Are you wondering how to dye your hair silver at home? This silver hair tutorial article brings together all my knowledge about achieving DIY silver hair at home! The salons are closed, so it’s officially open season on hair dying!
There are several different methods for achieving silver hair, these ones are the ones I’ve tried and tested, and I have made YouTube videos showing you how to dye your hair silver with normal products.
Method 1: Bleach and silver toner.
This is the tried-and-tested traditional method for getting silver hair. It’s great because it’s customizable depending on the state and texture of your hair, and your base colour.
First, you bleach your hair (I’ve split this into a separate tutorial because there’s a lot you need to know before you do it). You need to bleach it to a light blonde (no orange at all) before you can go any further.
This is why the two-step method scares off a lot of people. Without good preparation and planning, you can easily wreck your hair with bleach and color remover doesn’t work on bleach because you have to bleach your hair within an inch of its life.
After your hair is bleached, it’s time to use a toner. You can do it on the same day that you bleach your hair, or you can go old-school and let it rest for two weeks first (you used to need to do this but bleaches are a lot better these days due to the huge demand for silver hair and white hair).
Your toner options are varied, and it depends on what sort of silver you’re looking for. I like a space-silver, so my absolute favourite ones are Directions Silver Toner and Crazy Colour Platinum Toner. If you’re looking more for a natural look (which I flatteringly called a granny grey in one video) Scott Cornwell silver toner is the one to pick. Here are my tutorials for them:
Silver Hair Tutorial With Directions Silver Toner:
Crazy Colour Silver vs Platinum Review and Tutorial:
Scott Cornwall Colour Restore Silver Toner Tutorial And Review (this one won’t embed):
I did all those silver hair reviews between 2014 and 2016 on my YouTube channel, although I’ve been dying my hair shades of white blonde to silver since 2004. Those are still good ways to color your hair, but they are not the only ways anymore. In 2018, some new, very exciting products exploded onto the market: Silver box dyes that actually worked! Better still, they work even if your hair isn’t bleached to a pale white.
My favourites are the Schwarzkopf Live Urban Metallics Permanent Blonde Quartz and the L’Oreal Colorista Permanent Silver. The semi-permanent dyes from the same two ranges are crap but the permanent ones are amazing. The advantage of using one of these permanent silver box dyes is you don’t need to bleach your hair as light to get the result, meaning your hair will be in much better condition. I 10/10 recommend these permanent dyes if you have longer hair. I did mine in 2018 (I did it as an ombre technique with red “roots” at the top) after bleaching my dark brown hair and it came out an absolutely stunning dark silver:
Before (you can see in the pic it’s almost black at the ends, so the above pic is a great result):
I did use the silver box dye later in 2018 after bleaching my hair a very light blonde and the result was a much lighter silver shade on the ombre’d half of my hair, so your base color will still determine how light you can go with silver hair dye.
Bear in mind permanent silver hair dye contains peroxide which will lighten your hair while it colours it. This means if you need to use colour remover, you can’t go back to your natural colour (you can’t just remove the dye and get your original colour back after using any permanent dye… that’s why they’re called permanent dyes).
Do you need to bleach your hair before using silver box dye? Check out my silver hair dye infographic flowchart to find out:
This is the frequently asked questions I get about how color remover works, how to use color remover, whether it can be used after bleaching etc, all in one helpful place so you can find answers!
Can you get your natural hair colour back after bleaching it?
No, sorry. If you want a longer answer, this video I made explains why.
Does Color Remover Really Work?
Yes. It really does. If you want to know exactly HOW it works, so you know whether it will solve your particular hair dilemma, read my other article. Remember, NO color remover will work if you don’t use it properly! Always read the instructions and take care of allergies/safety. If you did a bad job dying your hair (rather than just being tired of your old color) you might not be the best person to be using color remover – do you have a friend/relative who could help you with it?
Can I bleach after using color remover?
Yes you can, although you should wait at least 2 weeks (preferably longer) because otherwise your hair might turn very dark, as there might be a few residual color molecules left in your hair from before you used the color remover, and if something else is applied to the hair, it can cause them to re-combine which will make your hair go dark. If you want to know more, check out my articles: How color Remover Works and How Bleaching Works.
Can I use color remover on hair extensions?
