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How to Remove Hair Dye from Skin (and Prevent It from Staining in the First Place)

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Whether you’re dyeing your hair at home or getting it professionally done at a salon, there’s always a chance that a bit of rogue dye may travel from your hair to your skin. When that happens, it can leave a stubborn—if relatively harmless—hair color stain. And although a little dye may not be your favorite thing to look at, the good news is it’s not the end of the world.

“A little bit of staining is okay, and honestly, sometimes it is inevitable. Some clients’ skin just loves color!” reassures celebrity hair colorist Mark DeBolt. While any color can leave its mark, unfortunately some dyes are bigger culprits than others. “I will say, it is usually the deeper shades of brunette that stain the worst,” says DeBolt. To find out how to get rid of the stain—no matter the color—and even better, prevent it from happening in the first place (thank you for all that you do, petroleum jelly!), continue reading below.

About the Expert:

Mark DeBolt is a celebrity colorist & co-founder of Mark Ryan Salon in New York City.

How to remove hair dye from skin:

1. Gentle cleansing

It may seem too good to be true, but soap and water will almost get rid of the stain. “Stains can be removed with a gentle exfoliating face wash or soap,” says DeBolt. We love MURAD AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser, which uses salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acids to chemically exfoliate skin. (Psst: You can also try a good ol’ bar soap!)

Rinsing with warm water, “Rub the face wash in little circles on the stain to coax the color off of the dyed skin. When you are in the process of rubbing the dye off, be sure to do so in a circular motion and gently so you are not harshly pulling on your skin,” he explains.

2. Makeup remover

We know: It almost sounds too obvious. But it really works! Apply a makeup remover such as CLINIQUE Take The Day Off™ Makeup Remover For Lids, Lashes & Lips using a cotton ball or washcloth to the stained skin, and watch as the pigment begins to miraculously lift from the skin.

3. Skin-friendly oil

You can use an oil such as argan oil, olive oil, coconut oil, or even baby oil to remove hair dye, especially for dry and sensitive skin types. We’re particularly fond of olive oil—not least because you likely already have some in your kitchen (you’ve heard about olive oil's many skin-loving properties, right?). Depending on the size of the stained area, soak a cotton ball or swab in oil, then dab it into the stain; if it doesn’t come out right away, try applying oil to the stain for a few hours or overnight—a Band-aid will help keep it in place.

4. Rubbing alcohol

Although it can be harsh on skin, rubbing alcohol (a.k.a. isopropyl alcohol) can also be an effective stain remover. Simply apply with a cotton pad, and stick with a lower concentration (i.e. 70%), which will be less drying. The alcohol may strip away skin’s natural oils, so be sure to apply moisturizer when you’re done.

5. Nail polish remover

If you went the DIY route with your hair color, you could end up with some dye on your hands or cuticles. In this case, your go-to nail polish remover should come in handy, followed by a layer of hydrating hand lotion. And don’t forget to wear gloves next time!

How to prevent dye stains on skin:

In addition to gloves, take a cue from professional hairstylists like DeBolt and get ahead of stains by protecting the surrounding skin. “We always apply a barrier cream—a cream that protects the skin’s outside layer—to the hairline before applying color as an added layer of protection,” says the stylist.

For a DIY version, he says, “Vaseline or any sort of hair oil will do the trick.” Try NATURELAB. TOKYO Perfect Smooth Hair Oil, which has ingredients like argan oil and quinoa extract to benefit the hair, scalp, and skin.

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About the author
Lindy Segal
Lindy is a contributor at IPSY, a beauty and lifestyle writer, and Real Housewives aficionado. She was an editor at People and Glamour, and her freelance work has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar, Who What Wear, and Cosmopolitan, among other publications.
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Article Last Updated January 11, 2021 12:00 AM