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Removing Permanent Hair Color

Published on 18th January 2013

If you want lighter hair but it’s already dyed a dark colour, please don’t try to strip out the dye with bleach first. It isn’t necessary and won’t work properly anyway. Remove the dye out of your hair by following this tutorial, and then proceed with lightening/bleaching if necessary.

This article is not intended to give instruction on how to fade or remove the semi-permanent/vegetable-based dyes like Manic Panic, Special Effects, etc. There are other tutorials for that. While using a colour corrector MAY fade your non-developer/peroxide based dyes some, this is different chemistry at work. This guide is specifically for removing permanent or semi-permanent hair dye that gave you a darker colour than your previous colour by using developer/peroxide. This process will not lighten your hair beyond the lightest you ever had your hair.

I have used this technique for removing very dark/black dye from my hair which is naturally dark brown. Prior to putting the black dye in, my hair had been lightened a couple levels above my natural dark brown to a reddish brown colour or even lighter colour. (So from the dyed level 1 to about a level 8 – have not tried it with higher levels.) This method will help you return to the lightest colour that it was before going dark. If you have untreated regrowth, it will do nothing to the regrowth.

The results may vary depending on your starting colour prior to the permanent colour application, your natural hair colour, whether you have bleached or not, and what colour and type of dye you have in your hair, and what volume of peroxide you used when you coloured it. The better quality of hair dye you used, the easier it will come out – which is why I will not use box hair colour. Cheaper colours and darker colours may need multiple applications, as they “gum up” your hair more intensely than professional quality. Even products bought at beauty supply stores will not remove as well as true professional colour.

The colour corrector that I have experience with and recommend is called Vanish. You will have to do a search online to buy it. It is a product for professionals only and is not sold in beauty supply stores. You will also need 10 volume developer. There are other colour correctors sold at beauty supply stores as well, but they may not do the job as well as Vanish – especially if you are removing black.


  • box of Vanish Colour Corrector
  • 10 volume developer/peroxide
  • brush, sponge, or other way to apply the Vanish
  • non-metallic bowl
  • towels (don’t use your good ones)
  • hair dryer
  • heat cap (the kind you connect to the hair dryer – recommended, but not required)
  • plastic cap
  • pH balancing conditioner
  • time – this is not a quick process, especially if you need to repeat or remove black


  1. Shampoo your hair with clarifying shampoo, rubbing the hair between your hands. This will loosen up the hair dye molecules. The more times you repeat, the better. Comb out hair.
  2. Follow the mixing directions on the Vanish box: a 1:1 ratio from bottles 1 & 2. The box contains two applications, depending on the length of your hair, so use only half of each and recap tightly for future use.
  3. Apply to hair with a dye brush or sponge, saturating all of your hair thoroughly.
  4. Cover with the plastic cap. Then put on the heat cap connected to your dryer. Sit with heat on your hair from the blow dryer. If you do not have the heat cap, just heat your hair with the blow dryer over, and occasionally under, the plastic cap.
  5. Rinse your hair and shampoo in the same method you used above. The more you scrub your hair, the more easily the old hair dye molecules will loosen and come out.
  6. Do NOT skip this step!! You may notice your hair is now lighter and might be cheering “yea, it worked!!” but you MUST apply the 10 volume developer to your hair and let it sit 10 minutes. This will bring out any hidden hair dye molecules that did not get extracted previously. You might be disappointed to find that the application may make your hair return to its previous colour, or at least darker.
  7. After the 10 minutes, rinse and apply the pH balancing conditioner and leave it on for at least 10 minutes, or longer if you like.
  8. Evaluate the colour of your hair to see if the dye really removed completely. If your colour stays the same after applying the 10 volume developer, you know that you are done and you can proceed with dye or bleach – even immediately following. If it is still darker than your hair was previously (before applying the dark dye) or it went back darker after applying the 10 volume, you will need to repeat the process. I repeat immediately, but you don’t have to if you don’t have the time.

It would be a rare thing that one application is enough to remove the hair dye, particularly if there was a big colour change or if you used black. Black is very stubborn, which is why many professionals really advise against it. Your hair might have appeared lighter, and then went dark again after applying the 10 volume. Don’t be fooled that it will stay that colour and skip the 10 volume step – it will go back to the old colour next time you try to dye it or lighten it with bleach. The molecules are still hidden in there, and you will be shocked to see them reappear when you are trying to bleach your hair. For black hair, I have had to do 3 applications before my hair did not turn dark again. Don’t give up it WILL work. It is an expensive process.

Vanish costs between $15-$30 depending on the source you find. Do a search online for “Vanish Colour Corrector.” But the cost is worth it to avoid damage to your hair.

Vanish smells like the old permanent solutions, very bad. You will want to wash all of the towels and clothes you were wearing during the procedure or the smell will stick around your bathroom!

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  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions, including any strand and patch tests that m
  • This article references "Vanish". This is not the same as the stain removing products sold in the UK
  • If you can't find "Vanish", similar colour removers include Scott Cornwall's Colour B4, Affinage Era

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