If they are 100% human hair then colour remover will work on them, but the main problem is that it can affect where they are attached. If you have the ones that stay in all the time, the colour remover won’t be able to get through the glue to remove the colour properly so you might end up with a patchy result, BUT the glue is where nobody sees it much so unless you’re getting a drastic color change it shouldn’t be very noticeable. It depends how you’ll feel knowing there’s some patchy colour under your hair. If it’s the clip in extensions made with human hair, then your problem is the attachment again, but for a slightly different reason. Just like bleach can oxidize the metal clips, the colour remover (depending on which one you use) can affect the area where the hair is attached to that base netting and clips at the top. I would be very careful with this unless your extensions were cheap. Personally I would just buy some new ones.
How long do I leave color remover?
It varies from brand to brand. There should be instructions with the color remover. Color remover should not be stored for future use (it won’t work) so if you don’t have instructions, you have a bit of a problem.
Which color remover works best?
There’s been a sudden explosion of new brands, but the only two I have used and would trust with the important job of stripping the colour from my hair are Color Oops and Color B4 (Color B4 only appears to come in Extra Strength in the US). In the UK, B4 comes in regular strength and EXTRA STRENGTH as well as the “fashion colours” version. Remember you need to read the instructions carefully and use this correctly or it doesn’t work. It’s not like hair dye at all!
I’ve left my color remover on for too long.
Rinse it. Keep rinsing it. I would extend the rinse times by about half an hour each (make sure your shower doesn’t overheat and that you have enough hot water to do this). This makes certain that all the colour gets out. Otherwise you won’t get a result or you will get a weird result (see below).
My hair has gone orange / caramel / some other weird color!
Yep, this can happen. That’s what’s left of your natural color under all that hair dye. See here for why. It’s not a problem with the color remover it’s a problem with the dyes you have used and how they affect your hair.
Can color remover get rid of semi-permanent color or crazy or bright colors?
No. See here for why. There is a special color remover that claims to deal with bright colors but I have not personally used it, the reviews of it are mixed and it’s not available in the US. See it here on UK Amazon.
Is color remover safe to use on children?
No. Neither is permanent hair dye. So you shouldn’t need to use color remover. Because it only removes permanent hair dye. Which isn’t safe to use on children.
Is color remover safe to use on animals?
Oh my God no see my previous answer. I’d like to add some choice swear words but this site gets read by a general audience.
Can you use color remover more than once?
Yes. But don’t keep using it over and over again. Use it twice (unless the instructions on your box tell you not to) then wait at least a month before using it again. I don’t know why, it’s just what the manufacturer says.
Just in time to make the Friday blog update, I got this video finished! I’m answering questions I’ve been asked about my hair including how I got it silver, how I get white hair, how I look after it, why my hair hasn’t all snapped off, whether I use silver shampoo and more. Check it out if you’re vaguely curious:
This is an explanation as to how color remover works, because I’ve seen a lot of color remover reviews recently that lead me to believe people have unrealistic expectations of their color remover. I am going to get a bit technical in places, read around these bits if you just want color remover tips. I’ve also done a Hair Color Remover FAQ (which is science-free) for my most frequently answered questions. Last updated October 2020.
What is color remover?
Color remover is a product such as Color Oops that removes the dyed color from your hair.
How to make color remover more effective:
1. Don’t use dry shampoo or products between the last time you washed your hair and using color remover.
2. Don’t use “the coconut oil method” – that’s for bleaching, not color remover, and can interfere with the chemicals involved (but do look it up for bleaching, it sounds really good).
3. Do overestimate the rinse time, particularly if your water pressure is low or you have long/thick hair. It’s better to rinse for longer, it’ll make sure more of the unwanted color gets out of your hair.
4. Wait at least 2 weeks after using color remover before using any box dye, bleach, chemical perm or straightening – check the instructions to see if you need to wait even longer.
Here’s a list of things color remover doesn’t do:
1. Color remover doesn’t turn your hair back to your natural color.
2. Color remover doesn’t make your hair blond (read on, and see).
3. Color remover doesn’t remove cuticle staining.
4. Color remover doesn’t remove semi-permanent hair color.
5. Color remover doesn’t get rid of bleaching to restore your hair to a pre-bleached color or condition.
And here’s what it does do:
Color remover removes molecules of artificial pigment from your hair’s core.
That’s it. That’s all it does.
Let’s look at this in more depth
How color works
First you need to understand how color works. The diagram below shows the different ways hair is affected by different types of color. To dye hair semi-permanent, your natural color is not affected, because the color sits between the cuticle (on the very outside of the hair) and the shaft.
With permanent dye, a lot of people think that the dye just changes the color of their natural color molecules (the brown circles in picture 1). That’s not how it works – it’s a Find and Replace job.
