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How to Bleach Hair

The DIY hair bleaching guide for achieving optimal results at home. Read on to discover everything you need to know!

The DIY hair bleaching guide for achieving optimal results at home. Read on to discover everything you need to know!

How to Properly Use Hair Bleach

If you have dark hair and want to dye it blonde, you need to be able to use bleach. However, hair bleach is a powerful product capable of dramatically changing the appearance of your hair. With that power comes the potential for some pretty devastating results if used incorrectly.

Using the product haphazardly can result in uneven lightening and brittle hair. Other unintended hair color results like red or yellow are also some of the common potential mistakes when you bleach hair at home.

A little knowledge goes a long way, and with the tips and tools in this article, you will learn to bleach your hair with finesse and avoid any issues in how it turns out.


How Hair Bleach Works

Hair bleach consists of two different products that are mixed before use:

  • Bleach powder: This consists of lighteners, thickeners, and alkalizing agents, among other compounds.
  • Developer: A solution of hydrogen peroxide.

It's worth noting that both the powder itself and the developer are lighteners, but it's the combination that is particularly special because combining them allows for two vital functions:

  1. The powder becomes moist, making chemical reactions occur more readily.
  2. The alkalizing agents activate the developer, causing it to start oxidizing whatever it contacts.

This whole process becomes even more ingenious when you consider how it affects your hair's structure though. Plain hydrogen peroxide can lighten hair on its own, but the effect is surprisingly mild. This is because it isn't able to penetrate the hair very effectively due to the cuticles of the hair shaft sealing it against environmental stressors.

However, the alkalinity from the ammonia in freshly mixed hair bleach not only activates the peroxide but also happens to open the cuticle layer. This is what allows the bleach mixture to enter the cortex of the hair shaft, where it oxidizes the melanin pigment that forms your natural hair color.

It is the interaction of all the individual ingredients is what creates the perfect environment to bleach hair effectively.

Developer Volume

Now that you know a little about how hair bleach works, it's important to discuss the individual components of the product.

Developer, in particular, is very important to understand because it comes in different strengths, and this changes how strong the mixed product will be. These product strengths, while often measured in percentages, are more commonly known as the developer volume.

You can get a good idea of the usage of each strength by looking at the table below. As a general rule, you should typically use a 20 vol developer to bleach your hair. However, you can increase that to 30 vol with certain brands, and a higher strength is often preferred for bleaching hair off-scalp, too, since there's little risk of irritation with this technique anyway.

*on-scalp and off-scalp hair bleaching will be explained later into this article, and maximum developer strength will be discussed on a per-brand basis.

Developer volumePercentageUse

5 vol


Demi-permanent dyes

10 vol


Permanent dyes, bleach, bleach baths

20 vol


Permanent dyes, bleach, bleach baths

30 vol


Permanent dyes, bleach (generally off-scalp*)

40 vol


High lift dye, some permanent dyes, very rarely in off-scalp bleaching*

Bleach to Developer Ratio

Using the table above will give you a rough idea of the uses of each developer volume as it pertains to the whole of hair coloring, whether lightening hair or dyeing hair. Most important to grasp though is that in almost all cases, a higher developer volume will produce more hair lightening in a given time frame. However, this is at the expense of also causing more irritation to your scalp and potentially more damage.

There are also brand-dependent differences which will be discussed in more detail later. You may be able to use 30 vol developer on-scalp with one bleach powder, but it either won't be recommended or is even advised against for a different brand.

There are reasons for this that are due to the formula of the hair bleach, making it important to understand the individual product you've chosen in the context of more generalized rules.

Beautiful blonde hair like this needs a lot of lightening and maintenance if you have naturally dark hair.

Beautiful blonde hair like this needs a lot of lightening and maintenance if you have naturally dark hair.

Hair Levels and Tones

All hair from black to the lightest blonde falls somewhere on the international color code (ICC) level system. Black hair is defined as level one usually, and this goes all the way to level ten, which is a practically white shade of blonde. There is some variation among how different brands use the level scale though, but these are typically small and few rather than overly detrimental differences.

Now that you know how the darkness of your hair is categorized, it's helpful to the process of bleaching itself to discuss just what comprises hair depth. The color of your natural hair consists of a base pigment underneath the color you actually see, and this contributes to the depth of the color, making it appear dark.

  • In blonde hair, the base pigment is anything from pale yellow to golden orange.
  • Black hair, however, has a deep, dark red base.

Base Tones

When you bleach your hair, the visible color is stripped away to reveal the base pigment, and you can estimate how much lightening has occurred by looking at the base color you've arrived at. You can also use the base color as a guide to what level of toner you should be using and what color you will ultimately be able to reach after toning is complete.

As an example of how you would go about using this information, if you have identified that your current hair color is a level five, and you can lift it up to three levels reliably with the bleach you've prepared, the lightest level you can reach is an eight. You can then see that your hair became a dark yellow color which tells you this is correct.

Now that you know what level you've reached, you know that you need an ash toner that is a level eight or nine in order to neutralize this yellow pigment to a natural-looking result. Essentially, the chart below is your go-to cheat sheet for reaching any new hair color.

The chart gives you the knowledge you need to know whether a goal is reasonable (in conjunction with knowledge of developer volume), and even what to look for to know if you're on the right track, as well as the correct shade of dye to be used as a toner afterward to finish your new hair color!

Hair Undertones

Use this chart to help you plan what you will need to do when you bleach your hair.

Use this chart to help you plan what you will need to do when you bleach your hair.

Lift Potential of Bleach

A number of factors impact the effectiveness of a product when bleaching hair. Some of the more major factors include:

  • Hair porosity - how receptive your hair is to soak up the color in dyes. Porous hair bleaches more readily a lot of the time because the product has an easier time getting inside the hair due to weakened cuticles. The opposite situation is resistant hair, which is, as implied, more resistant to bleaching.
  • Developer volume - has a fairly linear effect on hair bleaching—higher volume equals more lightening.
  • Bleach powder - the particular bleach powder you choose to use can dramatically affect how much lightening you're able to achieve. For example, there's a significant difference between a powder with boosters or a plain generic powder.
  • Warmth - the warmer the temperature of the bleach, the more readily it reacts with your hair. This often leads to hair wraps or hoods being used on rather dark hair or where additional lightening is desired.
  • Water quality - interestingly enough, the quality of water you regularly wash your hair with has an effect on hair bleach too. Water that contains a lot of metals like iron or copper leads to those metals being found in your hair in higher than expected concentrations. This can actually catalyze the bleach, making it react more rapidly and aggressively. Sometimes a chelating shampoo is used beforehand if this is known to be a potential issue.

Specialty hair bleach powder from salon brand lines can lift up to 8 levels in some cases.

Peroxide ConcentrationLift potential

10 vol

1–2 levels

20 vol

2–3 levels

30 vol

3–4 levels

Should You Use Bleach?

Before you even start using hair bleach, you need to decide whether you will actually require it and whether it is the best tool for the job. You should also understand the need to look at other factors like the condition of your hair first.

As much as you might want a new lighter hair color, there's only so much damage your hair can take. Depending on how coarse your hair strands are, this is more than you'd expect, but you'll still notice a deterioration of its appearance even before any snapping occurs. It's important to be mindful of your hair's health before using any hair lightener.

Other factors to consider include:

  • How many levels do you want to lighten your hair by?
  • Has your hair been dyed before?

For a new color that requires 2–3 levels of hair lightening, you'll generally be able to achieve this result using dye with 30 or 40 vol as the developer, depending on the initial depth and whether your hair has been dyed before. Hair that hasn't been dyed before is commonly referred to as virgin hair and this will be lightened easily and reliably by a permanent dye with a high volume of developer.

Hair that has already been dyed will be significantly more stubborn, however, necessitating the use of other products like hair dye remover, bleach, or a bleach bath, dependent on how much lighter you need to take it. Though, that is somewhat outside the scope of this article as it's more in the territory of color correction.

  • Basically, consider natural hair a good candidate for lightening by dye if you only need 2–3 levels of lift.
  • For significant lightening, very dark, or previously dyed hair, bleaching is generally necessary.

