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How to remove hair dye from skin

Stephanie Taylor Christensen writes about personal finance, small business, and consumer issues. She is the founder of Om for Mom Prenatal Yoga and Toning in Columbus, OH and Wellness On Less, a site dedicated to prioritized living and c...

Easy ways to correct dripped color when hair dye stains your skin

Even color-at-home pros can’t be perfect all the time. So what do you do if you’ve accidentally applied hair color where it wasn’t intended — like on your skin? Here are a few cheap and pain-free ways to remove hair color from where it doesn't belong.

There are plenty of "old wives tales" around how to treat the common problem of stained skin as a result from dyeing hair. If you can act quickly, your best bet is to lightly wet a cotton ball with some warm water and gently wipe the "slipped" hue away before it can set into the skin (it usually takes several minutes before the color has a chance to truly permeate).

The other foolproof method lies in preventing hair color skin stains before they start. Before you put on your colorist gloves, apply a dab of conditioner, Vaseline or lip balm around the hairline and other areas you know are subject to dripping color (like earlobes, eyebrows, the jawline and the nape of your neck). Adding moisture to sit on the skin will provide a "barrier" that color can't attach to or stain. Further, having a visual cue of your "danger zones" can help to mentally manage your color application.

Removing hair color stains

If you're past the point of creating a color boundary and you've now got a full blown stain to contend with, Kari Hill senior hair colorist at Serge Normant at John Frieda Salon in Los Angeles advises clients that when stains are faint, patience may just be the best policy. "If there is a shadow, I tell my clients to go home and wait a bit until some of their natural oils have returned to their skin. Then I have them use an oil based eye makeup remover with a cotton ball," shares Hill.

There are loads of other "old wives tales" out there when it comes to removing hair color from the skin. Though many of these will depend on how much color has seeped, how permanent the dye blend is, where it is located, and how sensitive your skin is, one of these "home-tested" methods might just do the trick for you.

1. Olive oil and baby oil

Some experts suggest dabbing a cotton ball or Q-tip in olive oil. Then gently rub on the stained area until the colors fade. Cortney Crace, a color expert at Butterfly Studio Salon, says that success with olive oil can be hit or miss because it can prove to be too concentrated of an oil and cause skin problems for some. Her alternative? Baby oil. "Mix [face] cleanser with baby oil and apply or use some baby oil first applying directly on the problem area, rotating in circular motions to target stain, [and] then cleanse the area."

2. Cold ashes

"The best unconventional trick is an old school one," says Crace. Cold cigarette ashes. Yep, you read that right, but for obvious reasons it's best for tough skin that isn't sensitive. "Mix warm water and ashes together in a small bowl. Dab onto stain with a Q-tip or cotton ball. Let sit for about 15 min and watch your stain fade away."

Next step, wash you face so you don't smell like ashes.

3. Makeup remover

If you have sensitive skin, this one's for you. Crace says makeup remover is a great multi-purpose product that can tackle hair dye stains in most cases. "Apply on a cotton ball with hair pulled back and rub away," she says. Wait five minutes before rinsing and check the stain. It should disappear.

4. Nail polish remover

A quick google search will bring up several articles on how nail polish remover removes hair dye from skin. According to many, it works. However, Crace isn't quick to recommend it. "My advice is always to stray away from using nail polish remover on any part of the face."

5. Hairspray

Finally, if all else fails spray a bit of hairspray onto a cotton ball. Before the color has time to dye, rub the cotton ball onto the stained area of skin to break the bond of color to the skin. Crace admits, she has not heard of much success with this method. So...

If at-home methods fail when trying to remove hair color stains, turn to the pros. Professional beauty supply store chains, like Sally's Beauty Supply, sell inexpensive hair color stain removal blends that should do the trick. "Also don't forget you can always give your local/nearest salon a visit to help remove the stain with a professional, gentle solution," says Crace.

More hair coloring tips

Tips for coloring long hair
Tips for coloring short hair
How to color your hair at home

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