Switching up your hair color is the best way to get a brand-new look. However, things can be a bit more complicated than just applying hair dye on your strands if you have dark hair. If you want to go more than a couple of tones lighter, you’ll probably need to bleach your hair.
The good news is that you don’t need to make an appointment with a colorist — with the proper precautions and products, you’ll be able to safely bleach your own hair right at home.
Bleaching Your Own Hair at Home 101
The bleaching process can cause serious hair damage, but taking the due approach will ensure a smooth and safe experience. Essentially, you need to know what to do prior to the bleaching session, how to bleach your hair step by step, and what hair care routine will help you strengthen your locks and maintain a beautiful color. We’ll dive into these three points further.
1. How to Prepare to Bleaching
Ahead of rushing to prepare bleach mixture and applying it on your precious locks, you need to find out some important things that will help you choose the most suitable product and determine the optimal time to leave the bleach on your hair. You also need to do a strand test and nurture your hair to bring it to its best condition.
Figure Out What Level Your Hair Is and How It Lifts
For bleaching your hair, you’ll need bleach powder or liquid and a developer. The developer opens your hair cuticles to allow the pigment to leave the hair shaft. Developers come in different volumes of peroxide, and the choice of the developer that will best suit you directly depends on your hair level.
Basically, hair levels mean how dark or light your hair is: on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 refers to black hair, while 10 stands for the lightest blonde hair color.
Developers, in their turn, range from 10 volume to 40 volume, the higher the volume, the greater the lightening effect:
- 10 Volume (3%) Developer: This type of oxidizing agent is designed for a case when your current hair shade is very close to the desired one. This product is the best choice for a gentle, 1 to 2 levels lightening. However, if you have dark hair and the color of your choice requires a major lightening, the volume 10 developer won’t work.
- 20 Volume (6%) Developer: A volume 20 developer can provide 2 to 3 levels of lift, which is quite enough, let’s say, to take light brown hair to a medium blonde shade. This concentration isn’t able to lift brown hair to blonde within a single round of bleaching, though.
- 30 Volume (9%) Developer: This concentration of hydrogen peroxide works like magic if your aim is to achieve a 3-4 level lift. However, it’s strong enough to cause scalp irritation.
- 40 Volume (12%) Developer: Finally, a volume 40 developer is the only one that can provide a lift up to eight levels. Although it’s perfect when you need a blank canvas to apply a spanking new shade, it’s a no-brainer that this concentration is the harshest among all, so it may cause scalp burns if used incorrectly.
That being said, your hair is unique and may be more or less stubborn to lift. This is why you should test-strand the bleach: take one strand from the lower layer and bleach as you plan to, then assess how well the bleach worked. Ideally, the bleach will process your hair to pale blonde color without causing breakage.
If you get orange hair after bleaching, you need to either use a stronger developer, keep it in your hair longer, or tone your hair lighter brown or red and schedule a gradual transition to a lighter color.
Test the Porosity of Your Locks
In terms of hair bleaching, hair porosity specifies how well your hair takes color or moisture. The time you’ll leave the bleach mixture on your hair directly depends upon this feature.
Figuring out your hair porosity is as easy as pie. Everything you need is to take a few hair strands (make sure they’re clean and product-free) and place them in a bowl filled with lukewarm water. Now, watch what happens:
- If your hair sinks immediately, your porosity is high;
- If it sinks gradually, this is a sign of normal hair porosity;
- Finally, if it doesn’t sink after five minutes, your porosity is low.
Ladies with low porosity will probably need a bit more time to process the tresses, while ladies with high hair porosity need to be extremely careful with the bleach — such hair absorbs chemicals like a sponge.
Take Care of the Good Condition of Your Hair
Your number one task is to keep your tresses as moisturized as possible before the bleaching day. This way, the bleach will have fewer chances to damage your hair and leave the strands dry and frizzy. To help your locks retain moisture, start using moisturizing shampoos and conditioners regularly a month before you apply the bleach. Also, use a hydrating hair mask or coconut oil for deep conditioning your hair a week before the session.
For safer and more successful lightening, avoid using any heat tools like your blow dryer or flat and curling irons for at least two weeks before bleaching — let your tresses get over the heat damage.
Also, remember that bleach works best on virgin, unprocessed hair, as previously colored hair may lift patchy. Thus, avoid dyeing your hair for at least three months before bleaching if you can or let the professional on the job.
