How to Go Ash Blonde At Home Without Damaging Your Hair (with Olaplex)
My most recent visit to the "hot" local hair salon culminated in a $200 charge to my credit card (plus tips), hours of lost time and less-than-spectacular color result.
I wanted silver roots with pink tips, but somehow after all the bleaching, frosting, and toning my hair was dyed my natural mousy brown color with pale pink highlights.
And the stylist had the audacity to claim that it is silver, like I was taking crazy pills! "You just need to wash it a few times." I was incredulous but too tired to argue. Naturally, washing it a few times didn't transmute brown into silver, and to add insult to the injury, the pink washed out completely, leaving me with rusty brown color with orange tips and no desire to go back to that stylist.
So I decided to take matters into my own hands. No more experimenting with wacky colors. I wanted luminous ash blonde, and I wanted as little damage to my hair as possible.
The Risky Business of Dyeing Your Own Hair
Lets get one thing straight: dyeing your hair at home is a risky business. It's like a box of chocolates: "you never what what you're gonna get." I don't recommend it unless you know your hair really well.
I've experimented with hairstyles and colors my whole life, I worked at a hair salon for a few years, and I've done a TON of research. But I'm not a professional hairdresser.
This step-by-step guide is the result of my research and my experience applying that research. It shows how I've been able to go blonde at home with minimal damage to my hair, the products I used and other tips.
However, if you decide to follow my instructions and go through the same process, understand that I don't guarantee the same results. Everyone's hair is different: when in doubt, consult a professional.
What is Olaplex and How Does It Work?
I have fairly fine hair, and it's been through a lot, so my main concern about going blonde was keeping my hair from turning into rice noodles.
It takes a lot of processing to get and to maintain the right shade of blonde. So I set out to find the minimally invasive way to do it. My noble search led me to Olaplex.
Olaplex is a patented hair treatment tool that created a revolution in the beauty industry. The claim is that it reconnects broken hair bonds, reverses damage and protects the hair during bleaching, coloring, perming and other harsh chemical treatments. Some even say that the hair is healthier after bleaching with Olaplex than before the bleaching! The science behind Olaplex does stand up to scrutiny, and there's a lot of incredible before and after pics floating around, but it's always scary to try something for the first time.
Another thing is, they make a point to dissuade you from using it at home by claiming they only sell to professional hair salons. But like most things in this universe, it can be found on Amazon. That's where I got my kit, and proceeded with my plan.
This is the process, broken down into three parts: bleaching, toning, conditioning, and re-applying as needed.
Phase I: Bleaching
Make sure you add enough developer, otherwise the mixture will be sort of sandy and hard to work with. Usually, the ratio of powder to developer is 1:2.
1. First, I wrapped an old towel around my shoulders and put on disposable gloves.
2. Then I mixed 2 scoops of lighting powder with creme developer until the consistency was smooth but not runny. Although I usually use 20 volume developer, I'm using 30 volume because Olaplex dilutes the strength of the peroxide a bit, so 40 becomes 30, 30 becomes 20 etc.
3. Then I added 3.75 ml of Olaplex #1 (you'll find detailed instructions on dosage in the Olaplex box), and mixed it all together.
4. Next, I sectioned my hair into 4 parts and applied the bleach, starting with the ends. You want to do the scalp last, so there's minimal burning, if any.
5. Pretty soon, in fact, while I was still putting the bleach on, my hair started getting lighter. Even though I was using Olaplex, I was afraid to damage my hair, so I panicked and rinsed out the bleach after 15 minutes.
6. After I rinsed out the bleach (if you're using Olaplex, just rinse it out, don't shampoo it yet) my hair was a scary mixture of yellow and orange. It was beyond brassy. And obviously, it didn't get light enough. My hair usually takes color in quickly, but because it was previously colored, it was more resistant to the bleach. Lesson learned.
You don't have to dry your hair between bleaching and toning, but wet hair can be deceptive. That's why many hairstylists will dry your hair before toning, to make sure they use the right toner for the right duration of time.
