Experiment: Colour Remover on Direct Dye

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14 June 2013

If you’ve ever bought and used a colour remover you’ll probably have read somewhere on the packaging “Does not work on direct dyes” or similar. But do colour removers work on brands like Directions, Special Effects, Manic Panic or Crazy Color?

I’ll do an experiment to find out.

Stage 1

I’ve dyed some pieces of human hair in colours that are notorious for staining, from my collection of broken bottles:

Human hair dyed with a variety of long-lasting colours.

Left to right: Blue Mayhem, Pravana Violet, Virgin Rose, Atomic Pink, Sonic Green, Fluorescent Glow

I’ve tried to include a variety of colours but unfortunately my collection of odds and ends doesn’t extend to red.

Stage 2

I’m using ColourB4 (normal strength) on these freshly dyed and rinsed swatches. ColourB4 is applied half way down each swatch so we can have a comparison between treated and untreated hair. I’ve left it folded up in some foil to get nice and warm in the sun… or as warm as it gets in Ireland.

Here you can see the swatches immediately after the colour remover was applied.

Immediately after applying the colour remover, you can see that Sonic Green by Special Effects has changed colour.

I was pretty shocked to find such an instant transformation on Sonic Green. By the time I had finished applying the colour remover Sonic Green swatch had turned to yellow. Let’s see if we can do better and get it all the way back to blonde.

Forty-five minutes in and there is not a great deal of change to be seen. If you look carefully you’ll see that Violet has turned more blue and Blue Mayhem might just be starting to look dull.

After 45 minutes of colour removal there's a slight change to some shades.

At this stage I’m not going to draw any conclusions. I’ll give the samples a full hour to process. Generally colour removers work by breaking down the chemical bonds in the dye within your hair. They work to reverse the process that occurred when a permanent hair colour was processing. This is the main reason why they’re not intended for direct dyes. However, most colour removers include an ingredient to help losen up those colour molecules and send them to their new life down the plughole. It’s this that I hope will work on our swatches.

Stage 3

Now the hour is up it’s time to rinse out the ColourB4. The rinsing stage is really important so I give the hair samples a really thorough rinse and use the “After Treatment Buffer” that comes with ColourB4. This is basically a really harsh shampoo.

Here are the samples after the process.

Sonic Green was most affected by the colour remover.

Left to right: Blue Mayhem, Fluorescent Glow, Sonic Green, Pravana Violet, Atomic Pink, Virgin Rose

You can see that I completely spoiled the Sonic Green swatch during the shampooing where the colour from above ran into the ends. Oops! I’m reasonably certain that it did not lift lighter than the yellow shown in the previous picture. Pravana’s Violet has gone blue, and Blue Mayhem is a little bit lighter. There is no visible change to Fluorescent Glow, and Atomic Pink and Virgin Rose are looking about half a shade lighter all over so it was probably the shampoo doing the work in this case.


The results are a little disappointing but considering the product isn’t meant for this type of hair colour, not completely surprising, although I had hoped the results would be more dramatic. My own experience of using a colour remover on Adore and Pravana had better results but it was applied to drastically faded hair. Perhaps colour removers work better when there is less dye in the hair to remove.

Have you used a colour remover with success? What was your experience? Let me know.

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  • Colour Removers aren't particularly damaging, unlike Colour Strippers which contain bleach.


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