stay there until you wash them away.

The same goes for semi-permanent dyes. It has larger dye molecules that only sit on the hair’s surface but uses a more potent formula than temporary ones. This allows the color to be retained longer. 

Deeper into the strand is where you’ll see the cortex. It’s the thickest part of the hair and is responsible for its texture, strength, color, and shape. It also protects the innermost layer that contains moisture, which is the medulla

Permanent hair dyes tend to penetrate the hair cuticles and seep into the cortex, where the artificial pigment molecules will disperse and be sealed. Yes, it interferes with the original structure of the hair to change the color for a more extended period.

Demi-permanent dyes, on the other hand, do both. Its formula resembles permanent dyes, but it’s a bit gentler. Because of this, only a percentage of it enters the cortex, and the rest only coats the surface.

When Does The Situation Call For Hair Color Removers?

Now that you know the extent of changes your hair goes through during hair coloring, we can now start to understand why there’s a need for a color removal treatment.

 Hair color removers are the ones to reach out for if:

  • your hair color didn’t turn out the way you planned it or
  • you’re preparing your hair for a color shift

How color removers work resembles your typical hair dyes. It goes through the hair shaft and targets the artificial pigments on your hair without touching your natural color. 

If you’re wondering what makes color removers different from bleach, check out this article

How to Use Color Removers

1. Check your current hair condition.

A hairstylist is checking a woman's hair condition

Dyeing your hair can be traumatizing to your bonds, so before reaching for a hair color remover, you have to check if your hair’s current condition can withstand another chemical treatment. 

Color removers can extract all the remaining moisture from your hair. So if your hair seems vulnerable and way too damaged, don’t compromise its health, and don’t rush the color removal process.

2. Read the instructions.

Color removers may all have the same goal, but they are all formulated differently. 

Read the instructions or manuals to ensure you get the most benefits and the least undesirable effects out of your chosen product.

This procedure requires accuracy and precision, so do as the packaging says. Even if some steps sound “okay” for you to skip, they can have a powerful impact on the overall process. 

3. Protect your skin and your surroundings.

Ironically, hair color removers may leave stains.

Most color removers already have all the paraphernalia needed for the application, just like your typical hair dye. If you want an easy and mess-free application, always use them accordingly and add additional protection, such as gloves and a cape. 

If having the mixture touch your skin feels icky, you can add protective oils to prevent stainings, such as baby oil, coconut oil, or petroleum jelly. You can also try stain-removing lotions or wipes made explicitly for hair dyes!

Another way of protecting the skin is by doing a patch test. Apply a small amount of the remover onto your skin, and see if you have irritation or reactions.

4. Apply the color remover.

Just like every hair product, dealing with hair color removers isn’t as complicated as it seems because they all come with a manual.

Before proceeding with the application, mix the necessary solutions as indicated. But you need to work fast. The mixture won’t last long once it has been mixed and activated. 

The application process is just like usual, and you may use whatever you’re comfortable with. Whether using a brush or your gloved hands, what matters is the even application. 

Combing your hair with a wide-toothed comb throughout the application also helps!

5. Cover your hair with plastic or a shower cap and leave it on.

After even application, you can cover your hair with a shower cap to keep the procedure neat. Some brands recommend using subtle heat to accelerate the process, but you can naturally induce heat by wrapping your hair with plastic wrap or a towel. 

Follow the processing time indicated in your product’s manual. You would want to avoid leaving it on longer than the prescribed time. 

6. Rinse it well.

This is where it gets crucial.

We’re fully aware that the cuticles were lifted during the removal process, and you’d like to keep them that way as you rinse. 

Wash every color particle away with a lengthy, warm cleanse along with your trusty shampoo.

Not having it rinsed adequately can make the remaining color particles reoxidize and expand again, causing the hair to darken. 

The lingering chemical smell is a normal occurrence after a color removal process. But if you’re not fond of it, you can always do extra rinsing. 

