02 03 Gallimaufry Grove: How to Remove Indigo Dye from Hair 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

How to Remove Indigo Dye from Hair


Most of you know that I have used henna to dye my hair for millennia.  You may also know that when I first started using henna, I didn't need to color my hair.  I just did it because I wanted to.  I liked a more auburn color than my natural brown, and I didn't want to use chemicals.  If you have been doing your Gallimaufry Grove homework, you will know that I no longer color just for fun.  That's right, folks.  I'm going gray.  A lot.  Sigh...

Because henna works with the color of your existing hair rather than changing it, I was a lovely auburn before I began turning gray.  But the gray hair turns really red when I use henna.  Before I learned how to henna my gray hair, I just mixed indigo and henna about half and half and did my whole head.  That looked fine for the first time or two, but Indigo has a way of building up.  In other words, the more you use it, the darker and blacker your hair gets.  My hair turned so dark it was almost black.

I began using the new henna for gray hair technique on my new hair growth and just hoped the dark indigo in the rest of my hair would fade out.  It didn't.  As my new hair growth got longer I started getting comments about my "reverse ombre" hair color (it was lighter and redder at the top, but darker and blacker at the bottom).  I went with it, but I didn't like it.  I finally decided I would just have to grow it out and chop it off.

Then my kids took this picture for a refashion "after" shot:

This picture makes me shudder on so many levels, but for the purpose of this post, let's just talk about the hair.  The top first 4 or 5 inches looks auburn, but the rest looks positively blue/black.  It looks like somebody gave my hair a black eye.  This is the picture that got my attention and let me know I had to do something.

I did a bunch of super scientific research with my favorite research expert, Mr. Google.  I read about all kinds of things that didn't work.  Most people tried everything, failed, and then either used a harsh chemical dye remover that ruined their hair, or skipped the drama and just chopped it all off.  I wasn't satisfied with those options.

There was one long shot idea involving citric acid, though.  

My super scientific research involved a highly regulated clinical trial conducted in my kitchen with a study pool of exactly one individual -- me.  It was a double blind study -- I didn't know what I was doing and I wasn't exactly sure how I would react.  

Amazingly, though, this crazy idea helped.  I don't know if it took ALL the indigo dye out of my hair, but it definitely took out some.  My hair is naturally dark, so the change is subtle.  I don't know what your results would be if you have naturally light hair.  My thought is that you would lighten some of the indigo, but probably would not return to your natural color.  However, if you aren't happy with indigo but you don't want to use harsh chemicals, every little bit helps.

Without further ado, here is what I did:

Step one:  I mixed 5 tsp. Citric Acid with 4 cups warm water.  I saturated my hair with this (my hair is long, so I mixed this in a pitcher and dunked the length of my hair into the pitcher until it was soaked.  Then I poured the rest over the hair near my scalp because, oddly, my head doesn't fit into a pitcher.)  I wrapped my wet hair in a plastic Walmart bag (plastic wrap or a shower cap would also work).  Then I wrapped a towel around that to keep it warm.  I let it sit on my hair for 1 hour, then I washed and conditioned my hair.

At first, I didn't think it had helped at all.  I thought my hair looked just as blue/black as always.  But it seemed to lighten just a bit over the next two days.  On the second day, I put my hair up in a bun.  Before I did this treatment, my up-do's didn't look real.  The bun was a different color than the rest of my hair because it was so much darker.  It looked kind of like a bad hair piece.  But after this treatment, my bun looked like it belonged to me.  Whoohoo!  That was when I knew for sure that this was working.

Step two:  I was so excited about the subtle change that I decided to see if a second treatment would take out a little more.  This time, I put 5 Tablespoons Citric Acid in 5 cups warm water, and proceeded just as before -- I covered with a plastic bag and a towel and left for one hour, then washed and conditioned.  After a couple days, the ends of my hair now look about the same color as the rest of my hair!

I was a little concerned that all that citric acid would dry out my hair or irritate my scalp.  I didn't put the second treatment right on my scalp, just in case.  As for my hair, it did not dry it out.  Rather, it seemed to strip off any buildup.  My hair is actually shinier.  For the record, my hair is pretty healthy to begin with.  I don't know if this would dry out already damaged hair.

I am over due for my next henna hair color treatment.  This time I will be starting with hair that looks a lot more uniform in color than before.  Overall, I am so glad I tried this.

Update:  It suddenly occurred to me that you guys would probably like to see an "after" photo so you could see the difference.  I am sure there is still some indigo in my hair, but it definitely looks more uniformly auburn now.  By the way, the indigo in my hair from about 4-5 inches from the top all the way to the ends was about 6 or 8 months old.  It had been on there awhile and wasn't going anywhere by washing.  After I did the citric acid treatment, my hair seemed to lighten out over the next day or two.  The following picture was taken only a couple weeks after the Indigo of Doom Picture above.  Sorry in advance for the lame selfie -- my photographers (aka. the teens) were busy...

If you try this, please let us know in the comments.  Did it work for you?  Did it take out some of the indigo?  All of it?  None of it?  Did your hair turn into chicken feathers?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Have a great day!


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