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

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Experiment: Colour Remover on Direct Dye

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.


  • I am SO GLAD that you posted this. I was about to try and lift the rest of my Semi color with some color remover. It is nice to know that it doesn't work like with regular hair color and that saves me some money too. Thanks a bunch Jude!! Report Comment
  • This is a great article. It will save many people a lot of money and time! Report Comment
  • What a coincidence. I have just used and been slightly disappointed with a colour remover. Blue gone, orange gone, but purple and green still there. Report Comment
  • Sorry, I didn't mean to end it so soon. I have used it with success on permanent colour, so don't discount it completely! I think it's definitely worth it for the probably dozens that want to go from black to white or some such thing. Report Comment
  • I totally agree @DemstarAus. It's fantastic on permanent colour, especially ColourB4. Having recently gone from dyed brown to light blonde, I can totally vouch for its usefulness. I'm certain I wouldn't have been able to go blonde with bleach alone. Report Comment
  • Effasol is a color remover I've found that actually works on direct dyes! It's not perfect and it only works with some colors, but I find it usually at least fades them if it doesn't pull them out all the way. The only downside is you have to have a license to buy it from Sally's here in the US, so it's not available to everyone. Report Comment
  • Very good to know! I love seeing experiments like this on various colors. Im sure this will help a lot of people - saving their money, their time, and most importantly, their hair. Report Comment
  • The best product I have ever used to lift colour from hair (short of bleaching) is an old school formula anti-dandruff shampoo. Selsun Blue 5 was a popular anti-dandruff shampoo that was reknowned for stripping hair colours. I am lucky to still have some old anti-dandruff products lying about for just this purpose. I know most newer anti-dandruff products have different active ingredients to avoid the colour stripping issue. Whenever I colour my hair I always give it a few shampoos with a harsh shampoo and a few HOT water rinses - if it's a faded colour and I plan on dying over the top (with a colour not too far removed on the colour wheel) a harsh shampoo and hot water will usually fade it enough for me. Report Comment
  • I just bought some colour B4 and did some strand tests on my hair. I have pravana green and sfx deep purple currently and want to lift them to make the green into mint and the purple just slightly lighter and less bluey (I made the mistake of using permanent green and purple, which in turn, although looked fab and I was impressed I found PERMANENT dye in such vibrant colours, they were still fairly dark, so this in turn has made anything I put on top come out dark) with my colour b4 strand tests, the green pretty much came out completely, and the purple faded considerably to a pinky lilac colour (I can add pics to my time line if anyone wants to see). So its a pretty good result for me so far with it working on the green. The purple faded quite a bit, but still not quite enough to go over (I ideally want to start with a white base this time) I did put bleach on the colour b4 attacked purple, and this resulted in a pastel/baby bright pink, which is a very mice colour, but certainly not the colour I want. All in all, it worked great on the pravana green, and sort of worked on sfx purple, but not quite as much as needed. Report Comment
  • i used colourb4 extra strength on dyed black hair, underneath the black was atomic pink by special effects. after following the pack instructions fully, i was left with pink hair! haha. not so bad because i bleached it and dyed it pink again anyway. Report Comment
  • I tried a color remover recently. I can't remember which brand but it lifted a good amount of various colors of manic panic but barely put a dent in punky colour violet. Also while it was processing it'd look like my hair was almost a clean slate but then after washing it would go right back to the color before. I tried out two times one with the developer after and one with out. Same results both times and the second round did nothing. I won't be using them again. Report Comment
  • The oops color removal actually worked for me. I was told it would not on henna hair creams. I had died my daughters blond hair red for a show that she was in. It stayed for months and I tried everything to remove it with no luck. The last try was color oops. Her hair went back to blond with a hint of pink that washed out in a few weeks. I am wondering if it has to do with certain colors. Or if we just happened to get lucky. Thanks for posting this. Now I know what colors it won't work on. Report Comment

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