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Get the Red Out: How to Remove Red Dye From Hair

Get the Red Out: How to Remove Red Dye From Hair

So you decided to opt for a new, fiery shade of red, only to be left looking like a relative of Ronald McDonald. Hair dye jobs gone bad don’t just hurt your pride, they can also seriously damage the integrity of your hair. Red hair dye in particular is pretty tough to get out of hair, thanks to the rusty and brassy undertones that accompany it.

Fortunately, though, not all hope is lost for the fruit punch Kool Aid-haired. There are a few solid options for removing red hair dye, and today we’ll go over all of them.

3 Ways to Remove Red Hair Dye From Hair

Fortunately, you have some recourse when it comes to correcting a bad color job.

Keep in mind, though, that these color removal options will all be hard on your hair to some degree. If you’re worried about damaging already-vulnerable locks even more, we strongly recommend you book an appointment with a salon professional. They’ll be able to remove the dye without damaging your hair much further.

Color Removal Product

For every action, there’s a reaction, right? In the case of bad dye jobs, color removal products could be just the reaction you’re looking for. Consumer favorites like these remove unsightly hues from your tresses without frying them even more in the process.

If you want to choose another brand, though, keep these things in mind:

  • Look for ammonia and bleach-free products–they’ll be gentler on your hair
  • Read the list of ingredients on a color remover’s packaging; each formula is different and therefore, will need to be applied differently
  • Apply the color remover to your hair in sections, as you would with hair dye

Also, be aware that these color removers aren’t necessarily miracle workers, meaning you more than likely won’t be able to get back to your original shade without a professional’s help. What’s more, the color remover we mentioned above is one of the best all-around color removers available, but there are a few better options depending on the type of dye you used.

Permanent Hair Dyes

If you’re looking to get your hair a few shades closer to its original color, we recommend the L’OREAL Effasol Color Remover. What makes it so effective is its all-over foaming action, which penetrates the hair shaft more deeply and evens out the tone better.

Demi-Permanent Hair Dyes

Demi-permanent hair dyes are rough on the hair, so you’ll need a gentle color remover to rehabilitate it a little. We love the Punky Colour Colour Off Kit. It comes with a repairing hair mask chock full of restorative botanicals like sunflower seed oil, soy protein, and vitamins E5 and E–all of which will nourish your hair after an off-road hair dye excursion.

Semi-Permanent Hair Dyes

For these kinds of dyes, go with the Color X-Change Phase Out Decolorizer. Not only will this two-step decolorizer gently lift those brassy and rusty hues, but it’ll condition your hair as well, since it also functions as an intensive hair mask.

Temporary Hair Dyes

Thank your lucky stars if you’ve chosen a temporary hair dye, as you can wash this out in a matter of days. If you’d rather get it out sooner, though, then you can safely go with any of the options we’ve mentioned here, as they’ll work on less penetrative hair dyes beautifully.

Vitamin C and Shampoo

If the dye really fried your hair, it might be better to go a gentler, more natural route. Fortunately, a concoction of one part crushed up vitamin C tablets and two parts clarifying shampoo will achieve results similar to the ones you’ll get with a chemical-laden hair color remover.

Despite the acidity of both vitamin C and shampoo, it’s still an effective hair color removal method. This is because vitamin C molecules are small enough to penetrate the hair cuticle and flush out the large color molecules left by hair dye. Better yet, the acidic nature of this solution won’t damage your hair too much, since it’s closer to the natural acidity of healthy hair.

Mix these ingredients together and then work them into your hair, making sure you lather it up in the process. After that, pop on a shower cap and let it sit for an hour. The anti-pigmentary properties in Vitamin C won’t completely reverse the damage–especially if you used a permanent or demi-permanent dye–but it will lift the color a couple of shades lighter.

Fortunately, you can lather, rinse, and repeat this process without risking further damage if you aren’t satisfied with your initial results.

However, this method is only recommended for folks with straight, relatively healthy hair. If you have natural, curly, or chemically-damaged hair, you should opt for a gentler alternative. This is because these types of hair are drier by nature, making them more vulnerable to damage.

To learn more about how to get stubborn red hair dye out of curly or natural hair, watch this video.

Baking Soda

Baking soda might as well be a miracle solution–you can cook with it, clean with it, and even correct bad dye jobs with it. However, it should only be used as a last resort when it comes to hair color removal.

This is because baking soda is an alkaline solution, meaning it’ll open the hair cuticle and strip the hair cortex of its color–much like hair dye itself. It’s also an old home remedy for naturally lightening hair, too, so it makes sense that it would remove hair dye.

Keep in mind that using baking soda to remove hair dye is a bit like fighting fire with fire, though. Hair dye’s alkalinity is what changes its color initially, so using baking soda to strip it of its color will only make your hair more alkaline. But the less acidic your hair becomes, the frizzier it’ll be, so nourishing your hair with acidic care products is a must if you want to protect your tresses after using baking soda to remove hair dye.

To get this hair dye removal method in motion, all you need to do is add a few tablespoons of water to baking soda, mix it into a paste, and work it into your hair for a few minutes. Just don’t forget to deep-condition your hair after this; like we mentioned, baking soda’s alkalinity can be pretty abrasive on both the hair and scalp.

