How To Fade Hair Colour at Home FAST!

How I rescued myself from burgundy hair dye hell.
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Michelle Villett
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How I rescued myself from burgundy hair dye hell.

I had a bit of a hair colour disaster last month. And I'll get straight to the point—it looked like this:

Burgundy hair colour

Note that this person is wearing a wig (along with some questionable eyeshadow). But my new, Ronald McDonald-esque hue was all too real.

How'd it happen?

Hazard of the job. I was writing a magazine article that required I test-drive a whole bunch of beauty services in the name of "research." I know that sounds kind of ridiculous, but I'm not even kidding. This is my world. For two weeks, I flew around the city getting eyelash extensions, full-body waxing, eyebrow shaping, faux tanning... and more, but I won't bore you. It was actually hard work!

Anyway, one of those services was hair colour, obvi. And I naively felt like I was on the same page as the colourist (whose salon shall go unnamed, although I'll tell you if you wanna email me).

Oh, he talked a good game. I thought I was getting a root touch-up and mild "refresh" of my normally strawberry-blonde hair colour. Instead, I walked out with burgundy hair AND MATCHING EYEBROWS—thanks, guy!—that made me look like some kind of Goth-gone-wrong. The worst was that he didn't even stay at the salon to see how the colour turned out at the end. And when I came back later that day to have it "fixed," he was nowhere to be found—and just had one of his technicians (not even a legitimate colourist) re-apply some dye that made it even more red and unflattering.

Needless to say, they were cut from the story. Meanwhile, I had a crisis on my hands. I knew it was bad when I had to go for a facial the next day (also for the magazine article) and they wanted to talk about fixing my blotchy rosacea. I wanted to scream "It's the HAIR making me look red!" Burgundy is violently unflattering to my skin tone, so my entire facial region looked like a giant tomato. (Again: thanks, guy!)

So here's what I did.

The dish soap method

You've all heard of this one, right? Dish soap—or any cheap and crappy sulfate-laden shampoo, really—can help fade your hair colour.

The sooner you do it after dyeing, the better (I think there's a 72-hour window or something with the methods I'm telling you about here). I must have shampooed and rinsed my hair about 20 times over the first 24 hours. It gets pretty dry and tangly, but if you load on the conditioner it's not too bad.

But that damn purplish-red dye wasn't budging much. Here's the iPhone photo evidence of where things stood now:

Burgundy hair - before

You can see the (awful) colour a little better here:

Burgundy hair - before

So, after some frantic Googling, I discovered...

The vitamin C method

Apparently vitamin C accelerates fading, so (since I had nothing to lose at this point) I ran out to Shoppers to assemble my supplies:

Vitamin C hair dye removal

There's no exact "recipe" for this, but I used about 20 to 30 tablets of vitamin C and smashed them up in a Ziploc using a rolling pin.

Vitamin C hair dye removal - step 1a

The orange coatings were hard to smash up, but as long as you have a bunch of white powder (the active part), you're fine:

Vitamin C hair dye removal - step 1b

Next, you put your vitamin C powder in a bowl with your shampoo and/or dish soap of choice. For this batch, I used mostly Head & Shoulders with a few squirts of Dawn for good measure.

Vitamin C hair dye removal - step 2a

Now mix it all up so it's nice and frothy:

Vitamin C hair dye removal - step 2b

It's a little messy, but I applied this mixture to damp, towel-dried hair, making sure I coated every single strand from roots to tips. Then I put on this fancy shower cap...

Vitamin C hair dye removal - step 3

...and let it sit for a couple of hours before I rinsed out.

And people? IT WORKED. I repeated the process four or five times over the course of a weekend (I was too devastated to be out in public anyway), and I saw significant fading. Here's what my hair looked like by the Sunday night:

Burgundy hair - after

I would 100 percent recommend this method—it should work on any deposit colour (although obviously can't help you if your problem is overdoing it on bleach).

The only caveat is that sulfate-based products, if you leave them on your scalp for a long time, can be insanely irritating. Because I basically spent 48 hours with this stuff on my head, I was left with a dry, sore, flaking scalp... it took about a week to get back to normal. But sometimes, you've gotta suffer in the name of beauty.

At this point I probably could've learned to live with my colour, but I still made an appointment with my REGULAR colourist, the über-talented Tony Chaar, to see what more he could do. (He's the one who gave me my Life Colour. Did I mention I now think he's even more of a superstar than before?!)

And that's when I found out about...

The bleach bath method

A lot of salons charge a lot of money for colour correction services. They'll tell you that you need to give them upwards of $500, and that you'll need to be in the salon for eight hours or something in order for them to do this complicated multi-step process where they lift your colour and then add more back in, etc.

Don't believe them. You could walk away with some serious hair damage.

What you want to ask for is a mild—extremely mild—lightening bath. And if they don't know what you're talking about, find someone who does.

Tony won't tell me the exact recipe for what he did, since it needs to be executed in the hands of a professional, but basically I had to sit in the sink while he worked a mixture of shampoo and verrrry diluted bleach into my hair. Then he watched me like a hawk while it lifted the remains of that horrible burgundy—this method requires your hairdresser to really be on top of what the bleach is doing. I think it took about five minutes, and then I was left with something much closer to my normal, more golden hue. THANK GAWD.

Here's where I'm at now (yes I know I'm still a little red in the face thankyouverymuch).

Burgundy hair - after Tony

It's still a work in progress since red tones are apparently crazy-hard to get out (who knew?! I thought it was the opposite). The next time I go in, Tony's giving me some blonde highlights to further break up the red.

So that's the long, sad saga! (And the reason why I vow to never let anyone except Tony touch my colour now. You can see why I have to create these rules, right?) I just hope it helps you out if you ever have the misfortune of finding yourself in a similar situation.

And now I have some good news:

Get YOUR hair questions answered!

Tony Chaar is going to be joining us to answer all of your hair questions—colour, cut, styling, you name it!—so submit yours here and it'll appear in a future post. I promise you're in good hands. He's worked with celebs like Linda Evangelista, Coco Rocha, Karl Lagerfeld... and even a few Royals!

Have your say

Have you ever had a hair colour crisis?
What did you do to get your regular shade back?
Have you ever tried fading with dish soap, a vitamin C mask—or some other home remedy?