Color Remover vs Bleach: Which Should You Use?

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Once upon a time, wanting to color your hair meant you either went to the salon or to the drugstore to pick up one of maybe 3 choices of box dyes (none of which were very good). But recently the number of DIY hair coloring products has exploded, not only in the number of brands and choices of products but in quality.

In the past, salon-grade products were only available to professionals, but that’s not true anymore. This is fantastic for those of us wanting to do our own hair when we don’t have the time or the money to go to the salon endlessly.

But with all the new products available, and without a trained guide, picking the right product can be difficult. For example: color remover vs bleach, which one do you want to use?

In this article, we’ll help you navigate through the complex subject of color remover vs. bleach.


Color Remover vs Bleach

Hair Bleach

Colour remover is one of those products that didn’t exist until just a few years ago, at least not unless you worked in a salon. So it’s no wonder there is a lot of confusion as to what it is, what it does, how to use it, and the difference between color remover and bleach.

Despite both bleach and color remover removing color, they are two very different products.

Not to sound clichéd, but it’s like comparing apples to oranges.

To put it simply, bleach and color remover are two completely different products that use a different process to remove color, each with a different effect on your hair.

They also have a different effect on how your hair takes on color afterward. The results you are trying to achieve will determine which product you will need to use.

Not to worry though! We will lay it all out and help you understand the difference between the two, how they are used and which one you should be using. Let’s start with the basics.

What Is (Hair) Bleach And How Does It Work?

Loreal Hair Bleach

Hair bleaching is a complicated chemical process that strips color from your hair. Not only does it strip any hair dye in your hair, but uses a lightening agent (usually peroxide or ammonia) in an alkaline solution that opens up the hair shaft.

Note: there is no actual bleach involved in hair bleach!

This allows the agent to enter where it bonds with melanin (pigment) molecules and oxidizes them to strip your hair of its natural color as well. 

Your natural hair color is a combination of the visible color and the underlying pigments, or tones. Each individual hair shade will have different levels of pigment.

Loreal Hair Bleach

How quickly and easily hair is bleached is dependent on the condition and type of hair, as well as how dark the natural color is.

The darker your hair, the more pigment it contains. All hair has a red shade within its base color. Black has a large quantity of dark red base pigment and brunettes have an orange base pigment.

When you bleach your hair, you are stripping away the different colored pigments one layer at a time. Cool-toned color pigments are smaller molecules and the first to be lifted out of your hair during the bleaching process.

The warmer toned pigment molecules (red & orange) are larger, so they are the last (take longer) to be lifted out of hair.

There are also more warm color molecules than cool color molecules.

This is why often after bleaching, hair is left with a yellow or orange hue as there are still leftover warm pigment molecules.

Even when hair has been totally bleached, it can still take on a yellowish tinge because that’s the natural color of keratin, which is the structural protein of the hair.

See also:

What Is Color Remover And How Does It Work?

Color Remober

Colour remover, on the other hand, only removes permanent dye color.

That’s it.

It will not remove demi or semi-permanent hair dyes or all–natural, plant-based dyes like henna.

Colour remover will not change your natural hair color. 

Colour removers work by entering the hair shaft and dissolving the bonds of the dye molecules that allow it to stick to your hair, breaking up the molecules into pieces that can then be rinsed out of the hair.

It’s important to understand that color removers cannot restore your natural color if you bleached it before coloring.

It will simply remove the dye to reveal what you had underneath before coloring it.

Salerm Color Reverse
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Color X-Change Phase-Out Gentle Dye Decolorizer + Intensive Hair Mask , 2 Count (Pack of 1)
Color X-Change Phase-Out Gentle Dye Decolorizer + Intensive Hair Mask , 2 Count (Pack of 1)
PPD, ammonia, peroxide and paraben free; Contains no fragrance, peroxide, ethyl alcohol or sulfates
$6.06 Amazon Prime

Should I Use Color Remover or Bleach?

Color remover and bleach are two totally different products with totally different use cases. So the end result you are trying to achieve will dictate which product you use.

Use color remover if you only want to remove a permanent dye color without lightening the color of your natural hair.

Use bleach if you are trying to remove any type of non-permanent or all-natural dye and you want to lighten your hair.

Is Color Remover Damaging?

Most* color removers don’t contain bleaching agents like ammonia and peroxide that are found in hair bleach. These are very damaging to the hair. They leave it brittle and dry and in need of hydration. If you use a color remover as directed, it should not cause damage to your hair.

That said, it can be drying because it not only strips away dye color, but also your hair’s natural oils.

So it’s recommended to use a deep conditioning treatment or hair mask.

Colour removers are not recommended for regular use.

If you are into changing up your hair color every other week, choose a semi or demi-permanent dye that eventually washes out, rather than a permanent dye that will require using a color remover to remove.

* Make sure you read labels because there are a few color removers that do contain bleach, like L'Oreal Paris Effasol Color Remover  amd Redbook Color Changer - Permanent Hair Color Remover .

Bleach will lighten your hair but is much more damaging. These color removers with bleach are only recommended if you’ve already lightened your hair before coloring. If you are looking to only remove color and keep your natural hair color intact, make sure your color remover does not contain bleach.

Can I Bleach My Hair After Using Hair Color Remover?

It is recommended to wait for 7 to 10 days to bleach hair after you have used a hair color remover. This will help to minimize hair damage from the bleaching process.

Color Remover Vs Bleach Pros & Cons

Not only are these just a list of pros and cons, but also a few things to watch out for.

Color Remover Pros

  • Contains no damaging ingredients, leaving hair in great condition and damage free (if used as directed)
  • Does not change the natural hair color
  • It’s as easy to use as a home box dye – no experience necessary!
  • Exact processing time
  • Can be used to remove the build-up of previous color applications, making your hair ready for re-coloring to ensure you end up with your desired color

Color Remover Cons

  • Will not remove semi or demi-permanent hair color, or all-natural plant-based hair dyes, like henna.
  • Color removers are Sulphur-based, so they have a very strong smell that can take a couple of days to go away
  • Some color removers contain bleach – read your labels!
  • Takes a while to rinse all of the color remover out of your hair.*

* Side Note: You have to be very diligent about rinsing all of the color remover out of your hair. The color remover works by detaching the dye color molecules from your hair strands and breaking them down into smaller pieces so they can be rinsed out.

Are you planning to recolor your hair using a permanent dye that contains peroxide? If so, leftover bits of the dye molecules from your previous hair color can cause your hair to darken if you have not thoroughly rinse ALL of the previous dye bits from your hair.

The peroxide re-builds those broken dye molecule bonds, making them visible again.

Colour removing kits usually include a “step 3” rinse (a little bottle of gentle peroxide that will show you if you missed any dye in the rinsing).

This is important because re-dying over residual dye might re-activate the previous color and you are not going to end up with the color you wanted.


Bleach Pros

  • Removes all types of hair dye
  • Removes hair pigment
  • If you have dark hair and either trying to either go lighter or use a bight hair color that won’t show up on dark hair, bleach is the only product that will strip color pigment from your hair and give a lightened base to dye over again
  • Does not smell as bad as color remover

Bleach Cons

  • Should never be used on damaged hair
  • Should only be used by those with experience and know what they are doing
  • Does not have an exact processing time
  • It can leave hair dry, damaged and looking brassy
  • May irritate a sensitive scalp

Take Away

Use bleach if you want to lighten hair and color remover if you just want to remove the dye and leave your natural hair intact. 

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Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).