Phase II: Toning and Conditioning
7. I can't overstate the importance of toning in this whole process.
I remember the first time I went blonde, many moons ago. I used a store-bought color from the box, and there I was, yellow hair and dark eyebrows, thinking I was the hottest thing on the planet. Oh the humanity!
Thank god those days are gone. If you want to go blonde, toner is your best friend. It's color, but it's gentle enough on your hair, and you only leave it on for 5 to 15 minutes at most.
I mixed a bottle of Redken 09V Platinum Ice with a processing solution (1:1 ratio) and slathered it all over my hair. It was a texture of a raw egg white - liquid but not runny, easy to apply. I massaged it into my hair, covering every strand.
Most people don't leave the toner on for longer than 10 minutes, but because my hair looked like a pumpkin, I left it on for 15 minutes.
8. I washed it off (still no shampooing) and applied Olaplex #2 "Bond Perfector". You're supposed to leave it on for at least 10 minutes, it restores the hair bonds.
9. After the Olaplex treatment I finally shampooed and conditioned my hair. Then I blow dried it to see the color more clearly.
Although it wasn't as light as I'd wanted it to be, I was actually pleasantly surprised. My hair turned a creamy strawberry blonde color, and it felt full, soft and silky to the touch. It didn't seem to be damaged at all.
Not bad for the first application, but I definitely needed a second bleaching session.
Watch the toning process closely. It's pretty fast, so make sure you don't overdo it, otherwise it might give your hair a grey or a violet hue.
Phase III: Re-Application
Next week, after giving my hair some rest, I started phase 3, which is basically repeating phases 1 and 2.
10. This time I've mixed enough bleach and made sure it wasn't too thick. Then I applied the mixture to the hair, section by section, and left it on for 45 minutes.
I never left the bleach on for so long before, but encouraged by my first Olaplex experience and the fact that my scalp wasn't burning at all, I let it do its thing without being impatient.
After rinsing it off, I could tell that the bleach took care of the orange, but my hair was still very yellow.
That 1980s Madonna look is so over. Depending on your natural hair color, lifting your eyebrows 1-2 shades can make all the difference. You want them to be a little darker than the hair, it'll make your blonde so much softer and more natural.
11. Again, like the week before, I mixed Redken "Platinum Ice" toner with Redken processing solution, in the 1:1 ratio. I used the scoop from the bleach to measure it out precisely, and left it on for 10 minutes.
12. While my toner was taking care of the yellow, I also applied face cream bleach on my eyebrows.
13. Then I rinsed off the face bleach and the toner at the same time, and applied Olaplex #2 "Bond Perfector" for 10 minutes.
14. Finally, I shampooed and conditioned as usual.
My hair felt incredibly soft and silky, nothing like after your typical bleach treatment. I love how it feels and looks. My hair transformation was complete.
About once a week I use purple shampoo to keep the brassiness out, and I apply Olaplex #3 "Hair Perfector" to condition and repair.
How To Use Olaplex + Professional Review and Experience
The Products I Used
- Olaplex Traveling Stylist Kit - Steps 1, 2 & 3 ($107.20)
- L'Oreal Quick Blue Powder Bleach, 16 Ounce ($17.98)
- L'Oreal Oreor 30 Volume Creme Developer, 8 Ounce ($4.78)
- Redken Shades EQ 9V Platinum Ice 2oz ($11.71)
- Redken Shades EQ Gloss Processing Solution 33.8 Oz ($16.50)
- Diane 718 Processing Cap 30-Count ($4.80)
- Salon Hair Coloring Dyeing Kit ($6.43)
- Jolen Creme Bleach, Mild Plus Aloe Vera, 1 Ounce ($6.11)
Grand total: $175.51. Even with Olaplex which is the most expensive part, it's still cheaper than my salon visit, and keep in mind that most of these products are not single use, so I'll be able to use them again and again to maintain my new hair color.
Disclaimer: I am not promoting any of the aforementioned products, they're just the ones I used after conducting my research. You're welcome to use different ones if you believe they are better. I'll be interested to know about your results.