How to Do a Bleach Bath
Bleach is an extremely useful tool for dyeing your hair as it's the only product that can lighten hair substantially. In fact, if you've dyed your hair with a permanent dye, it's practically the only way you can lighten it at all.
Sometimes you don't need to perform a full bleach process however, and this is where a bleach bath becomes useful. A bleach bath is formulated in a slightly different way to make it a more gentle way to use bleach.
What is a bleach bath?
Normally when you bleach your hair, the bleach powder is mixed with peroxide and applied as directed to dry hair. This is an effective way to lighten your hair, but it can be overkill in some circumstances where you don't need a lot of lightening or you're dealing with fragile hair. A bleach bath or bleach wash is a milder alternative to this process.
Bleach baths differ from a regular bleach process in a couple of ways and every hairdresser has their own method for performing one. The main differences arise from the fact that shampoo is added to the bleach mixture, it is applied to wet hair, and it is generally mixed up with a lower volume of peroxide.
These qualities lead to a more dilute preparation of bleach that is far gentler on your hair. On top of this, applying the preparation to wet hair means that it is much quicker to apply it to the whole head, and the results are very even all over.
When should you use a bleach bath?
Bleach baths are handy for a few reasons due to their milder lightening action and ease of application:
- Stripping out hair dye
- Correcting over-toned hair
- Lightening hair one level
- Lightening fragile hair
If you dye your hair with bright colors and you change these colors all the time, a bleach bath can be used to remove stubborn traces of color that haven't washed out yet. In this case, because the bleach is diluted and isn't in contact with the hair for very long, very little damage occurs compared to a regular bleach process.
A bleach bath can even be used to strip out permanent hair dye when it either turns out too dark or you need to remove a buildup of color. In this case however, hair dye remover is much more effective and a bleach bath should not be used unless the dye remover fails to lift enough of the color out. For stubborn color or excessive dye buildup that doesn't respond readily to dye remover, a bleach bath is a useful option.
Of course, bleach baths can also be used to lighten your hair in the same way as regular bleach. When used in this way, they provide you with a much gentler bleaching action and cause less damage to fragile hair, but you won't see the same amount of lift that a full bleach process could grant you. Use a bleach bath when you have fragile hair and only want to lighten it a little.
When to bleach
Type of bleach
Dyeing hair blonde
Removing dark colors
Preparing a bleach bath
To prepare a bleach bath, you can start by mixing bleach powder and peroxide up as usual. The ratio of powder to peroxide can vary a little depending on manufacturer, but for the most part this is a 1:2 ratio of bleach powder to developer. To this mixture, you need to add at least one part shampoo.
In this sense, the ratio becomes 1:2:1 bleach powder, to developer, to shampoo. However much bleach powder you add should be followed by the same volume of shampoo. You can increase the amount of shampoo a little to further dilute the bleach bath or simply use a lower volume of developer.
When it comes to the volume of developer, 10 vol or 20 vol are generally used, keeping in mind that the real concentration of peroxide will be significantly lower because of the shampoo added and the water in your hair when you apply the preparation. As such, a bleach bath will lighten your hair less than a regular bleach can when the same volume of peroxide is used.
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Applying a bleach bath
The application of a bleach bath is fairly straightforward. You should be applying the bleach bath to wet hair and will need to dampen your hair with water before you begin. You should also only apply the preparation to hair that is unwashed in order to minimize irritation and prevent excessive dryness from the combination of shampoo and bleach.
Apply the bleach bath quickly by hand or brush, massaging it into your hair thoroughly. To prevent irritation, move your hands in an outward motion from length to tips through sections of hair instead of pressing it against your scalp.
Once the bleach bath is distributed evenly through your hair, you'll need to watch it constantly. Unlike a regular bleach, the intended use of a bleach bath to strip out remaining colors or provoke gentle lightening means that the product won't need to be left in the hair too long, and it can be washed out as soon as the desired result is produced, or left in for 20 - 30 minutes for greater lightening.
After you've achieved the level of lift you require, you can rinse the product out and condition your hair thoroughly with a good deep conditioner to replenish the hair's moisture.
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Caring for bleached hair
Hair that is lightened with a bleach bath needs the same care that you'd give it if you'd used a full bleach. This means intensive conditioning and gentle styling until the moisture is restored and the hair has been allowed to recover. Just like a regular bleach, you shouldn't perform a bleach bath any more than once a week to avoid stressing the hair.
When using heated styling tools, your hair should always be protected by a heat serum or spray, and this is even more important for hair that is freshly bleached. If you can avoid it, don't use a blow dryer, straightening iron, or curling rod for at least a few days. Bleach is drying, and dry hair is more susceptible to damage from heat and styling.
If you find your hair still feels a little dry even after conditioning, leave-in conditioners can be used to add a little extra moisture and this can be followed up with a smoothing serum to lock the moisture in and keep your hair feeling its best.
Once your hair has had a chance to recover, you can return to handling and styling it as usual. The great thing about a bleach bath is that this won't take very long. It's a gentler way to get the color you want, yet it will still keep your hair looking and feeling beautiful.
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