How to Use A Clarifying Shampoo to Remove Hair Color That’s Gone Horribly Wrong

By Tina Moretti
Published 04 Aug 2020 / Updated 02 Nov 2021

How to Use A Clarifying Shampoo to Remove Hair Color That’s Gone Horribly Wrong

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Unfortunately, not all hair dye jobs turn out as planned.

Some turn out lighter, some darker, and some a blotchy mess!

But fret not!

A safe, easy, and effective way to fix these Ooops! moments, according to hair colorists Kaylee Benetua and Lionel Atzas of David Mallet Salon NYC [1], is to use a clarifying shampoo to strip the unwanted color.

I’ve tried this method a few times, and I know it works.

However, finding the right balance between stripping and moisturizing is crucial. You want to avoid harming your hair and keep those tresses healthy enough for subsequent color treatments.

So let me show you how to use a clarifying shampoo to remove hair color that’s gone wrong without nuking your hair into oblivion.

Products You’ll Need

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best clarifying shampoo to remove hair dye

Manic Panic Prepare To Dye Shampoo

  • Strips hair dye
  • Uses high pH to open cuticles
  • Removes residues and buildup
cheap clarifying shampoo to fix a bad hair color

Nioxin Clarifying Cleanser

  • Alternative option
  • Recommended by hair colorists
  • Also eliminates dandruff
I recommend using this deep conditioning moisturizer

Arvazallia Argan Oil Hair Mask

  • Rebalances hair moisture
  • Strengthens the hair
  • Leaves hair soft and smooth

How To Use A Clarifying Shampoo To Remove Hair Dye

how to use clarifying shampoo on dyed hair without depleting natural oils

Using a clarifying shampoo to lighten or remove hair dye is as simple as using a regular shampoo. The only difference is that you’ll need a strong moisturizing conditioner or mask to rebalance the moisture in your hair.

So here’s the step-by-step process you should follow:

1. Wet Your Hair And Apply The Shampoo

Use warm water to saturate your hair first.

Then apply a small amount of shampoo, and work it into a rich lather. If the color is quite intense, use a generous amount.

Massage the shampoo thoroughly through your hair.

2. Put A Plastic Cap On

Once your hair is saturated with the clarifying shampoo, place a plastic cap over your head with all your hair inside and let it sit for 10 minutes. Very similar to the baggy method, this creates concentrated steam that gently lifts the cuticles and melts away the dyes from your strands.

3. Rinse Thoroughly

Start to rinse out the shampoo. You’ll notice some colors coming off, so keep rinsing until the water runs clear.

4. Follow Up Immediately With Moisturizing Mask

A clarifying shampoo uses a higher pH formula to lift the cuticles and flush out buildup, residues, and color pigments. This process can leave the hair feeling dry and frizzy if not followed by a rich nourishing conditioner to lower the pH and seal the cuticles.

Read: Why it’s important to keep hair and scalp at low pH

The Arvazallia mask is an excellent product to restore the moisture that your hair needs immediately after clarifying.

Apply a generous amount of the argan oil hair mask and let it sit in your hair for around 15 minutes. Argan oil has excellent healing properties and restores hydration to the max.

5. Repeat

Repeat the above process a few times in one week. It will gradually lighten your hair until the color completely fades.

How Does A Clarifying Shampoo Work To Remove Hair Dye?

how clarifying shampoos can make dyed hair light in colour

A clarifying shampoo essentially works as a hair exfoliator to scrub out buildup, residues, gunk, hard water minerals, and anything that attaches to the outside of the hair fibers.

Because of its deep cleansing action and ability to relax the cuticles with a higher pH formulation, it can loosen up semi-permanent colorants that coat the hair strands.

Even though it’s meant to remove mineral buildup, such as chlorine and heavy styling products, it will see the direct dyes as the enemy and attempt to release them from your hair. Michelle Cleveland
Celebrity hairstylist and owner of Hair Addict Salon New York - Speaking to Instyle

Did you know?

You can also use clarifying shampoo to reverse keratin treatments!

Unlike strong bleaching agents, a clarifying shampoo is safer and non-damaging to the hair.

What About Permanent Hair Dyes?

Unfortunately, a clarifying shampoo will not work for removing permanent hair colors. Yes, it may fade your shades slightly over time, but if you’re looking to correct permanent dye jobs or even dark solid colors, it just won’t cut it.

Colors pigments that sit deep into the hair cortex cannot be stripped out by clarifying shampoos alone. You’ll need stronger treatments that are done in professional hair salons only.

Therefore, there’s no point trying this at home as it requires too much lifting, which can cause structural damage to your hair. For permanent hair color removal or correction, always consult a professional to do it in a salon.

How Long Does It Take For A Clarifying Shampoo To Fade Hair Dye?

A clarifying shampoo may take up to 5 washes to completely remove semi-permanent hair colors depending on the strength of the dye and your hair type and condition.

If your hair is porous, it will bleed more color after every wash. It may take longer if you have low porosity hair as the tightly-packed cuticles may take more time to release the dye molecules.