Dyes for ‘Dos: What You Need to Know

Choosing the right hair dye can go a long way towards not needing to scramble to fix your color in the first place. Depending on how long you want your new hair color to last, you can choose from a few different options.

Permanent Hair Dyes

Permanent hair dyes last because the ammonia strips your hair of its natural melanin, thereby making way for new hues. These small ammonia molecules infiltrate every part of your hair to get melanin out of the hair cortex; only then can the new color molecules change your shade. These dyes don’t wash out and are usually used to completely hide gray hair.

Demi-Permanent Hair Dyes

These dyes can last anywhere between 18 and 28 washes, depending on the shampoos and conditioners you use to maintain them. Like permanent dyes, they fully enter the hair cortex to flush your natural color out and make way for the new pigments.

However, they’re not as long-lasting as permanent dyes since they’re ammonia-free; the hydrogen peroxide in demi-permanent dyes works like ammonia, but it’s not as effective since the molecules are bigger, and therefore cannot permeate the hair cuticle as easily. These dyes cover most gray hair–up to 70% or so.

Semi-Permanent Hair Dyes

If you’re looking for a seasonal color change, opt for a semi-permanent hair dye. These dyes are free of both ammonia and hydrogen peroxide, so they only really interact with all the nooks and crannies of the hair cuticle to temporarily change its color. Since these dyes really only work on the surface of your hair, they’ll last for up to 20 washes or so.

Temporary Hair Dyes

Ever thought about taking the “dye”ve on a new color, but couldn’t fully commit? You might be a perfect candidate for a temporary hair dye then. Like semi-permanent hair dyes, temporary hair dyes contain no ammonia or hydrogen peroxide, but they don’t really get into the crevices of your hair cuticle like semi-permanent hair dyes do. Thus, temporary hair color essentially coats the outside of your hair, and will only last up to eight washes as a result.

Hair Anatomy 101

Now that you know how to get the red out of your hair (and make sure you don’t need to in the firs place), let’s talk about the anatomy of the hair shaft, what gives it its color, and how you can change it.
cross section of hair shaft

The hair shaft is divided into many more parts than these, but for the sake of clarity and simplicity, we’ll only focus on the hair cuticle, the hair cortex, and the medulla.


This is the outside of the hair shaft. It’s largely composed of hardy keratin and disulfide bonds, which overlap to form scale-like layers. Ammonia, a common ingredient in demi-permanent and permanent hair dyes, “lift” these scales to let the new pigments enter the hair cortex, where they can work their color-changing magic.


The hair cortex is where the bulk of your natural hair color resides. Blondes and redheads have a high concentration of phaeomelanin in their hair cortices, which is what colors their hair a few shades lighter than the rest of us. In contrast, brunettes and black-haired beauties have more eumelanin in their hair, which gives these folks’ hair its darker color. Hair dyes strip the phaeomelanin or eumelanin from this part of the hair and fill it in with the new pigments.


This is the thin, innermost part of the hair shaft; think of it as the “marrow” of the hair. It’s not really affected by the hair dye at all.

However, there’s a lot more to hair than just its structure; acidity and alkalinity also play a huge role in hair care and color changes.

How the pH Scale Effects Hair

The pH scale may call to mind long-forgotten memories of chemistry class, but don’t worry–we’re here to bring you up to speed on how acids and bases work, especially on your tresses. First, it’s important to know that the pH scale ranges between 0 and 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. Naturally, 7 is the neutral point on the scale; anything lower is acidic, and anything higher is alkaline.

Healthy hair is acidic by nature, clocking in somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5 on the pH scale. Not only is it positively charged in this state, but the hair cuticle is compact and smoothed-down, giving it the glowing sheen we desire.

The more damaged hair is, the more alkaline it becomes. This translates to lifted hair cuticles on a microscopic scale and frizzy tresses visible to the naked eye.

Similarly, hair dye is very alkaline; this is because it needs to open the hair cuticle, flush out the melanin in the hair cortex, and replace it with the new pigments. Following this logic, hair care products are crucial following a dye job, since they’re closer to the hair’s natural acidity. Acidic conditioners and hair masks will smooth the hair cuticle down and protect it from further damage.

However, color-treated hair will always be more alkaline than its undyed counterparts, making it inherently more vulnerable to damage.

Say Goodbye to Seeing Red

We hope you’ve learned a little something when it comes to removing red hair dye from your hair. As you can see, dye jobs are really just a delicate chemical process that can leave your locks fritzed if you’re not careful. But now that you have some different methods for getting the red out, you can color your hair with confidence–and greater care–in the future.

Team Beauty Mag

At Beauty Mag, all of our writers are passionate about skincare, makeup, haircare, and beauty. From lipstick experts to those who know everything about Korean face masks or how to tame frizzy locks, we’re here for all your beauty and style needs. The only thing we love more than finding our holy grail mascara? Sharing that knowledge with you. No matter what your style is, we’ve got the tips, tricks, reviews, and tutorials to help you shine.