DIY Hair: How to Bleach Dark Hair
I'm all about doing things myself. There are so many hair salon horror stories! And even if I did go to a salon, I'm too much of a sissy to speak up if I don't like what the hairdresser has done. If I cut and dye at home, I have nobody but myself to blame if it's a disaster—and so far, I have no regrets! I've been cutting and dyeing my own hair for about five years now. It's taken a while to get the hang of it, but I sure have saved a lot of money and grief.
This article is more for those of you who are bleaching as a first step in putting some exciting color into your hair. If you're going for a platinum blonde, this guide will also be of some use for you. But if you are trying to get a golden shade of blonde, you may have to give in and go to a salon to get it right, though you can find some bleaching tips here.
For ladies who already have natural level six hair color and lighter, you may not even need bleach to lighten! Check out this article on how to use high lift hair color, a bleach-free alternative that works on naturally lighter hair.
Steps for Bleaching Dark Hair
- Prep for the bleach.
- Learn which products and tools you'll need to bleach your hair.
- Prepare and mix the bleach.
- Bleach a test strip.
- Rinse out the bleach.
- Use purple shampoo (optional) and toner (optional).
- Condition the crap out of it!
I'm not a licensed cosmetologist. I'm not holding a gun to your head and telling you to use these methods! This is what worked for me, and luckily I didn't have much damage to my hair. Please do further research to figure out what will be best for your hair type and color before bleaching! If you're willing to take the risk, proceed. At the very least, learn my experience with bleach and get the basics.
Going blonde is a process. You have to have patience, especially my dark-haired ladies! It's best to bleach lightly many times with deep conditions in between.
1. Prepping for the Bleach
Bleaching can be a very damaging process, so you want to make sure your hair is at its healthiest. Keep it moisturized by using deep conditioners and hair masks.
If you're trying to have ballin' hair on a budget, look around for conditioners at home! Olive oil works great as a deep conditioner. Work a tablespoon or two into your hair until it's all saturated. Secure your hair with a giant clip, and wear a shower cap if possible - you don't want to get olive oil everywhere. Leave it on for at least 30 minutes, then wash out with shampoo. I used to leave it on for about an hour and a half, and the results were great - my hair was soft, smooth, and shining.
2. Products and Tools You'll Need to Bleach Your Hair
A bleach kit may not be up to the task!
Manic Panic's "Flashlightning" bleach kit didn't work well for me, because there wasn't enough bleach powder for all of my hair. My hair is thick and dark, and it was not cooperating with the small amount of mixture provided in the kit. Though if you don't have too much hair, you could try the kit.
What worked better for me is that I bought the items below on sale, and ended up spending around $20.
- Bleach powder: I got a giant tub, and it has lasted me for 2 full bleaches, 2 root touch-ups, and an ombre job I did on a friend. And I still have a good quarter of the container left over!
- Developer: I bought 40-volume developer when I went blonde. My hair was very resistant to the 30-volume developer I used before, and I was getting fed up. HOWEVER it is much safer for your hair if you use a low volume (10 or 20) several times. You can purchase cream or clear developer, though clear is usually cheaper. I DO NOT RECOMMEND USING 40 VOLUME DEVELOPER! When I initially wrote this article and used it, I ended up with a bit of damage to my hair because it was so strong. Instead, I recommend using a 10 or 20 and bleaching gradually. Stripping all of your color in one go is incredibly bad for your hair, if it is as dark as mine was.
- Hair dye brush: Use this to apply the powder/developer mixture, any old one will do.
- Generic brand purple shampoo: Yes, the brand is called “Generic.” It’s relatively cheap, and is used to take the orange-yellow tones out of bleached hair. It's a good thing to have around right after bleaching, and for later on if the yellow tones start coming back. Read all about purple shampoo and which ones are best here!
- Toner: If you are going for platinum or any sort of blonde, you'll want to get toner, but if you're bleaching your hair to put some other fancy color in it, you probably won't need the toner. Read more about toner and how it works here!
