Hairdresser, marketer, and dabbler in many things. I enjoy sharing knowledge about the science of hair coloring and hair care.
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
|Hair condition||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.
- Choosing the Best Hair Bleach
If you're bleaching your hair, you shouldn't use just any product. Find out which hair bleach products are superior and will give you better lightening, less damage, and more consistent results...
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.
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.
- How to Bleach Hair
Learn the tricks of the trade when it comes to preparing and using bleach.
- How to Dye Hair Blonde
Dreaming of blonde hair? Find out how to dye your hair blonde for professional results.
- Caring for Dyed Hair
Bleach or dyed hair needs specialized care to keep it looking and feeling its best. Find out how to care for dyed hair and maintain your new color.
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.
Do you have a question about bleach baths or an experience to share? Leave a comment for tailored advice and share your insight with other readers.
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
desert-rhubi on August 01, 2020:
Hello, I need some hair advice. Friday Night I bleached my hair And then the same night I dyed it a blue teal color from Artic Fox. I ended up not liking the color and have been doing vitamin c treatments to fade the color. I’m wondering if a BB with 40 vol will bring my hair back to a lightened color/back to a pale yellow like my hair looked after bleaching it. I’m trying my best to go back to a light pale yellow color please help!!
Welsh Girl on July 10, 2020:
Can you do a bleach bath on already bleached hair? I want it a lifhter lighter and to try and get the brassy colour out. Wa
Hat percentage peroxide would you recommend? Thanks
Answer for Brittany on June 15, 2020:
More than likely, you’ll want to tone after a bleach bath. I’m about to BB my own hair to get some “semi”-permanent (it’s been months and this Arctic Fox virgin pink WILL NOT FADE) and I’ll be back at a level 10. Too yellow, so I’ve made my own toner with very diluted Punky Color violet to tone it away from banana yellow.
Brittany on June 15, 2020:
Do I need to use a toner after the bleach bath?
Rocio on June 12, 2020:
Thank you very much. Best review/explanation/advise by far and extremely useful for beginners like me. Currently burgundy with darker points. Trying to lightening little bit to recover my natural middle brown. Very sensitive scalp here so even when I wish a bold fantasy color bleaching it to blond its not an option.
GoldieLocks2 on May 21, 2020:
My Colorist had my hair a beautiful Ivory blond just top half of my head underneath is still my virgin dark brown. Due to COVID-19 and not knowing when are Salons are going to be able to open my Mom and Granddaughter who's in her 1st year of Cosmetology decided to tackle the project last weekend after me spending a month researching products and color lines. And in all fairness the did a good job it did turn out a little more golden yellow than I prefer I had planned on mixing a Wella Color CharmT10 with a T18 but the order I placed only came in with the T10 which I thought was going to work out fine because as it was processing it was looking like the lovely Ivory beige that my Colorist had gotten me to, that is until it dried and I still have the yellow gold with quite a bit of very lite blonde, so my question is what would be better, to do a bleach bath or tone it with the T18 with the violet tones now that it has finally come in. My hair is still pretty healthy I don't know if that's because I've always used the Olaplex in the bleaching and Toning process since I started this a year ago in March, and do I have to tone after bleaching or can I just do a heavy conditioning treatment.
Imperfection94 on April 08, 2020:
My hair is pretty dark naturally. I would say it's almost completely black. I do have mixed hair though.(I'm half Caucasian and half Hispanic. M hair is more one the Caucasian side then the Hispanic side) I'm the type of person who like to have their hair all one color. I've dyed m hair black about 2 months ago because I get a few pesky white hairs that are really noticeable. I was wondering would I be able to do a bleach bath on my hair and lift one level at a time with very little damage? Also after lifting my hair 1 level should I tone it? Also, am I am able to put a deep purple or some other color over it?
Kourtney on March 26, 2020:
Hi there, thank you so much for explaining that! Easiest tutorial I have found, by far. I was curious if anyone might have some advice on using a Conditioning wash instead of normal shampoo in this recipe? Any information is helpful! Thank you
Amber Miller on March 20, 2020:
I've been using AF Aquamarine on my hair for a little over a year. I have about 4 inches of regrowth now and I'm over the green. Should I do a bleach bath on just the green then use a regular due on on my regrowth once I get the green all the out?
Trista on February 29, 2020:
I have natural medium silvery-ash color blonde hair that lightens in an ombré fashion naturally to a light blond. I know I don’t need full on bleach to lighten it to platinum if I want to get a vibrant color. But sometimes the bleach wash doesn’t raise it enough levels to get some vibrant or pastel colors. Is there a way to avoid using full on bleach but still being able to lift an extra level or two without over processing and damaging my hair? A lot of times I can just do a straight toner or a blond dye with a 30 or 40 developer to get the level I want whether I’m just going for a lighter blonde or a vibrant color that my natural hair can’t achieve alone but not usually with the pastel colors. I know I can’t get away with that for pastels. Do you have any suggestions that is the most gentle on my hair? I really would rather not put my hair through full bleach when my natural color is just a Medium silvery ash blonde, it just feels like it’s not necessary and my hair is naturally a bit thin, so I always want to go the most gentle route. You seem to really know your stuff so I’d be real grateful for any suggestions you may have.
DiscoDancerBoston on January 28, 2020:
Your articles are so well written and helpful, thank you! I'm considering a bleach bath to try to budge my henndigoed hair. I used Rainbow henna powder (only two ingredients=henna + indigo) every 2 months for about 3 yrs. It covered my few grays and my hair is super healthy, BUT, over the years it's gotten WAY darker than I want (probably level 3 or 4 on the ends). My natural color is a medium brown, like a 5, perhaps a little lighter even. Anyway, after resting the hair for 2 months (no henna), I did a strand test with some gentle perm color (Naturcolor--I think it's 3% peroxide), and nothing--no change whatsoever on the length/ends. Tried honey lightening, clarifying shampoo, yogurt mask. Did another strand test--no lift at all. I am getting desperate but I don't want to super-damage my hair (which is why I was using henna in the first place). Do you think the bleach bath would be effective? Thanks!
Loretta on January 26, 2020:
Anybody heard of not doing a bleach bath before menustration? Saw some info on this and unsure if this would increase likelihood of chemical burn or just simply increase sensitivity?
Megan Brown on December 11, 2019:
I did this with 30vol and it was great, it took all the pink out my hair and lightened the blonde and I only left it on for about 8 mins, absolutely loved it!
Maffew James (author) on December 09, 2019:
Really depends just how long it is. You could go with 60ml (2oz) of powder, 90ml-120ml (3-4oz) of developer, and then add shampoo until the volume of product roughly doubles. Less shampoo increases the lightening power and vice versa.
You'll end up with quite a bit of product, which will be better than running out mid-application, then you can adjust this for next time to use less. Most of the product will be shampoo so use a relatively cheap shampoo and it won't be much of a waste. The quality of the shampoo barely matters since it's only in the mix to dilute down the lightening/irritation and help wash artificial colour out of the hair.
Marisa Balzan on December 06, 2019:
I am going to do a bleach bath on my daughter's very long brown hair and it's a little too dark ...just want to lift it ...how much powder do I use and how much perxide and shampoo fo I mix in the bowl.
Maffew James (author) on November 09, 2019:
10–15 minutes should be fine to brighten it a bit, ideally just keep an eye on it while it's in. It can be hard to anticipate how much it will lighten beforehand.
One thing I'd say to note with your hair is that the different sections—the regrowth, lengths, and grey strands—will likely react differently. The shorter you can keep the application the better because a longer application has more chance of starting to show some unevenness where the hair has been dyed different amounts or is naturally lighter underneath the dye in it.
Also, note that the bleach will lighten the colour but it will also make it look duller too. It could just look like a duller red, or it could go a little coppery. You might like the colour, but be prepared to follow up with a new shade of red just in case. Ideally, go a shade lighter than you normally would too because your hair will be a little more receptive to the dye after the bleach wash and you don't want it to darken too much again.
Thanks for the comment, let me know if you need any clarification on anything and good luck with brightening the red.
