Top Nine Mistakes Made When Bleaching Hair at Home

Updated on May 25, 2018

Blonde Gone Wrong

Nothing is worse than trying to lighten your hair at home and ending up with an orange or green mess that was once your beautiful hair. It happens all the time though, even to those with lots of experience in bleaching and coloring their hair at home. It is all too easy to make one little mistake—using chemicals to bleach your hair is serious business. Listed below are nine major and common home bleaching mistakes—you won't believe how simple some of these things seem but as simple as they are, they are just as easy to forget or skip. Find out what these mistakes are so you can avoid a bleaching disaster.

Avoid these nine common mistakes made when bleaching hair at home:

  1. Getting started before you have what you need.
  2. Not reading the instructions.
  3. Skipping the test strand step.
  4. Bleaching your hair alone.
  5. Leaving the bleach on too long.
  6. Forgetting to deep condition.
  7. Bleaching hair that has already been bleached.
  8. Bleaching damaged or over-processed hair.
  9. Skipping the toner.


Most experts do not recommend bleaching your hair at home. Having a professional dye your hair in a salon is always the safest option.

Make sure you have all of the supplies you need before you start the bleaching process.
Make sure you have all of the supplies you need before you start the bleaching process.

1. Getting Started Before You Have What You Need

This may seem silly and not like such a big deal, but it really is. Make sure you have all the supplies you will be needing before you get started. Create a checklist and make sure that you go over it a couple of times. This leaves less room for error and mistakes. You also save a ton of time since you won't be rushing back to the store or sending someone else.

What You Need:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Old clothes/towels
  • Mixing bowl
  • Dye brush
  • Clips to section hair
  • Powder or cream bleach
  • Bond builder
  • Developer/peroxide (make sure you choose the correct volume)
  • Toner (blue if your hair is orange, purple if your hair is yellow)
  • Sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner

Read the instructions thoroughly every time you bleach your hair, even if you are using products you've used before.
Read the instructions thoroughly every time you bleach your hair, even if you are using products you've used before. | Source

2. Not Reading the Instructions

Even if you have done this one hundred times, read the instructions. Every box kit is different and so are the instructions. If it is the same stuff you always use, you should still read the instructions because products do not always stay the same. Reading the instructions will help keep you from making any serious mistakes that will cause crazy accidents like orange hair or hair loss.

Don't forget to conduct a strand test to ensure your hair will react appropriately to the bleach.
Don't forget to conduct a strand test to ensure your hair will react appropriately to the bleach.

3. Skipping the Test Strand Step

This is so important! Do not skip the strand test. The strand test will prevent anything weird happening to your hair. If it turns orange, you will know not to use the bleach on your whole head. If you have an allergy to the chemicals in the bleach, you will prevent a serious reaction. A strand test has saved me quite a few times. It may seem like a simple, pointless precaution but it can really prevent the worst kinds of accidents.

What Does a Test Strand Do?

"It shows the integrity and health of the hair, as well as a hair history of what has been done to the hair," said Chris Byrne, Master Stylist and Salon Team Manager at Complexions Spa for Beauty and Wellness in Albany, N.Y.

Strand tests ensure hair will react properly to the bleach. They also give you a good idea of how long you'll have to leave the bleach on your hair to achieve the desired level of lift.

Friends can help you get all the spots on the back of your head that you might miss using just a mirror.
Friends can help you get all the spots on the back of your head that you might miss using just a mirror.

4. Bleaching Your Hair Alone

I know that not everyone will agree on this one but in my experience, I have found that it is easier to do anything to your hair when you have a friend helping you. Don't do it alone—you could miss some spots and that can be a little embarrassing, especially when you had no idea they were even there. Having someone else there to help or just to check for any spots you might have missed is really helpful. Trying to use a mirror or play it by feel can be truly tricky at times.

