SOS! How to Get Hair Dye Off Skin, Safely

Photographed by Patrick Demarchelier, Vogue, June 2013

From being cost-efficient to extremely convenient, the pros of coloring your hair at home are many. But there’s one con that can be truly bothersome if not handled properly: stained skin.

So how does one actually get hair dye off of the skin? The good news is that it’s not rocket science. Getting such rich pigment all over is only a pain to remove if you don’t know what to use. There are plenty of DIY hacks out that many swear by to safely remove these stains from your hands, hairline, and other parts of dyed skin with products you most likely already own. Plus, there are ways to prevent hair dye from coming into contact with your skin in the first place.

Below, the experts break down the eight best ways to prevent and remove hair dye off your skin. Read on before you experiment with your next hair color.

Use Your Trusty Cleanser

Of all the hacks and DIY methods you can use to get hair dye off your skin, nothing quite beats a gentle cleanse. Marisa Garshick, MD, board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, recommends using a cleanser, like the Dove Original Beauty Bar or the CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser, that will not only effectively remove dye and other debris from skin but also be gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. For those dyeing their beards, she adds that it is best to rinse right away with a mix of soap and warm water.

For dyes that are particularly pigmented or hard to remove, she recommends trying makeup remover or micellar water for non-abrasive options to scrub it off.

Opt for a Stain Remover Wipe

You can also opt for stain remover wipes, which are made specifically to remove hair dye from your skin without causing irritation. Olivia Casanova, colorist and co-owner of IGK Salon, recommends her favorite  Redken Color Stain Remover Pads. Other options include Manic Panic’s Dye Away, which is ammonia-free and comes in a fresh floral scent, and the Framar Kolor Killer Wipes, which give you 100 wipes for just under $100.

Grab a Washcloth

For when she’s not using stain remover wipes, Casanova says that she likes to use a washcloth alongside her favorite face cleanser to safely remove color. She recommends rubbing the washcloth in circular motions on the stain to gently remove color without irritating the facial skin or causing breakouts.

Create a Barrier

Keeping color off of skin can start before you even set any dye on your hair. And the best part? It’s easy to do. When using your hands to apply color, for example, simply wear gloves to prevent getting dye from spreading all over. For the areas of hair that you’re putting dye on, Casanova recommends using a color barrier cream along the hairline for preventative measures. Creams such as the Herbish Hair Color Stain Protector and the Colortrak Repelle Hair Color Stain Shield are easy to apply and protect the skin from hair dye or you can use a petroleum jelly like Vaseline to create a barrier. Pro tip: just be careful to not get the cream on any hair as it will prevent color from sticking, she says.

Rub on Some Oil

Oils have plenty of skin benefits, but it turns out that they also work to help lift off hair dye. Garshick recommends looking at oils such as olive oil and coconut oil that can clean off color while also being gentle on skin. You can even use baby oil on the affected area as a color remover. Though it may not be the most effective as some of the other methods on this list, it’s one of the better options if you have any sensitivity.

Be Cautious With Baking Soda and Other Household Items

Who doesn’t love a hack? But even with the ease of using products you can find at home to remove hair dye from your skin, there are a few things to consider beforehand. Garshick says the riskiest at-home solutions for a DIY hair dye removal include the use of nail polish remover with acetone, ammonia, lemon, or baking soda in a cleansing mixture. All of these, she says, increase your chances of irritation. If you’re dyeing a beard or any facial hair, she especially cautions against using baking soda, dish soap, and rubbing alcohol as they will be too harsh for sensitive skin.

She adds that you should never use bleach or any toxic-like cleaning products as “these can disrupt the skin’s barrier, cause tears in the skin, leave chemical burns, and increase the potential for hyperpigmentation and scarring.”

Avoid Abrasive Scrubs

Along with the harmful at-home solutions listed above, Garshick also says to avoid using any physical scrubbing tool to get rid of hair dye on your skin. She explains that these can disrupt the skin barrier and lead to irritation and sensitivity.

Practice Patience

Hair dye on your skin isn’t permanent and will fade eventually. In some instances, the best thing you can do is to wait until the stained area naturally lifts from your skin. So trust that your skincare will eventually handle it in due time. “Sometimes patience along with continuous use of one or alternating between the safer methods will do the trick,” says Garshick.

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