How NOT to get rid of turquoise, blue and green hair dye.

Oh, wow, did I ever mess up. If you’re here, I’m guessing you did, too. Let’s commiserate together and talk about how not to get rid of unwanted turquoise, blue and green hair dye.

Some of them may say “semi-permanent” on the box, but as I found out, and you probably have, too, there is no such thing as a semi-permanent blue, green or turquoise dye. That stuff never leaves your hair. And now there’s a lockdown and the hairdressers can’t fit you in, and even if they could, you’ve lost work hours and can’t afford to pay a stylist to do a colour correction. Life really throws lemons sometimes, doesn’t it?

I’m assuming here that the reason you need to get rid of this blue or green dye is because your employer or school has a dress code that specifically says you’ll be in some kind of trouble if you show up with green, blue or turquoise hair. The goal of this article is to get your hair looking like a natural colour again so you don’t get a disciplinary or suspended or something like that.

Unfortunately, from a chemistry point of view, these blue and green dyes actually are semi-permanent. But any hair dye with a blue base (so, blue, green and turquoise, also some purples) generally causes a lot of cuticle staining, especially if you put it on bleached hair, so getting rid of blue hair is nigh on impossible.

It’s worth noting that colour remover doesn’t work for semi-permanent dyes, if you want to know more about why this is, check out this article about how colour remover works).

To diagnose how bad your problem is, wash your hair two or three times in the space of a day, drying it between washes (condition loads in between and maybe add coconut oil so your hair doesn’t dry out from shampoo).

Ideally, use some anti-dandruff shampoo such as Head and Shoulders, because there’s something in the anti-dandruff part of it that makes hair dye fade.

If the green, blue or turquoise is fading, you might be able to get it to disappear enough that most people won’t notice it. If it’s not fading much, keep reading to find out what to do.

My experience with two blue-based hair dye disasters and what I learned

I have made the mistake of using semi-permanent blue and green twice in the past 18 months. Once was on purpose, the other was a tragic accident.

First, I used the L’Oreal Colorista Teal semi-permanent dye when I was in California. I put it on bleached hair. I thought it was a fun colour when I first used it. Then it faded to a Halloween witch colour. It said it would be gone in 6 washes and I believed it. When I discovered I was stuck with this green colour, I Googled straight away and found an article on a mom blog from someone who said her son had used the exact same dye and she’d found an amazing homemade remedy to fix his hair (tl;dr she hadn’t).

It said to mix baking powder with dish soap (washing up liquid), make a big paste, put it on my hair, cover it with a bag and leave it for about 15 minutes.

Almost immediately, where the mixture touched my neck, it irritated my skin. Stupidly, I left it the full 15 minutes on my hair. Bad plan. Such a bad plan.

…Yeah, so, long story short, that shit burnt my hair so bad it was permanently frazzled and STILL BLUE-GREEN! I had to cut the ends off. I was so glad I’d only done a teal ombre. Dawn is GREAT on dishes but it wasn’t designed for hair dye removal.

how to fix blue hair how to get rid of green hair dye
Don’t use this on your hair!

DO NOT USE BAKING POWDER WITH DISH SOAP ON YOUR HAIR! I guess I’m putting it in shouty capitals for all the people who aren’t on this page yet in the hope they hear me before it’s too late.

This is what my hair looked like after I dried it (you can see how frazzled and damaged it is, and it still has that green tinge. I was so upset I had been such a beautiful silver a few days earlier):

Anyway, 12 months later, I was in New York for a crucial work conference and I’d picked up some violet Crazy Color, so I put it on the ends of my hair.

Violet Crazy Color is a lie. When I started applying it, it turned out it’s bright blue. I stopped applying it and washed it off immediately but it had already stuck, as you’ll see in the next photo. Horrendous if you were expecting a delicate pale purple tint like the bottle implies. I’m starting to wonder if whoever names/labels the bottles at Renbow Crazy Color is a sadist who purposely mis-names the colours so people have hair disasters.

Seriously, I should have suspected after the Crazy Color Silver was a platinum blonde and Crazy Color Platinum was a beautiful silver shade. I forgot. I was beyond upset. But really it was partly my own fault because I should have strand tested and I was in such a hurry I didn’t.