Iliana on November 08, 2019:
Please answer immediately? Demanding questions with a bunch of ??? Goodness, people do have a life.
Thank you for such great explanation and all the effort placed into this. I have been dying my hair blonde intense red and I could no longer find my hair dye and used one that left my hair dark red, not good. I also have grey so I dye roots every 3 weeks and the whole hair every 6 to 9 weeks. This method will lift up the darkness a bit without hurting my hair. I hope you can answer before I do this in about two weeks, how long do you leave it? I am planning on doing it in the shower and leave it for 10-15 minutes while I bath, shave, etc ... Thanks again.
em on August 17, 2019:
Actually it's 1 part bleach powder, 1-2 parts developers and 2-3 parts shampoo (i.e., 1 oz bleach, 1-2 oz developer and 2-3 oz of shampoo). In others words, the amount of shampoo should equal the amount of bleach and developer COMBINED.
Jess on May 12, 2019:
How long should you keep the bleak in?
na on March 30, 2019:
I am aware how long ago this person wrote the comment... But geeze Tori you are a bit ignorant and demanding when the information is already explained in the post.. The picture on the top tells you what is meant by 1:2:1... 1 part bleach, 2(so double the amount you used for bleach) of developer, and then 1 part of shampoo.
For example 1 cup bleach, 2 cups developer, 1 cup shampoo. The amounts you use will vary on your hair length and probably other things but definitely length.
Ula on January 30, 2019:
I use this ratio as replacing the bleach with the pink colourant to give my hair a colour hint and tone it at the same time. It works really perfect to me. I already recommended your website as well as this bleach bath as perfect helpful source. Well done bellatory!!
Jess Harris on December 26, 2018:
I hope this helps someone. Please don't bleach over non natural colors. It locks the color in. Strip your hair color first and then go on with a process.
Dee Gold on October 03, 2018:
Pls aswer immmedently should i do a bleach bath to night or what ro get rid of the yellow ?? That was the question i had ask around 8 minutes ago
Thank you very much!!!
Lesley on September 23, 2018:
Can you highlight your hair after using nutrient hair dye Permian than
Tori on June 29, 2018:
I need specifics, real measurements... 1 part, 2 part of what??? I am using a liquid, a powder and what kind of shampoo? and How much? SPECIFICALLY of each
Marion Cushman on June 10, 2018:
Thank you for the artical. I had black grown out to 3inches. I just wanted it out. I slept in the coconut oil and added my bleach wash the next day. I only left on for 10minutes but I got the black out. It's a reddish brown now. I probably would have been better for 15 but i didn't want to much damage. My hair was soft but I also added leave in conditioner . Any way thank you I'm glad to have the black gone without spending a fortune.
Claire from Lincolnshire, UK on May 08, 2018:
Thank for sharing this helpful information. I like to dye my hair but dislike how harsh bleaching can be. I will try out this method instead.
Lyn on January 19, 2018:
I had my hair dyed a fantasy color last September and its really faded now. I still have some black in my hair that I want to get rid of. So my question is could I do a bleach bath on just that portion of my hair?
Chardenae van rooyen on December 28, 2017:
Great article! Best directions given I've seen yet! I use this method as well, and it has been such an amazing difference than straight bleaching! Good work!
Kris on December 02, 2017:
I used a 25% bleach to 25% developer (20) to 50% shampoo mixture, left on for 10 minutes to brighten up my brassy dyed blonde hair and it made a huge difference! without any damage, and I've had breakage issues in the past. I recommend this method.
jessica on October 20, 2017:
So the only developer I have left is 40 vol. I read online that I can dilute the 40 vol. With distilled water. Is this true? Can I do a bleach bath with 1 part bleach, 2 parts 40 vol diluted with distilled water, and 1 part shampoo? Also, if so, how much distilled water should i add?thank you :) oh by the way the bleach bath is just for my ends and half way up my hair because it's still a little darker than it needs to be.
Rhia on October 08, 2017:
I'd advise not bleach bathing over purple hair. I now have bright blue hair.
Lacey on September 22, 2017:
When doing a bleach bath with water to remove ash tones.the best way to apply bath?
Zenobia on May 04, 2017:
Thank you for the help.
Miff on March 02, 2017:
I have fine highly bleach foiled hair and hairdresser used demi to tone its gone a horrible dark ash beige can I bleach bath with wella blondor with 10vol?
Jessica johnson on February 18, 2017:
Hi, I just started the process of bleaching my dark brown hair. I have colored my hair many times but never full on bleach. So my first session was with 40 volume and it lightened pretty well. I was left with some yellow but mostly orange brass! I bleached again with 30 volume and got pale yellows, white and still some orange. I did toner after each application. I decide to use a medium blonde dye(neutral base) to try and even things out and darken up a tad. Well it is more like a light brown/ dark blonde! I didn't want it that dark! I am thinking of doing a bleach bath. Will this give me the color I had before the dye?
Pumpkin on February 06, 2017:
After using the color remover oops on my steel, purple and blue turned blueish green hair that I had cover brown ( unsuccessfully because the green is still there) I now have dark blonde and green. I tried clarifying shampoo and baking soda but no difference. My salon said bleach was my only solution. I had a few inches cut off today and now my hair is healthier and well conditioned. What developer would be best to mix with bleach? I intend on dying blonde after, happy with any shade of blonde (naturally dirty blonde but have had all shades over the years ☺)
MollyV93 on February 02, 2017:
I bleached my hair 3 weeks ago, hoping to achieve white blonde hair. My hair is naturally dark brown and I had not dyed my hair for about 2 years, getting regular trims every 6-8 weeks so my hair had grown a lot and was in great condition. The virgin hair dyed the perfect shade of platinum blonde from roots to mid ends. However, the mid-ends of my hair had banding and was a yellow blonde, toning my hair did not resolve this 2 toned colour look completely but made it a little better. I got fed up with this and went to Superdrugs and got a Graphite Grey hair dye. My roots dyed very dark shade of grey and then a slight purple shade and then a grey shade to ends. This was only meant to be a temp fix until my hair recovered a little so I can bleach it again? I now want to remove this colour and go back to the blonde I had after bleaching, please could you advise me on what to do? Shall I strip my hair? Bleach bath it? Bleach it? I want to achieve the white blonde then use a silver toner so I am left with silver/white shade. My hair is still in an OK condition however, I do not want to be bald or have to cut a load of my hair off. I have been using oil treatments and Aussies leave-in sprays and only washing my hair once a week. But i feel like this has been going on for far to long now, I just want the perfect shade of silver/white hair. Please help me :-)
Louise flynn on January 26, 2017:
If I use a 40 vol peroxide cream with a permanent light copper dye to dark brown hair ,will it lift it 4 shade lighter or is it best to do a bleach bath first ?
Courtney66 on January 13, 2017:
Hi I currently have been using a red permanent hair colour for several months on my medium to dark blonde hair and now want to try a golden blonde colour. I would like to know if I have to purchase a box colour remover first before going to the bleach bath for the best result to remove the red? Also after I have removed the red with the bleach bath do I need to use a purple shampoo to remove any orange, copper or ginger tones first or can I apply a box Ash Blonde colour straight after?
Courtney on January 13, 2017:
Hi I need help or clarification. I currently have permanent red dye coloured hair from a medium blonde natural colour. I know want to remove the red and go to a golden blonde colour. I have researched the bleach bath but my question is should I first try a box colour remover first before the bleach bath to get the best result? Also after the bleach bath can I apply a box Ash Blonde permanent colour to act as a base colour? or do I need to wash my hair after the bleach bath with a purple shampoo to neutralise and orange,copper or ginger tones before I use the Box Ash Blonde Permanent colour??
blueruby on December 23, 2016:
I'm hoping to bleach virgin roots (level 5) and do a bleach bath on already bleached hair (level 9) to bring everything to a level 10. Any suggestions on the process/timelines?