- Mixing bowl (preferably glass), gloves, tin foil, and a giant hair clip.
3. Preparing and Mixing the Bleach
I like to rip my tin foil into sections before I put gloves on. I'll get about 10-12 sections of tin foil, 5-6 inches wide and set them aside.
At this point, I divide my hair into quarters - vertically down my part, and horizontally across the back of my head. I leave one section free, and hold the other three with a massive hair clip until it's their turn.
Get a big old mixing bowl, your dye brush, and glove-up, it's time to start mixing bleach! If you get a tub of bleach, it should come with a scooper. I had thick, layered hair just past my shoulders, and I started off using two scoops of bleach powder. Mix about three tablespoons of developer per scoop of powder - in this case, five or six tablespoons.
Make sure you mix it well so there are no chunks of powder. If you find you've run out of mixture, don't fret! You can mix more as you bleach.
4. Bleach a Test Strip
Start with a test strip. Take a section of hair on the bottom and brush some bleach on that sucker from the roots to the ends. Fold it up in some foil, and check it every ten minutes to gauge how long you'll have to leave the bleach in. I wouldn't exceed one hour - this can be very damaging and melt your hair. When you are satisfied with the test, note how long it took, and rinse out the test section well.
4. Applying the Bleach
You'll want to bleach the rest of your hair quickly, so that it all soaks in the bleach for the time you estimated based on your test. If you are going slowly, at least note the time when you are halfway through with your hair.
I usually start with one of the lower, back sections of hair. It's handy to have two mirrors so you can see the back of your head while you're doing this.
Start from the bottom and work your way up your scalp - use your fingers or a comb to gather a horizontal section of hair across the bottom of your head. Don't grab a thick section - keep it no more than a half centimeter (a quarter inch) thick. You want to be sure all of the hair comes into contact with the bleach.
Using your dye brush, apply bleach starting at your roots and working down to the ends. You should apply it on both the top and bottom of the strip of hair. Just make sure you don't miss any spots! Also, try to avoid getting the bleach on your skin. It burns!!
Work your way up the back of your head. I'll foil after about two sections of hair. Just lay the hair flat on the foil, and fold it up so that the bulk of your hair isn't exposed.
Do this for each quarter of your hair, mixing more bleach as needed.
5. Rinsing Out the Bleach
Check your foiled strips of hair every ten minutes to see how they're doing. When your hair is as light as you want it, go ahead and wash the bleach out with cold water. Since I have so much hair, it took me a while to bleach, and my strips were through soaking at different times. So I washed the bleach out of each strip individually in my sink, starting with the strips I bleached first.
If you are desperate to see some results quick, you could use a straightener on the foiled strips - heat speeds up the bleaching process. However, I do not recommend this, as it is very damaging to your hair! If your hair is not coming out light enough, even after an hour, wash the bleach out, and give your hair a few days of deep conditioning before bleaching again.
6. Purple Shampoo (Optional); Toner (Optional)
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 your damp hair, leaving it on for 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, you can shave your legs and stuff.
If your hair isn't light enough, you may need to bleach again. If it is light enough, but is still a weird tone, whip out your White Lady toner. Mix one part of your volume 10 or 20 developer with one part toner. Apply the toner to damp hair, making sure that your hair is fully saturated. You can leave it in anywhere from 15-40 minutes. The longer you leave it in, the lighter it gets. When you're ready, wash it out in the shower.
7. Condition the Crap Out of It
After you've bleached, toned, and potentially dyed your hair a crazy color, you must condition!!! I used a deep conditioner in the shower, leaving it in for 3-5 minutes. Then, I applied a leave-in conditioner to my damp hair, as well as a keratin oil spray. Work this kind of stuff into your hair so it gets all nutri-tized.
Your hair may be angry at you for bleaching it, so make sure you use conditioners and hair masks, and try to avoid using heat on it.
Also, after bleaching you're going to have to address the issue of roots. It's time to touch up your roots after around 4-6 weeks - and you can find out how to do it here!
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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.