Generic vs. Salon Hair Bleach

There are two different kinds of bleach to consider, and your choice will come down to some combination of budget and desired results. Generic products work just fine, but the problem with them is that you get less lightening out of them compared to some of the high-end brands.

Salon products often include boosters and damage-mitigating ingredients that allow the bleach to lighten your hair more effectively while using a lower volume of developer. Products like Igora Rapid Blonde or Wella Blondor mixed with 20 vol developer can usually out-perform a generic powder mixed with 30 vol.

To be frank, when it comes to the condition of your hair, I'd recommend spending a little more on a better product because it will also lighten it more effectively. There's no real issue in choosing to use a cheaper powder, but just understand that depending on how dark your hair is and how much lift you need, you may have to bleach twice with one of those powders or use a higher developer volume/longer duration.

This can and should also be factored into the cost because if you need to apply two applications of a product compared to only one application of a higher quality but a more expensive product, the true cost of the generic product is effectively doubled in comparison.

Preparing Hair Bleach

You should have a goal in mind before bleaching your hair. By combining the concept of depth levels and the lifting potential of the different peroxide concentrations, you should be able to arrive at an accurate estimate of how much lift you can achieve when bleaching your hair.

This will help you avoid mistakes and not hold unrealistic expectations when you use the product. There is of course some brand variation here, and often a product will state how much lift you can hope for from a specific volume of developer.

To prepare the bleach, you will need a standard hair dye mixing bowl and tinting brush. Mix the powder together in a one-to-one ratio of bleach and your chosen concentration of peroxide, unless the brand you're using specifies a different ratio. The product should be prepared and then used immediately as there is a chemical reaction taking place and the product is losing effectiveness while you leave it sitting.

Always wear gloves when you bleach hair, even during mixing. While it won't do anything to most people if a little gets on your hands and isn't left too long, some people have more sensitive skin than others, and it's just good practice to protect your hands in general when using any chemical product.


Applying Bleach

When applying hair bleach, a quicker application will reduce the chance of uneven results. In order to apply it quickly, there are a number of different sectioning and application methods that can be used, often based on personal preference. The simplest and most reliable for most people would be to divide the hair into four quadrants though.

To divide your hair into quadrants:

  1. Part your hair down the middle
  2. Make another part again from ear to ear.

Aim to get these quadrant sections roughly even. There is a bit of practice involved but the general positions above are a good guideline to work from, adjust based on individual head shape as needed.

For long or very thick hair, you may wish to use crocodile sectioning clips rather than a flat clip. Once you have your four quadrants, all you need to do now is work on them one at a time, quickly, taking relatively thin sections of hair from top to bottom, painting with bleach from close to the root of the hair out along the lengths and tips.

Apply less bleach very close to the scalp. This is for two reasons: it will cause less skin irritation, and it mitigates the risk of 'hot roots,' where the heat of the scalp has produced more bleaching closer to the scalp. Don't worry; the moistness of the product will allow it to creep in all the way and coat the root area properly, though less densely than if you put it there by brush.

Alternatively, if you lack the time or are having trouble not covering your roots too much, wrap the whole thing after coating all hair, and then it's a non-issue because the heat will be equalized. You can choose to wrap your hair at the end, and this will lead to more hair lightening because the entire preparation is kept warmer.

Some brands advise against wrapping your hair, so consider it relative to your brand. Generally, the more aggressive powders are the products you shouldn't wrap, but you should check the product you're using beforehand.

Sectioning your hair when bleaching is the easiest way to ensure even application and a perfect result.

Sectioning your hair when bleaching is the easiest way to ensure even application and a perfect result.

On-Scalp and Off-Scalp Bleaching

As mentioned earlier in this article, there's a distinction to be made about whether the hair bleach you are using contacts the scalp or not. Generally, this pertains to highlights, which are painted into foil sheets or meche, and the product has been intentionally kept off your root section. This primarily allows for a higher developer volume to be used while bleaching hair.

You can get away with doing this in highlights because you're working with less of the hair, and the product won't contact the skin much, if at all, limiting irritation. You should still only use the higher concentration of peroxide if the manufacturer allows it, and you truly need the extra power.

That power comes with a price in that it causes higher damage. This damage will be less visible because it only affects a small part of the hair compared to a full head bleach, but with repeated applications of highlights over time, it can and does add up.

Highlighted hair like this is a great, low-maintenance style that can also be easy to achieve at home.

Highlighted hair like this is a great, low-maintenance style that can also be easy to achieve at home.

Application Time

The length of time that you leave the bleach in the process is largely dependent on your goal. The only thing to remember is that it shouldn't be left in for longer than 45 minutes in most cases and for most brands. If the bleach hasn't lifted enough pigment by that time you will have to perform another application or follow up with a lightening dye, and this shouldn't be done for at least a week. It also should only be repeated if your hair is still in good condition.

There are three primary reasons why you need to rinse the bleach out in a certain time frame or less, dependent on the brand used:

  • Effectiveness
  • Damage
  • Irritation

The reaction that allows bleach to lighten hair actually slows down quite suddenly, just like it ramps up quite suddenly after application. This is because most of the reactive oxygen has already been liberated by this point.

If you keep the bleach in your hair longer than recommended, all you really do is increase irritation to your scalp and cause more damage to your hair because the hair has been kept in an alkaline state that weakens it structurally over time and makes it more susceptible to damage the longer the bleach is left in. It is not only the oxidation that damages your hair, but also the increased pH and moist environment.

If the bleach has lifted enough pigment before the recommended maximum time frame, however, wash it out immediately to stop the process and avoid any further damage or lightening. Bleach needs to be watched closely to avoid over-processing, and you should check it roughly every 5–10 minutes as it processes.

Rinsing and Toning

Bleach should be rinsed out thoroughly with plenty of cool water before you shampoo your hair. Any product that isn't rinsed out will potentially continue to damage your hair, as well as irritate your skin, so it is important that you ensure it is all removed. Shampoo your hair twice to remove any remaining residue.

Color Choice

If you're going to be applying a dye or toner immediately, avoid using a conditioner after bleaching your hair because it closes the hair cuticles and will reduce how effectively the dye is able to penetrate and neutralize any unwanted colors that are present. This is a generalization, but will work for most people: the dye you use to tone your hair should be 1–2 levels lighter than the level you bleached it to, in an ash tone.

For example, if you bleached your hair to level 6 and it was a deep golden orange, you should use a 7A or 8A to tone it. If you bleached your hair to a level 8 and it was yellow, you should use a 9A or 10A to tone it. The dye will be suited to the base tone of your hair because of the level that was chosen so, in the darker example, it's a darker dye and contains mostly blue pigment to cope with orange tones, whereas the lighter example is violet.

The only time this won't work is if you're bleaching dyed hair, and it has continued to look orange into lighter levels than it should due to the artificial pigment present. This technically is a color correction at this point, and to give some insight without digressing too much, the proper way to solve it would be to take a lighter dye and add straight ash or a sensible, small amount of a pure blue tone if the brand you're using has that.


After toning, rinse the product out, and then you can follow up with a conditioner to neutralize any lingering alkalinity and seal the color into the hair. For hair that feels really rough, you can mix a small amount of white vinegar into some conditioner, too, and this is an effective way to close the cuticles and bring the hair back to natural balance much quicker. This will help make your hair feel smoother and look shinier, as well as decrease fading of the new hair color.

Balayage Bleaching Technique

Balayage is a method of highlighting your hair with bleach using a freeform technique. This creates a look that requires less maintenance yet can transform dull hair with dimensional color.

There are many ways to achieve the look yourself, including with the use of meche or foil to separate sections of hair that will be lightened, but the easiest technique is to simply section your hair as desired and apply bleach by brush from the lengths of your hair outwards. You can blend this using different strengths of bleach by timing the application of each area differently to create different levels of hair lightening or graduation.

See the video below for a helpful tutorial on some of the ways you can use this technique when bleaching your hair at home.

Bleach Isn't Scary!

