How to Dye Hair Blonde
Do you dream of dyeing your hair blonde? If your natural hair color is brunette or black, the allure of having lighter hair is the ability to create a more dramatic new look due to the contrast between these colors.
The actual process to achieve blonde hair might not be overly intuitive though as it often involves the use of bleach and more than one coloring step. This article will cover everything you need to consider, from your starting point to maintaining the end result.
Products and Tools Required
Any hair color change requires the right tools to get the job done and blonde hair is no exception. For this task, you'll need all of these products, with the exception of bleach if your hair is already on the lighter side, but there will be a special note on that later.
- Quality bleach powder
- Blonde dye or toner
- Tinting bowl and brush
- Sectioning clips
To simplify the process of dyeing your hair blonde, you need to go through the following steps to plan how to approach the color:
- Assess Your Hair: You'll consider the current color, condition, and texture to decide on the best products to use, and ways to keep your hair healthy during and after lightening.
- Choose the Right Shade of Blonde: The best shade for you is the one you like, but this section will also help you match colors to your features for longevity.
- Lightening Your Hair: Whether you need to lighten your hair a little or a lot, this section will tell you everything you need to know to do it safely and effectively.
- Toning Your Hair: After lightening, you need to tone your hair to get a natural blonde result.
- Maintenance and Repair: Finally, steps, and tips to help you maintain your favorite shade and repair damaged hair will keep your new style looking great.
1. Assess Your Hair
Before you can dye your hair blonde, you need to assess the condition of your hair. Hair that is in poor condition due to things like heat treatments, previous dyes, or other chemical treatments is at greater risk of being damaged if you bleach it, and may not look as good even if it still feels strong by the end.
The texture of your hair, whether it's thick and coarse, or thin and fine is a strong indication of how much chemical processing it can handle before beginning to show visible signs of damage. If you have coarse hair, you can put it through more stress, but don't get too carried away.
Previously Dyed Hair
You will also need to approach the process in a different way, depending on what you've previously done to your hair and its current color. If you've dyed your hair black or darker shades of brown, you'll notice it has become much more resistant to lightening if you attempt to bleach it.
Previously dyed hair should ideally be stripped using dye remover first, and the decision whether to go forward with dying it blonde should come after seeing how much of the dye was successfully removed. The product used to do this doesn't damage hair and is simple to use. For more instructions, see my article about removing black hair dye.
If you've dyed your hair multiple times with the same dark shade, the effectiveness of dye stripping falls significantly, and you will need to consider whether a visit to the salon would be better for your needs as a long process of dye removal and gentle bleaching will follow.
Natural Dark Hair
If you haven't dyed your hair previously and this is your natural color, you can dye your dark hair to blonde very reliably, though depending on how light you want it to be, you may need two bleach applications a week apart. Make sure to take this into consideration if your hair is fine or damaged from other sources like heat styling.
2. Choosing What Shade of Blonde to Dye Your Hair
Blonde hair comes in a diverse range of shades varying by how warm-toned or cool-toned they are, as well as the primary color present in the shade giving it its nuance. Some of the most common shades include:
- Natural Blonde
- Pearl Blonde
- Ash Blonde
- Beige Blonde
- Golden Blonde
- Strawberry Blonde
All of these shades can also range from platinum to dark blonde in depth. Whilst you can dye your hair whichever shade you like the most, your blonde hair will look best if it matches the look of your skin and eyes so this is something to consider.
Typically, paler skin tones and eye colors match better to lighter and cooler-toned blonde hair. Darker or warm shades of blonde are better for skin that is tanned or darker, as well as hazel and brown eyes. For more information about how to determine the tone of your skin, as well as more color recommendations, check out my related article for choosing the right shade of blonde.
3. Lightening Your Hair
Once you've decided whether you can dye your hair blonde, and the shade you prefer to achieve, you'll need to start with lightening your hair. It is possible to lighten your hair to blonde without bleach, but this depends on how dark your natural color is and how much lighter you want to take it.