Anyway, during that disaster, I knew better than to try the baking powder again, and I didn’t have time to fix it any other way so I put L’Oreal Colorista Lilac on the blonde bits which made a nice effect that at least looked intentional but didn’t hide the blue.

When the conference was over, I tried bleaching it out instead.

That didn’t work either. So I put a silver dye over it all. That sort of worked but it faded in a few weeks to a sort of very very pale pastel blue staining that was patchy, and every time I tried toning it out with the Crazy Colour Platinum (yeah, I keep going back to them… I have a problem haha), it made the blue (which by this point had washed out to a nasty seaweed green shade) more obvious. So I eventually coloured over it with a medium brown and left it alone.

Basically what had happened is called “cuticle staining”. This is more common with semi-permanent, bright colours, but can also happen with permanent hair dyes, especially red hair dyes. Cuticle staining is where the outside of the hair shaft has been permanently stained with a colour. At that point, normal bleach for hair will only lift the underlying shade, not the staining, and, even worse news, colour remover can’t get at it, either.

Okay, so from my story you now know you probably can’t take the blue dye, turquoise dye or green dye out of your hair because they have caused cuticle staining. Take a deep breath.

We can still fix this. Just maybe not the way you wanted to. You can still get your hair to a point where you can go to school or work again, but you will need to be flexible about what colour your hair ends up because it can’t be blonde now until the stained parts grow out again.

At that point, cuticle staining needs to be cut out of the hair before you can bleach, and in the meantime, you need to take care not to accidentally use another product that might cause cuticle staining further up the hair shaft. This is especially important if you intend to go blonde at any point in the next two years, if that’s you, avoid bright red hair dyes while trying to fix the unwanted green or blue colour.

When trying to get rid of blue dyes (ones with a blue base), you have three options, and three things that don’t work.

What doesn’t work to get rid of blue or green hair dye:

Bleach

Baking powder and washing up liquid

Color remover

What works to get your hair looking natural again:

Dying your hair red (avoid bright or deep shades of red if you want to be white blonde in the next year or two)

Dying your hair ginger

Dying your hair brown (avoid dark brown or black as it seems like a great idea, but it’s a nightmare to get back out of your hair and you’ll be left with the green again. Also some black dyes use a green base which will make your cuticle staining even worse if you ever bleach it)

My suggestion (actually this is similar to the answer to what you should do if you’ve wrecked your hair with bleach) is to choose a box dye in one of the three colours above, either red, brown or ginger, and put that over the blue, green or turquoise. If your hair is bleached, remember you need to add some red to your hair before you can get a brown permanent dye to take.

Your only other option, if you can get away with it is to completely own this shade of green/blue (or put a nice bright colour like purple or turquoise on top) and learn to live with it until it grows out. I hear washed-out mermaid is pretty big in some places.

Other hair colouring articles you might like: 

How to get better results from colour remover and how colour remover works

Wrecked your hair with bleach? Fix it!

Hair colour remover FAQ

Hair bleaching 101: How to bleach your hair

What do I use between the silver shampoos?

Silver toning routine

What colour will that box dye really go on your hair?

Silver and white hair Q and A

How To Get Better Results From Color Remover: How Color Remover Works (updated 2020)

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.

how colouring works

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.

Before I used color remover, my hair was dyed this very dark brown color. Underneath the brown, some of the length was previously dyed with a red based colorant.
Before I used color remover, my hair was dyed this very dark brown color. Underneath the brown, some of the length was previously dyed with a red-based colorant.

Cuticle staining:

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.

This was after I used color remover once on my hair. As you can see, some of it is still slightly red but mostly the color is an even shade.
This was after I used color remover once on my hair. As you can see, some of it is still slightly red but mostly the color is an even shade.

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.

After using the color remover, I waited three weeks just to make sure the color remover was totally gone from my hair, then used L'Oreal Feria Extreme Platinum to prelighten it to this lovely blonde color.
After using the color remover, I waited three weeks just to make sure the color remover was totally gone from my hair, then used L’Oreal Feria Extreme Platinum to prelighten it to this lovely blonde color.

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.

Other hair colouring articles you might like:

Wrecked your hair with bleach? Fix it!

Hair colour remover FAQ

Hair bleaching 101: How to bleach your hair

What do I use between the silver shampoos?

Silver toning routine

What colour will that box dye really go on your hair?

Silver and white hair Q and A