What really happens with permanent dye is that you have to get rid of some of the molecules of natural color before any artificial color will fit inside the hair shaft. After the natural colors are removed, the artificial ones are forced inside to take their place. This is why permanent colors (even black) always contain the peroxide/ammonia combo (or something similar that works in the same way). If they can’t get rid of the pre-existing natural color molecules, the artificial ones can’t get inside to change the hair’s color because there would be nowhere for them to fit in the hair shaft.
In the diagrams 1, 2, and 3, color remover won’t work. It doesn’t work on natural hair – there’s no artificial color to remove – it won’t work on semi-permanent (more below) and it won’t work on bleach – again, there’s no artificial color to remove, because bleach is an absence of color.
Color remover will only work on the hair in pictures 4 and 5. It penetrates the hair shaft and “shrinks” the hair molecules – they don’t mean the atoms or bonds of the molecules get smaller (which is impossible due to forces), what they mean is that it gets the oxygen off the color molecules, making them small enough to fit back through the spaces that the developer has already made in the hair shaft when it was colored in the first place. This is why, when you use color remover, you have to rinse your hair for inordinate amounts of time. If the color molecules get left in the hair, they will recombine with the oxygen and make your hair look colored again (oxidisation) and the results can be embarrassingly bad.
If the color you’re trying to get rid of is “semi-permanent” such as in image 2 in the above diagram, the color remover won’t work because the way it sticks to your hair is different.
Semi-permanent color doesn’t go inside the hair shaft so it can’t be removed by the specific action of color remover. It’s in a different place, attaches differently, and doesn’t use the same chemical color compounds. With semi-permanent color, you should theoretically be able to wash your hair enough until it comes out. By this, I mean you have to wash it then dry it fully then wash it again then dry it again etc until the color comes out – rinsing on its own doesn’t seem to have such a good effect, I’m not sure why.
If your hair is cuticle stained, color remover will get rid of the stuff inside the hair shaft but it cannot affect the staining, which is on the outside of the hair shaft. To get rid of cuticle staining, you can either bleach it out (if it’s mild staining) or wait for it to grow then cut it off. There is a fine line between the bleach getting rid of the staining and the bleach turning the insides of your hair to jelly mush, so bear this in mind – you might just have to live with a reddish tinge for a while (I say reddish because strong red is the most common offender in the cuticle staining stakes, although any color can stain your cuticle).
To take my hair from the color in the picture above to the color in the photo below, I used Color Oops which I bought from Amazon (that link will take you there), but I’ve heard that the Scott Cornwall one works just as well, depending on what’s cheap where you live. One of the great things about Color Oops is that you can use it more than once.
When you use color remover, the molecules I’ve drawn as red circles on my diagrams will leave the hair, but sometimes they don’t all leave; it depends how colored your hair is – there might not be enough molecules of color remover to attach to all the bazillions of molecules of color in your hair in cases such as picture 5 where there’s not a lot of original molecules left. In this case, you would need to do a second color remove after the recommended wait time (see the instructions).
You’ve probably also noticed that the more towards the right we go in the diagram, the more the natural color becomes yellow rather than brown. Each time you color your hair, it affects the hair again in the same way, so your natural color may have been affected by the peroxide to make it a blonder base – this is often the case in hair dyes to get a truer color result; think how many of them state they won’t work on hair that is naturally quite dark!
Why is this important? Because if the natural color was affected by the peroxide during the coloring process, and the color has masked the effect, then when you use color remover your hair might go to an orangey color or a mousey caramel color, or even a blond, depending how many times your hair has been colored since it grew out of your scalp, because it has no healing powers and permanent coloring causes a permanent change to your hair (surprising, given the name). If this happens, you can either:
a) Use a semi permanent color to mask that this has happened, and reapply whenever it starts to fade.
b) Wait at least two weeks (see the color remover’s instructions in case they vary) then put a new permanent color on your hair – this can be one that is the same color as your hair or a new color. Be aware if you are doing this that the color on the box is unlikely to be the color you end up with if your hair’s not a natural color to start with. Permanent box dyes are designed to affect natural, complete hair shafts, and there isn’t always enough artificial color to get a good first-time result on peroxide-changed hair, even though it was a box dye that caused that change to your hair in the first place.
c) Do nothing and see what happens. If you just want to get rid of yellow or orange tones in your hair, consider a “silver shampoo” or toner, which is not permanent and might leave your hair looking more natural. Use a blue-colored “silver” shampoo for hair that’s more orange than you’d like, and a purple-colored “silver” shampoo for hair that’s more yellow.
And that’s how color remover works and how to get the best from your color remover.
If you still have questions, check out my Hair Color Remover FAQ where I answer your questions about color remover.