7. Condition your hair.

A light brown haired woman using a brush to deep condition her hair isolated on a white background

After successfully removing the dye, your hair must be all beaten up from the processing and rinsing. It’s time to give it a treat and extra love through deep conditioning

Renew the life and the health of your hair by lathering a generous amount of conditioner and letting it get through every strand.  

What Else You Need to Know About Color Removers

Color removers aren’t just for permanent hair dyes. 

If we’ll hit rewind, there was a time when hair strippers were only made for permanent hair dyes. But not anymore.

Check the labels of what you’re getting. Some brands cater to different types of dye, like permanent or semi-permanent. Some are even created to remove dye stains on the skin and clothes. 

Hair color removers aren’t necessarily made to bring back your natural hair color. 

Hair color removers mainly do color correction, and getting the hair back to its original color rarely happens. 

When you’ve had your very first dye session, you must know by now that the oxidation from this process and the different products used can induce permanent changes to your natural color. 

Peroxide-based hair dyes are likely to lighten your natural hair color before the shade you chose covers the entirety of your hair. 

Whether you’re going for darker or lighter colors, constant reapplication can interfere with your natural hair color for good and constitute irreversible effects.

Even if you frequently dye your hair and build up on darker shades, even the best hair color remover won’t get your hair back to its original color. Instead, it can only strip this color into shades ranging from light browns to orange or yellow. 

You can’t strip bleached hair.

You might be wondering whether hair dye removers work on bleached hair…

The answer is no if you mean reversing the lightening effect from bleached hair. 

Bleaching lifts your bonds and strips the pigment of your natural hair, so hair color removers don’t have anything to remove to begin with. Note that color removers only strip hair of dyes.

Another thing is that color removers are usually made to remove darker tones and drain them from your hair.

Therefore, if you already have lightened hair, hair color removers won’t have anything to remove. 

Once won’t always be enough.

Stacking hair colors on top of each other can be hard for those who like mixing up their style. 

Previously applied hair color doesn’t get removed through miracles and prayers; sometimes, it needs repeated removal or lightening attempts.

When not done correctly, this can change the color and texture of your hair over time and lead to a horrendous nightmare called color buildup. This will interfere with your color each time, making it harder to achieve lighter shades. 

This can leave your hair looking dull, flat, and heavy and block the effect of new colors. 

To fight color buildup, patiently and subsequently use hair color removers.

If you’ve had a decent amount of dye sessions, your hair has probably accumulated hard and thick pigment deposits that would require several color removal sessions. Another thing to consider is the amount of color you have and how long you’ve had it.

The application’s frequency entirely depends on your hair’s condition before color removal. You should know that black and red pigments are harder to remove because they have large color molecules.

You can do hair color removal up to 3 times per day. But to be a little gentle, do it at least twice a day, then let your hair rest for 24 hours before deciding if you’ll redo it. 

Brassy tones are inevitable if your hair already underwent lifting from peroxide.

Aside from the pesky yellow tone that keeps reappearing, orange is one of the most frustrating colors you’ll end up with when using color removers. This is because of the peroxide in your bleach or permanent dyes. 

But don’t panic! This means your hair color remover is working!

Warm molecules are seen in the forms of brassy yellow or orange hair, and these are the last natural color molecules to be lifted from the hair.

Suppose you’re left with these tones. If you started with darker shades when you applied your color remover, then congratulations! You’re almost done with your hair color removal. 

This warm residue can now be easily neutralized using toners or toning shampoo. 

“The longer you leave it on, the more colors get removed.”

We hate to break it to you, but it doesn’t work that way.

Hair color removers work through precise science, so do what your manual says; leaving it on longer than the recommended time will only put you into more trouble.

Color remover isn’t the same as hair bleach, so no matter how long you let it stay, it will only do what it’s supposed to: remove darker hues but not lighten the hair. 

Plus, it also has a higher chance of damaging and drying your hair the longer you leave it on because of the chemical ingredients in it.

Why did my hair get darker?

A black haired woman looking at her hair in a light colored background

Rinsing your hair incorrectly can reoxidize the previously applied dye. This happens, for example, if you rinse your hair with cold water, which closes your hair’s cuticles and traps the leftover pigments.

