Editor’s Note: At-home hair experiments are fun, but they can sometimes go wrong – it’s not something anyone looks forward to dealing with. I find that if you’ve tried to change up your hair and run into a roadblock of mistakes or the color simply not fitting you, it’s best to attempt a correction with a hair color remover. Dedicated hair color removers are different from bleach, and they save you from an even riskier at-home process that has the potential to severely damage your hair. We recommend trying out a color remover for your style needs and consulting with a professional stylist about your next steps if you’re having trouble achieving the desired results.
Hair coloring is a fun way to change your look, but the results can sometimes be unpredictable. Whether it’s inexperience or bad product choices, a botched dye job can leave your hair spotty, muddy or a completely different color than you intended.
Fortunately, you don’t have to live with a bad hair color. Hair color removers are formulated to remove the dye from your hair, leaving you with a clean slate. In most cases, you can re-color right after removing the dye.
Finding the best hair color remover can be a challenge. With so many products to choose from, you may not know where to start or what to look for when buying one.
If you’re needing a quick-fix, our hair color removers are the best choice. If you’re happy to gentle erase the color over time, look at our color-correcting shampoos and conditioners. If your neck or face have been the victim of hair color stains, the wipes at the end of our list is what you need.
In our guide, we’ll explain what to look for when comparing hair color removers and share our top picks for the best hair color removers on the market in 2021.
- What to Look for in a Hair Color Remover
- Top 4 Best Hair Color Removers 2023
- Top 3 Best Color-Correcting Shampoos and Conditioners 2023
- Top Best Wipes for Removing Color-Stains 2023
- Best Hair Color Remover Buying Guide
- Final Thoughts
What to Look for in a Hair Color Remover
When choosing the hair color removers on our list, there were three main things we looked at: the product formula, the application process and the effects of the product.
With hair color removal, the goal is to shrink the large molecules caused by oxidative dyes into small particles. Once broken down, those molecules can easily be lifted from the hair and washed away. The process also breaks down the ingredient that produces the color.
Hair color removers achieve this shrinkage and removal process through the use of chemicals, typically persulfate and peroxide. Other effective ingredients include:
- Ammonium chloride
- Sodium lauryl sulfate
When comparing hair color removers, look for one of these ingredients.
Toners, which are similar to color removers, eliminate brassy and unwanted tones in lightened hair. These products work a little differently. Instead of causing a chemical reaction, they deposit blue or purple color into the hair to cancel out unwanted red or gold tones.
If your goal is to remove red and gold tones from your lightened hair, a color-depositing product is ideal. Blue is better for orange and red tones, while purple is better at canceling out yellow tones.
Although most hair color removers are relatively easy to use, some may require multiple steps and additional products that can complicate the process.
For home use, look for products that are easy to apply. Some products come in kit format and include everything you need to remove your hair color. Kits are ideal because you don’t have to worry about measuring.
Other products come in a small packet and the powdery solution will need to be mixed with a developer. These products come with detailed instructions on measuring and mixing. Developer is easy to find and relatively inexpensive.
Both methods are straightforward, so it’s really a matter of personal preference here. If you want a simple solution that eliminates all of the guesswork, a kit may be the better option. If you want more control over the degree of color removal, you may be better off mixing and measuring the product yourself.
Another important thing to consider is the effect of the product. Does it damage the hair? If so, how much damage will it cause?
Keep in mind that your hair has already sustained some damage from coloring. A harsh color remover will only add to that damage, and it may leave your hair looking and feeling like straw.
Ideally, you want a product that removes color in the gentlest way possible.
If you need results quickly, these hair color removers will rapidly restore your hair to its natural hue.
Top 4 Best Hair Color Removers 2023
1. Best Overall Pick Color Oops Extra Conditioning
Color Oops is formulated with hydrosulfite, which works to reduce dye molecules without the need for ammonia, bleach or peroxide. Essentially, the product reverses the hair color oxidation process in a gentle way.
When applied to the hair, Color Oops shrinks color pigments into colorless intermediates. Shampooing and rinsing will remove these intermediates and all traces of your hair color. It works for both permanent and semi-permanent dyes.
To keep your hair healthy and strong, Color Oops also includes aloe vera and soy protein. Aloe vera contains essential hair nutrients, like folic acid and vitamins C, E and B-12. Soy protein helps strengthen the hair while adding shine and reducing frizz.
One of the biggest selling points of this product is that it’s so easy to use. Other color removers require you to buy additional products, like developers, and have complicated mixing instructions. Improper mixing can have undesirable results, which can make color removal an intimidating process.
Color Oops eliminates the guesswork and includes everything you need in a simple kit. The process is very similar to box hair color. The conditioning formula (bottle #1) is poured into the color removal solution (bottle #2), which has an applicator tip. The applicator tip makes it easy to apply the product to your hair.