When bleaching your hair, you'll end up with superior lightening and less damage if you use a high-quality professional brand of bleach powder. Cheaper generic brands don't contain the same lighteners as these products, nor do they typically contain the boosters that make it easier to take dark hair to blonde in one process.
For the best results, choose a quality brand like one of the following, or the best available to you:
Blue vs. White Bleach Powder
Whether you use a white- or blue-colored powder is completely up to you and doesn't really matter in terms of results.
The intention of blue powder is to help tone the hair while it lightens, but this tone is temporary and can serve to cloud your judgment in choosing when to rinse out the bleach as your hair will look lighter and cooler-toned due to the blue pigment coating it.
With that said, it's more common for bleach to be blue by default if the brand you're using doesn't offer a choice, so choose whichever you prefer.
In order to apply the product, you'll require an assortment of sectioning clips and a good tail comb to part and section the hair, as well as a tinting bowl and brush for mixing and applying the bleach.
All hair dyes and bleaches should also be applied using gloves, and either vinyl or nitrile gloves are great for this purpose. Latex can be used, but be aware it tends to cling to hair much more readily.
Once you're ready to lighten your hair to blonde, separate it out into four quadrants by parting down the middle and then again from ear to ear.
Choosing a Developer
Before you can mix and apply bleach, you need to choose the developer to prepare it with. Developer is a solution of hydrogen peroxide in varying strengths.
Bleach powder needs to be mixed with developer in order to start lightening the hair. This should be done in the ratio recommended for the particular brand you're using and could be 1:1, 1:2, or even 1:3 powder to developer ratio.
As developer varies in strength, measured in volume, the volume of developer you add will affect how strong the bleach is. For generic brands, use no higher than 30 vol. You can and should reduce this to 20 vol if your scalp is sensitive to the product.
When using a premium product, it will generally recommend no higher than 20 vol developer be added and this is because the bleach powder will contain boosters and more effective lightening ingredients. A higher developer used in these products is unnecessary and can cause extreme irritation in some people.
If you have very dark hair, use the highest volume of developer that the brand allows, and your scalp can handle. However, not so high that you should feel pain during the process. Warmth and a mild itch or tingling feeling is normal but clearly perceptible pain should not be tolerated and the product should be rinsed.
The quicker you can apply bleach, the more even the result will be. You can achieve this by working with sections as mentioned earlier.
- When you're ready to begin applying the bleach, start at the back of your hair at one quadrant, using the brush to apply sufficient amounts of the product.
- Apply the bleach in thin sections of hair from the top to bottom of the quadrant, using the tail of the tinting brush to lift and part sections as you work.
- When you complete a quadrant, move to the other back quadrant and continue in the same fashion before repeating the same process on the front two quadrants.
- Work as quickly as you can whilst ensuring you don't miss any areas.
When you're done with the application, you have some time to rest and prepare for washing the bleach out. During this time you should check the bleach often while it's in your hair.
During the lightening process, it's important that you keep track of the amount of time that has elapsed since you applied the bleach. You can rinse it out at any time if you feel too much irritation from the product, or it lightens early. Otherwise, rinse the lightener out at the maximum duration recommended by your chosen brand.
How to Rinse out Bleach
- When your hair reaches the color of a banana, it's sufficiently light to remove the bleach. Of course, you can rinse it out sooner if you're aiming for a darker blonde.
- The key for lighter blondes is to make sure that you have reached the yellow stage, or for darker blonde, you have reached a yellow-orange stage.
- Hair that hasn't been lightened long enough will end up looking overly dark orange or red in shade, and this can not be toned to blonde because it is still too dark.
- To remove the bleach, wash all the bleach out with an ample amount of lukewarm water. Maintaining a cooler water temperature will help soothe the scalp and prevent irritation after bleaching.
- Ensure that you have removed all the bleach before shampooing your hair twice to remove any residual product.
- Application of conditioner is unnecessary and will reduce penetration of the toner.
At this point, if your hair isn't light enough, you'll need to wait about a week to rest it. This will reduce the amount of damage it suffers as it allows moisture balance to be re-established before another application of bleach. You may not be able to dye your hair blonde in one day if your hair is very dark, depending also on the product used and how resistant your hair is to lightening.