5. Leaving the Bleach on Too Long

Do not leave the bleach on longer than the instructions suggest, no matter what someone else says. Do not do it, even if it worked for their hair. You have a completely different head of hair and you are the one taking the risk. Leaving the bleach on longer than instructed could permanently damage your hair beyond repair and even burn your scalp.

So, How Long Do I Leave the Bleach on My Hair?

The amount of time you leave bleach on your hair depends on your current hair color, the color you are trying to achieve, and the texture and thickness of your hair. Make sure to check on hair every 10 minutes during the bleaching process to avoid over-processing.

According to Byrne, "Ideally, no lightener should ever be left on the hair longer than 30 to 40 minutes without any restructuring additives, such as Wellaplex, or similar products. The slow and steady wins the race, and the integrity of the hair must always be kept at utmost priority—even if it takes multiple highlights to achieve the lightness you’re going for."

6. Forgetting to Deep Condition

Always deep condition your hair the same day you bleach your hair. I have forgotten this step before and paid for it in the morning. My hair was almost impossible to brush through. It was so rough. I will never forget this step ever again.

Do not make the same mistake that myself and many others have made. Deep condition your hair the same day, as this puts some of the nutrients back in your hair, making it more manageable and healthy.

Deep conditioning your hair in the weeks leading up to bleaching can also help to build up your hair's strength and mitigate damage caused by the bleaching process.

7. Bleaching Hair That Has Already Been Bleached

When your roots grow out just do a touch up on that area, not your whole head. If you go over your hair with beach again, you are just damaging it over and over again for no reason. Hair, no matter how strong it is, can only take so much before it is just completely toasted and fried. Hair that is over processed looks awful and feels awful, too.

Those with darker hair may have to bleach their hair several times to achieve the desired result. Wait several weeks between every bleach to avoid extensive damage to your hair.

There are also ways to lighten your hair naturally at home that don't involve the use of harsh chemicals.

Don't bleach over-processed hair unless you're willing to cut all of it off and start over from scratch.
Don't bleach over-processed hair unless you're willing to cut all of it off and start over from scratch.

8. Bleaching Damaged or Over-Processed Hair

If you think that your hair may be too damaged or weak to bleach, you may be right. Seek the opinion of a professional. They know what they are talking about and will be able to tell you if your hair is healthy or not. You can also perform a gummy test to measure the elasticity in your hair. If your hair looks like stretched gum when you pull it and will not retake its natural form, do not use any kind of chemicals on it.

The Solution

If you've already made the mistake of bleaching over-processed hair, it's time for damage control. Focus on pampering your hair. Quench your hair's thirst by indulging in leave-in or deep conditioners. Stop using hair straighteners, curling irons, blow dryers, and other heat-styling tools that can cause further damage to your locks.

"Sometimes we have to cut off some of the damage," Byrne said. "Sometimes a series of deep conditioning and hair rebuilding treatments will do the trick. At the end of the day, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of salon-quality products and treatments. Once the hair is hydrolyzed, or the alpha helix is damaged, there is really not much to be done to the hair besides cutting it and waiting for it to rebuild itself."

If you haven't yet bleached your hair, work on improving its overall health before bleaching it. Use deep-conditioning masks and coconut oil to nurture your hair back to life before using the harsh chemicals involved in the bleaching process. It's recommended that you wait a few months before bleaching on top of processed hair.

9. Skipping the Toner

This is a mistake frequently made by those adventurous enough to dye their hair at home. If your hair looks yellow or brassy, it is probably in need of a toner.

Orange hair should be bleached a little more but if it is a yellow or brassy color, move on to a toner. Do not skip the toner and bleach your hair again, as this won't really work. There are several other methods you can use to fix orange hair at home.

This is a really common mistake made all the time especially by people who are inexperienced and new to bleaching and coloring their hair. Toner will counteract the yellow color, making the hair very light and even platinum blonde.

What Is Toner?

Toner is essential because it redeposits color on hair after it's stripped from the strands by the bleaching process. It does not, however, lift the shade of your hair.