Bleaching your hair doesn't have to result in a horror story, nor does it have to damage your hair. To achieve the best results and maintain the integrity of your hair, remember to be safe when you use it and to only apply it to hair that isn't already damaged.

If you look after your hair like this, you can bleach your hair successfully, and it will continue to look and feel great afterward. You can reach your ideal color with just a little knowledge and patience.

Do you have a question about bleach, or need more help using it? Leave a comment for tailored advice.

More Information

  • How to Take Care of Dyed Hair
    Colored hair requires care to keep it looking good and prevent the shade from fading. Find out how to look after your new color.
  • How to Tone Blonde Hair
    Bleached hair looks its best when it's toned. Find out how to properly tone your hair to achieve a beautiful natural color.
  • How to Dye Hair Blonde
    Wishing you were blonde? Find out how to dye your hair blonde - the right way!

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 Maffew James


Maffew James (author) on August 15, 2020:

Hi G owen,

Where that's the case you need to wash them out sequentially over time in the same order you put them in rather than all at once.

G owen on August 15, 2020:

What a out the time it takes to apply bleached highlights. Eg it takes 20 minutes to put them all in so the ones you put in first are nearly ready and the ones you've just put in are still deep yellow?

Maffew James (author) on August 13, 2020:

Hi VF,

Yes, ideally use the Welloxon developer. Any developer will work so that's not too big an issue but brands don't test their products with alternative developer brands generally so they may not mix as well if you use a different developer.

The developer strength determines how much lift you'll get out of both the bleach and dye and this really depends on how much lightening you want. In the case of the 88/0 dye at least, assuming you're saying you would want to use it on hair that has already been bleached to add some more dimension by darkening it a little, you'd mix this with 4% which is the developer strength used for tone-on-tone/darker dyeing.

Anything from 1.9% up to 12% can be used with the blondor bleach, and the higher developer strength you use, the more lightening it gives. Don't use more than 6% if it will touch your scalp though, and to practical based on your starting colour of around 5-6, you wouldn't need more than this strength anyway. I'd say stick to either 4% or 6% with the bleach, in foils, but keep a close eye on it as it processes to get a feel for how quickly your hair lightens and adjust either the strength or processing time for next time. Alternatively, get in contact with your hairdresser if possible to get more information about what strength they were using, and how long they were leaving it in if you won't a better chance of getting a similar result.

To mix, Blondor bleach is 1 part bleach to 1.5-2 parts developer (developer in that range of anywhere from 1.5 to 2 parts is fine, but probably just mix 1:1.5 for the thicker consistency as it will be less messy to work with). The dye is a 1:1 ratio, same amount of dye to developer.

The bleach can be left in up to 50 minutes, but that's where the watching comes in, rinse it out well before then when it's as light as you want since it won't take anywhere near that long based on your starting depth and how effective Blondor bleach is. The dye should develop 30-40 minutes for lasting, darker colour.

To be honest with you, this isn't any easy task if you haven't applied any highlights before and you risk a lot of potential mistakes, eg patchy lightening if you don't apply bleach properly, darker dye bleeding through to unintended areas. You can definitely achieve a good result yourself, but the best idea here would be to be really conservative and just put a few highlights and lowlights through at first to see how you handle it and get a feel for using the products and foils or meche. It's a learning experience and you'll get better with time if this is something you expect to keep doing over the long-term throughout all the lockdowns and other issues right now.

BCE607 on August 09, 2020:

Hi I want to do a half head of highlights with foils & want to use: WELLA Blondor Multi Blonde Dust Free Powder Bleach Lightener.

My hairdresser has done my hair for years and up untill 6 weeks prior to lockdown I had my done this way. Money is tight so I am wanting to do my own hair. My hair is fine and my mousey coloured roots (5-6) are now about 2.5" in growth.

My hairdresser also at times uses WELLA Koleston Perfect Me 88/0 Intense Light Blond to have both lighter and dark tones instead of just blond highlights.

My questions are -

Should I use WELLA Welloxon Developer with these and which strength?

How do I mix them AND how long do I leave the product on?

As I have never done my own blond highlights before any help would be appreciated.

Thank you


Ashley on July 20, 2020:

I have virgin hair (it’s a wig so you ever really know ) and I’m going to bleach the hair. The goal is to get a multi tones brown streaks throughout the hair. So my questions is how can I get multiple brown shades throughout the hair

galaxy on July 07, 2020:

can I only bleach half of my hair

Shirley on April 29, 2020:

Found the extra detailed info. From my first question.. second is what kind of peroxide do you recommend

Jamm beaduty on April 24, 2020:

The above problems you write very well, I have 1 such article. Please see my article to compare


Susan Paci on April 22, 2020:

How can I get rid of the grayish/purple color the toner left in my highlighted hair? Since the salons are closed. I reached out to my stylist and she said she uses Redken 9t & 9a; but I couldn't find 9a anywhere so I ordered 9v plus a little of T18 from Wella. She told me 20 minutes which was much longer than when in the shop but I did it. Although the brass is gone, the white/blonde highlights are now a grayish/purple/lavendar.

Joyce Ritorto on April 17, 2020:

Can I buy from you level 5/6 with 20 oxide on my roots.

Duckiie on April 14, 2020:

Question. Due to this whole COVID19 and stores shutting down I'm stuck with drugstore boxed bleaching kits.... Any advice? Super nervous as it has been YEARS since I've used any kind of boxed dye on my hair....

Color level on April 13, 2020:

Hey there! I wanna find out what's the level of my hair now. It's not my natural color. Though inside the house looks like 4 and in the sun 5-6.Its a reddish brown.

I wanna bleached it 2 levels only to put a dark purple. I got a oxy cream 30.Can I put coconut oil before bleaching so the lightening don't be so bold or leave it for 15 mins?

Kortny on April 12, 2020:

Can i use 40 vol

Ravina on March 07, 2020:

How much developer do I pout in the bleach and my bleach is a liquid bleach it doesn’t tell me how much I should do.

Renee on February 01, 2020:

How much is 1 part in ml or cups?

Tyann on January 09, 2020:

I just bleached mi hai the other day. I only had it in for about5 mins. Thought that it wasn't working. So i rinsed it out. Then noticed after i got all the bleach out, that it was working.

So my question would be. . .

Do i really have 2 wait 4 more weeks.( And i put TOO much developer in tge mix. )

Maffew James (author) on November 05, 2019:

This article is now updated, returning the essence of my original work and improving it. I hope it's once again helpful to my readers and thank you to everyone who has asked questions or just read the page over the years. Happy coloring! ;)

Maffew James (author) on November 05, 2019:

Hi Jamie, I'm aware of that. The site has an editor program that is out of my control. All I can do is reverse or change it after the fact. Having been away from my articles for quite a long period due to lack of time and the general age of the content, it's...saddening to come back to one like this and see it's been basically completely re-written, essentially someone else's opinion-piece misrepresented as me when it was always my style to use proper procedures, products, and explain the science behind what is happening because I believe there is practically nothing like that on the internet when people look for help.

My goal was to give people real information. I intend to go through the articles that have been changed like this and fix them but it's going to take time, which I don't have a lot of *sigh*

Jamie on July 08, 2019:

Wella T18 and others will not work on hair this dark. Hair must be lifted to a PALE yellow. The only way to eliminate orange or brassy tones is ash or blue dyes.

Camilla Pickard on May 04, 2019:

Thank you!!!!

These are the best, clearest instructions/advice I have found for DIY bleaching. You hit the sweet spot between detailed and concise. My hair turned out excellent!!!

Yolanda mitchell on June 06, 2018:

I hair is black and I wanted just the top part dye in red copper. Well it change the roots that color but the ends where the black was didn’t change. I was wondering what to do. Should I bleach the ends to get the black to change close to the red copper I’m try to get.

Savannah aaron on May 10, 2018:

I'm trying to go platinum from a dyed dark brown. Any advice please

Kristyna on March 14, 2018:

I would like to dye my hair ginger. I've dyed my hair dark brown for about 8 years so I've got a lot of build-up. I tried using hair colour remover but the effect was minimal. Usually straight after application the colour was great but it got darker and darker again with each day. So I plan on using bleach. Can I apply hair colour straight after bleaching?