FS on December 17, 2016:
Is it ok to still use a toner after a bleach bath. I was planning to do a big chop from next month and as it grows, I will like to lighten my hair gradually like a shade lighter every month or 2 to look sort of like ombre but softer. Should I use a toner after every process or do I just leave it that way. Thanks
dfgmavis on November 05, 2016:
I've a balanage colour, which I then put Superdrug's 'temporary' turquoise Colour Freedom on - 3 months ago. It's not very temporary & I still have it. I've tried Vit C & Head & Shoulders multiple times which lightens it but doesn't remove it.
Half my hair is virgin (which still has a green tint to it now) and the other half is pale green turquoise. I really want to strip out the colour without having to bleach my whole head.
Would a bleach bath work? And if I bath bleach the virgin hair, how much will it lighten it?
My hairdresser thinks a cleanse at the salon will get rid of the blue, but everything I've read says it won't. And my hairdresser is an hour away from me and I'm working 24/7 atm so don't have time to go there anyway - hence looking for home solutions because my hair looks awful atm!
HeddaLettuce on September 29, 2016:
I do love the simplicity of this artcle and the ongoing feedback. It saved me at a time when I could not afford a professional and set me on a path to self-done-at-home hair susperstardom :p It's important to know I only bleach bath Octoberish to March as I live near a beach and such is my method of maintenance in the offseason -
It cleans the slate, but bleach is bleach. Compounding matters, the city water went from a very silky soft to hard as nails after a recent municipal overhaul. Yay.
To protect my ends, does slathering coconut oil on them really work?- I tried it once and could not tell a difference, and I have also read its low flash point makes it bad for hair - Otherwise, what do you suggest one does to protect these delicate parts that are gentrified bleachers? Vasoline? I use straight slathered-on, roots to end Pantene or Dove conditioners before hitting the surf and directly after toweling off (they're cheap and I won't cry over a glob hitting the sand) - What's a good bleach bath protector and a good between-jobs conditioner for hard water?
Maggie on September 29, 2016:
Hi! I've dyed my hair for years, but haven't dyed it in about 4 months. I want to lighten my brown hair to a light ash brown. I figured I would do a bleach bath, and then dye my hair using Wella Light Ash Brown and a 20 volume developer. Is this the right way to slightly lighten? Do I have to worry about hot roots? I am in need of some gray coverage. Does this impact my lightening process? Please help!
Thanks so much!
Brittany on September 06, 2016:
i started a bleach wash and then read that you were suppost to wet your hair first ... i did a bleach wash on dry hair!!! is my hair going to be okay???
Evelin Higuita on July 13, 2016:
I have dyed my hair tips for the first time in a salon and then the dye started to leave and it was like an orange so i started to dye it on my own. i have stopped recently and let all the dyes come off and it just looks like i have bleached it. I found that a bleach wash would help me get my natural hair color back. If i get it done in a salon how long does it last? Will my hair still be normal like soft? I have to get a hairstyle done also so should i do the bleach wash a few days or weeks before or would it be okay to get them done both?
Brittany on July 02, 2016:
Hi, I had bleached hair and a few years ago went red (ion color brilliance permanent) after my twins were born I went back to bleached cause it's so much easier to maintain. I bleached it twice and it obviously was a bit uneven all over, then I waited too long to do my regrowth so I had an uneven band there. I colored just my bangs and under cut pink (semi). The pink was finally faded enough to lighten so I rebleached my whole head hoping to even out the color and get the pink out. It lightened nicely to white in most places (which is what I'm going for) and evened it out a bit but where the pink was and some spots in the middle of my length sill have some yellow. It's light enough that I thought my purple shampoo would pull it out but it's not getting the yellow out and it's making the white parts grey which is making it more uneven looking. I use ion bleach powder and ion 30vol developer with shimmer lights purple shampoo. Would a bleach bath be best to get the last bits of yellow out our should I do straight bleach, and should I apply to just the yellow spots or all over? Also would a purple protein filler added to the bleach mixture be beneficial?
Buxtiggityton on June 18, 2016:
Thank you so much for your answer! I was thinking of doing the bleach bath a couple of times, waiting a week before doing the second bleach bath. I was wondering if the bath would do anything to my already white hair. I was also wondering if I should use a blue/violet toning shampoo because the light brown part of my hair has a slight reddish tone to it. I'm not trying to get the brown part to the white stage, I just want it lighter. I really like the way the Wella T18 lightened it. It blends in better with my white/silver part. Once again thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, you are wonderful!
Maffew James (author) on June 06, 2016:
The Wella T18 lightened because it is permanent dye and uses developer. Any dye that uses peroxide developer can result in lightening because it is the peroxide that causes this.
To get your hair all that silvery grey colour, you would need to lighten it a lot further. To give you some context to the amount of lightening required, light brown is a level 5 and hair starts to look grey (when adequately toned) at level 8, becoming progressively more silvery towards level 9, and finally to a very pale silver shade of white once it reaches level 10. You're looking at 3 - 4 levels of lift before it all looks the way you want, after which you'd need to tone it to get it to look silver because the hair that was darker will be yellow at this point due to the base tone being revealed.
One way to do this is to bleach it, and this should only take one process using 20 vol, assuming you haven't applied any dark dyes to your hair in the past which would decrease the lightening. Another method is to bleach bath it, as described in this article. This won't lift as quickly and is more likely to take 2 processes because a bleach bath is weaker.
Rather than bleach all your hair, you can also highlight it to achieve a similar effect. When hair is highlighted it will look lighter even though not all of the hair has actually been lightened because it affects the overall level and tone. This is a good method to avoid some of the damage and keep more of a natural look as you gradually transition to being fully grey. It will soften the salt and pepper look but won't completely get rid of it because there will still be darker hair dispersed throughout, so it is a bit of a trade-off in that regard. Again, you would also need to tone to produce the silvery grey colour you want as the hair that has been highlighted will look yellow and will cause the overall colour to look warmer as a result unless toned.
As for the toning itself, you may find that a good silver shampoo is adequate for this, especially if you decide to highlight. Otherwise you can use a dye like the Wella T18 for this purpose and then maintain the colour with silver shampoo.
Buxtiggityton on June 05, 2016:
I have salt and pepper hair. My salt is almost white. I wanted a more silvery color so I used Wella T18 with a 10 volume peroxide. My salt came out great but my pepper lightened up to a light reddish brown. I guess I thought my pepper was black but I guess it was a dark brown. Anyway, I thought that toners didn't lighten dark hair but it lightened mine. I like that it lightened it since I would like to have all my hair a silvery grey and it's taking forever to go all grey. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do to make my pepper, now a light brown, silvery grey like the rest of my hair? I love all your articles and can't stop reading them! Lol. You are great!
Carolyn on December 05, 2015:
I should mention I would like to achieve and maintain my golden brown base colour without bleach?? As I have gray anyways would like to not have to bleach and tone my roots all the time. Just concentrate on refreshing my highlights or graduating to a balayage. Thanks again!
Carolyn on December 05, 2015:
Hi there! I just have a quick question on which color dye and tone to use. I have been colouring my hair with a light golden brown colour. My natural hair colour is a dark brown maybe a 5 with some grey and natural mahogany tones. My hair has always pulled mostly copper colours when I choose anything with gold in it. I would like to lighten my medium golden copper brown to a more neutral shade of beige or honey brown, (I love chestnut but would love to go slightly lighter and more neutral as my base colour. Then I would like to do lighter neutral honey highlights.
