Foolproof Ways To Remove Hair Dye From Your Skin

We've all been there. You visit your hair stylist to refresh your look with some chic balayage or foils, or maybe ask a friend to come help you apply a gorgeous box of copper-colored hair dye at home. Everything is going well, your mane looks fabulous, and the color is perfect. But no matter how careful you've been, a bit of that color ends up painting your skin instead of your hair. Now, you've got an amazing new 'do, but you've also got a distracting smear across your forehead that doesn't want to come off.

"The pigment in hair dye is designed to penetrate through the outer cuticle of the hair and remain there, infusing long-lasting color into the hair shaft. If exposed to the skin, it can also penetrate through its outer layer, causing a semi-permanent tint," dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., tells Good Housekeeping. To make matters worse, certain skin types are extra susceptible to staining and, potentially, irritation from hair dye. "While all skin types are equally at risk for dye staining, if you are using topical retinoids or products like alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids, the skin may be more prone to irritation from the dye because it will more easily penetrate the exfoliated skin."

Long story short, it's not uncommon to end up with a tinge of your tresses' new color on your skin, especially around your hairline, ears, and neck. But no one wants to go out with a sloppy dye job. So how can you clean up any excess dye that made its way onto your skin? Try these hair dye removal tips to help return your epidermis to its normal hue.

Cleanser or makeup remover

When you're trying to clear away hair dye stains without damaging your precious skin, you want to start with the most skin-friendly options first — for instance, your normal cleanser, makeup remover, or micellar water. Since you already use these products all the time, you should hopefully know that they're compatible with your unique skin type and sensitivity.

Of course, hair dye can be stubborn, so it may take a few rinse-and-repeat cycles to vanish that stain completely with a regular cleanser. However, if you're still seeing no progress after cleansing two or three times, you may need to move on to another tactic. As for makeup remover or micellar water, you can either rub the stain gently with a makeup wipe or use a cotton ball to apply remover to the stain and leave it for five minutes before rinsing (via Medical News Today).

Skin-safe oils

Recently, oil cleansing has been all the rage, and this trick may also be an effective way to get rid of excess hair dye on your skin. It works like this: due to its molecular structure, oil loves to bond with dirt, impurities, and other oils on your skin (via WebMD). Then, when you wipe the oil off, it takes all those contaminants away with it. Hair dye is no exception, and because natural oils are gentle even on sensitive skin, this method of dye removal is one of the safer ones to try.

First, choose a skin-safe oil such as olive, coconut, argan, almond, or even baby oil, and apply it to the stain. If the dye doesn't easily wipe away, leave the oil on for an extended period of time, such as overnight while you're sleeping. Just be sure to cover the area with a bandage or plastic bag so you don't get oil all over your sheets!

Gentle exfoliation

Because hair dye likes to sink into the layers of your skin, gentle exfoliation to remove the top layer of dead skin cells may help erase that dye stain. Note, the key word here is gentle — you don't want to scrub too harshly, or you risk rubbing away healthy layers and exposing the vulnerable skin underneath too soon. Over-exfoliation can not only cause redness and irritation but can also contribute to issues like breakouts (via the American Academy of Dermatology).

Begin with a mild face scrub or chemical exfoliant that you're accustomed to using. Then, apply it as normal, without leaving the exfoliant on for an extra long time or putting in any additional elbow grease. Remember, you don't want to overdo it; getting that dye off won't help much if you've left an angry red patch in its place. Struggling with noticeable dye stains on your scalp, such as along your part? Scalp scrubs are also the ideal way to handle the situation without disrupting that fresh new color on your strands.

Dish soap and baking soda

Hair dye can be a bit of a wild child, and it doesn't always restrain itself to your hairline. Sometimes, you may find stubborn smears of dye on your neck, shoulders, or back. And if you forgot to wear gloves while applying dye yourself, your hands and wrists probably look like a crime scene. So what is a good way to remove dye from non-facial stretches of skin?

Fortunately, in any area with more robust skin like your hands, a potent combo of dish soap and baking soda can help break up that lingering stain. While the baking soda provides natural exfoliation, the dish soap works to dissolve the hair dye (via Healthline). Simply mix the two into a paste, rub the mixture into your skin like you would normally lather hand soap, then rinse off thoroughly. Afterward, consider applying a moisturizing lotion or hand cream to restore hydration in the skin.

Rubbing alcohol

Dealing with hair dye stains that just won't quit? As a last resort — the nuclear option, if you will — you can go after that dye with rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover, hand sanitizer, or hydrogen peroxide that's below a concentration of 3%. Choose your weapon and soak a cotton ball with it, dabbing onto the dyed area of the skin.

However, these hardcore methods aren't recommended for the delicate skin of your face, which is more prone to irritation and adverse reactions to strong cleansers. As noted in a 2019 study on skin sensitivity published in Frontiers in Medicine, "The face has demonstrated to be the most common site of skin sensitivity ... due to the larger and multiple number of products used on the face (particularly in women), a thinner barrier in facial skin, and a greater density of nerve endings." So, when it comes to battling hair dye, reserve high-powered cleaning methods like rubbing alcohol to areas of tougher skin, like your hands.