Raj on January 05, 2018:

Great post! Very well-explained and easy to understand. Will definitely be taking your tips when I dye my hair soon!

Sara on August 29, 2017:

what is your take on splat? I used it the last time for my platinum

Divya on July 28, 2017:

what are the ingredients for bleaching?

Michelle on July 17, 2017:

Hi mr. James so I got balayage in my hair many months ago and I want to touch it up and make my hair lighter. I have medium brown hair normally and my balayage is light brown and little parts a more blonde. What would you recommend for how much bleach and peroxide I should use to match the color of my balayage? Thanks so much this was so helpful!!

Icedoll on June 28, 2017:

Hello! Im looking into buying Blondor cream bleach to lighten my hair. My hair was platinum 8 months ago, then i used a direct dye in a bright orange. Ive let that fade, and used clarifying shampoo, but, its still a golden apricot blonde orange(which i really dont care for!) Could i use the cream bleach in a bleach bath? Or will this not get me light enough to return to platinum? Thank you for any advice...

Amy on June 24, 2017:

Very well written and easy to understand. Do you have anything written on choosing a toner? That's where I find I get overwhelmed. I want a medium to light "wheat" blonde highlight. My natural hair (according to my husband) has both medium brown and dark brown (thanks a lot, hon, you just made it more complicated. Ugh.) I have some highlights a friend did for me with about inch and a half regrowth/roots. She stayed mostly to the front/top/crown. I think I want to do the sectioning you talked about. Thank you in advance for your help.

Sandra on June 21, 2017:

How do I mixed the toner after bleaching? on June 20, 2017:

I tried to bleach my hair earlier in the day and it turned orange my hair is been dyed black previously a while back but I cannot leave it this red so I am going to put quick blue extra strength on enough to scout application L'Oreal and mix it with 40 volumizer 40 develop more Sensitive Scalp how long can I leave it on my hair

Eve on June 13, 2017:

How long after the bleach can you start coloring your hair with a dye?

Maegan on June 06, 2017:

Hi there, hoping I can still get a reply to my question as I see other commemts are 2+ years ago :(.

I have recently decided to go blonde. I started from black (dyed) I have bleached it 5 times now (with plenty of time in between) my hair is currently very very light on my roots & yellowish orange everywhere else. I am wondering if maybe I rinsed the bleach out too soon? I am only using 20 vol as I know that my hair Definately cannot handle 30 or 40!!

I am wondering if I bleach it again if you think it'll finally go to the yellow/pale yellow so I can put on the "Light Iced Blonde" dye I have?

Carrie on June 02, 2017:

Hi. I've dyed my hair red a few months ago and I've been washing my hair on head and shoulders to quicken up the time the red gets removed. My roots are very light brown even dark blonde and my ends of my hair is very very light where as the top section of my hair is still quite dark red. I was to go to a very light blonde and I would like to know the quickest and best way to receive this outcome. Thank you

Sofia on May 03, 2017:

Hello Maffew,

My name is Sofia and I've got a question about prelightining the hair...

I am trying to get very light blonde (Kind of white) on my sisters hair, she's has quite few different tons on her hair I have done a quite long roots re-growth bleached to go lighter... but she has some previous highlights from middle-lengths to ends... which is kind of very light highlights some kind of light brown some kind of honey... and the re-growth I didn't get much lighter there's some parts nearly white and some yellow brasses... and she wants to get all hair at the same tone very light kind of white what would you advise me to do next?


dian on May 03, 2017:

Hi... Sorry for asking in this old post. I hope there's still a chance to get an answer.

Just a simple question. I just bleached my asian hair today, a strand test actually. I used Wella blondor with 30vol of peroxide and let the bleach sit for full 50 minutes. Looks like my hair was quite resistant because it could reach only the orange stage. My question is: Will an ash level 9 permanent dye be able to make my orange hair get nice color? Or should I use level 8 (or darker) instead? I need a help to decide which to buy. Thanks

Holly Firbank on April 09, 2017:

Hi. I have dark brown hair and want to bleach it so i can put some whaky colours in. I have pro-oxide 9% 30 volume.

I was just wondering if i can use just the peroxide to strip my hair then dye my whaky colours. Is this possible

Brylissian on March 18, 2017:

This is an extremely informative article. I have research trimming and bleaching. This is the best for the bleaching. The author explains amazing level info. Thank you for this. I have just about had it with my stylist as she has become too self absorbed in becoming a successful exhibitor that she thinks she can charge over the odds now for existing clients seeing as she has become "very experienced". After following John fredas info on trimming 2-3mm every 2 weeks my hair is now Lush. I tried the bleach and toner with poor info, still done a better job than box bleach but I didn't understand the concept of the levels. Now i do! Thank you so much!

Donna561 on March 06, 2017:

Maffew James....learning lots from your posts! The last year I have been using Clairol age defy in light ash brown to cover very few greys only at my crown leaving it on the full 30 minutes then the last 5 minutes all over shoulder length hair. It is pretty much my natural color. Does ash cause hair to green up when lightening? I am hoping to add in highlights to change it up....nothing drastic/stark. (not yet at least :) ) I purchased the Wella bleach along with a 30 developer however kept reading more and now believe instead I will go with a clay bleach that can be "painted" on rather than using the foils. Appreciate your opinion on the Joico free clay play/30 developer (can developer be any brand or must it be Joico ) then follow up with Joico Toner 3/4 of clear mixed 1/4 of 9NV with 10 developer. Just from watching online the clay seems easier to work with....wherever its is placed it stays....and since you dont have to over section and foil it can be applied quicker. Would your instructions to leave on until it reaches the orange stage still apply or would I leave on to reach a different level....or since orange is the undertone once it reaches this stage it does not get lighter? The reason I ask when I purchased the Wella bleach at Sallys I asked that very question....once the orange undertone is exposed do I stop processing.....they said leave on and continue until it reaches a butter color like the color the inside of a banana. I am also going to purchase Olaplex #1, #2, #3 adding 1/8 oz to the bleach to reduce any and all chance of mishap....following up with #2. Going forward rather than using the Clairol boxed light ash brown can you suggest a pro dye for those my out growth crown or is the boxed light ash brown good to go. I have had my hair salon colored "forever"....I am pretty sure I can do this with your guidance.

Thank you so very much!

Ginni on February 22, 2017:

Mr. James, thank you so much for this extraordinary article. The details you provide here are so very helpful to me. I have one question. You mentioned that when using "High quality salon brands like Wella and Indola offer bleach powder that can potentially lift up to 7 levels with only 20 vol peroxide." May I use Wella Blondor with Wella Koleston Perfect 20 volume on my level 4 hair in foils? I would just like to get my foiled Virgin growth to 8 or 9. My hairdresser has been using Redken Flash Lift with 40 volume for about three years, but I think that it's causing breakage, as she commented on that at my last appointment. I am concerned that 40 volume may be too rough for my fine straight hair. Thank you for your assistance!

Alexandra on February 22, 2017:


After completing a quadrant of hair, is it best to clip it back out of the way, or could that mess up the consistency of the lightening?


Rinmo zara on February 22, 2017:

Where can I get bleach for dying white hair.pliz help me

yury on February 13, 2017:

Hello Maffew I really like your article and I wonder if you are still in this page

Jo on February 09, 2017:

Good afternoon. I bleached my hair with 30 minute bleach and 20 volume peroxide. I want it white. It has a brassy orange on the roots. What do I need to do? I have had it bleached before.

Roc on February 06, 2017:

Hi. I am a natural 2n brown. I have bleached /dyed ash blonde hair. I want to add white highlights to it. Is a 20 volume developer high enough? And about how long should i keep the bleach in? I was able to bleach my hair to and orange gold with just a 20 developer and wella bleach powder. And then dyed it to a light ash blond and its perfect just want little white highlights. Thanks.