So instead of diluting and washing all the artificial color pigments away, they reemerge like brassy tones and darken, resulting in the return of what’s supposed to be gone. 

There’s going to be a distinct smell.

The ingredients that most contribute to a color remover’s smell are usually the ingredients that get most of the job done. 

Color removers, especially those that target permanent dye and other heavy-duty colors, use sulfur to dissolve the color in your hair, so don’t be surprised when you come across products with a strong chemical smell.

So it’s ideal to do this procedure in a well-ventilated space. And don’t worry; the smell will leave after a few washes.

Can I bleach my hair after using hair color removers?

Color removers can’t lift your hair color and lighten it, but bleaching after using hair color removers is risky.

We’ve repeatedly mentioned that hair color removers are drying, and doing another bleaching session after it is just dreadful.

If you aren’t satisfied with the color you ended up with, try using hair toners or leave it to the experts. Or wait a week before bleaching to prevent severe damage and breakage. 

Quick Tip

Before bleaching your hair again, do a strand test first to make sure your hair will be able to handle it.

Rest your hair after color removal before you dye again.

Your color remover’s box might say something about having a gentle formula that allows you to recolor your hair straight after the color removal process. But don’t torture your hair that much!

Post-coloring, your hair may become very porous and dry, so adding another set of colors can accentuate this condition. And since your cuticles are so open, the color molecules could easily flow and cling to the insides resulting in darker shade.  

We get it; sometimes you can’t hold the excitement, and you want to dive into the recoloring process.

Even if the box says the formula is gentle, it’s recommended to let your hair rest for a couple of days, or at least 48 hours, before trying to recolor it. 

Also, use a dye at least two shades lighter than your desired color because by this time your hair will absorb pigments strongly due to its open cuticles.

So Does Color Remover Damage Hair?

Now that you’ve read everything there is to know about hair color removers, we bet you’re starting to contemplate. 

So does color remover damage hair?

The answer is yes and no.

Unlike other hair-stripping products, hair color removers are formulated without two of the harshest chemicals you can ever get into your hair: bleach and ammonia. So it won’t be as drying and as damaging.

But this is still on a case-to-case basis.

How damaged your hair gets depends on your hair condition prior to color removal and how you used the remover. If your hair is already too vulnerable and damaged, we suggest you refrain from using color removers and seek professional help instead.

This hair product isn’t intended for regular use as draining the color out of your hair can be drying and can banish all the natural moisture from your scalp. 

You can try out Color Oops for a bleach-free yet reliable dye remover, and for a permanent hair color remover with bleach, there’s Loreal Effasol

If you’re hoping for a damage-free journey with hair color removers, follow your product’s instructions and deep-condition your hair afterward.

Also, avoid using heat on your hair after color removal as much as possible.

Fade Your Troubles Away

At some point in our lives, we’ll experience a hair color nightmare. And that’s normal!

Nowadays, it’s easier to resolve this problem thanks to hair color removers. But it doesn’t mean the path to color-corrected hair will be smooth sailing.

The process will require excellent hair assessment through product research and intense aftercare.

Hair color removers may be easy to use, convenient, and reliable, but to ensure safety, always do your research or seek professional advice. 

Love hair dyeing? 

Read other articles about hair dyes here:


  • Stephanie Martin

    Stephanie Martin blends her beauty industry background with expertise in communications to lead in the fashion and beauty world. As a fashion and beauty editor, she is known for engaging and informative articles. Her lifelong passion for fashion, makeup, and hair shines through her work, earning her widespread respect among readers and clients. Stephanie's style, a mix of classic and contemporary, makes her a dynamic and influential figure in the industry, inspiring others with her knowledgeable and approachable insights.

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  • Jessica Hoelscher

    With thirteen years in cosmetology, Jessica Hoelscher is a seasoned stylist recognized for her modern techniques. A graduate of Paul Mitchell the School in St. Louis, her expertise has been showcased on Fox Two News and in People Magazine. Self-employed at Salon Lofts, her work has graced TV screens, styling for renowned events and Ole Miss cheerleaders.

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