If you need to attend social events and look presentable between applications, apply a temporary toner to tone your hair to a neutral shade of light brown until you can bleach it again, then shampoo this out before the next application.
To learn about bleaching your hair in way more depth and for any indication, check out my related article on how to use it.
4. Toning Your Hair to Blonde
Now that you've stepped out of the shower and your hair is a thorough shade of yellow, this is where the magic really happens and you're most of the way to being done.
The last step to dyeing your hair blonde is to tone it so it goes from yellow to your ideal shade of blonde. Unless that shade is yellow, in which case, that's fine too if you like it.
What Kind and What Color of Dye to Use
The dye you use to tone your hair should be a quality salon brand for best results. It also won't be the shade that you want the final color to be, but there's a reason for that.
Lightening your hair reveals the base tone, which in the case of blonde is varying shades of yellow from a gold color to banana yellow depending on how light of a blonde you want to color your hair. Even if your goal is a golden shade of blonde, you need to tone it with a cool-toned dye or a mix of shades to eliminate some of that warmth and achieve the desired result.
In most cases, an incredibly easy way to approach toning is to just use an ash shade 1–2 levels lighter than your hair currently is, then leave that until it reaches the color you prefer. Your hair will become cooler-toned as the dye processes, going from yellow to beige, neutral, pearl, and then ash. For other colours like strawberry blonde or golden blonde, mix a little of that shade into the ash dye.
- Application of the dye is as simple as following the sectioning method you used to apply the bleach previously.
- The dye should be mixed in a one to one ratio of dye to developer unless the manufacturer specifies a different ratio.
- In contrast to bleaching, you will only need a low volume of developer like 5 or 10 vol to tone your hair because you do not need to lift out any more color.
- When you tone your hair, you're depositing color only.
- You'll need to pay more attention to the dye as it processes, as it is easy to over-tone your hair if you just leave it unwatched.
- Apply the dye and watch it carefully until it has processed to the desired shade, then rinse the product out and condition your hair.
If you'd like more information and depth on the toning aspect, you can find it here in my related article on how to tone blonde hair.
5. Maintenance and Repair
Dyeing your hair blonde can be damaging due to the use of bleach involved. As such, it's important to deal with any damage that occurs to keep your hair looking and feeling great.
You'll also need to deal with fading that occurs over time which will make your hair start to look warmer. Ashier shades of blonde will require more upkeep than warm shades because the fading will completely change the appearance.
Preventing Color Fading in Blonde Hair
Your blonde hair will fade after dyeing no matter what you do, but there are ways to reduce this:
- Use a good purple shampoo
- Reduce the use of heated styling tools
- Avoid swimming or bathing in chlorinated water
- Wash your hair only as often as necessary
Among these options, whilst reducing the use of heated tools or avoiding too much chlorine and shampoo use, or using shampoos for colored hair will all reduce fading, you really shouldn't change your lifestyle or put up with having unclean hair to maintain your blonde.
Focus on the use of purple shampoo and/or semi-permanent toners for a damage-free, cheap, and easy way to keep your color looking fresh.
Repairing Damaged Blonde Hair
The process of dyeing your hair blonde causes damage in two ways:
- Damage to the cuticle layer and moisture balance of the hair
- Damage to the structure of the hair
Damage to the cuticle layer causes hair to be prone to more dryness and frizz. Moisture is needed for the hair to maintain its elasticity and strength, so you should use a good quality conditioner whenever you wash dyed blonde hair. You can also use a serum/oil product on dry hair to seal moisture in and protect the hair.
Damage to the structure of the hair, however, is a breakdown of the keratin protein that your hair is comprised of. This directly reduces its strength, especially when wet. Protein treatments, as well as shampoos and conditioners that contain protein-based ingredients, helps to repair some of this damage by fortifying the hair's own keratin.
Do You Dye Your Own Hair Blonde?
Nobody will ever be able to prove that blondes have more fun, but now that you are one, you can test the theory for yourself. You might never look back.
Do you need more help dyeing hair blonde? Leave a comment for tailored advice.
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