Maven on February 04, 2017:

Hi, I bought roux dust free violet based bleach and 30 volume creme developer at sallys the other night. I have dyed my hair multiple times in the past but it's mostly back to my natural color now, a medium-dark brown. I know I'll have an orange outcome using this more than likely but my question is can I wait a couple of days to use a toner since I didn't get any at the time of buying the bleach and developer?

marie on January 15, 2017:

I removed too dark hair color with Malibu DDL and 10 vol and added a mixture with 20.vol to shaft it lifted to a copper color I applied a Shades EQ 9gb and 8 n as a filler with developer and clear rinsed and dried then applied 6 AB and 8ab its still to orange but lighter. I relized I need to lift the hair to a even lighter shade orange/yellow then tone with a 8 ash. I'm planning to use Logics light reactions and 20 vol. from scalp to ends. The shaft and ends are a little dry but good condition do apply to roots first wait to lift a little then shaft and ends or all at once?

Nahla Darwish on January 04, 2017:

so it is my first time to dye and i want to try dye it in home my hair color is level 3 and it is sensitive and kind of week i want to dye it rose goldn so my qusetion is it ok to bleach only one time and not from the roots with 20 or 30 just for 15 mins i want to know does it effect badly on my hair and the color i want

Ntty on January 02, 2017:

Hey. Your article is really helpful. However, i do have some questions for you. I want to dye my hair silver grey but my hair is dyed dark brown. I understand that i have to bleach my hair at least twice to whiten my hair. So, do i have to tone my hair everytime i bleach or do i tone my hair after the second time i bleach?

Keyvan on December 16, 2016:


Please help me to know more about hair dying. If you can suggest me a book about hair dying


shina on December 11, 2016:

hey..i tried ombre at home..went well with loreal ombre kit but had to cut it due to excessive damage over bleached my dark brown hair for 30 minutes..the end are yellow and coppery at the top like from bottom to top 5 inches of bleaching..why didnt all the 5 inches take up color..should i bleach again?and i ant ash blond at ends fadding to golden brown at top till the 5 inch bleach from the bottom..what would you suggest?

Maffew James (author) on November 16, 2016:

Hi Louise,

Generally with porous hair, whilst it grabs a lot of pigment, this also fades out quickly. This means that with a few washes it will lighten quite a bit from what it is and you may not need to lighten it yourself. However, if you want to speed this along by bleaching it, I'd recommend bleach washing it using 15 vol developer. You can make 15 vol by mixing equal amounts of 10 vol and 20 vol if you don't have it pre-made. If you needed 30 grams of developer for example, you would mix 15 grams of each concentration to form the total required amount at the new concentration. You could also just use 20 vol and watch it more closely (the lightening will occur a little quicker).

Once you have the developer, mix this with the bleach powder and an equal amount of shampoo, then apply to slightly damp hair. This should lift 1 level out in about 20 minutes, but the time can vary depending on your individual hair, so keep an eye on it and rinse when it's acceptable. Just don't exceed the maximum processing time for the brand of bleach you're using (Usually 45- 50 minutes) to prevent excess damage. It's not likely you'd need to leave it anywhere near that long though, so this shouldn't be a problem.

After you've lightened it a level, this will reveal some warmth because you're lifting out the dye and revealing the base tone. As you had wanted a caramel brown, this may not be an issue, but if it looks too 'orangey', give it a tone with a semi-permanent or demi-permanent dye. Based on what your hairdresser had used turning out too dark, 9A (very light ash blonde) should be optimal for this. Apply, leave until it has neutralised enough warmth for your liking and then rinse.

Louise on November 14, 2016:

Hi Maffew

Thanks for your awesome article! :)

I basically had my hair dyed a week ago and it was fairly light and porous (I had foils and colour done previously and it had faded greatly until I went back to the salon to have my hair done last week). The hairdresser said he did a level 7, but my hair grabbed a LOT and so now instead of a "caramel brown" that he said it would be, it's ended up a medium brown and it's too dark for my fair skin and freckles lol. I'd like to lighten it 1 shade. I've got bleach powder and several different vols of peroxide. What vol peroxide would you recommend and how long would I leave it on for please?

Thanking you

Louise from Perth, Western Australia

Samantha on October 13, 2016:

Hi! So I'm in the process of going blonde and I have already done 2 professional sessions at a hair salon but i can't afford to do more. My hair is no longer dark brown it's more of an orange brassy color with some yellow in it. I know I have to bleach it and add toner, but do I also have to buy like a blonde hair dye to add to my hair in addition to the bleach and toner or will just bleaching and toning it do it?

Taylah Arndt on October 03, 2016:

Hai i was just wondering when bleaching/dying your hair does it have to be dry or parshly damp or wet?

Karen Murray on September 14, 2016:

Thank you, it was very informative

Lori on September 11, 2016:

I haven't seen any of your responses in months. Are you still answering hair coloring questions?

Manuela on September 04, 2016:


I want to bleach my hair for the first time on my own. So here I go my hair is colored dark brown. Naturally I'm a aschblonde or as I say street dog brown..

Well i looked up so many how to do but none said the exact amount of messsurment I need or how long it has to stay in.. I want to do the balayage or ombre..

So could you help me with that.

1.. messsurment

2.. how long it has to stay in...

3 .. can I put another color on for contrast..

I would appreciate it ssooooooooo much you could help

kmorrell54@ on August 28, 2016:

When bleaching or toning when do you start it the first moment you start to apply or do you start timing once you have finished applying the mixture?

aferjo on August 23, 2016:

Hallo Maffee,

Can I use #Wella Illumina on a bleached hair?

I have originally a black hair , I did bleach it like a ombre thing

but its turned to orange color ,...I wanna know if its possible to just apply to it Wella Illumina - 7/ Medium Blonde/Neutral

sorry for my language ..

i am not an english speaker :(

Cristina on August 15, 2016:

Hi Maffee,

I have been bleaching my hair from brown to platinum blonde for 8 years now. On my last application, the hair stylist put a second application on it & over processed a chunk of my hair in the centre of my scalp. It all snapped right at the regrow th & all that was left was about a centimetre of hair. I had breakage at the front & lost some hair throughout. I have been taking very good care of it & I now have 8 weeks of re-growth. Is it okay to use a 10 volume with bleach to add some highlights around the crown to camouflage my roots for a bit?

Laina on August 12, 2016:

I will be reading this, but at first and even second glance, it makes me cringe it reads coloring hair blonde DYEING dark hair blonde. You could only 'dye' hair blonde if it's white to begin with. To dye is to add pigment/color. Bleaching... or preferably to call it 'coloring' or lightening to whatever shade of blonde, it accurate.

On to notice no mention of 50 volume peroxide/developer. Yes, there is such an animal. Perhaps not mentioned as you have to be a licensed hair professional to buy it?

Li-ann on August 08, 2016:

Hey Maffew

If I dyed my hair a week ago, when can I bleach it?

Daffodil on August 06, 2016:

Hello Sir. Your article truly was very helpful..

I've got very frizzy hair. I'm planning to bleach my hair as well as condition them after shampooing. Is there still a need for me apply serum after the process? Will it damage my hair or make it sticky / oily. Kindly advice me on it, Sir.

Thanks a ton!

Ann810 from Sunny Cali on August 02, 2016:

I assume that hair bleaching process is the same with making highlights or streaks. Cool article, thanks.

Amanda on July 07, 2016:

Great article. I bleached my hair with ion powder and 30Dev a few days ago. It turned orangey and spotty. I toned it right after and then a day later with wella 18 and it looks slightly better but I hate the color. It's super light at the roots and yellowy throughout. I dyes the under part magenta and it looks great (probably due to the Orange undertones) but the two colors look terrible together. I am scared to bleach again and ruin my color and cause more damage but I'm worried I need to so I can achieve a lighter, more neutral blonde. If I do bleach again how do I keep it off my lower quadrants? Can no use the same supplies but for less time because I have a bunch? I also use purple shampoo and deep conditioning treatments as well as coconut oil soaks and it feels so much better than any other time I have bleached in the past.

