How to Remove Demi-Permanent Hair Color

By Robin McDaniel

Demi-permanent hair color can be a good option for darkening hair or adding lowlights. It doesn't lighten—it only deposits new color. And since it's ammonia-free, it's less damaging than permanent color. Demi-permanent color gradually fades over six weeks or more, depending on hair porosity and environmental factors. But if you want to lighten hair back up fast, you can remove the dye using color-correction techniques.

How to Remove Demi-Permanent Hair Color
credit: PaoloMaffi/iStock/GettyImages
How to Remove Demi-Permanent Hair Color

Wash It Out

If your hair gets too dark, use a clarifying shampoo as soon as possible after color application. Shampoo two to three times daily for the first several days, and condition each time to keep hair hydrated and minimize damage.

Pull Out the Big Guns: Hair Color Remover

If clarifying shampoo doesn't do the trick, pick up a color remover from a beauty-supply store. To lighten or lift by one to two levels, you might only need to mix the remover with water. For a higher level of lightening, you need peroxide or developer; consult a beauty-supply store associate for the recommended amount to mix with the remover.

Do a Strand Test

Perform a strand test first. Tie hair up in a bun, except for a half-inch piece near the nape of the neck. Put on gloves, and using an applicator brush, mix 1/2 teaspoon of color remover with water (for mild lift) or peroxide (for a stronger lift) in a bowl. Apply remover to the test piece of hair with the applicator brush, and then use your gloved fingers to saturate the strands thoroughly.

Set a timer for the recommended time on the package instructions, and check the progress every five minutes. When the time has passed or you achieve the desired color (whichever comes first), rinse the remover out. If the water additive didn't work to remove the color, use peroxide or developer with the remover instead and do another strand test.

How to Use the Color Remover

If all goes well, move on to removing color from the rest of your hair.

Drape a towel over your shoulders. Divide hair into four quadrants. Using a tail comb, part hair from the center of the hairline to the nape of the neck; then part horizontally from the center part at the back of the head to each ear. Twist each of the four hair sections and secure with butterfly clips.

Put on gloves and apply a protective cream to the skin around the hairline, ears and nape of the neck. Using an applicator brush, mix color remover and water or peroxide in a bowl.

Starting from the bottom of one of the bottom quadrants, grab a half-inch horizontal section of hair and apply the remover with the applicator brush. Work your way up, one half-inch horizontal section at a time. Repeat on each quadrant. Use gloved hands to scrunch remover into the hair and saturate thoroughly.

Check every five minutes until the color is removed. Do not exceed the recommended amount of time on the package instructions.

Wash out the color remover with a shampoo for color-treated hair to minimize damage. Follow with a second shampoo, then rinse with lukewarm water. If needed, apply a light conditioner to remove tangles, but rinse completely to allow for optimal toner deposit.

Tone It Down

Apply a toner or lighter demi-permanent color to neutralize any orange tones. For best results, choose a shade at least one or two levels darker than your desired color. Mix according to the instructions on the package, and apply using an applicator brush. Process the hair color for up to 25 minutes, checking every five.

Rinse out when you reach the desired shade. Remember that color may deposit more quickly because the removal process makes the hair more porous.

Finish by washing with shampoo and conditioner.