Permanent and semipermanent hair dye can be a quick and simple way to switch up your look. But there are times when you dye your hair and aren’t crazy about the results.
The latest trend in reversing the effect of hair dye is to use powdered ascorbic acid — otherwise known as vitamin C.
Vitamin C may work to lighten your hair post-dye, removing pigments that are a bit too dramatic for your liking.
But whether vitamin C can strip dye out hair completely is a little more complicated. Let’s cover what vitamin C does to your hair and whether it’s worth trying this at-home dye job fix.
Ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C, is used in some over-the-counter products that claim to lighten or bleach your hair without damaging it.
For years, people have used lemon juice, which is rich in vitamin C, as a natural hair lightener that activates when it is warmed by heat or the sun. It’s this line of thinking that leads some people to conclude that vitamin C can work to “erase” or remove hair color that you don’t like.
The truth is that vitamin C can’t turn back time to before you dyed your hair. Hair color works by breaking open the hair follicle and adding pigment to your natural colors (dyeing) or by stripping the natural color out (lightening and bleaching).
Once the color of your hair has been modified, there’s no replacing or restoring the natural pigment.
What vitamin C can sometimes do is make hair a shade or two less dark after you’ve dyed it darker than your natural color. This is due to its antipigmentary properties.
Of course, every hair type is different, and there’s no guarantee that your hair will respond the way you hope when you use this method.
There’s a chance your hair could cooperate with a vitamin C treatment and look similar to how it looked before, especially if the dye you used was semipermanent.
But hair that’s been damaged from dye, heat, or bleach or hair that’s textured or naturally curly may not react well to a vitamin C infusion.
Additionally, there’s no peer-reviewed research that indicates vitamin C is a good solution to a dye job gone awry.
You can try to remove hair dye using vitamin C by creating an ascorbic acid hair mask. This type of hair mask may also come in handy when chlorine or salt water has affected your hair color.
Keep in mind that your results may vary. You’ll need:
- 1/2 cup ascorbic acid powder or 15–30 white, powder-based vitamin C tablets, crushed (liquid-based capsules won’t dissolve as well, and colored tablets could leach food coloring into your hair)
- dye-free clarifying shampoo
- shower cap
- mixing bowl
- In your mixing bowl, mix together the powdered vitamin C with the dye-free clarifying shampoo. Remember that any food coloring or product dyes will interfere with the finished hair color, so steer clear of any artificial colors in your hair mask.
- Once the ingredients are well-blended, apply the mask to your hair. Give extra care to roots and ends.
- Pop on your shower cap and leave the hair mask on for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Rinse well with lukewarm water. If desired, follow up with a hydrating conditioner to prevent dryness after using this treatment.
Vitamin C occurs naturally in your skin. That’s why using vitamin C as a topical home remedy for removing hair dye is safe for most people. There are some potential side effects that you should be aware of before you try it. These include:
- redness or inflammation on your scalp
- scalp dryness
- hair that’s dry and prone to breakage
- hair strands that appear yellowed or orange-tinted
- hair that’s inconsistently colored or tinted
There are other ways that you can try to remove hair dye after coloring. Because of variables like your hair type, hair damage you may have, and what kind of dye you used, it’s hard to predict which of these methods, if any, would be effective.
There are color-correcting products, such as shampoos, toners, and hair masks, that are sold specifically to remove or lighten colors you have added to your hair.
You should shop with your hair type in mind. Products that “strip” or bleach your hair may cause more damage in the long run.
White vinegar rinse
White vinegar can bond to hair pigment and rinse out some types of semipermanent dye.
- Combine three parts dye-free shampoo and one part vinegar and create a mixture the consistency of a hair mask.
- Apply evenly throughout your hair and cover with a shower cap.
- After 10 to 15 minutes, remove the shower cap and rinse your hair thoroughly with lukewarm water.
Baking soda paste
Baking soda has a high pH and may be able to penetrate your hair follicle to remove some pigments.
- Make a paste of equal parts baking soda and warm water, dissolving the baking soda fully.
- Apply it evenly to your hair, avoiding your scalp. Use a wide-toothed comb to ensure it’s evenly spread.
- Leave the mixture on your hair for 20 to 30 minutes, rinsing well and conditioning afterward.
There isn’t any clinical research to support using vitamin C for removing hair color. But since vitamin C is already occurring in your body naturally, it’s safe for most people to try this home remedy.
Keep in mind that results may vary, and the only sure way to switch up your hair color is to enlist the help of a professional cosmetologist.