How to Dye Your Hair White
White hair occurs naturally as you age, but even when hair starts to turn gray, few people actually end up with a pure white color. The fact that this color rarely occurs naturally, coupled with the notorious difficulty involved in dyeing your hair white, has made white hair a rare sight.
Everywhere you go you see people with all different shades of light blonde, vibrant reds and burgundy shades, and even unnatural colors like blue or green, yet perfectly white hair that has been dyed instead of attained naturally is a true rarity.
However, you can achieve hair that is pure as the driven snow, once you learn how to dye hair white properly.
How Is White Hair Achieved?
White hair is surrounded by misconceptions. It is a common belief that hair needs to be bleached until it is completely devoid of color in order to achieve it, but this is outright wrong. You'll actually end up destroying your hair before you can remove every last trace of pigment due to the way bleach works.
Bleach is able to lighten your hair through a chemical reaction called oxidation. This reaction affects the structure of two proteins within the hair: melanin and keratin. As melanin is the pigment that gives your hair its natural color, the structural change that occurs here is desirable because it decolorizes the molecule.
Keratin, on the other hand, is a protein that comprises the shape and physical characteristics of the hair shaft itself, and oxidation causes crucial bonds between keratin molecules to be broken. This reduces the strength of your hair, leading to tearing, split ends, and other symptoms of damage. In the most severe cases of damage, the hair appears to melt after processing because the protein is extensively denatured.
Luckily, melanin is far more sensitive to the chemical reaction of bleach, allowing it to be more readily affected than keratin. The small amount of damage to the keratin will usually be unnoticeable when hair hasn't been processed too heavily. If you bleach your hair to the point where all the melanin has been changed however, this leads to severe damage because the lack of melanin makes it more likely for keratin to be attacked instead.
To achieve a flawless looking white result, whilst minimizing damage, you need to take your hair to the palest yellow stage where a trace of pigment is left, but no further than that. Once at this point, your hair will then need to be toned to neutralize the appearance of this pigment and dye it white.
If you're wondering how to dye hair white, the double process of lightening and toning in two stages is the most crucial concept to become familiar with.
Who Can Dye Their Hair White?
Not everyone can dye their hair white. In order to actually be a candidate for the dye process, you need to have virgin hair. This means that either your hair has never been dyed before, or any previous dye is no longer present. If your hair is dyed, even with a semi-permanent color, you shouldn't attempt to dye your hair white until the dye has grown out.
This isn't to say that dyed hair can't be lightened however. The issue is that dyed hair can't be completely discolored because the artificial pigment is more resilient than melanin. This artificial color won't be completely lifted with bleaching, nor will it wash out. You can dye your hair silver, or a light shade of blond with a lot of time and sensible treatment, but to dye it white is usually impossible in this situation.
Having natural blonde hair, or at least light brown also makes you a far better candidate for the process because significantly less lightening is required. If you have dark brown or even black hair you can still dye it white, but it is more difficult to do so, and takes more time to get it light enough without causing excessive damage.
Finally, your hair must be in top condition, especially if it is a darker shade. Weaker hair won't stand up to the process and shouldn't be subjected to it. Fine hair won't handle it either. Medium or coarse hair are the best hair types to be dyed white because the hair can take more of a beating before it begins to show damage. You need a strong foundation to ensure that your hair remains healthy after the process.
Hair is healthy
Medium or coarse hair
Bleaching Hair Pale Yellow
The most important step to learning how to dye hair white is to learn how to bleach your hair properly. Using bleach correctly, and using the best bleach available will dramatically improve lightening, reduce the damage to your hair, and produce results that are far more even and consistent.
When dyeing hair white, you should only use a premium salon bleach. Generic or supermarket products aren't preferable for the process because you need a product that can actually push past all that red and yellow pigment and reach the pale yellow stage.
Salon bleach is able to do this in less time and with less damage because added boosters allow it to be rinsed sooner. Less contact time reduces the amount of damage that can occur to the protein in your hair.
- Choosing the Best Hair Bleach
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The most important factors to successful application of bleach are precision and speed. Speed of application guarantees even results, and sectioning your hair will dramatically improve your accuracy and application time.
To section your hair properly, divide it into four quadrants by forming a part directly down the middle of your hair from your forehead to the bottom of your neck where your hair ends. Halve this section out again from ear to ear and you're left with four manageable sections.
Each of these sections are easy to work with because all you will need to do is take layers from the top and apply lightener, then continue downwards until the entire section is covered with bleach. This is much quicker than just slapping bleach all over the hair, and you're also much less likely to miss a spot.
- How to Bleach Hair
Bleaching properly is key. Learn the tricks of the trade for stunning results.