It only takes 20 minutes to remove hair color with Color Oops, and you can re-color the same day. If you wind up with a botched dye job, you can remove and correct your color all in an afternoon.
Color Oops is designed to remove both permanent and semi-permanent hair color. It works best for correcting:
- Color that is too dark
- Bleached hair that’s off-tone
If you dyed your hair a darker color, Color Oops can remove the pigment and bring your color closer to your natural color. If you lightened your hair but have brassy or green tones, this product will get rid of those unwanted tones while leaving your blonde color intact.
- Easy to use
- Gentle on the hair
- Takes just 20 minutes
- Re-color the same day
- Extensive shampooing required after product application
Just as its name suggests, Color Balance Corrector (CBC) balances blonde tones for cooler blonde shades. The blue color depositing effect removes unwanted brassy, red and gold tones for true platinum, grey and ash blondes.
CBC comes in a liquid applicator bottle for easy use and application. The product can be added to your shampoo or conditioner for effortless color correcting.
Detailed instructions eliminate any guesswork by telling you exactly how many drops to add to your shampoo or conditioner. Color correcting takes just 5-10 minutes, so it’s a quick solution for anyone who needs quick color changes.
CBC’s results are subtle, but effective. It will remove red, gold and brassy tones from blonde hair, but it cannot remove bleach from the hair (no product can).
Because this product uses color deposits to remove and balance your hair color, it won’t cause additional damage or breakage.
- Easy to use
- Can be added to shampoo or conditioner to correct your color
- Works in just 5-10 minutes
- Blue tint stains clothing
- Isn’t potent enough to remove strong colorations.
3. Best Budget Pick Joico Color Intensity Eraser
Color Intensity Eraser is designed to remove direct dye colors from the hair. Direct dyes are bright colors that don’t require oxidation or developer to stain the hair. They wash out quickly, which is why many people want to remove their faded color and replace it with something new and vibrant.
Color Intensity Eraser can remove:
- Bright, bold colors like turquoise and cherry red
- Rainbow coloring
- Unicorn hair color
Like many other color removers, this product must be mixed with 10 or 20 volume developer. When combined, the developer and Color Intensity Eraser formula gently lighten the hair and remove direct dye pigments. You’re left with a clean slate, so you can apply your next color right away.
The amino acids in this product boost its lifting power while protecting and conditioning the hair.
Joico’s product is easy to apply, but it does require the additional step of mixing the color remover with developer.
To remove vibrant colors, you will need a 20-volume developer. If your color is already faded or your hair is a pastel color, you can mix this product with a 10-volume developer or warm water. The mixing process is simple, and Joico provides detailed instructions on exactly how much developer to add.
Color removal can take up to 30 minutes, so it’s a relatively quick and painless process. However, to apply this product safely and effectively, you will need to have your own:
- Hair color brush
- Non-metallic mixing bowl
You may already have these items on hand, but if not, they are relatively inexpensive and easy to find.
Joico’s Color Intensity Eraser is effective at removing direct dyes. However, like many other color removers, reds and oranges can be stubborn and difficult to remove completely. Some traces of red or orange tones may be left behind, but they can easily be colored over.
- Effectively removes direct dyes
- Quick and easy process
- Contains K-PAK Keratin for strength and shine
- Not recommended for permanent or semi-permanent color
- Developer can cause some hair damage
- Additional products and tools required
Effasol Color Remover is part of L’Oreal’s line of Classic Salon Products. Designed for professional use, this product removes unwanted hair color and color build-up.
Effasol uses persulfate as an oxidizing agent to remove color. Oxidation removes electrons to chemically breakdown hair dyes. L’Oreal’s color remover also contains sulfates that help strip the hair of artificial color.
While it cannot reverse any bleaching effects, Effasol effectively removes color deposits while leaving hair conditioned and ready for re-coloring.
Effasol Color Remover is easy to apply, but depending on the level of removal you want, you may need a bottle of 20 volume developer.
If your color is faded or you want to remove light colors, Effasol can be mixed with warm water. To remove darker shades of color, you will need to mix this product with 20 volume developer.
Fortunately, L’Oreal makes a crème developer that works perfectly with this product. Detailed mixing instructions are included on the packet, which takes the guesswork out of mixing.
L’Oreal includes six packets of color remover to ensure thorough results for any length hair.
Effasol is used in salons by professional stylists, so this product is effective at removing hair color. When mixed and used properly, damage to the hair should be minimal.
Once the color removal process is complete, your hair will be ready for re-coloring.
- Easy to mix and apply
- Comes with six packets for thorough color removal
- Salon-quality product
- Bleaching agents may cause some hair damage
- Developer must be purchased separately
Top 3 Best Color-Correcting Shampoos and Conditioners 2023
1. Best Overall Pick Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo
The simplest, gentlest way to remove hair color is with a strong sulfate-based shampoo. Sulfates are effective at stripping color deposits from artificial dyes.