I am a natural light to med Brown and I want to achieve a light, ashy but not too ashy blonde. Probably at a 2 right now but with gross undertones trying to take over :)

T on July 02, 2016:

I have tried dying my roots because I have light blonde highlights and my roots was very dark now my hair has turned orange what do I do

Shafna on June 29, 2016:

Hi Sir,

I just read this article on how to bleach, i have a question. Is it possible for hair not to get bleached at all with the given time after application? I bought a 30vol developer and im not using foil.

Do i have to use foil when bleaching?

For about half an hour i see no visible changes. Is that normal? Or am i doing something wrong?

Christine Baird on June 25, 2016:

Love your article. I've read through your article several times & I also read every post but was not able to find advice on bleaching my dark brown dyed hair that has 1 to 2 inches of gray roots. I understand the bleaching to orange & coloring process for the dark dyed part but I'm lost on what to do with the gray roots. I want to go to a lighter brown. Can you please explain what to do with the gray part? Also, I bought Wella bleach (20vol dev) & Wella Color Charm permanent liquid hair color 5A/246 (10 vol dev) light ash brown. Should I exchange it for your recommended 6A? Thank you in advance! Chris

Sandra on June 18, 2016:

Hi i am trying to achieve this look of white hair not blonde but white? My hair has been colored before about 6months ago blonde with brown underneath and i have root growth of about an inch....any help will be great thanks

Taylor on June 13, 2016:

Hey there! Great article! I'm going to be dying my hair here in a few days and just wanted some advice. So my hair is currently sort of ombre. I had bleach blonde hair a few years ago and have let it grow out so about 3 inches of my hair at the ends is still blonde. The rest of my hair is my natural color and I'd say its a level 2 or 3. The color I am trying to achieve is a dark fuchsia to hot pink ombre. I plan to get Wella Multi Blonde powder and developer. My hair tends to be extremely brassy/orange when I bleach it. I'm wondering about what type of toner to use. Light Ash Brown?


Brenda on June 09, 2016:

Hey Mathew, I have a question....

Ok... I have not dyed my hair 2 years ago like 3 years before I bleach my hair only ends not roots... After a year about that I dyed my hair a 5n and I'd like it because it matches my roots after that I don't dyed it but I think the dyed fell already of my hair I have my roots natural brown like a 5 or 6 but my ends look like a 5 too but it has a redish tone... Now I want to do the belayge hair and I was wondering since I have virgin hair on the top almos like 10 inches of my natural hair and the rest like 5 inches with the bleach it's going to turn out difrent color?

I hope you can answer me :)


AmberCBrown on May 08, 2016:

Hi Maffew,

Your articles are so informative and thanks to you I finally feel like I have the knowledge to lighten my own hair & hope to tackle it in the next few days! After reading all of your articles I believe the steps below is what I should do however had a few questions that I am hoping you can help with!!

My hair is a level 2 very dark brown. Sections of the lower half of my hair are lighter due to a previous balayage. I am wanting to go all over lighter - to a natural light brown/Bronde level 5 - not too ashy, golden and no reds and then do another subtle balayage (my previous one is mainly on my ends due to cutting my hair) just one level lighter than the level I do all over to add some dimension.

I believe the first step should be to lighten the hair all over then do the balayage.

To lighten the base:

1. Deep condition my hair a couple days before.

2. Mix 2 parts 20 Vol with 1 part lightening powder in the same brand. I only have access to a Sallys. So I purchased Wella Color Charm Powder Lightener with Wella Color Charm 20 Vol Creme Developer.

3. Divide the hair into 4 sections - clip up the sections that aren't being worked on. Work quickly and apply to dry dirty hair from the roots to the bottom starting in the back.

4. Allow the bleach to stay on until the hair is bright orange checking every 5 minutes. Should the hair be wrapped or heat applied? Do not allow the bleach to stay on for more than 45 min - hour.

5. Rinse the bleach out with cool water then shampoo 2 times.

6. Mix 1 part permanent ash dye 1 level that is lighter than the final level I want to be with 2 parts 10 Vol developer and apply. To wet, damp or dry hair? I purchased Wella Color Charm Permanent in 6A Dark Ash Blonde. To get more of a neutral light brown the dye needs to stay on longer? It will go from orange, golden, neutral and then ash?

7. Once it reaches the color I want rinse it out with cool water. Shampoo? Condition? If for some reason I accidentally leave the dye on for not enough time and it is too gold or on for too long and it is too ashy what steps would I take to get it to the natural brown I am wanting?

I also purchased a protein treatment. Should this be done immediately after toning or wait? It looks like in one of your comments that you stated this should be done 2 times a week for up to a month to restore the hair.

After I have lightened all of my hair to a light brown I would like to go in and do a subtle balayage one level lighter than the overall color...or will one level lighter not be enough to see? I just want it to look very natural. How long should I wait to do this after the initial lightening? I will have to use bleach powder & developer (20 vol?) instead of dye right and wait for it to get to a golden orange, rinse then tone? When I tone the highlights I should use a level 7A and apply to the lower half and then to the top so that it is even?

In one article you mentioned applying a semi-permanent after shampooing to keep the brown from fading and leave on for 5 minutes then rinse. What color (Schwarzkopf Igora's Expert Mousse 8.1?) should be used for a light natural brown and how often?

To combat the roots - every 6-8 weeks I should do steps 1-7 however instead of applying the bleach all over only apply to the roots, then when I apply the toner first apply that the the roots and then in the last 10 minutes apply to the rest of the hair? How will I know when the last 10 minutes is?

So excited & patiently waiting!! Thanks so much!

Carolyn on May 05, 2016:

Hi Mr. James. I want to lighten the color of my hair from black to a violet red. I understand that I must bleach my hair in order to get that desired effect. I also must mention that I have dyed my hair many times for various shades in the past. Would you recommend a 10 volume or a 20 volume with bleach powder?

Ariel - my email on April 24, 2016:

Not sure if I'd get your reply as I didn't include my email. Please use Thanks.

Ariel on April 24, 2016:

Hello, I need some help figuring out how to get my hair where I want it. My natural roots are a 5 that pulls red/orange. I've been getting my hair highlighted blonde at Supercuts for a while and I believe they've been using 20-volume developer with a 9 or 10 level blonde color which ends up resulting in highlights that are about an 8. What I'd like to do in order to save money and change things up is to have my whole head a base 8 and highlighted with combo of level 9 and 10 (might hand paint or use cap). I'm not sure how to go about doing this safely. I went to Sally's and ended up with tubes of 8v, 9v, and 10v of Ion Brilliance Haircolor and 20, 30, and 40 vol developer. With a test stand, even using the 40 vol developer with the 10v color on my roots resulted in a light auburn color after 45 min, which is rather baffling because I'm not sure how Supercuts got my hair so light using 20 vol developer. I think they use Paul Mitchell color but I'm not sure. Anyway, what should I use on my roots to get them where I need them to be and how do I safely lighten the highlighted portions of my hair to one color without causing further damage to the strands that are already a level 8, but are still mixed with my natural color? Thank you.

Susan on April 17, 2016:

Hi Maffew,

I have level 1-2 hair colour and want to bleach in stages. Is it possible to bleach to a level 5/6 then rest my hair to recover and then use an ultra highlift blonde dye with 40vol? I know you have another article that says you must use highlift on virgin hair but can it also be used on prelightened that's not dyed but toned? Thanks for all your awesome advice.

Maffew James (author) on April 13, 2016:

Hi Michelle,

Based on the selection at Sally's, I'd recommend Loreal Quick Blue or Wella Color Charm. Whilst both brands have better bleach powders available, these products available to you at Sally's will still be dependable. Using the same brand of developer as the bleach will give the best consistency of product because it is designed to mix well with the same brand, but in the end developer is developer for the most part. Feel free to use any brand of developer, as long as it doesn't appear to have separated or developed lumps. Cheaper developer is more prone to this and it will make it more difficult to get a smooth consistency to the bleach and may lead to patchiness where the lift has varied during processing.

As for the roots, base it on how dark they are compared to your lengths. If you're seeing up to 3 levels of lift in your dyed lengths, expect 1 - 2 levels more lift to be possible to the roots due to them being virgin hair and closer to the warmth of your scalp. If your roots are darker than the lengths, you can apply all at once and it will help even that up because they will lighten more extensively to reach the same level as the lengths by the end of application. If they're the same level or lighter, apply later into the application.