Once your hair has been sectioned out, it's time to mix the bleach. Do this based on the brand's directions because different bleach products will need to be mixed with different ratios of developer. You should also be applying bleach only to unwashed hair that has been left for at least two days as the natural oil protects the hair from drying out and will also protect your scalp from irritation.
Using a salon bleach, you should use a developer no stronger than 20 vol developer, because most salon bleach products contain added ingredients that boost lightening without the use of a stronger developer.
If you are using a generic powder without boosters or other enhancing ingredients, 30 vol developer is the maximum strength that should generally be used. Adhere to the maximum on-scalp developer for your particular bleach to prevent scalp irritation and minimize damage.
You should also consider the use of an additive like to protect and maintain the integrity of your hair during bleaching as you'll be lightening it quite extensively. Olaplex, Wellaplex, and other related products contain an ingredient that is proven to restore disulfide bonds in chemically treated hair and help prevent them from being broken to begin with. Olaplex No.1
To apply the bleach, choose one of the quadrants that were sectioned out earlier and take a thin layer of hair by sectioning it out with the tail of the tinting brush. Use the brush to apply bleach and cover both sides of the layer thoroughly. Place the layer up out of the way and move down to the bottom of the section in this fashion until you're done.
Once you complete one quadrant, simply repeat the process for the rest. When your hair is completely covered, massage your hair outward to ensure the bleach is evenly distributed. Don't massage the product directly against your scalp however, as this will increase irritation.
After massaging the product through your hair, shape it on top of your head in a neat mass and wrap in cling wrap. This traps warmth and equalizes the temperature difference from root to ends to prevent the root area becoming lighter than the rest of the hair.
Alternatively, apply to the lengths first and then to the roots of your hair later into the application. This method of application may be a little difficult to do if you're applying it by yourself, to your own hair however, so it's optional but will give better results and less damage if you can manage.
Depending on how dark your hair was to begin with, you will likely need to apply bleach more than once to achieve a pale yellow shade that can be dyed white. This is usually the case with darker brown hair and is also why your hair needs to be in very good condition prior to dyeing hair white.
Leave the bleach product in your hair for as long as is necessary to reach pale yellow, without exceeding the manufacturer's recommended time limit. If the maximum processing time is 50 minutes, for example, you will either remove the bleach when your hair turns pale yellow, or when 50 minutes has elapsed.
If your hair isn't pale yellow once the maximum time is reached, you will need to go through another process. Don't leave the bleach on any longer than the maximum time limit because the lightening reaction has slowed down dramatically at this point and the small amount of further lightening that will be achieved will be at the expense of exposing your hair to the damaging alkaline pH for longer with diminishing return.
After rinsing the bleach from your hair, follow up with the use of Olaplex No.2 or a similar product if you're using it. Alternatively, a protein treatment can be used with lesser results than a bond builder.
If you do need to bleach your hair again, you must not do this without giving your hair a rest. A whole week is the minimum time before you should bleach your hair again. At this point, the natural oils have built up again and your hair is no longer dried out and weakened from a lack of moisture. To keep your hair in optimum condition, wait at least two weeks.
You also shouldn't bleach your hair again if it has shown less than favorable results to the first bleach, or if it isn't healthy enough to stand up to the process and still feel and look good. If your hair barely lightened during the first bleach, it's not worthwhile to continue trying to reach a pale color.
Toning Hair White
Now that you've reached the pale yellow stage, you're actually able to dye your hair white. This yellow tone is the result of the tiny amount of melanin still present in your hair, as well as the keratin's natural color becoming visible.
To make your hair look white, you need to neutralize the remaining yellow pigment by adding the correct complementary color. A complementary color is any tone that is directly opposite to another tone on a color wheel.
To neutralize yellow pigment, you need to use a pastel toner, and the toner needs to be violet-based. The pastel shade ensures that the dye won't overpower your pale hair.
Keeping your hair white is a relatively easy task. Once your hair has been lightened, it will remain that light unless it grows out or you dye over it. The toner in your hair, however, will fade out after washing. In order to prevent your white hair from yellowing, you need to replenish the tone every time you wash your hair.
This is easiest to achieve when you use a purple shampoo. Hair that is pale yellow is easily light enough to be toned from a purple shampoo. In fact, you'll probably want to dilute your shampoo down with a plain white shampoo if you have one of the stronger purple shampoos. Use this shampoo in place of your normal shampoo to prevent your white hair from fading.
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- How to Dye Black Hair Blonde
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Keeping Your Hair Healthy
After dyeing your hair white, the next step is to continue to care for it and keep it healthy. Protein treatments, deep conditioners, and a commitment to the condition of your hair will see it looking great long into the future because healthy hair feels and looks its best.
Do you have a question about dyeing your hair white? Wondering whether you could achieve the color? Leave a comment for tailored advice and share you 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