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5 Colour Removal Techniques put to the Test

★★★★★
Published on 5th February 2015

You’re sick of your hair colour and you want rid of it. Now you’re faced with a dilemma – do you choose a method that’s effective yet damaging, or go for the slow fade out with plenty of shampooing? I’m testing some colour removal techniques which are meant to give quick results.

In this article I’m going to abuse a piece of hair weft so we can effectively compare results. I’ll discover which fading methods are most successful so you can choose the right method for your hair colour removal.*

*Unnatural colours and direct dyes only.

5 Methods Tested

I’m testing 5 methods.

  • Bleach
  • Bleach Powder & Warm Water
  • ColourB4 Fashion Colours
  • Hi-lift Blonde Dye
  • Vitamin C Treatment

The Swatch

To ensure this is a fair test, I’m using one continuous weft of human hair (#613 lightest blonde). I’ve chosen Electric Amethyst by Manic Panic because it has a nice mixture of blue and pink tones, so if a particular method works better on warm tones than cool tones it should show up in the results.

The weft was dyed twice with Electric Amethyst to ensure it was well saturated – probably a bit over-saturated. I did this to mimic dye build-up on the hair. The weft was rinsed and dried and cut into 6 pieces: one for each test plus a piece to be left unaltered as the control swatch.

After the treatments, each swatch has been allowed to dry naturally and straightened with straightening irons.

Method #1 Bleach

Bleach, the last resort of the desperate! When nothing else will get rid of a colour, most people will turn to bleach. It’s almost always effective to some extent but it comes at a cost. Bleaching is one of the more damaging things you can do to your hair and bleaching already lightened hair can be especially risky with its damaging effects accumulating. Colour removal is not guaranteed, as anyone who’s tried to bleach out Special Effects’ Atomic Pink will know.

Let’s try it on our Electric Amethyst swatch.

I’ve used a Directions bleach kit. It contains bleach powder and 30 volume peroxide which was mixed at a ratio of 1:2 and applied to the swatch for 10 minutes with some ambient heat to reproduce effects of body heat.
After processing, the swatch was rinsed in warm water and allowed to dry naturally.

Bleaching out Manic Panic's Electric Amethyst

Almost all of the colour has disappeared. The swatch has a mixture of lilac and peach tones present. It has an almost 2 tone effect depending on the direction of the light which could be caused by slight cuticle staining.

The swatch doesn’t feel particularly damaged but I wouldn’t recommend doing this often since once your hair is damaged, you’re stuck with it until the damaged hair grows out.

Bleach Powder & Warm Water

I first mentioned this method in my article 10 Ways to Remove Hair Colour and since then several of our forum members have also had success with this technique. I thought now would be a good time to demonstrate what it can do.

Once again, I’m using Directions bleach powder. I’ve mixed it with warm water in a 1:2 ratio and applied it to the swatch for 10 minutes with ambient heat, just as I did with the bleach experiment earlier. This way we can compare the two in terms of effectiveness.

Since we’re using warm water instead of peroxide, lightening is a bit slower but also less damaging. Take the same precautions as you would applying bleach to your hair. Wear gloves, keep it away from your eyes, use in a ventilated room, do strand and sensitivity tests.

The effect of bleach powder and warm water mixture on Manic Panic Electric Amethyst

Not a bad result. The swatch has lifted from vivid purple to a pastel peach colour. The swatch feels in good condition.

ColourB4 Fashion Colours

This is a fairly new product to the market and this was my first time trying it. The packaging showed a girl with pink, red, purple and yellow hair as the before picture and pure blonde as the after picture. Could it really get these colours out completely? I was excited to give it a try. It seemed like a big promise but having had good results with their colour remover for permanent colour I was hopeful that it would work well.

The process is quite lengthy and it’s important to follow the steps exactly.

Step 1: Clarify
The clarifying shampoo provided was applied to the swatch for 3 minutes, rinsed and repeated. It was then allowed to dry naturally.

Step 2: Applying the Product
The two parts were mixed and applied evenly to the swatch. I then covered the bowl in cling-film and left it near a heat source to process for 1 hour, to simulate the heat it would usually get from the scalp.

Step 3: Rinse and “Buffer”
The swatch was rinsed in warm water for 5 minutes and the “buffer” applied for 1 minute and rinsed for a further 5 minutes.

The swatch felt squeaky clean; uncomfortably clean. The strong clarifier exposed the true condition of the hair and it was necessary to apply conditioner to make it manageable again. However, I don’t believe the product caused any noticeable damage and the unmanageable state of the hair was due to vigorous shampooing of already damaged hair (cheap human hair weft usually goes through a lot of chemical processes including bleaching or dyeing).

