Do hair dye removing products like Color Oops really work? Episode 94

Do hair dye removing products, like Color Oops, really work?7847449296_9db97ea7ba

Lenora in our Forum asks…There seems to be some debate on this in online forums, so I’m wondering if you guys can please answer if “Color Oops” can be damaging to the hair?

Thanks for the question Lenora but I think before we can answer how to remove haircolor we’re going to have to talk a little bit about how to put color into your hair.

How oxidative hair color works

We could spend an entire show, or maybe even several shows, just talking about hair color chemisty. It’s a very complex subject. But here’s the quick version. You can color hair by applying some sort of dye that stains the surface layer which is the cuticle. That’s how natural hair colors like henna work. It’s also how those fashion colors like Manic Panic work.

But if you’re looking for a natural shade of hair color and you want that shade to last as long as possible then you need to use a permanent hair color which is based on oxidative dyes.

I always found it ironic that oxidative hair colors don’t actually have any color in them. Instead they contain very tiny molecules that, when they are reacted, link together to form larger molecules that actually give you the color.
The reason this works so well compared to the types of dyes that just stain your hair is that the molecules are small enough to actually penetrate deeper into the hair shaft.

Under the right reaction conditions they link up to form larger molecules (that’s called polymerization) which are too big to get back out of the hair. The dye molecules stay trapped until your hair grows out. This reaction that links those tiny molecules together is an oxidation reaction which is why these are called oxidative hair colors.

Because this process happens to use hydrogen peroxide as an oxidizing agent you can also lighten your natural hair color in the process because hydrogen peroxide can bleach hair at the appropriate pH.

That’s a gross oversimplification but at least it gives you a sense of how these products work. And now we can talk about how color removing products work.

How hair dye removers work

There are two different ways to chemically breakdown a dye and remove its color. One is by oxidation, which removes electrons, and the other is by reduction, which adds electrons.

Either way the idea is to try and break these large molecules down into smaller particles. When you do that, two things happen. First, when you break down the chromophore, which is the technical name for the ingredient responsible for the color, it doesn’t produce that color any more or at least it won’t be as intense. And second, the smaller pieces of the molecule can more easily slip out of hair so more color will wash out.

There are several products on the market that work this way, I’ll just mentioned a couple of them quickly and I’ll put them in the show notes with Amazon links so you can buy them if you’re interested and we’ll get a little commission from each sale.

Wella Color Remover kit
Wella has a a two phase system Color Remover Kit that you mix together to activate. It’s based on persulfate and hydrogen peroxide and it costs about $10.

Cost: $9.99


Amazon link:

Jherri Redding One ’n Only ColorFix
Jherri Redding’s One ’n Only ColorFix is a three three part system based on Sodium Hydroxymethane and Sulfinic Acid. It costs $17.

Cost $17.00

Part 1 Color Reducer
Water (Aqua), Sodium Hydroxymethane, Sulfinic Acid, Hydroxyethyl Cellulose, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothizolinone.
Part 2 Conditioning Catalyst
Water (Aqua), Citric Acid, Cetearyl Alcohol/Dicetyl Phosphate/Ceteth Phosphate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Fragrance, DMDM Hydantoin, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Pentasodium Pentetate.
Processing Lotion
Deionized Water (Aqua), Hydrogen Peroxide, Dimethicone Copolyol Medowfoamate, Simethicone, Phosphoric Acid.

Amazon link:

L’Oreal Effasol Color Remover
L’oreal’s Effasol Color Remover is a powder that you mix with water. It’s based on persulfate as the oxidizing agent and costs $11.00

Cost: $11.00

Ingredients: Ammonium Chloride, Cellulose Gum, Dioctyl Sodium Sulfosuccinate, EDTA, Potassium Persulfate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Metasilicate, Sodium Persulfate, Strontium Dioxide, Ultramarines.

Amazon link:

L’Oreal also makes a “ColorZap” hair color remover but we couldn’t find any ingredient information for that product. And the salon brand Pravana makes an Artificial Hair Color Extractor kit. We couldn’t find ingredients for that one either but it’s a three part system that sells for $40. I expect it uses similar technology but they throw in a bottle of sulfate free shampoo so they can charge more.

And that brings us to the product Lenora asked about – Color Oops.

Color Oops
This product is based on the “reduction” technique as opposed to the oxidation technique like most other products. It uses a chemical called sodium hydrosulfite in a two part system. Why a two part system? Because hydrosulfite is very unstable so you don’t want to expose it to a low pH until you’re ready to use it. It costs about $14.00.

Cost: $14.00

Part 1 – Deinonized Water, Hydrosulfite, Fragrance, Polysorbate – 80, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Cocamidopropylhydroxysultaine
Part 2 – Deionized Water, Citric Acid,. Aloe Vera Extract, Soyamidopropyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride, Cocamidopropylhydroxysultaine, Xantham Gum

Amazon link:

Their website has a pretty good description of how the product works. They say that…

“Color Oops is a revolutionary hair product that removes hair color to restore hair to its natural color. This is a miracle product because not only can it remove unwanted color, but it won’t damage your hair!”

