Remove Semi-Permanent Hair Color

Past bra line hair
Q: Hi there, I have been dyeing my hair for a long time with a semi-permanent medium brown. I have medium brown hair, but with lots of gray. I have decided I don't want to color anymore and want to just let it go gray.
The problem is my hair is very long - past my bra line - and although it was semi permanent color, it still seems to stay in my long hair. Is there a way to remove the color from my hair, so I can let the gray shine through? Thank you!

A: I hear this often from women who've used semi-permanent hair color on very long hair, or who have used it repeatedly for many years. Semi-permanent color is formulated to penetrate into the cortex of the hair because of its small molecular makeup, and fade in 6-12 shampoos.
However, sometimes parts of the hair (especially the lower portions of long hair) are more porous and allow the color to penetrate more deeply, and conditioning treatments can tighten the cuticle layer which helps to seal the color into the hair. Repeated, long-term use of semi-permanent color can reinforce the color build-up.
There are many recommended ways to help remove semi-permanent color. One method is the use of hot water to help rinse away the color since the hot water helps open the cuticle layer which should make it easier for the color molecules to be released from the hair. Many stylists also recommend using clarifying shampoo to help strip away build-up on the hair, which should make the semi-permanent hair color fade more quickly.
There are also products on the market that are designed to remove hair color, both semi-permanent color and permanent color. For your situation be sure to look for a product that is designed to remove semi-permanent hair color only. The label should state that the product will leave the hair's natural color untouched. It's important that you use a product that is only for semi-permanent hair color removal, not permanent color removal.
The products that are designed to remove permanent hair color will lift your natural color as well and will not give you the result you are after. (Most people report that the resulting look of hair after using permanent color remover is a beige-ish color.) The permanent color removers are designed for people who want to remove a current color before applying a dramatically different color to the hair.
If you decide to go with a semi-permanent hair color remover, be sure to read the directions carefully and keep an eye on the progress as it is working. If the product appears at any point to be lightening the hair's natural color, rinse it out immediately. I wish you every success.
Photo: Nadino/Shutterstock
See also:
What are the best hair color removers?
Hair color remover to bring back gray hair
Will BiCarb Soda help to remove hair color?