I had dyed my hair once or twice a darker brown which has remained that way ever since and my roots and crown areas are lighter due to the grey in my hair and using a lighter dye. Would a bleach bath or full bleach to lighten my ends work best to achieve an overall lighter brown? I sort of want a light brown with lighter honey highlights to go a sort of brondish colour. If i want to achieve neutral after bleaching to orange/gold. Should I go with a neutral beige blonde to tone? or Ash? Thanks a bunch!
lala on September 10, 2015:
HELP! I am 55 years young and I had grown out all my creamy blonde highlights ( which i used to tone with purple shampoo) over the last 24 months to achieve my own beautiful real silver hair with my natural brown ( number 5) in a classy salt and pepper look that was completely natural. It was mostly silver at the front and the towards the back of my head the hair was still quite dark plus some silver strands thoughout. it was a typical silver and grey and dark natural looking head of hair - that is straight. I foolishly let a hairdresser put some Inoa foils ( semi permanent) in my hair - i think these were a light blonde plus some low lights of something brownish. There was no warmth at all anywhere at that stage. It was very mousey looking overall. Then 6 weeks later she talked me into further foils - a whole head of Inoa semi permanent foils consisting of once again low lights and highlights. However she chose lowlights that were the colour of a caramel toffee and the highlight was a white blond. The whole effect is weird and i have ginger hair foiled pieces plus white grey ashy /blonde hair all over. She also put a base colour ( also semi perm ) on all the roots. Now my own roots are coming back in and so i have my own beautiful silver roots plus some dark number 5 roots that is my normal natural colour before i went silver plus its all a bit salt and peppery looking. I have been washing out the Inoa semi perm colours and the ginger toffee colour is starting to fade out but its still a warm ginger colour. The whole effect is not what i wanted. The hairdrsser ofered to fix it by bealch shampooing it and then toning it. I dont want to go back to her unless i have a definite plan for her to follow. What woudl i be best to do at this stage. I hate the ginger with the white foils and the silver roots at the front and the rest of my natural colour appearing at the back of my head. My hair has naturally gone silver from front to back - so i am full silver at the front and salt and pepper at the back. I shoudl never have let her touch my natural silvery/ grey/dark hair with any colour. How do get my own natural coulour back. I do not mind using blonde highlights dispersed throughout the hair as a temporary measure to allow my own natural hair to grow out. But my hairdresser tells me because she put warm brown ( the toffee colour ) in my hair , that any bleach will grab onto it and make my hair tend towards orange or brass or yellow even - and she will have to correct it. I don't do ash very well as this makes my hair go khaki and my skin tone looks muddy if i use ash blonde. I am a blue eyed, fair skinned with redness and freckles and have a slight yellow tone to my skin with a bluey green vein. I have east european blood plus french and irish - so i am a weird mixture and i burn easily. In the past 20 years i have used straight out creamy blondes and a no 5 for lowlights and this has worked well while i was going gray. I always used to use violet / purple toning shampoo to keep out the brassiness and make my hair more silver toned. What do i do now with all this awful ginger and white mess ?? thanks so much and i am looking forward to your reply!
Maffew James (author) on August 10, 2015:
That's correct about the yellow being the only pigment left in your hair. It's not so much of a problem if you're wanting to just go a darker blonde for now, but if you were aiming for a brown shade, this is where you need to re-pigment it because you need a certain amount of copper or even red in your hair depending on how dark you want it to be. If you have a particular shade in mind, I can give you a better idea of what you need to do to reach it.
As for the porosity, using lighter colours than how you intend for it to turn out will deal with this, and you can also apply a few protein treatments if desired. These treatments will help strengthen your hair as well as reduce porosity. A clear protein filler or a porosity equaliser spray are other options; both of which are applied before applying dye, but sometimes this isn't enough and you still need to use a shade that is slightly lighter than desired. If you need to check how it will turn out at any point, you always have the option of applying as a strand test to gauge how porous it is and then using a product or a lighter dye as necessary once you know how it will react.
HeatherHawley on August 09, 2015:
Thank you so much Maffew! So I've come to the conclusion that I just need to give my hair a break from bleaching. I'm tired of putting quite so much effort into my hair. I still have super bleach blonde hair, but I'm thinking of going back to my natural color. Like I said before, I'm more of a dirty blonde. I don't want to let it grow out naturally. I'm a nurse, and I want to look professional. I don't want inches of roots lol. I was wondering what I could do to get it back to a natural looking color. I don't want to slap on a color and have it go really dark because my hair is so light and porous. Should I just go 1 or two shades darker than the bleach, then continue this process until the desired color is reached? I know that all I've got left is the yellow and that I need to add back in the others, but I don't want to go gold! I look horrible with golden hair. I usually use cool shades of the Ion brand. Can I continue to use the cool shades, or should I go with a violet or neutral/natural shade?
Maffew James (author) on August 05, 2015:
What likely happened is either your hair is a bit lighter than the last time you used the toner, so that same shade turns out stronger than expected, or it was porous after bleaching and really grabbed onto the violet tone.
As for fixing the ash tone, a quick bleach bath could take a bit more of the violet tone out and warm it up slightly, but it is going to lighten it further and you may still need to tone it again afterwards, albeit with a lighter toner to prevent the same problem occurring again. An alternative to deal with it if you're happy with how light it is would be to add a small amount of gold tone to it. This is basically the reverse process to what you would normally be doing when toning blonde hair. To do this, take a pale golden blonde shade in semi-permanent or demi-permanent, apply, and rinse when you're happy with how it looks.
Maffew James (author) on August 05, 2015:
It'll be easier to apply to the roots first as this hair is darker and will need to process for longer. Once the roots lighten up, you can apply to the lengths and continue lightening to get it all light enough for the new brown shade and tone to finish it off.
Maffew James (author) on August 05, 2015:
It'll look more like a purple tinge through brown hair when it's that dark. It starts to look more like a dark purple from level 4 to 5, and brighter purple and violet colours need to be even lighter than that.
The bleach wash is mainly useful where you only need a small amount of lightening or you're correcting colour, but it can be used to even it out. If you want to do this, you'll need to apply to the darker patchy areas only and lift those areas out to match the rest for it to even out.
HeatherHawley on August 03, 2015:
Ok, here we go! I always dye my own hair. I've never had a problem. Well I bleached my roots with a 20v developer to touch them up. I then did a bleach bath on the rest to reinvigorate my already bleach blonde hair. I also toned it with blonde brilliance's platinum toner. I have done this same process many times before. This time my roots to mid length went a lavender purple. I grabbed my 20 v developer and added it to my clarifying shampoo. Let it set and then washed it out with another round of the clarifying shampoo. It pulled all of the purple out, but now the roots to mid length are kind of a white gray color. I was thinking about doing a bleach bath to eliminate the white/gray color, but I'm a little worried. I don't want hot roots, though I have hardly any new regrowth at all! Like you can't tell. I also don't want my roots and mid length growth to be extremely lighter than my ends. My ends are a nice shade of blonde. My natural color is dirty blonde. Maybe like a 6. Any tips?
HelpHeather on August 02, 2015:
Hey Maffew! I've been using Joico 5NRM + 4VR with 15-20 vol. on my hair for quite some time now. I haven't touched up in quite sometime and now have 3" roots, about a lvl 4 dk brown.
I was wanting to bleach wash my hair to lift the color and then eventually do an overall medium brown color.
Should I tone my roots first and THEN bleach wash all over in order to achieve a more even color result?
Sophie on July 27, 2015:
I was trying to lighten my hair just a bit, I have level 2 dark brown hair and am trying to dye it dark purple but not completely purple just tinted purple. I wish I had known about bleach washing before I bleached my hair! My friends used 20 volume developer and did it really unevenly and I've been using 10 volume developer to try and even it out. I also have curly hair so it somehiw looks spottier. My hair is pretty healthy though. At this point I'm just wondering about how well purple would show up on level 3 (and in some parts level 2 still) brown hair and if I should do a bleach wash and if I could try to get it more even with the bleach wash. I think it'll be fine as long as it's light enough to get pretty purple because I don't mind if it's more purple in some spots I just don't want it to be purple in only some spots.
thanks so much!
Maffew James (author) on July 26, 2015:
Unfortunately you're always going to get that warmth reappearing with toning because as the toner fades out, the cool tone that is neutralising the warmth is washing out and allowing it to appear again.
If you bleach, technically this can help if you're able to strip out all of the orange and get your hair to gold or yellow, but if you do this, you now have blonde hair. Toning it to light brown won't work properly anymore because the hair is too light. Doing so will lead to a very intense , possibly greyish or blueish result. So if you're happy with how light the base colour is right now, I wouldn't recommend bleaching it any further because it won't really help with the orange. If you want it a bit lighter though, go right ahead, but only with your hair in good condition. With the current damage it would be better to wait a while first.