Michelle on April 11, 2016:

Ok so here is my situation.

I have virgin roots from regrow th but the rest of my hair is a dyed faded red. We did a purple strand tests .. And with one lifting process using bleach and a 30 developer we got it up 3 levels, then popped ions purple color and blue color mixed with a 10 developer on that strand turned out great. The second strand tested we lifted 3 times so of course the color when applied was brighter. im now ready to do my whole head, I have the colors but I need to get my bleach no developer. I'm gonna be getting it from Sally's, what bleach brand and brand developer for a 30 & a 10 should I get from Sally's? And should I bleach my roots last since they are virgin regrowth?

Thanks so much.

Elaine on April 10, 2016:

Hi I need help to get rid of gingery hair. I put a light ash brown on it and it looks more ginger. I just don't know what to do. Is there a toner that won't damage my hair and look natural to take out the red many thanks, you seem like a genius and know what your doing.

Kia on April 08, 2016:

Um can change in peroxide ratio can make difference?

Kaitlyn from A galaxy far, far away on April 03, 2016:

Hi Maffew,

This article is excellent! I've spent an exhausting few days trying to collect information about bleaching my hair and it's a relief to find everything I need well-organized into one place.

However, I do have a few questions to further individulize what is really the best method of getting my hair the color I desire.

First off, I have a kind of Level 2-3 mediumish/darkish brown hair. This is my color until you get to the last 6 inches of my hair where it's a lightish-brownish color with hints of a Level 3-4 gingery orange due to a hair color removal malfunction when I tried to get rid of stubborn semi-permanent black dye like 3 years ago (I've just left it as it is as it's not too noticeable). I have no dye or anything in my hair at all now.

I've recently decided that I want my hair to be a nice natural-looking ash blonde. I will be purchasing Wella Professionals Blondor Lightening Powder with 9% (30 vol) peroxide to bleach my hair with.

I've been advised that I will need to get my hair to a "clean" Level 10 and then tone it with Wella Illumina Color 10/69 (Lightest Violet Cendre Blonde) and Welloxon Perefect Pastel Peroxide to get the ash blonde shade I want. Does this sound like it will work? If not, do you have any better suggestions as to how to get it?

I've also had someone advise me to not even bother bleaching my hair as it will be too hard to get the red tone out of my brown hair when lightening. Not sure if this is accurate when I've seen plenty of people do it. What do you think?

So, when I go to bleach my hair with Wella at 9% (30 vol) for the first time, assuming my hair is a Level 2-3, I should end up with a Level 5-7, correct? I assume I'll need to make a second bleach application after like a week which should take me to an 8-10? If it ends up only getting to an 8 or 9, should I then make a 3rd bleach application? And if so, should I use the 9% (30 vol) peroxide again or can I just use 6% (20 vol) since my hair will almost be to my Level 10 goal?

I just really don't want to damage my hair too much. You seem to know exactly what you're talking about so I thought I'd ask just so I don't end up with one of those "Bleach Gone Wrong, My Hair's Falling Out" stories. This will be my first time bleaching, I'm such a newbie at all this, I have no idea if my hair will take easily to the bleach or if I will have a difficult time with my thick, long, wavy dark hair. Thank you in advance. :)

Maffew James (author) on March 24, 2016:

Hi Ash,

You would be best bleaching it to achieve this because it's difficult to lighten black hair to a light shade with dye. You may have luck using a high lift dye, but it's a lot less reliable for this situation. WIth either method, you'd still need to tone separately after lightening because bleach only lightens, and high lift dye won't tone darker hair adequately during lightening.

Ideally, bleach the ends to a golden colour, where a hint of orange tone remains. Following that, tone using medium natural blonde, or light ash blonde in demi-permanent. The use of these shades is slightly different in that the light ash blonde I've recommended as one option is a lighter shade than the medium natural blonde. The reason for this is that a natural shade has less cool tone than an ash. The ash doesn't need to be as strong to reach a caramel shade. With either toner, you're applying and leaving it until it softens the remaining golden and orange tone from lightening to achieve a natural looking caramel shade, and the different shades will work similarly for this.

With the application of the bleach, you can do this a few ways to lighten your ends. If you want it to look more natural, use a balayage technique because this looks softer and tends to become gradually lighter towards the ends. There are a few ways to apply balayage, and one method is to apply the bleach most heavily to the very end of the hair and blend upwards with the brush to create a soft graduation. Alternatively, for a precise, 'blonde tipped' or 'sharp' ombre, work in neat sections and apply to ends within foil to the desired length. This method is more suited to fashion shades and doesn't look natural like balayage. The balayage method will give you more of a summery and natural look.

As for brands, use a premium bleach like Wella or Igora with 20 vol developer. This will give the better lightening and minimal damage, compared to more generic products. With the demi-permanent dye, you can use whatever brand you're comfortable with, as long as it's demi-permanent so that it doesn't lighten further or affect the mid-lengths of your hair if your application isn't precise.

Ash on March 24, 2016:


i have black hair and i want to dye the ends of my hair to a light caramel shade. i really dont know if i should bleach myhair and what colour and what brand i should use. can you please suggest some? oh and i would prefer if they were available in Australia or else ill just order them online. and my skin tone is brown with cool undertones. i wanted to make my hair give me some summer vibes and hopefully make me look more summery.



Nik on March 19, 2016:


I've recently bleached my hair to go from naturally black to pale blonde. I've used a 40vol peroxide since I'm only ombre-bleaching. I've toned it after washing the bleach out and it's at a brassy, brownish, orangey type of colour. I want to bleach it again a week later with a 30vol peroxide to get the pale blonde look but I'm worried about my hair breaking if I bleach it again, even with a lower vol. Should I use an even a lower vol peroxide or discard bleaching my hair again? Thanks x

Lisa on February 03, 2016:


I dye my hair red then I wanted to go blonde so I used the color oops hair color remover and it gave me a really light to medium gold color. I was in love with it, I wanted to keep that color but when I washed my hair it turn darker. So after I was trying to look for the same color on box hair dyes so I used medium golden blonde but of course on the crown of my head its was like an orangie color and i hate that. How can I get my hair gold shade like two shades lighter from the oops hair color remover without orange crown?

claudia garcia on September 19, 2015:

Hi! I was just wondering is it safe to use 40 vol. developer when mixed with hair dye? I already bleached my hair twice and its somewhere between level 6 or 7 and I'm not sure if its safe to use 40 vol after bleaching?

Dane on September 11, 2015:

Hello Maffew,

I have a natural dark blonde hair color with gold undertones, and I recently dyed my hair using a dark golden blonde dye kit. It lightened my hair at least one level and faintly made my hair more orange, but hardly noticeable. However, I would like to go one level higher, two levels maximum. By now I have about two inches of growth on my roots, which is a darker, less golden blonde than the dye I used. I am now thinking, since I only want to go a shade or two lighter than the dye, should I use a bleach with 10 vol developer? Also, should I dye my roots with the same dark golden dye I used before to provide even bleaching coverage? Lastly, do you think bleaching over the dyed hair will require a cool toner, and if so, what kind? I essentially want a slightly lighter blonde color, but for the hair to still have a golden look. Thank you so much!

Lupe C on August 14, 2015:

Hi Maffew,

my hair is already bleach but since my hair grow fast it gets expansive retouching roots so I want to try doing it my self my natural hair color is a 2 very dark brown but I have it bleach to about a 8-10 which developer should I use and which toner

Sandra Cardeiro on August 14, 2015:

lol.. as an after after thought.. reading through my initial post I should have said * if I bleach to the point of a pale yellow - inside of a banana - and then tone to.. platinum*

Sandra Cardeiro on August 14, 2015:

and btw.. as an after thought!! If I could have walked around with a highlighting cap on my head for the past 3 weeks it certainly would have made this process a whole heck of a lot easier!

Sandra Cardeiro on August 14, 2015:

Hi Maffew,

I've been reading through these posting and you are giving excellent advice! I'm wanted to throw my scenario at you and see if maybe you would agree, disagree or offer something I haven't thought of.