“Color Oops contains hydrosulfite which “rapidly reduces the dye molecule without the need for bleach, ammonia, or peroxide.”

“Color Oops reverses the oxidation process of hair color pigment. Color Oops shrinks the color pigment back to small clear dye intermediates. These intermediates are still in the hair. The rinsing and shampoo process is essential in assuring these intermediates are thoroughly washed from hair. We recommend washing and rinsing for 5 minutes 3-4 times, but the longer you rinse the better. If any of the dye intermediates are left in the hair they can re-oxidize over time and your hair can re-darken.”

So the question is, does this stuff really work and is it damaging to hair?

Does Color Oops work and is it damaging?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any test data to prove how well any of these products work. But, I did check with an expert on hair dye formulations who has used this technology and here’s what he said:

“Bisulfite has been used for a long time as a “color corrector/remover/lightener/etc.” My experience has been that it works to a minor degree and the closer the color is to the natural hair color, the more it appears to be restoring the natural color. People rarely know what their natural color is if they’ve been coloring for awhile, and it doesn’t remove all the color from gray hair, so when you’re done it would look sort of “natural” as you remember it. It would work to a degree and if it satisfies the consumer – all is good.”

So in lieu of seeing any actual data, I’ll accept this “expert testimony” as proof the product works reasonably well. But there’s one catch here that bothers me. And that’s when we get to the question of damage.

Potential for damage

Our hair color expert says that he has worked with BIsulfite as a color remover. (Remember that Color Oops uses HYDROsulfite.) Bisulfite is also well known for its use in another reactive hair care product – Permanent waving lotion or Perm for short.

Here’s how that works: Disulfide bonds determine if hair is curly or straight. Bisulfite, because it’s a good reducing agent, can disrupt these bonds allowing the hair to be changed from straight to curly. Then the bonds are reoxidized to lock in that new shape. While it’s true that bisulfite perms are milder than thiglycolate perms (mostly because of the lower pH) they still don’t reform ALL the disulfide bonds and therefore bisulfite can be weakening to hair.

What does all this have to do with Color Oops and its hydrosulfite? Well, when hydrosulfite reacts with water guess what it breaks down to? That’s right…Bisulfite. So hydrosulfite has actually come out of the closet and revealed that it’s Bisulfite. Oh, by the way, just in case you end up Googling this yourself don’t be confused because hydrosulfite is also known as dithionite and hypodisulfite.

Now, just because Color Oops uses hydrosulfite which turns into bisulfite, all is not lost. That’s because Color Oops mixes hydrosulfite with citric acid which probably brings the pH down below 5.5. At this point, hydrosulfite is converted to bisulfite and the bisulfite itself breaks down releasing Sulfur dioxide which smells a little like rotten eggs. Since people complain about how this product stinks, I’m assuming this is what’s happening. If that’s the case, the low pH could be allowing the reduction of the dye molecules so you get rid of color while preventing excessive swelling of the hair – and that means it’s less damaging.

However, I would still expect this kind of chemical processing could cause SOME degree of damage. This is consistent with what some of the product reviewers say although it’s also just possible that the extra damage just came from washing and rewashing hair that was bleached and colored at least once. The tradeoff of getting a little more damage to get rid of a little more color MAY be worth it. Only you can decide that for yourself.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

Color Oops should work reasonably well because it’s based on the principle of using a reducing agent to break down hair dye.

However, the reducing agent it uses, hydrosulfite, converts to bisulfite and we know bisulfite can weaken the structure of hair. So there’s the risk of some damage. You have to decide it the risk of a little damage is worth getting rid of the excess color.

Finally, remember that Color Oops won’t remove non-oxidative hair colors. Those are the bright stains that you get form products like Manic Panic.

Improbable products

A special high tech beauty gadget edition of the game where I challenge you and Perry to guess the fake product. Which of the following is NOT a real beauty gadget? Listen to the show for your answer.

1. Color changing Hair ‘E-extensions” use fiber optics to suit your mood.
2. A “Fake Fingernail Trackpad” is a mini remote control your iPhone.
3. The “Body Blower” works like a Dyson hand dryer for your entire body.

iTunes Reviews

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It’s difficult to make informed decisions on skin and hair care and the BB approach is a true breath of fresh air. Plus, I find Randy and Perry really likeable 🙂

So excited that people are taking their time to review us. We’re up to 95 reviews now ALL of them 5 star and 4 star. Until today…

Good resource — 3 stars
– by J/p/h from United States on Jun 23, 2015
Good resource for low-bias, scientific info regarding beauty products, which is hard to find. Can be a little dry & uber-nerdy. Didn’t you take an Uber Nerdy to work today?

volume control PLEASE! — 3 stars
–  by JinnahKang from United States on Jun 21, 2015
1.  Informative podcast
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2.  Every episode seems to have a long intro (that’s not related to the title of the episode) before they get to the actual content.

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