As for getting it to stay toned, shampoos and conditioners don't generally work for hair that is dark like yours because most are designed for blonde hair. Brown hair is simply too dark to show the effect. They also often contain mostly violet tone, rather than the blue that is needed for toning orange out. De Lorenzo's Cool Naturals shampoo may help, as that is actually designed for maintaining ashy brown hair, rather than for use on blonde.
Otherwise, another thing you can do is take a white shampoo--any brand, as long as you like how it washes your hair--and add a small amount of semi-permanent blue dye to this. Give it a test on orange areas and if it doesn't tone, add a little more until it does. if there's yellow tone present, add in some violet dye too.Then you have your own toning shampoo adjusted for your own hair. You'll need to be careful with the use of this shampoo over the highlights though, because these are lighter hair and will grab onto that blue tone.
As for the coconut oil, this will help protect your scalp and keep your hair from drying out as much, so it can slightly reduce damage as well as irritation. It doesn't have much of an effect though because most of the damage is a result of oxidation of the protein in your hair. Dryness compounds this damage and you do reduce it slightly by keeping your hair more hydrated because it prevents it from becoming brittle.
Debbie on July 23, 2015:
Hi Matthew, please please help me. I have very long thick hair. My natural colour is a dark brown with red in it ( my sisters are red heads) I only used to was it once a week, and it was in fantastic condition....always had compliments. But I am now in my early 50's and felt i should go lighter to match my skin tone. I had some blonde slices put through the top ( took the hairdresser 2 seperate times to reach a blondish colour without being brassy. I felt my dark brown base was still too dark, and wanted my base colour a light brown with hilights, so i used a colour remover x2, but it was still gingery especially at the underneath back. I then put a semi permanent colour on, waited a week then used a hair stripper x2 to try and get rid of the ginger. It lifted it, but not enough. I put a nice n easy permanent light ash blonde dye straight on, but it didnt touch it ( my roots were very light), I then put the nice n easy med ash blonde, still nothing. I then used a schwarzkofp dark as blonde, and that was great. A week later I put in the l'oreal glam lights brush in. OMG my hair was a light orangey colour. I put a non aemonia dark blonde foam colour to tone it down 2 days later, which was better, but still so gingery. I have tried ash conditioning toners, but every time i wash it it seems to get more and more ginger. I hate it. Its dry now too, and doesnt shine like it used to. I been doing deep conditioning with coconut oil and olive oil. And used eggs to put protein back. I know i will have to bleach it to get the orange out so that when i put my base colour on, then hilight it so it wont go brassy. Do you think my hair would take bleaching, or can i use a bleach bath. Oh and is that what i would have to do to get the lift. I so want my hair to be in good condition again. Would putting coconut oil on the night before bleaching it jelp to protect it a bit from the bleach? Thanks in advance Debbie
Monica on June 20, 2015:
Hi! I am naturally a dirty blonde color, and used to have bleached blonde hair until I dyed it black for about 6 months, and right now I'm in the process of trying to lighten it again, not as light as it was before, but to a light brown or dirty blonde like my natural. Right before I decided to change it to lighter I used a burgundy box dye after using color oops on my black hair, and it turned black again, but has a strong red under tone now. I've used color oops twice, and the vitamin c + clarifying shampoo treatment twice. Not much has changed except on the top of my head of course. So it goes light blonde @ roots, then orange, to dark brown with red tints at strands. Needless to say my hair has some damage but since I dyed it black I also cut off 10 inches (from all the damage when I bleached it) but there's still a fair amount of damage. It's a little past shoulder length now. I am considering a bleach bath to lighten the dye out, do you think this will work? I'm trying to lessen the amount of damage as much as possible as it's been through a lot already. I have been deep conditioning a lot so it's in decent condition right now but still dry. Any advice would be super helpful!
Maffew James (author) on June 19, 2015:
No problem, let me know if you run into any problems with it or need any further help, and good luck with your colour!
Maffew James (author) on June 19, 2015:
No problem, good luck and let me know if you have any problems with it.
Kari on June 19, 2015:
Thank you for looking at my picture and providing your feedback. You are awesome!
Candles on June 19, 2015:
Thank you Maffew, I really appreciate your assistance, and completely trust your advice.
Maffew James (author) on June 18, 2015:
I just had a look at the picture and it may be a little closer to a level 5. The dye you'd be using will still tone it effectively if it is, but the colour result is going to also be slightly darker. You can lightly bleach it one level before dyeing to get a more exact result or just go ahead and tone it if you're happy with its current level.
Maffew James (author) on June 18, 2015:
Your roots should be fine as they're already fairly light and there's not much lightening required to match to your current colour. This means when your hairdresser touches up the regrowth the lightening will be mild and won't need to be left too long. Most, if not all of the original strength should remain.
The weakest point of your hair will be the line of demarcation, which is where your regrowth and previous colour meet. Because this is where the previously dyed hair ends, this is where snapping will generally occur if the hair is over-processed. Ultimately though, if your lengths feel strong and healthy, it's very very unlikely that this will happen. Especially if all you've done to it in the past is those 2 bleach baths and a colour or two.
If you're worried, you can always have your hairdresser assess the strength of your hair whilst you're there. Because they can see and touch your hair, they'll be able to tell you whether there is any severe weakening. You could also always have them do the whole process for you by applying to your regrowth, then pulling the bleach through to the lengths as it processes so that once the roots reach the same level as your lengths, all your hair is then taken a level further to finish. Then you can tone at home if you prefer using 9A.
Kari on June 15, 2015:
Thanks for your response and for explaining it so well. I was able to load the picture of my hair on google+ and was wondering if you saw it? Also, thank you for letting me know that I won't need to bleach ( because I'm not trying to go lighter but instead to get rid of the orange I just need to just tone with the dye, if I understand correctly). Anyway, I trust your opinion more than mine on which route to go with from the ones you provided in your reply based on the picture.
Candles on June 15, 2015:
Thank you, I love reading through all your advice, really been helpful!!
Ok, I had done 2 bleach baths about 2 months ago, so I would say I am currently about an 8, as it's a brassy/golden-yellow colour. Now that my roots have grown out a bit, I would say it's about an Inch long now, I would say I am between a 6 -7 naturally (a dark blonde). I am going to the hairdresser to have my roots done, as I don't want to get the whole banding effect if I don't do it properly. What I would like to know is, once my roots are done, I wait about 10 days, and then do a bleach bath over my entire head, to lighten my hair further to get rid of the yellow/golden colour and reach more of a 9 or 10. Would my roots be able to handle the bleach bath as it will be done on my virgin hair. I will be using a Vol 20 for the bleach bath.
Thanks for all your help !!!
Maffew James (author) on June 14, 2015:
Sorry for the late reply. The lightest dye you have used won't necessarily be how light your hair is, but this is possible. It just depends on how well it lifted and how dark your hair was prior to use. Eg, a permanent dye mixed with 30 vol developer will generally lift up to 3 levels, so if you had level 3 hair and applied a level 7 dye, it's more likely it will take it to about a level 6 at lightest. The lightening and colour deposit are separate, so what is happening is that the developer you add determines how many levels of lift will occur, whilst the level of the dye determines what level of colour is deposited. As another example, say that you applied a level 6 dye instead, with the same developer. What happens is that the lift is about the same, but the colour deposit is deeper because there is more actual dye present in the hair dye.
Anyway, without trying to confuse you, it will change the shade you need to use if your hair definitely is a level 8. The ash tone I recommended will work properly when applied to warm level 6 hair because it is used to correct the warmth and tone to more of a neutral to cool level 6. On level 8 hair though, that ash tone is much stronger because lighter hair will grab the dominant tone in the dye, leading to the potential for a very grey or even blueish or greenish result.
To get around this in lighter hair, you can fill your hair first, or because there's about a 2 level difference you may be able to do it without filling using a natural tone dye, mixed with a small amount of gold and copper to keep it balanced as it darkens. Filling is the most reliable method and can be done with a protein filler or demi-permanent dye.