I am 85% gray (white) with 15 % (what appears to be a level 2 or 3) salt and pepper. I have been dying my hair since I was in my mid 20's - over 25 years. UGHH! Mostly level 4 to 5.. Warm and cool tones, burgundy base... gold base.. you name it - what suits my mood at the time.

Portugese and Nordic decent.. I tend to be on the warm spectrum but definitely can pull of a cool POP.

Having said all of that.. I am in the process of just wanting to go gray! I mean it's the in thing now! YES! Finally. However, not lilac or lavender.. Just something that will really mimic my natural (now) color without living with a HORRID line of demarcation (and not cutting my hair off).

I have recently lightened from a level 3 to a level 7 ORANGE :). Which I expected and promptly toned. Then colored the roots to a 5/6 The color in my pic is a bit cooler and darker than what it looks in person. My first process I used a 40vol, second process a 30vol and will now be using a 20vol with lightener. Two all over bleaches 45mins each and a bleach shampoo for an hour! NUMEROUS conditioning treatments.. with protein and some all natural stuff such as blended avacados bananas and coconut oil. My hair still feels great and no breakage!

So now I ask for your advice! My intention is to bleach again.. My new hair growth is white!... So I will need to get to platinum. However I do not want to look like a sheet or a ghost. Should I go to platinum and then just lowlight? Then I will need to fill before lowlighting. I have lots of play in my hair currently so if I bleach to the point where 70% is platinum then tone? I'm thinking I should maintain the gold (warmth) to some degree, but platinum contains none :/.. I am attempting to match my new growth (of which there is none yet) as best as possible. I know this will probably be a month process at least to do it correctly. What do you suggest to make this transition as seemless as possible?

Maffew James (author) on August 06, 2015:

Hi Vincent,

If you give your hair a rest, this can help with the condition. Sometimes you may be able to get away with another process after this, but a lot of the damage is permanent because the protein your hair is made out of is damaged by the bleach. There's only so far you can take it sometimes.

Apart from that, a protein treatment can help speed up the process as well as strengthen it more than rest alone can because this helps repair some of that damaged protein. That plus a good deep conditioner are the perfect products to use to keep your hair in healthier condition whilst lightening.

Maffew James (author) on August 06, 2015:

Hi Nicholle,

The most important thing at this point is to try and get it all even by only lightening the darker areas now. If you can do this, you'll make the process easier when the colour is done. You may want to give the dye remover another application where it's darker and see if you can lift this out a bit more with this, but using bleach alone is fine as well, as long as it's in good condition. Just try to keep it away from the white hair as these areas will suffer a lot of damage from continued bleaching once all the pigment is gone.

vincent kao on August 04, 2015:

soo im dying my hair from 4fv to 12 beige ash blond using goldwell and i know i need to bleach my hair to level 10 or 11 im using 30 vol cuz i want to left the hair faster to get to the color i want.. i did the processed 2 times but it's on level 9 now which i think my hair is gonna get fry if i do it one more time lol so i've decided to leave it for a few weeks and start bleaching it again let me know if im correct thanks

nicholle 346 on August 01, 2015:

Hi Maffhew:

I want to stop dying my dark brown hair because I am now 100% grey but first I have to strip out the dark dark brown dye. I need to get to a light blond in order for me to dye my hair a chrome silver so that when my grey roots do grown in I will only have to touch up every 3 mos or longer. So I first used a color remover (Oops brand) it really lightened my roots and another 4 inches down in the front however the entire back and lower part of the sides are still a pretty dark brown but more brown less dark chocolate. So then I thought I would try bleach I used Loreal quick blue 2 oz + 30 vol cream developer 4.5-5 oz + .5 oz Oleplex #1. My roots plus a few inches are pure white the rest PUMPKIN ORANGE:) In the last couple of days I have only sprayed a protein filler and deep conditioner on the rinsed hair (no shampoo). I thought I would try to lighten the orange parts with Loreal quick blue and 20 vol only, then I could tone with Wella Color Charm T10 and 10 vol developer and continue not to dry but deep condition - then after a couple weeks have my stylist do the chrome permanent dye. What do you think?

I am sure by now you know I am not trained:) My stylist went out of town and could not start this until late August I got itchy and went ahead-probably not the smartest and I am certainly old enough to know better but..... please give me your opinion you seem very knowledgable and I would love to hear your thoughts. Plus my very capable stylist won't be back for 2 more weeks plus and I would love to surprise her with a jumpstart if perhaps this turned out well:)

Mimi on July 22, 2015:


Thank you, thank you, thank you :) You're the best!

Maffew James (author) on July 22, 2015:

Hi Mimi,

The Redken Cat is a protein treatment that you apply after shampooing to repair damage. It may work fine as a filler if you spray it into your hair prior to applying the dye, but having not used it for that purpose, and knowing it's not designed with that in mind, I can't say for sure. It would also be the more expensive route if you did use it.

Sally's does sell an inexpensive clear protein filler, which you can find here:,...

You can also buy the same product on Amazon. Apart from that, you should be able to get one from your nearest supply store in person, or from online suppliers depending on where you're located`.

As for the dye, beauty suppliers and wholesalers are good places to buy, but some will require that you own or work in a salon before they will sell to you. Others won't. Same scenario with online suppliers. There are also many suppliers that sell through Amazon or Ebay.

Mimi on July 22, 2015:


Thank you so much for your detailed response. Can you tell me what protein filler I can buy? I have never really used one. I know you've been mentioning Redken Cat, would that do ok?

Also, can you tell me where I can purchase the good hair dyes, like wella koleston or igora royal?

Maffew James (author) on July 21, 2015:

Hi Mimi,

Some developers contain additives like protein and conditioning agents which do reduce the dryness and damage after bleaching slightly. Overall, there's no significant benefit to using a developer like this as the effect is fairly mild and you can do the same thing yourself with better results by using a deep conditioner or a conditioning treatment after bleaching, and a protein treatment. Of course, feel free to use one if you'd like.

To tell whether a particular developer is better for your hair, look at the ingredients to check for conditioning agents and protein. Conditioners can be anything from oils to silicones, whilst protein can be listed as hydrolysed protein, hydrolysed wheat protein, keratin, etc. Conditioners prevent and treat dryness. Proteins reduce and treat damage.

As for which brand of developer I'd recommend personally, I believe using the same brand of developer as your bleach powder or cream is best because the manufacturer has matched it for consistency and results to give it the best performance when used together. So if you were using Wella bleach for example, it's best to use Wella Koleston developer. With that said, any brand is fine as long as the developer doesn't separate or go lumpy; these are signs of an inferior product. If it does anything like this, you can bet the manufacturer hasn't went to any great effort to ensure reliability during lightening and mixing.

For the ash dye, if you use a dye from the same brand as the bleach you use, you're going to get a good brand. Products like Wella Koleston, Igora Royal, and Matrix SoColor are all excellent. You can't buy them from Sally's though. I think you can buy Wella Color Charm; it's not as diverse as the Koleston, but it will still give good results and you should find it easy to use too. Whatever brand you use, go with a 6A at darkest if aiming for light brown. Go a little lighter if aiming for closer to a dark blonde, because you don't want the ash to be too intense.

As for the porosity, that can be a problem. If you've found a light ash brown dye has been adequate to tone your hair to dark or medium brown, that could be either the brand you're using has slightly more intense colours, or you have more porous hair. You can get around this by adjusting how dark the dye is based on brand and how your hair responds to it. Using a clear protein filler definitely helps because it fills in the hair and prevents it from grabbing as much dye.

In any case, do a strand test if in doubt. Take ash dye at one level lighter than the level you bleached to, apply to a small section, and if this immediately darkens up or just tones excessively and too quickly, use a lighter dye for the full application. You want the dye to be strong enough to tone, as well as give you an ash result, but you don't want it to be so strong that your hair is toned in a couple of minutes where you've first applied, whilst you've only applied to half your hair. A weaker ash dye means more control because the toning proceeds more slowly, making it much easier to get the result you want.