Semi-permanent hair dyes do progressively fade when you wash your hair anyway. Most of them last for around 15-20 washes.

A clarifying shampoo simply shortens the lifespan of a semi hair dye.

What Is The Best Clarifying Shampoo To Remove Hair Color?

Out of all the ones we’ve tried, the Manic Panic Prepare to Dye does a better job than the rest. Because it takes less time and fewer washes to completely fade out colors.

Best Clarifying Shampoos To Strip Hair Color

best hair products recommended by my stylist

1. Manic Panic Prepare to Dye

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dandruff shampoo method that could remove dye in hair

2. Nioxin Clarifying Cleanser

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What To Consider When Buying A Color-Lifting Clarifying Shampoo

Sulfates. Sodium Chloride

Sulfates like Sodium lauryl or sodium laureth and sodium chloride are the essential ingredients required in a clarifying shampoo to get rid of hair dyes. These ingredients are surfactants that create friction to scrub the outer layer of the hair.

Usually, we wouldn’t recommend sulfate-based shampoos as they strip the hair’s natural oils, causing dryness. But in this case, it’s ok.

High pH

A high pH formula (alkaline) helps lift the cuticles, acting as a strong solvent to strip hair dyes.

Avoid “Color-Safe” Labels

Clarifying shampoos that are labeled as color-safe are formulated to protect hair color. When you want to remove hair dye, you need the opposite. So make sure you check the label.

For Blonde Color-Correction

Use a clarifier shampoo before your purple shampoo if you only want to color-correct warm tones.

Sometimes, you may want to simply correct a color that has not necessarily gone wrong but has lost its intensity due to factors like brassiness and green tinges that creep in over time – for example, blonde hair.

While purple shampoos do a good job correcting the warm tones, they are not designed to remove oxidizers like chlorine and hard water minerals that make blonde hair look dirty.

Using a blonde brightening clarifying shampoo before a purple shampoo can make a huge difference.

makes blonde hair colour look bright

Malibu C Blondes Brightening and Enhancing Kit

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Other Natural DIY Ways To Remove Hair Dye At Home

Other than using a clarifying shampoo or chemical hair dye remover, you can also try other suitable DIY methods at home to remove hair colour.

Vitamin C Tablets

solution that could make dark hair colour light with ascorbic acid

Vitamin C can lighten hair colors due to its antipigmentary properties.[2]

For years, people have used lemon juice to lighten their hair colors and even skin tone. This is because Vitamin C or ascorbic acid in lemon juice helps fade dark spots and skin discoloration. It also acts as a natural bleaching agent that produces hydrogen peroxide, a reactive oxygen that can disperse colour pigments. It can be used on its own or combined with other ingredients such as egg yolk, honey, and water.

Here’s a quick recipe you can try:

Mash up some C Vitamin tablets and mix them with a regular shampoo to make your own DIY clarifying shampoo.

  • Mix it thoroughly into a paste-like consistency
  • Apply the mixture to your hair
  • Let it sit for 20 minutes
  • Rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear

A few washes after, you’ll notice your tresses fading to a few shades lighter until the color is completely gone.

I personally use Vitamin C powder every time I want to lighten my dyed hair as I find it easier and hassle-free.

But again, be careful not to overuse it. Because it’s highly acidic, it can dry out your hair.

If you plan to try it, avoid sun exposure and moisturize your hair after.

Dandruff shampoo and Baking Soda

removing hair dye with baking soda

Baking soda is an abrasive substance. Combined with sulfides in dandruff shampoos, it doubles up as a highly potent exfoliating formula that works almost like a bleaching treatment to lighten hair colors.

But be cautious if you want to try this at home.

Do a patch test with a small section of your hair first to ensure no adverse side effects. Plus, avoid using this mixture close to your scalp. It may irritate.

So here’s how to prep it.

Mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda in a bottle of dandruff shampoo.

Use it as you would use a regular shampoo, making sure you avoid your face and eyes. I recommend tipping your hair over a sink or bathtub when using this DIY shampoo.

After rinsing your hair, don’t forget to deep condition thoroughly with the argan oil mask.

This method will also take some time. So be patient.

scalp dandruff shampoo and baking soda diy clarifying mix

Nioxin Anti Dandruff Shampoo

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baking soda to mix with shampoo method

Baking Soda

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Final Thoughts

There are plenty of options to fix a bad hair color job.

Using a clarifying shampoo is the easiest way to go. As long as you support your hair with plenty of moisture in the process, you should be fine.

References & Citations

  1. Insights, tips, and expert advice from celebrity hairstylist Michelle Cleveland (owner of Hair Addict), Kaylee Benetua, and Lionel Atzas at David Mallett Salon New York City talking to Instyle about removing semi-permanent hair dye.
  2. Topical Vitamin C and the Skin: Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Applications
    Al-Niaimi F, Chiang NYZ. Topical Vitamin C and the Skin: Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Applications. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017;10(7):14-17.