You’ll come across the terms colour reducers and colour strippers when you need a hair colour correction. Both are types of hair colour removers that you can use at home or have a professional use them on your hair at a salon.
Colour reducers and colour strippers work differently and have different results. So it’s really important to know which one you are buying and whether it’s the right one for your hair situation.
To put it simply, colour reducers are non-bleach products that remove permanent hair dye but not your natural hair colour (but that doesn’t mean you’ll be left with your natural hair colour). Colour strippers are harsher bleach-based products that not only strip off hair dye but also bleach off your natural hair colour.
Let me explain each in more detail.
Colour reducers or removers only remove your permanent hair dye. When you apply permanent hair colour, it’s the molecules of that dye that change the shade of your hair. They penetrate inside the shaft through the outer cuticle layer and replace some of your natural hair molecules.
What colour reducers do is dissolve the links connecting these dye molecules and also shrink the molecules themselves. This allows the molecules to get out through the cuticle layer. You can then rinse off the molecules with water.
Once all molecules are rinsed off, your permanent dye is gone. This reverts your hair to its lightest shade. If you had not bleached your hair before, your hair goes back to its natural colour.
Note that only a few colour reducers work on semi-permanent and temporary hair dye. Most are effective only on permanent hair colour. This is because the molecules of temporary dye and those of permanent dye attach to your hair differently.
Another important note is that colour reducers cause almost no damage to your hair. They don’t strip off your natural hair colour nor do they leave your hair dry and weakened. This is because they don’t use bleach or any other harsh ingredients.
That’s why you can immediately re-colour your hair after using a colour reducer or leave it as it is.
Could reducers are easy to use at home. You can apply the colour remover yourself without having to go to a salon.
Colour strippers are much more potent than colour reducers. They contain ammonia and bleach which indiscriminately strip off all colour molecules from your hair. Your artificial hair colour plus your natural hair colour are both targeted.
You are literally bleaching your hair. That’s why colour strippers are also called hair lighteners.
When you use a colour stripper, your hair will be left with a yellowish shade. This is normal. It’s the natural colour of keratin. All the melanin that gives it colour has been oxidised and is now colourless. It’s recommended that you dye your hair soon after bleaching it.
Colour strippers are a bit trickier to use and not just because you have to be extra cautious with how you handle them but also because they require more finesse and skill to get the right results. Most people prefer to go to a salon to get their hair bleached.
Whether you do it at home or at the salon, your hair will suffer some damage. The bleach makes your hair flaky, dries it out and makes it more prone to breakage. Your hair dresser will most likely recommend you use a certain shampoo and conditioner to start repairing the damage.
When to use each product: Colour Reducers vs Colour Strippers
The most important thing I’ll advice you to do is talk to your hair dresser. They’ll give you the best advice about which product to use and how to use it.
Generally, a colour reducer is the preferred solution in most colour correction situations. If your dye did not turn out the way you wanted or there is too much hair colour build-up or you just want to change your hair colour, a colour remover is perfect.
It’ll remove the unwanted dye without damaging your hair. It’s also much easier to use at home.
Use a hair colour stripper when you want to completely bleach your hair. For instance when you are moving from brunette to blond or when you want to create highlights or when you want to apply a vibrant hair colour such as red or blue.
Remember that colour stripping changes your hair colour permanently. You’ll never regain your natural hair colour. So talk it over with your hair dresser before taking the leap.