Neutrogena’s clarifying shampoo contains sodium laureth sulfate and sodium chloride, both of which are known to fade and remove artificial hair color. This product also contains hydrogenated castor oil and glycerin to restore moisture and prevent damage.
Neutrogena’s Anti-Residue shampoo is easy to use and works just like any other shampoo. However, there is one caveat with this product: multiple applications are required.
Strong clarifying shampoos, such as this one, work best immediately after hair coloring. However, the potent surfactants can still remove hair color deposits after the color is set. You may need to apply this product several times to get results, but you won’t have to use strong chemicals or bleaching agents.
Neutrogena’s Anti-Residue shampoo won’t deliver the same results as a conventional color remover because it doesn’t contain bleaching or color-reducing agents. However, you can achieve similar results through multiple, consecutive applications of this shampoo.
For those who are on a tighter budget or want to take a gentler approach to color removal, Neutrogena’s clarifying shampoo is a great alternative.
- A gentle alternative to traditional color removers
- Removes build-up while fading color deposits
- Multiple applications required
- Can be drying
2. Best Blonde Corrector Bold Uniq Purple Shampoo
Lightening or bleaching can bring out red, copper or yellow undertones that make it difficult to achieve icy blonde or silver coloring. Bold Uniq’s Purple Shampoo is ultra-pigmented and violet-tinted to remove those unwanted brassy, red and yellow tones from blonde hair.
The shampoo works by depositing violet pigments into your hair. The purple tone cancels out the yellow tones, leaving your hair lighter and brighter.
Because this shampoo is free of sulfates and parabens, it won’t strip your hair of its natural conditioning oils. The gentle formula also provides UV protection to prevent color fading and vitamin B5 for shine.
Bold Uniq’s color correcting shampoo works just like any other shampoo. Apply it to your hair, lather, rinse and condition as usual. This product allows you to correct your color without adding extra steps to your hair care routine or using damaging ingredients.
Purple Shampoo changes your hair color gradually over time. Start by leaving the product on your hair for 1-5 minutes and work your way up to 10-15 minutes for silvery-grey hair.
The gradual effects of this shampoo make it a great fit for anyone who wants more control over the color removal and correcting process.
You should see results right away, but over time and with continued use, your blonde should get even brighter and whiter. The shampoo’s violet pigments will stay in your hair for 6-8 weeks, so continued build-up will amplify the whitening effects.
What’s great about this product is that you have control over the degree of color removal and correcting. The longer the product sits on your hair, the greater the whitening or correcting effects.
- Easy application
- More control over the degree of color removal
- Won’t strip hair of its natural oils
- Gloves are required to prevent staining
L’Oréal Color Corrector conditioner is formulated to remove brassiness and yellow tones from blonde highlights and lightened hair. It works by depositing violet color pigments into the hair to cancel out these unwanted tones.
Along with color depositing, this conditioner combats frizz and protects against damage. Two key ingredients, Keravis and Xylose, provide color protection. Fennel seed extract and L’Oréal’s Antifade Complex work to detangle, add shine and prevent breakage.
Color Corrector aims to remove brassiness and yellow tones while combating damage from the bleaching process.
L’Oréal’s color-depositing conditioner can be used just like any other regular hair conditioner. The creamy texture allows for easy application and distribution. The mild formula is easy on the scalp and prevents irritation.
Unlike other color-depositing conditioners, Color Corrector works in just 10 minutes and only needs to be used once per week. This makes it a great option for anyone who wants a quick, on-the-go solution that won’t add extra time to their hair care routine.
Color Corrector is gentle on the hair and even protects against damage. It doesn’t contain any bleaching agents, so it should not cause additional damage. The color-depositing function will remove yellow and brassy tones to create an icy or ashy blonde color.
- Easy to apply and distribute
- Works in just 10 minutes
- Only needs to be applied once per week
- Smooths and protects against damage
- Contains oils that may weigh down fine hair
Top Best Wipes for Removing Color-Stains 2023
1. Best Hair Color Stain Remover Framar Kolor Killer Wipes
The key active ingredient in Kolor Killer wipes is sodium laureth sulfate. Sulfates are highly effective at removing hair color, which is why sulfate-free shampoos are recommended for color-treated hair.
These wipes were designed exclusively for the face and neck to remove stubborn hair color stains. Kolor Killer counteracts the drying and irritating effects of sulfates with aloe vera and dead sea salt. The gentle formula quickly removes hair color without damaging sensitive skin.
Kolor Killer comes in a convenient wipe format for quick color removal. The included can stores up to 100 wipes at a time and is designed for easy, one-handed dispensing.
The gentle formula allows these wipes to be used on sensitive areas of the skin, including the hairline, forehead and even the wrists. The instant removal of hair color also helps prevent the burning or irritation that can sometimes occur with coloring and bleaching.
