Do Your Ombre Yourself!
Getting an ombre done in a salon can run from $55–$300. To do it yourself? $20.
I get it, you're scared to mess up your hair. But I'm confident in your abilities! This tutorial follows my first attempt at creating ombre hair, on my friend Holly. And I admit, I really didn't know what I was doing. Guess what? It worked.
Follow these steps and go on an ombre-adventure with me.
Before and After the Home Ombre Bleaching Experiment
Gather Your Materials!
If you've read my article on How to Bleach Dark Hair, you may already have the necessary materials. If not, here they are again! If you're only planning on bleaching your hair this once, buy small containers of each product; this will cost you maybe $20.
- A tub of bleach powder. I use a massive tub of Wella bleach powder; you can find a smaller tub of another brand.
- Volume 40 clear developer. I use Salon Care developer! You can use cream if you want—I just used clear. Your preference!
- Purple shampoo. I use a Generic brand. Yes, the brand is called "Generic." It's cheap! This keeps your hair from looking yellowy-orange once you've bleached.
- Two dye brushes. Very cheap, under a dollar. You'll need two, for applying different concentrations of the bleach mixtures.
- Two small glass bowls. For mixing your concoction!
- Tinfoil. Start by tearing about 15 strips of tin foil, about 5 inches wide. You can always tear more if you need them!
- Gloves. Don't handle bleach with your hands, you're no wizard!
Mix the Bleach
You're going to be mixing two different concentrations of bleach to create the ombre effect. Grab your two bowls and situate yourself near a sink.
Here's the ratio for the first, stronger bowl:
- 1 tablespoon bleach powder
- 1 teaspoon developer
I'd probably double or triple these quantities if you have thick hair. Take your first dye brush and mix up the bleach, making sure there are no chunks.
Now, you need to mix up your second, weaker bowl:
- 1 tablespoon bleach powder
- 1/2 teaspoon developer
- 1/2 teaspoon water.
The water will dilute the mixture, and thus leave your hair darker. The weaker solution will be used to create your transition from dark to light hair.
Apply Two Bleach Mixtures to Create Your Ombre
Keep your mixtures distinctly separate! Wrap a rubber band around the handle of one of the dye brushes, if it'll help.
Apply the first, stronger mixture at your ends. Grab a sheet of tin foil and a 2-inch wide (but thin) section of hair. Hold the tin foil behind the section of hair, and using your dye brush, apply the first mixture about 2 inches up from the ends of your hair.
Use enough bleach to fully saturate your ends.
Once you're done applying the first mixture, set it aside, and grab the second, diluted mix. Apply it using upward strokes. Start by overlapping about an inch from where you applied the first solution so that the mixtures blend and don't create a straight bleach line across your head. Then, keep brushing the bleach upwards on your hair, about 3 or 4 more inches up.
Whatever you do, don't create a straight line across your head! I mean, unless that's what you're going for. You want to make sure that the color lightens gradually downwards, and blends well. To do this, switch up the bleached lengths.
This is what I did on Holly's hair—I varied the lengths to which I applied the bleach. Then, from each foiled section, I took 2 or 3 tiny sections of hair—about ½ centimeter in diameter—and treated them as highlights. I applied bleach to these sections a couple of inches higher than on the rest of the hair—I think it helps to make the ombre blend better.
When you finish a section, foil it up and let it sit.
Here's a video to assist you if you need help. It's a little long, but the more information you have, the better!
Time the Bleach and Wash it Out
It took a while to bleach Holly's hair because she has so much of it. We had to keep a close eye on the sections we foiled first, while I was still bleaching the last bits of her hair. Check each section ten minutes after foiling, and if they're not light enough for you, come back to them every five minutes.
If you're desperate for lighter hair, you can use a straightener on the foiled sections; heat helps to lighten. I wouldn't recommend this though since it's pretty damaging. Don't leave the bleach in for more than 30 minutes—you risk melting your hair to spaghetti.
Your hair may look slightly yellow or orange. That's normal! The purple shampoo you have will take out the yellow tones in your hair.
Once you're satisfied with the lightness, wash the bleach out of that section in the sink. I suggest rubbing a bit of conditioner into your ends after you wash the bleach out, to help restore some of the moisture.
Newly bleached dark hair is usually tinted yellow, and unless you're into that sort of thing, you should grab some purple shampoo. Hop in the shower and apply enough to saturate the bleached bits of your damp hair, leaving it on for 10–15 minutes. In the meantime, you can shave your legs and stuff.
After the allotted time, just wash it out. Your yellow should be gone! Keep the purple shampoo around, you may want to use it once every week or two.
You Did It!
Let your hair dry—it's darker when wet. Once it's dry, you can catch the full effect of your new ombre.
If you don't think your hair is light enough, go ahead and repeat the process after about a week.
Congrats, I'm proud of you!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Alex Rose
Liv on August 01, 2017:
Your ratios are wrong. You DO NOT do 1:1 ratio unless you want to destroy the eff outta your hair. The correct ratio is 2:1 - two parts developer for every one part bleach powder.
Eden on July 16, 2017:
Sally's is expensive due to the fact it is a beauty supply store with high end brands and products. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative try your local drugstore. :)
Angela on July 08, 2017:
First, it cost more than $50 for the supplies in 2017. I went to Sally's, and the smallest tubs of bleach powder were 20 dollars. The only brushes they had were almost 10 dollars each. Things have gotten a bit pricey.
Second, I did not have success using the ratios you indicated. I had to use 4 times the amounts suggested, and I ran out of bleach to do hair about the same length as the model pictured. There wasn't enough liquid to make anything resembling a paste. I had to wing it with extra developer and water, and when I was done, there was no difference between the two bleach strengths. I kept the water to developer ratios the same as you indicated and used a 40 weight developer.
The technique seemed to work reasonably well, so thank you for that. Any ideas why my mixture was so dry? I used BW2 extra strength powder.
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