How To: Remove Direct Dye

Bright, vibrant colors and pastels—blue, pink, purple, green—have been trending for a while now, but sooner or later your clients will decide that they don’t want mermaid hair anymore. Then what? Direct dyes are brilliant and eye-catching, but they can be pesky little suckers, highly resistant to removal. Luckily, they can be removed, safely and effectively, with these tricks of the trade from today’s top color experts.

Why are direct dyes difficult to remove?

“Direct dyes are preformed dyes and extremely vibrant. Lightener actually drives them deeper into the hair. They’ll lighten somewhat in the beginning of the lightening process, but then stop,” says Leah Sterk, Matrix Technical Director.

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What method removes direct dye safely and effectively?

Sterk suggests applying a lightener like Matrix Light Master with 20-volume developer, leaving it on for 15 minutes and washing it out.  “This will reactivate and wake up the pigments,” she says. The next step is to neutralize the color with a product like Matrix Color Sync. “It’s much easier to lighten from a brown shade than from a bright direct dye.” George Alderete, Keune North America Creative Ambassador, recommends using a clarifying shampoo. “Put a cap on the client and get them under the dryer. This will open up the cuticle and release color. Repeat if necessary,” he says. “It’s the safest way to remove direct dyes.” 

Does it matter where you apply the lightener?

“When applying lightener to hair, start at the back. You can rinse off the back first if the desired level of lift is achieved before the front of the head has gotten full lift,” says Ian Michael Black, Aveda Global Artistic Director for Hair Color. “Always use the same strength lightener throughout the hair. Sometimes, if working on a virgin head application, I might apply in quarters and rinse each in turn to ensure each one is lifted to the same lightness.”