Kolor Killer effectively removes hair color from the skin, but it can also be used to remove dye from hard surfaces, such as countertops and cabinets.
These wipes are safe for use on sensitive skin, and the soft texture won’t cause irritation.
- Convenient wipe format
- Instant hair color removal
- Prevents irritation from hair color products
- Safe for sensitive skin
- Strong scent may be bothersome
- Won’t do anything for the hair
Best Hair Color Remover Buying Guide
Choosing the best hair color remover for your hair can be a challenge. We reviewed some of the best products out there, but which one is the right choice for you?
There are several things you need to consider when making your decision:
Degree of Color Removal
It’s important to consider your goals before you buy a hair color removal product.
How much color do you want to remove? Do you have spotty, uneven areas of color that you want to correct? Do you want to remove all-over color? Maybe you used a direct dye and want to fade the color quickly.
The answer to this question will help you determine what type of color remover to buy.
- For all-over removal, a kit may be your best bet.
- For the removal of spotty, uneven color, a mix-and-apply solution may be ideal.
- For brassy or red tones, a color correcting product is ideal.
- For direct dyes, you’ll need a specialized removal product.
Mix-and-apply products give you the most control over the degree of color removal. For subtle removal or fading, mix with warm water. For stronger removal and a drastic result, mix with developer.
It’s important to note that no color remover can remove bleach. Once you have lightened your hair, you cannot go back to your natural color. The only option is to wait for your hair to grow out.
However, if the bleaching process left your hair with unwanted red, gold or yellow tones, you can use a toner or corrector to remove these colors. Your hair will still be lightened, but the result will be closer to platinum or ash blonde.
Allergies and Sensitivities
Some color lifters and extractors are harsher than others. If you have known allergies or sensitive skin, a gentle product is the least likely to cause a reaction.
Many remover products use peroxide to lift the color, which can cause irritation in people with sensitive skin. Typically, these removers use a milder 10 or 20 volume developer, but some people still have a reaction to the chemicals in these products.
Color balancing products are typically very mild and do not contain bleaching agents that irritate or burn the skin.
Always perform a strand or patch test to make sure you can tolerate the product.
If you are extremely sensitive to the ingredients in color removal products, it may be better to use a clarifying shampoo or similar product to remove the color gradually.
Additional Products and Tools
Even if you are buying a kit, you may still need to purchase additional tools and products for the color removing process. These items include:
- Hair color brush
- Non-metallic mixing bowl
It is important to consider the extra cost of these items when choosing your color remover. Some kits come with gloves and developer, but you will still need a brush for easy application and the right mixing bowl. If you don’t have these items on-hand, plan to purchase them at the same time you purchase your hair color remover.
The cost of these products is negligible, but they will still add to the overall expense of removing your hair color.
Time and Dedication
Are you looking for a quick solution? Maybe you want to get rid of your current color and re-color right away. If so, a mix-and-apply product or kit may be ideal.
For more gradual results, a color-depositing conditioner works well. Strong clarifying shampoos will also remove your color gradually and without causing serious damage.
Condition of Your Hair
Most color remover products cause chemical reactions that can affect your hair’s condition. Some reactions cause more damage than others. Even gentle products will affect the hair shaft in some way. The current condition of your hair should be considered, so you can choose a product that won’t cause irreparable damage.
Products mixed with developers do contain peroxide, so they will have subtle lightening effects in addition to removing the color. Peroxide can damage the hair, and the level of developer you use will determine the degree of damage. The higher the developer, the stronger the effects.
If your hair is extremely weak and brittle from the bleaching process, it’s important to be as gentle as possible when removing the color. Many hair color removers require several shampooing sessions with strong surfactants (like sulfates), which can also cause physical damage to the cuticles. Using a gentle solution can help minimize additional damage.
Bleaching doesn’t necessarily have to cause excessive damage. When done properly and professionally, lightening can leave the hair just as soft and strong as before processing. In this case, using a stronger hair color remover probably won’t cause noticeable damage.
Still, you will need to consider after-treatments (like deep conditioners and protein treatments) to counteract or prevent any damage that your hair sustains. Some color removers are formulated with conditioning agents that can take care of this step for you.
Color-depositing conditioners are especially effective at protecting against damage, strengthening the hair and producing a brilliant shine.
The best hair color remover uses effective ingredients and an easy application process to remove color without causing excess damage to the hair. The key most important thing is to make sure that you choose a product that uses the right active ingredient for your color. Direct dyes will require different ingredients from permanent dyes.
All of the products on our list work in similar ways to achieve these results. Some work best for semi-permanent dyes, others are effective at removing permanent colors, and others will remove unwanted tones without stripping the hair. Use our reviews to weigh your options and choose a product that will work best for your hair and your color goals.