Get Everything Ready
Although you’ll typically find all the products and tools in your hair bleach kit, make sure you have these items at hand before you get it all started:
- Lightener (liquid or powder) and developer;
- Some old clothes or a protective gown (peroxide is notorious for damaging fabrics!);
- Tint brush;
- Plastic or glass mixing bowl;
- Shower cap or plastic bag;
- Tail comb (for sectioning your hair);
- Hair clips;
- Shampoo and conditioner.
For safer lightening, colorists recommend not to wash your hair at least one day before the session. Natural oils covering your scalp will act as a barrier between your skin and the bleach, making the process safer and less painful.
2. How to Bleach Your Own Hair at Home
The main secret to bleaching your hair at home successfully is following the specific instructions for the product you’ve picked. Also, section and do the roots last should be your mantra. Here is a step by step of what to do.
Prepare the Place and the Mixture
For starters, choose a well-ventilated area for your hair-lightening session. Make sure the room has sufficient lighting. You’ll also need a mirror and a table to place the tools on. When you have this ready, put on the gloves and mix the lightener and developer as the instructions say.
Section Your Hair
Divide your hair into four quadrants — vertically down the middle line, then horizontally, approximately above your ears. Pin the sections using hair clips. You will need to apply bleach to even smaller sections, but this will be good sectioning to start with.
Apply the Bleach
Start applying the product at the back of your head — the hair here soaks up the bleach more slowly than on the top, so it will require more time to achieve the result. Take a few strands within each hair section and saturate them with the product, skipping the roots.
Why is this important? The hair close to the scalp processes faster due to your body heat, so you risk making the first inch of your hair look a level lighter than the rest of the hair. To avoid “hot roots”, apply the product one inch away from the scalp on the entire head.
When you finish with the bottom sections, start applying the bleach on the top. Once all the strands are covered in the bleach, go back to saturate the roots. Finally, put on a shower cap or plastic bag and let the bleach sit. Processing time depends on the product you use and the desired result, so make sure you carefully read manufacturer recommendations.
Wash It Away
When your hair is fully processed, gently wash it out with your regular shampoo. Keep in mind that it’s better to use lukewarm water. Don’t stop until you’re sure that you’ve completely rinsed the bleach out. Next, apply moisturizing conditioner on the wet hair, let it sit for a couple of minutes, and rinse it. Then, it’s essential to let your bleached mane air dry.
Act Upon the Results
You might not fall in love with the result at once. It’s okay when hair looks yellow — it just needs further toning or a bleach bath. If you end up with dark, orange hair, you might need to re-bleach it, though. To avoid significant damage, it’s crucial to give your tresses enough time for recovery, so wait for at least three days before another session.
3. How to Take Care of Bleached Hair
Going from dark brown to lighter strands is a high-impact transition, and this is about both your hair condition and your new look. Even without major lifting, bleach treatment often results in a dry and rough texture, and brassy tones start to creep in soon. However, it doesn’t mean that you need to refuse from getting the platinum blonde of your dreams. Instead, listen to a couple of useful tips on how to take care of your freshly processed hair.
Moisturize. Moisturize. Moisturize
The next few weeks after you bleach your hair, your number one mission is to hydrate your weakened locks and restore their softness and shine. For this, stock up on moisturizing conditioners and don’t shy away from DIY masks — organic products work like magic when it comes to restoring damaged hair.
Focus On Special Care
Freshly bleached tresses are extremely vulnerable to heat styling damage, meaning you should avoid blow-drying, curling, or straightening your hair during the first weeks after bleaching your hair. Also, use sulfate-free shampoo and hair products containing more organic ingredients.
Get Some Purple Shampoo
Bleached locks tend to get brassy over time, but don’t worry — you can fight the unwanted warm tones by switching out your regular shampoo with purple shampoo every other week.
Keep in mind that you should wait for at least two weeks after you bleach your hair before you start using the purple shampoo. Your strands will be porous and highly absorbent the first weeks after lightening, and purple-tinted products can change your hair color.
Remember that DIY hair lightening is okay only if you have healthy hair, understand the basic color science, and carefully follow the guidelines. Otherwise, you can end up with blotchy color and some serious hair damage. So, if you’re currently experiencing issues such as frizziness, dryness, and breakage, it’s highly recommended to leave the bleach job to a hair stylist or professional colorist.