Mythbusters: Do Bleach Baths Remove Hair Dye?

Getty / Valentina Frugiuele

Image Source: Getty/Valentina Frugiuele / Contributor

Imagine this: you’ve followed every step of your typical at-home hair-dyeing routine to the letter, but this time your hair comes out an entirely different color than usual. Turns out, you picked up the wrong box of dye on your most recent Target trip. Panic ensues. You don’t know what to do, and days later you notice the damage set in, so you decide cut your hair and start fresh. Now you’re staring at yourself in the mirror with a new look when you just wanted to touch up your hair color for the new season.

We’ve all had a few hair color mishaps before, but it can feel particularly soul-crushing if it’s something that you’ve been looking forward to for months. Thankfully, there is a solve to removing unwanted hair dye that you may or may not have heard of: bleach baths.

No, you won’t be using the bleach that you clean your home with, but this version works in a similar fashion. “When it comes to lightening your hair with a bleach bath, it’s important to steer clear of household bleach,” Richy Kandasamy, vice president of color development and collective member at R + Color, tells PS. “Instead, you’ll want to mix water with lightening powder and add in some shampoo.”

Here, Kandasamyn explains everything you should know about bleach baths for correcting a hair color or tone, including how many rounds you may need to get the desired result and the safest way to go about the procedure.

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Richy Kandasamy is the vice president of color development and collective member at R + Color.

First, What Is a Bleach Bath?

A bleach bath is often considered a gentler approach to removing hair color, versus going in for a color-correcting treatment at the salon. Like Kandasamyn said, you start by mixing water with lightening powder and shampoo. “Sometimes you can also add hydrogen peroxide to the mixture for a deeper clean,” Kandasamyn says. “This concoction helps to remove unwanted tones, soften darker colors, or gradually lighten your hair.”

The addition of the peroxide can deepen the process, allowing an extra lift by one or two levels, which is helpful if your goal is to completely reverse a color.

Can Bleach Baths Remove All Hair Colors?

If you’ve dyed your entire head of hair a bold shade (like blue or the trendy cherry red) and want to remove it, bleach baths can help – to an extent.

“The outcome of a bleach bath can vary, depending on factors like your hair’s history with color,” Kandasamyn says. “While it’s tricky to fully return to your natural hair color, a bleach bath can help to lighten it for sure. Sometimes, one session is enough, but if you’ve used a very dark dye or colored your hair multiple times, you might need to repeat the process.”

How many rounds of the bath is needed can look different for everyone but it’s important to take it slow and to keep your hair’s health top of mind.

How to Do a Bleach Bath

The best way to do a bleach bath is to go to a professional hair colorist as they have the expertise to assess your hair’s condition and recommend the best course of action. It’s not recommended to do one at home.

The approach is fairly simple, Kandasamyn says: Mix water with a lightening powder like the R+Color Chairlift Powder Lightener (available for professional use only) or the R+Color Snowfall Ammonia Free Powder Lightener (available for professional use only), along with a shampoo to create a perfect bleach bath for hair.

This mixture, he adds, is a gentler option compared to traditional bleaching methods. Therefore, it provides more control and minimal lightening effects while maintaining hair health. Depending on if you’re targeting a certain area or the entire head, the blend may be applied using a targeted squeeze bottle or a brush for larger sections.

Now that you’re well-versed in how to approach reversing unwanted hair colors, you’re likely itching to try one of the more trendy hues that are having a moment. Whether you’re on the hunt for a Barbie pink shade or want to try your hand at something a little tamer like a “bropper,” no color should be off-limits for your hair makeover.

Ariel Baker is the associate editor for PS Beauty. Her areas of expertise include celebrity news, beauty trends, and product reviews. She has additional bylines with Essence and Forbes Vetted.

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