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Stripping permanent hair color that you don’t like at home can be tricky. But you can buy commercial hair strippers or try homemade solutions to help the color fade enough so that you can re-dye it.

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Sannyslene Sousa / EyeEm / Getty Images

A 2014 study showed that about 75 percent of American women and an increasing number of men have colored their hair. Inevitably, there have been a few hair dye mishaps along the way.

If your newest hair color didn’t work out as planned, or if you’re just ready for a change, you may be wondering if it’s possible to get back your natural color.

Unless you’re using a nonpermanent dye, the short answer is probably not. But there are commercially available hair strippers and home remedies you can use to fade the dye so that it can be re-dyed.

Keep reading to learn how to strip unwanted hair color safely at home and at a salon.

Your strands of hair are made up of three layers:

  • Medulla. The soft innermost core of your hair. It isn’t found in all hairs.
  • Cortex. The thickest part of your hair, responsible for giving your hair its texture and strength.
  • Cuticle. The outermost layer made of overlapping cells that resemble fish scales. The cuticle protects the inner cortex and medulla.

Your hair color is determined by the amount and type of melanin found in the cortex of your hair, according to a 2013 research review. Melanin is the same protein that gives your skin its tone.

You can change the color of your hair in two ways.

  1. You can remove melanin by bleaching your hair.
  2. You can use a hair dye to add artificial pigment to your hair.

Hair dyes can be:

  • temporary
  • permanent
  • semi-permanent

Temporary hair dyes weakly bind to your outer cuticle and can be washed out in a single shampoo, according to the same research review above.

Permanent hair dyes penetrate your outer cuticle and mix with your natural color in your cortex.

Semi-permanent dyes enter your cortex but don’t chemically mix with your natural pigment so they fade after a number of washes.

Stripping vs. bleaching

Stripping and bleaching are two chemical processes that lighten the color of your hair.

Bleaching uses alkaline chemicals like hydrogen peroxide or ammonia to break down the melanin in the cortex of your hair. Without melanin, your hair appears whitish-yellow.

Stripping is the process of breaking apart the bonds between hair dye and the melanin that gives you your natural color. Stripping doesn’t lighten your natural hair color, only the hair dye.

If you bleached your hair before dying your hair, you won’t be able to regain your natural hair color.

Many permanent hair dyes contain bleaching agents to lighten your hair at the same time as your hair is being dyed.

The safest way to avoid damaging your hair or having a coloring mishap is to have your hair stripped by a professional.

If you plan on doing it at home, you can use one of many available commercial hair strippers to lighten the dye.

A number of home remedies may help you fade the color but aren’t likely to lighten it more than a shade or two.

Sulfur-based hair strippers

Sulfur-based hair strippers work by opening your hair’s cuticle and breaking down the molecules of dye attached to your cortex so that it can be washed away.

These products target hair dye without changing your natural hair color. They may be useful for lightening your hair or preparing your hair to be re-dyed.

However, if you’ve already bleached your hair before dying, it won’t be possible to regain your natural color.

Where to buy

You can find hair stripping products:

  • online
  • in many pharmacies
  • in other stores that sell hair products

Shop for hair strippers online.

Clarifying shampoo

Clarifying shampoos are designed to deep-clean your hair and remove product build-ups. They don’t have a dramatic effect on removing permanent hair dyes, but they may cause it to fade it over time.

If your goal is to fade your hair color, avoid clarifying shampoos that say “color-safe.”

Vitamin C

Many people anecdotally claim that they’ve used vitamin C (ascorbic acid) to fade their hair color. It’s plausible ascorbic acid could lighten your dye by a shade or two, but it won’t return your hair to your natural color.

To use vitamin C to remove hair dye, you can try mixing a cup 1/2 of vitamin C tablets with a clarifying shampoo. Leave it on for 30 to 60 minutes, rinse out, and follow with a hydrating conditioner.

Stripping hair color with baking soda

A 2015 research review showed that alkaline substances like baking soda have the potential to penetrate the cortex of your hair to help remove hair dye. But anecdotally, many people claim that it isn’t very successful.

Baking soda is likely to be more effective at removing semi-permanent dyes but may be able to slightly fade permanent dyes.

If you want to use baking soda to lighten your hair, you can make a paste by mixing about a teaspoon of baking soda with a small amount of water. Let it sit in your hair for 15 to 20 minutes and rinse out.

Products that bleach your hair like hydrogen peroxide and ammonia may be able to fade the hair dye in your hair, but many hair professionals advise against bleaching your hair at home. There are potential dangers with bleaching your hair.

If you leave the dye in too long, your hair might turn completely white or you can irritate your scalp. Bleach is also known to make your hair brittle and prone to drying out, especially when you let it sit too long.

Bleaching your hair will lighten both your natural pigment and the hair dye.

If you’re looking to get rid of hair color, the safest way is to contact a professional at a salon.

A colorist may use bleach or sulfur-based hair stripping products to lighten your hair back so that it can be re-dyed. They can also assess your hair for damage and recommend the best treatment option.

Commercially available hair stripper products may help you lighten hair dye in your hair.

However, if you’ve bleached your hair or used a dye that contains a bleaching agent, it won’t be possible to regain your natural hair color.

The safest way to strip your hair is to contact a professional at a salon who can help you determine the best way to restyle your hair.