If in doubt though, you can always fill your hair with a demi-permanent dye as a caution to ensure it turns out properly. If your hair is already level 6, this won't darken it or have any overly noticeable effect on the colour because the dye used to fill it is intentionally lighter and only used to replace the missing base tone that serves as the foundation for the darker colour. Best idea if this is the case is to apply medium gold copper blonde (7GC, or 7CG depending on what you can find) as the filler, process, rinse, and then use the ash tone as the final dye as intended, or mix the ash with a natural tone. If your hair was closer to a level 8, the ash as the final colour will turn out a little cooler and this is where you may want to mix it half and half with natural tone. If your hair is a level 6 you're better using the ash by itself.
With any of these methods, bleach won't be necessary if your hair is lighter than level 6. If it's not, remember you only need to lift it a little so that it then darkens back up to a level 6 after dyeing.
Also, as for the mixing of dyes, it's best only to mix dyes of the same line and brand. Eg, you can mix any shade of Matrix SoColor together, but you shouldn't mix SoColor with most other Matrix dyes or those of other brands. Technically, most of the time, nothing overly bad is going to happen if you do mix two different brands, but there is the potential for strange chemical reactions to occur; it's not impossible. The main problem though is that different brands can vary the base colours that form specific tones, how concentrated the dye is, and other factors that can lead to strange results if you mix the two brands.
Kari on June 11, 2015:
I think I've made a mistake. My current hair color is not a 6, but an 8. The reason I think so is because the last color I dyed it was an 8N (because I wanted to lighten it, but as you know, it gave me lighter but orangish hair). I didn't know until after reading your articles that I needed to bleach first in order to get it to lighten properly. I have the perfect picture of my lovely orange/brassy hair but don't know how to load it here. It'd be so much easier than trying to explain the blah color I managed to get for myself. What would I have to do differently if my overall dyed hair color is an 8 and I want to get it to a shade or two lighter than my natural hair color which is dark brown? I've never bleached my hair all over before but I'm already set with my Igora Vario Blond and Igora Royal 20 vol, but want to know if the dye would have to be different than what I got, which is the Matrix Socolor 7A in Dark Blonde Ash. Just fyi if needed, I also have 8N Light Blonde and 6N Dark Blonde, both are Satin brand and I don't know if it matters to mix different brands of dye. I apologize for my confusion and thank you in advance for clearing things up once again.
Maffew James (author) on June 08, 2015:
Thank you and good luck with your colour. Let me know if you run into any problems with it or need any more help.
Kari on June 08, 2015:
Thank you so much for walking me through this process. I am going to lighten one level and tone it with ash blond. I will continue to read through your articles on my hair coloring, root-touching-up, and just basically hair-care-journey, as they are filled with invaluable information that is so greatly appreciated:) I hope people are doing good onto you as you are onto others with your patience, valuable time, and expertise.
Maffew James (author) on June 08, 2015:
As you mentioned there were a few different colours in your hair, is that the darkest colour in your hair that's a level 6, or the overall look of the colour? Highlights and lowlights can change the overall appearance of depth. Eg, if you had a base of level 5 with level 8 highlights, this will make the overall colour look lighter than a level 5 when looking at it as a whole.
Regardless, getting to the colour in the picture requires the darkest hair to at least be slightly lighter than the colour you want (Toning to that ash shade will darken slightly up to where you do want it). Any hair that is lighter than this can be dealt with using a natural tone to even it all up to the same depth. If you do have darker areas that are a level 5 or darker, you can adjust for this either by lightening these areas only, or by lightening it all over if necessary and then evening up with a natural tone.
If your hair is indeed a level 6, this is about the level in the picture. It looks slightly closer to a light brown because it's an ash tone, and ash will generally always look a little darker. Best route to the colour is to lighten one level using bleach, and then tone with a dark ash blonde. If you have varying levels present, mix the dark ash blonde half and half with dark natural blonde and this will darken up those areas.
As for the vinegar, you certainly can mix a little into your conditioner. It's great for after bleaching and dyeing because these processes increase the pH of your hair and the acidity will help correct it back to what it should be.
Kari on June 06, 2015:
Thank you sooo much for answering!! My current level is a 6. I've been reading through your articles and if I had a magic wand and could have my hair exactly like that of a favorite picture, I'd pick the last picture on your Best Hair Repair Treatments Article. The girl with the red petty coat. I love her hair!! but since I'm not very talented when it comes to doing more than just coloring all over, I would settle for all of my hair being the color she has up on top, I know she probably has highlights and balayage on the rest...I don't think I can do that or even foiling which you graciously suggested to me. Can I achieve getting the color that's on the top part of her hair, even with my current hair color? That's what I am aiming for and I'm waiting for some products I've ordered based on your recommendations from other articles and replies to other posts.
I am following the steps from your article on How to get a Light Brown Hair Color. Pleeaasse correct me if you disagree with anything that follows: Since my hair has been dyed, I am going to do the double process with 1 part bleach (Igora) and 2 parts 20 vol developer, wait until it becomes a bright orange, rinse, shampoo 2x, and dye it with Matrix socolor in Dark Ash Blonde and rinse when I see the desired shade. I'm not sure if Light Ash Brown would have been better since I'm aiming for same or darker than my current shade, which is a 6, or they about the same? I'm going to order it now to have just in case.
Last question, can I still finish with the small amount of vinegar in the conditioner after rinsing off the dye?
Thank you again, and for your patience:)
If I could go into a salon and find you there to fix my hair, I would.
Maffew James (author) on June 05, 2015:
Do you know what level the warmth is roughly? If you don't you can use the chart in one of my other articles here to estimate it: https://bellatory.com/hair/How-to-bleach-hair...
To properly tone your hair, you need a shade that is close to the level that your hair is, and this is why the T18 doesn't work on darker hair. It's not strong enough to have an effect because the amount of colour deposited isn't enough to neutralise the darker warmth.
To ensure the toning is effective, use a shade one level lighter in an ash tone for a close to neutral result, or ash at the same level for a cooler result. As you have a few different colours in your hair though, you will need to ensure that you're not applying this dye to any hair that is at a lighter level because this will be over-toned. You can get around this by foiling it over the hair you need to tone only. If the rest of your hair is darker though, this is fine because toning will be minimal, although you should use a demi or semi-permanent dye instead of permanent to avoid lifting the darker hair.
As for the ends, there are two possible reasons why they've grabbed the ash. Either, they are lighter than the lengths so the dye used becomes more intense there, or they are more porous due to being older hair that has been processed more, which often happens, To avoid this happening, you can apply primarily to the lengths and then last to the ends if necessary. You can also apply a golden shade, one level lighter than the ends with a small amount of red as a toner to reverse the greenish tone if you want to get rid of it.
Let me know if you need me to explain further on any of this and good luck with your colour.
Kari on June 03, 2015:
Hello! I have been reading your posts and you are so knowledgeable. I really appreciate you taking your time to respond with so much detail to all of us who need advice. A little of my hair coloring history: I have natural brown hair which I have darkened and lightened myself since 20 years ago. I've also had highlights done at the salon that involved some bleaching in the past. Currently, I've been coloring it myself using 6N, 7N, and finally 8N. Box/brand reads: "Satin, Ultra Vivid Fashion Color, Aloe Vera Based" and I've mixed the 6 and 7 with 20 v developer, and the 8N with 30 v developer. I've used One color at a time, just lightening it more instead of just touching up my roots. This last time, using the 8N and 30 dev, left my hair lighter but orange, especially at the roots (after reading your posts I now know why)...but I've read so much that I want to make sure I follow your advice depending on my color situation. I don't want to go lighter,I just want to get the orange out, maybe eventually even one shade darker, oh and I've been told my ends look a bit greenish...so I'm not sure if I should stay away from dye with ash in the name (?)
At this point I'm unsure whether to dye it or a bleach bath with a 10 vol developer...learned from you that t18 won't help me, is a t9 better? And if you advice dyeing instead of bleach bath, what color should I get and what brand(s) do you recommend?
Thank you, Maffew for being so generous with your time and expertise
Maffew James (author) on May 15, 2015:
You can apply 6A in semi-permanent or demi-permanent as a toner and remove once enough warmth is neutralised. As for the highlights, you'll need to bleach in foil and then tone separately with a lighter shade of ash. Because you want caramel highlights the warmth isn't as much of an issue, but you'll likely still need to tone it a little to get it looking softer and more natural rather than bright orange-gold.