The results were amazing. I was genuinely surprised that the colour could be removed so thoroughly. Just the slightest lilac stain remains, a shade that would only be achieved with months of natural fading. From here my swatch could be dyed almost any colour.

Using a colour remover on Manic Panic's Electric Amethyst

The only drawback was the horrible rotten egg smell that all colour removers have.

Hi-Lift Blonde Dye

Although this method tends to work better at removing residual dyes after significant fading has occurred, I thought it worth trying out on our freshly dyed swatch to see what effect it had.

I used Wella Koleston Perfect Blonde in the shade 12/0. The 12 part of that number means it’s an ultra light blonde. (You can learn more about the colour numbering system here.) Wella states this dye can lift up to 5 levels if you use 40 volume (this would be for off the scalp use), but as I’m using 30 volume we can expect around 3 levels of lightening. I’ve used 5cc of colour and 10cc of 30 volume creme peroxide and processing it for 60 minutes without heat, as directed in the instruction leaflet.

After rinsing it was clear to see that there hadn’t been any major changes to the swatch’s colour, but after drying it became apparent that the swatch was less vibrant was a cooler-toned purple, i.e. some warm tones had been removed. The condition of the hair didn’t feel much different, however since this dye contains ammonia, I wouldn’t do this often.

Effects of a high-lift blonde dye on purple hair

Vitamin C Treatment

If you’re not familiar with the Vitamin C Treatment, it’s a home remedy for fading colour. The basic premise is that you crush up a Vitamin C tablet or use powdered Vitamin C and mix it with shampoo, and apply it immediately to your hair before it gets a chance to foam up too much.

To avoid diluting the mixture I applied this directly to dry hair and left it to sit for 10 minutes on the sample.

After rinsing it was squeaky clean and a bit hard to brush the swatch. Unfortunately there wasn’t much difference in colour, maybe half a shade lighter, however there was no noticeable damage to the swatch either.

Vitamin C fading treatment on Manic Panic Electric Ametyst

In Conclusion

It’s interesting to see which tones are removed with each method. Bleach seems to remove warm and cool tones evenly while bleach powder and water is more effective on cool tones, leaving a warmer peach shade behind. Blonde dye took the warmth out of the pink tones but left it purple and ColourB4 was slightly more effective on the swatch’s warm tones.

Each method has its benefits and drawbacks. The results with the Vitamin C Treatment were a bit disappointing but I don’t recommend Vitamin C as a fading treatment. A strong mixture can burn your skin and could potentially damage your eyes should it come in contact them.
I think the high-lift blonde dye would have a more noticeable effect on an already faded colour.

The big surprise for me was how effective ColourB4 Fashion Colours was. A way to change colours quickly, albeit with an eggy after-smell, could open up a lot of possibilities for hair colouring! You might remember from my previous article “Colour Remover on Direct Dye” that I didn’t have much success using the other variety of Colour B4 (for permanent colours) on direct dyes, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that Colour B4 Fashion Colours actually works! It includes a “Pre-Treatment Clarifier” which I guess actually makes quite a big difference.

I’ve used the standard ColourB4 before when removing permanent browns and blacks and I’ve always had great results with no noticeable damage but I was a bit doubtful that this product could be so smelly and yet cause no damage. The instruction leaflet says “ColourB4 won’t make your hair condition (necessarily) any worse, but it won’t make it any better either”. What does that “necessarily” mean?
I tweeted them:

ColourB4 tweet it's non-damaging

HairCrazydotCom: is @ColourB4 Fashion Colours damaging? How about on bleached hair? How many times can it be used?
ColourB4: @HairCrazydotCom We cannot work on bleached hair but we’re not damaging to the hair!

So not damaging they say, but not for bleached hair, even though the girl on the box has bleached hair? My guess is that this relates to restoring the hair back to bleached blonde from a very dark colour and that they don’t want to make such promises. I can only draw conclusions from my own experiment which has shown it to be very effective on bleached hair. I think this product requires further investigation which I’ll cover in a future article.

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My Thoughts

What’s apparent from these tests is that when removing a hair colour you don’t have to go for the most damaging option (bleach) to get results. Choose the colour removal method based on the shade and depth of colour you’re trying to remove.

Tips

  • Always follow the manufacturers instructions when using dye, colour remover or bleach
  • Do strand tests before attempting to remove colour.
  • Always do a sensitivity test before trying a new product (even with a vitamin c treatment)