“If you have an oxidative hair color, which is your typical permanent hair color, you would use a color stripper,” Siskovic says. “If you have a direct dye or temporary hair color — think Manic Panic or Crazy Color — then you can use a shampoo that has sulfates in it.”
Sulfates are harsh cleansing agents that can strip away natural oils as well as built-up product residue, making them ideal for removing temporary colors. If your hair is on the drier side, though, Siskovic recommends steering clear of sulfates altogether. “They can be really drying to the hair, so if your hair is already dry or damaged, I would recommend using a color stripper instead,” she says.
Color strippers work by breaking down the molecular structure of the hair color molecules so they can be rinsed away with water. Because they essentially undo the chemical process of coloring your hair, they can be harsh on strands — which is why Siskovic only recommends them for people with healthy hair. “If your hair is already damaged or dry, using a color stripper could make it worse,” she says. “It’s better to err on the side of caution and use a gentler method like shampooing with sulfates.”
Once you’ve determined what type of remover to use, Siskovic says it’s important to follow the instructions on the packaging to avoid damaging your strands. “With any kind of chemical service — whether it’s coloring your hair or using a hair color remover — always make sure to read the instructions carefully and do a patch test first,” she says. “That way you can gauge how your scalp and strands will react before doing the whole thing.”