Bethany on May 13, 2015:
I finally found this article again! I wanted to say thank you so much for your advice. I was able to do a bleach bath get the color to a 5N and it looks so much more natural for what I want! My hair feels so healthy! It just started to show some copper recently. Is there anything to do to fix that?? It's subtle but it seems the more it fades the more copper I see. Also, as I originally wanted natural color hair with highlights and with the pesky copper coming back through, is it possible to get the caramel highlights I have been wanting??
Maffew James (author) on April 27, 2015:
It's probably darker then. A 6A is strong enough to affect level 5 hair, so the lack of any noticeable colour is a good sign that it's darker than you were lead to believe.
With the bleaching, if applied all over, the colour will lighten all over. This means you will see the base lighten, as well as further lightening in the highlights. You can do this, but keep in mind that the highlights being lighter will mean they will take more colour from whatever you use for toning, causing them to end up ashier than the darker hair, which will stay reddish unless you use a darker colour on only those areas.
An alternative is to lift it all to at least level 6 and then dye over that with a 5N. This will even it all up and take it all to a light brown that is roughly neutral and the same depth. The only problem is that it would remove the highlights. You can foil the dye in as lowlights and then apply a 7 or 8 ash dye to the rest of the hair to tone that whilst the rest darkens to preserve the highlights.
Bethany on April 27, 2015:
Thank you so much for replying!! So I actually had a 6a toner and did a test strip, It didn't seem to take which makes me think my hair is at a level darker then they mentioned. I should have also mentioned that my hair is naturally a 4/5 but it is dyed a 4/5 brown with red copper tones I don't remember what the code was I think 5RB, that was a couple months ago. If I were to do a bleach wash over all my hair and lighten to an orange and color with a 6 ash blonde would it be a golden/neutral light brown and maybe even the existing highlights still peep thru as tonal highlights? I want my hair to look lighter hence why I wanted the highlights and hey are pretty heavy so you don't see much of the colored hair underneath. I eventually want a level 5 hair and put in some golden bayalage highlights just don't know if that is possible on dyed hair. Sorry I left out that part about my hair being dyed all over!
Maffew James (author) on April 27, 2015:
Tone with a semi-permanent medium ash blonde (7A). You need the dye to be semi-permanent rather than demi-permanent or permanent as these kinds of dye can effect your natural brown hair even though they are lighter than it (The peroxide in developer will cause the dark hair to lighten slightly even though it doesn't add noticeable colour to it).
You may need to use a darker ash (6A), but I'd recommend starting no darker than a 7A and only using a darker shade if absolutely necessary due to the combination of highlights and lowlights. There are a few different colours in your hair and each colour will react differently to the ash, so the lighter the dye, the less likely it is to over-tone any area.
Bethany on April 26, 2015:
My hair is naturally a brown level 4/5 injust recently had a salon put in highlights where they lifted to a yellow color and toned with a level 8 toner (they did not tell me what tone) it was like a light orange yellow color and very chunky highlights so I went back and asked for them to be a little darker. So she said she needed to put in some 5n lowlights and toned it with a level 6copperbrown. Now it is orange red color. What can I do to achieve a neutral brown color without it going too dark and covering the highlights??
Maffew James (author) on April 24, 2015:
Glad you liked the article and found it helpful.
Maffew James (author) on April 24, 2015:
As long as you separate out the darker pieces and apply only to them, that's the main thing. I'd recommend regular bleaching with 10 vol developer, which is a mild formula; though you can use a bleach bath if you prefer. Both are mild lightening methods: regular bleach is thicker and easier to keep in place, whilst offering better lighteing; whilst a bleach bath contains shampoo and is generally applied to damp hair, both of which dilute the bleach down. It is weaker as a lightener and runnier, but the shampoo helps lift dye out more effectively when lightening dyed hair. Applied in foil, you shouldn't have any trouble with the runnier consistency.
Focus on evening up the lightness as best as possible. The closer it is to all being the same depth, the easier and more effective toning is going to be. Once you get it more even, apply the toner you have. If this doesn't cool it down enough, go darker with the toner. Eg, if your toner was a 9A and this wasn't effective enough, use an 8A instead. Otherwise if you have a good idea of what level it is by looking at it, use an ash shade that is 1 - 2 levels lighter than your current level for effective toning.
Docspicer on April 24, 2015:
Oh Maffew thank you for replying, I've been waiting for you before I did anything as I thought you'd set me on the right track! I can see that I shouldn't do the entire head, I'm going to try and separate out with foils, at least the bigger orangy bits! If I am able, should I just rebleach it down instead of doing the bath? I have the toner, so that's not a problem.
Again, thank you!
Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on April 23, 2015:
This is really good information. I am constantly changing my hair color and it sounds like this would be less harsh on my hair. I am going to bookmark this hub for future use. Great hub and voted up!
Maffew James (author) on April 22, 2015:
Thank you, I'm glad you liked the article.
I'd definitely recommend going with hair dye remover first if the dark brown dye you've been using is permanent. As long as you're not working on a strict budget, the dye remover is always a good first step because it breaks down permanent hair dye without causing damage. The more colour you can remove before bleaching, the easier and less damaging the actual bleaching stage will be.
However, it is important to note that the more times you've dyed your hair, and the longer you've left it a darker colour, the less effective dye remover is. It will still help, but if you'd rather keep costs down, you can skip this step and go straight to bleaching.
To bleach the colour out, start in areas that are darker to get it even. If it is already even, start about 1/2 to 1 inch away from your scalp to avoid hot roots; especially if you have any regrowth. If you have regrowth of your natural colour, don't apply to this at all until the rest of your hair is about the same colour, and then only if you need it lighter. If there is no lighter regrowth, apply bleach to the roots about 10 - 15 minutes into the process and continue to process until maximum process duration is reached for your bleach brand or it has lightened to a bright orange colour (Whichever comes first). Bright orange can tone to light brown, whilst you should aim for more of a golden orange colour for a result closer to dark blonde. However, red tone persists from darker dyes and you ultimately need to base it on how light it looks, rather than what colour it looks.
If it isn't light enough after this bleach, you need to leave it for at least a week in-between bleaching. Rinse the bleach, shampoo, apply a protein treatment for repair, then condition thoroughly with a deep conditioner or a conditioning treatment to add moisture back into your hair and deal with any dryness or pH imbalance. From dark brown to light brown is fairly easy, even when dealing with dyed hair and buildup as it's only two levels lighter, but this does depend a lot on what brand of bleach you're using, and what concentration of developer you mix it with. If you use the bleach by itself, this will lift more colour than a bleach bath with the same volume of developer.
Once you get it light enough, what you use for toning depends on whether you took it to the light brown or dark blonde level. Use an ash dye one level lighter than what you lightened to for a fairly neutral result. For a cool-toned result, use ash at the level of your hair.
Eg, if you took your hair to light brown, tone to neutral with dark ash blonde, or tone to ash with light ash brown. For dark blonde, tone with medium ash blonde for neutral, or dark ash blonde for ash. If you want a beige or golden tone, this will be approached slightly differently. You can remove a lighter ash dye sooner for this, or you can mix the ash with the equivalent golden shade to dilute down the cool tone and increase gold tone.This will still take out excess warmth, but it leaves a more golden result.
Maffew James (author) on April 21, 2015:
Thank you, I'm glad you liked the article.
A bleach bath is fine to use for gentle lightening, but it is going to be hard to isolate it to specific areas like your highlights as it's a much runnier consistency. It moves, swells, and drips more readily than regular bleaching. Generally you'd be best using it for all-over lightening or dye stripping, rather than using it for highlights. Foil will help a lot if you would prefer to still use a bleach bath, as long as you're comfortable applying foils, but you may want to consider using bleach and 10 vol instead for easier application. This is still a very mild formula.
As for the reaction on your undercut, this will be lightened if exposed to bleach. This lightening lifts the visible colour first, and once all the cool tone is gone, the warm base tone is revealed. You can lift for a few minutes and this will lighten it slightly without turning it bright orange, but lightening always reveals warmth and the colour is still going to be tinged with this warm tone unless you tone it afterward, which would unfortunately darken it back up to what it was. Ideally you want to lift it to slightly lighter than what you want it to be, then tone it as toning will darken slightly. The end result is that after lifting past where you want it, the colour deposited by the toner neutralises the warmth whilst darkening it to the level you want.
As for the highlights, will you be able to separate them out? If you can't and you think you'll end up getting bleach where you don't need it again, this will lead to further lightening of other areas and make it more uneven. There are other options if this is going to be a problem, but you should have a think about what you would prefer to do prior to applying anymore bleach.
If you can apply to just the orange areas to take them to a lighter gold or yellow, this will even it up. Then tone the highlights to neutralise the yellow colour. You can tone to beige, natural, or ash, depending on what you would prefer.
If not, you can bleach all over until the darkest areas are at least gold, fill with a light gold shade to even the lighter areas up to the same colour, then dye with medium natural blonde or medium ash blonde. This process will even up the depth and tone but it will get rid of the highlights. This is more of an option for correcting the colour to something that is even without having to try separating your hair out if you keep having trouble and need to fix it.
In any case, using a light ash blonde dye may tone it fairly nicely, but having lighter and darker sections causes issues with toning because the lighter hair can over-tone with anything strong enough to affect the darker hair, and the darker hair isn't affected by anything light enough to avoid over-toning the lighter hair.
Let me know what you decide you'd rather do, if you want to try something else entirely, or just if you have any questions or problems. Also, I'm sorry to hear about your illness and hope you're heading towards recovery.
Kate Shoe on April 21, 2015:
Wow, this is a great and thorough article, bravo!
And I appreciate the time you take to answer each and every comment with such great advice and detail.
On to my question :)
I've been doing internet research for a few weeks now, but after reading through all of the comments I'd love to hear what you think. I'm a natural ash light brown/dark blonde that I've been box dying every shade of dark brown for the past 5 years or so. (shame on me for drugstore haircolor, I know) As of late, I'm sick of dying my hair every couple of weeks to keep my roots dark because they fade rather quickly in spite of my few and far between hair washes with a sulfate free salon shampoo.
It's been about a month since my last root touch up and so this was my plan of action to go back to my natural hair color so I can have a less harsh transition into my original natural color.
-bleach bath the ends first to lift the color, leaving the color on the tops for last, and not touching new regrowth.
-toning with an ash toner (reccomendations welcome)
-possible adding a light ash brown color on top if needed/wanted
Also, in surfing the internet I've come across some articles stating that putting coconut oil (or some type of oil) in hair the previous night and then doing a bleach bath minimizes damage further. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this as well.
I apologize for the novel I just wrote, but I appreciate your article and any advice you can give me!
Docspicer on April 20, 2015:
What a great article and the time you've taken to answer the posts is incredible. Talk about good karma points!
I was hoping to pick your brain. I'm from Australia so not all products you've spoken about earlier are available here (such as that Wella toner people rave about).
So, I decided to highlight my hair, as I'm currently unwell and can't sit to go to my hairdresser. I'm a natural dark ash blonde with level 10 (goldwell 10p if that helps) highlights. Most of it went okay, but I didn't leave it on long enough in some areas. The toner and purple shampoo has helped but I've some spots that are light orangey yellow and two bigger spots where my virgin hair hadn't been highlighted for years, that are a nice brighter orange. To add to this, I have an undercut (for surgery last year) which accidentally got some bleach on it so has a few orange spots among the virgin hair (which is growing back much darker than the rest, apparently from anaesthetic shock). As I have highlights not all over bleach I'm thinking of a bleach bath. But my concern is what it will do to the undercut? Would it turn it orange? Is it okay to add to the parts that are orangey then to the undercut for a short amount of time (to get a little lighter than my natural colour)?
I couldn't separate out the highlights I did previously as my dear Dad gave me a hand and went a little brush crazy, so I couldn't simply weave them out again. The crown is more bleached than highlighted due to Dads 'painting' (bless his cotton socks for helping).
Any thoughts would be terrific, I just don't want to turn my entire head orange!
Thank you for reading, I appreciate your time
Maffew James (author) on April 17, 2015:
I'm glad you liked the article, and I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to reply to your question.
As long as your hair is still in good condition, a mild bleach bath isn't going to cause much damage at all and your hair will stand up to it. A week is a good minimum time frame between bleach applications. If your hair is already quite damaged though, it's always better to wait and use protein treatments for a few weeks to repair the structure and build strength back up before further dyeing or bleaching.
One thing you may want to consider though is that a bleach bath has a thinner consistency and it can be a lot more difficult to isolate it to certain sections and keep it from moving too much. It can be better to go with bleach by itself using 10 vol as the developer for this kind of process as the mixture is thicker and you can keep it where you need it to be, but it's up to you and either method is doable.
As for the dye, if you're using Wella Koleston, you have the option of /2 shades which contain green tone and this can be used for correcting red tones in blonde hair. It's better to mix a /2 with a /1 rather than using it by itself unless your hair is very red though, as the green tone produces a very murky and strange looking blonde colour if you overdo it. You really only need a little to counteract the red, and too much gives a green tinge that you don't want. Another option with Wella Koleston is to use the 033 concentrate and mix a tiny amount into your ash blonde shade to add a small amount of green tone.
With Wella Color Charm, which is the line that T18 belongs to though, you don't have either of these options. Most ash blonde shades are blue, blue-violet, or violet depending on how light the shade is that you are using. They do have a medium ash blonde that is green-based though, and you can mix this into another shade as needed.
One last note on using green-based ash toners though, if your hair is more orange, coppery, or ginger, it will tone more effectively with a toner that is blue or blue-violet based. Green is only really useful when there is a pure red tone showing up. Eg, if you had applied a bright red dye and were trying to neutralise it to get back to a natural blonde colour, this is more the sort of scenario where green ash dye is useful. Wella T18 is only designed to be useful for platinum results, and it contains mostly violet pigment as hair is pale yellow at the point where T18 would be used. It doesn't contain the blue tone that is necessary to neutralise orange colours, and it isn't dark enough for toning darker blonde hair. This is more the reason why it didn't work for you, rather than necessarily meaning you need something green-based.
Lily on April 15, 2015:
Hi! Thank you so much for this article, it answered a lot of questions for me but I still have a specific problem I wanted to ask about.
I used to have pink hair that I achieved using Flash Lightning bleach kits very successfully on my own. For a professional function I had to dye over it with gold blonde, which worked great, then later I got bored and put a red-black demi-permanent dye on it which just looked terrible on me. I took a lot of the color out with a vitamin c treatment, dyed over an ash brown, then let my natural hair color (darkest ash blonde) grow in for months. I got it cut short, but there was still a weird red tinge towards the ends.
So I tried another vitamin treatment, and then a bleach bath followed up by well t18. The combo left me with a stunning band of golden roots, gingery mid section, and golden ends. It's not cute!
I wanted to wait a week and then perform a bleach bath again zeroing in this gingery mid section, then follow up with a darker ash wella toner, something very Green to fight all this red. Will this damage my hair irreparably? I'm doing vinegar washes and letting it air dry to coax the cuticle down. But is a week too soon?
Thank you thank you thank you in advance for any advice!!!
Maffew James (author) on April 14, 2015:
No problem. The T18 is designed to produce white or pale silver blonde results, so it's a very weak and delicate colour. Used on anything darker than pale yellow hair, it generally has no effect. Same as any pastel toner. There's no actual issue with your hair and if you're perfectly happy with how light it is and just want to neutralise the yellow, you'll need a darker toner like the one's I've mentioned.
CandlesM on April 14, 2015:
Thanks Maffew, You are a Star !
Yes I do like the lightness of my hair, it's just that yellow/gold colour I really don't like, and that is why I thought I would have to lighten more to get rid of it since my toner wasn't removing the yellow. I will try your suggestions on the stronger Toners. Thanks again x