Types of Toner

  • Purple hair dye should be used sparingly, as the redepositing of color can stain your bleached hair purple.
  • Ammonia-based toners are usually mixed with developer and can be harsh on bleached hair.
  • Purple shampoo is a gentler option that many blondes use to maintain the cool tones in their bleached hair.

Tips for Avoiding Orange Hair

1. Don't forget to use toner.

2. Purple shampoo can cool down the tone of your hair.

3. Bleach hair again if it is healthy enough.

How to Bleach Your Hair: A Helpful Video

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Questions & Answers

    I would love to hear what you think! Please leave a comment.

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      • profile image


        6 weeks ago

        Please note that the mixing bowl MUST be plastic, not metal. Metal can cause very nasty reactions with the bleach. Also the bowl should NEVER be used for anything else but hair bleach/ dye/ toner. Never use it for food once you've put hair products in it! Plastic is actually porous and will retain micro amounts of anything you put on it (not enough to ruin the next hair product you use, but you DON'T want to use it for food after! )

        When bleaching, start with the middle and ends of your hair. Wait till it's almost the color you want, then bleach the roots. This is because heat speeds up the bleaching process and your scalp puts off a surprising amount of heat, while your middles and ends aren't really exposed to body heat.

        If you have trouble putting your gloves on, put about a quarter size blob of conditioner in your palm and work it all over your hand esp between your fingers where gloves often get stuck. You can also put conditioner on your face, neck, shoulders etc to prevent bleach burns and hair dye stains.

        It's very helpful to have a plastic measuring cup with ounces marked. Every hair dye/ bleach/ toner etc I've ever come across has directions in ounces. A measuring cup like this is cheaply available at Sally's and salon supply stores. Don't use the cup for anything other than hair care, esp not food or liquids you'll be ingesting!

        Always bleach in a well ventilated area. Put a fan nearby if you need it.

      • profile image

        Rachel Lambert 

        3 months ago

        Think suggesting leave several weeks between bleaching is ridiculous considering hair growth

      • profile image


        7 months ago

        I am in need of response to an question. I bleaced my roots to did the regrowth. Toned with my normal wells T18 an instead of my normal result me hair didn't due the normal grey tone it seems it UN bleached it.

      • profile image


        8 months ago

        I can help but say, all credibility goes out the window when you can't get simple grammar. There, their and they're. Two, to and too. I had to stop reading this because I can't trust someone who can't differentiate these words.

      • profile image


        13 months ago

        Haha, what Lisa said~ "for the love of grammar" Geez Louise! I couldn't keep track of all the errors. Quite distracting. I hope you realize the difference between "there, their, and they're" Also, "to, too, and two." They all sound the same, but have very different meanings.

      • profile image

        Andrea Cerrato 

        13 months ago

        So I've been read touching my blonde roots with bleach for the past three years and I also been using bleach ever since I've been a teenager now in days I'm 23 and lately the past last two times I've read touched up my roots the web bleach I started getting hives on my palms And my face started turning red and swollen I started getting nauseous and it turns out I was getting an allergic reaction to bleach can someone please help me and tell me how I can continue being a Blanc without the bleach doing so much harm to me physically

      • profile image


        14 months ago

        I bleached my hair with basic white and peroxide for the first time and when I was done some parts bleached and some parts had the original dark colour I sinse put a colour rinse in and now.that is fading out I want to dye it back to.brown butt worrying how thats going to turn out since some parts bleached and some parts dark



      • profile image


        16 months ago

        Wow I am thinking of bleaching my whole head platinum blonde, so I can dye it a dusty pink, but my sister had an accident when she was about my age, and some of her hair fell out, so I am definitly going to a hairdresser for this haha!

      • profile image


        17 months ago

        Too many people forget the toning step. I cringe whenever anyone posts a bad review on a brand of bleach and it turns out to be someone who used it improperly and/or forgot to tone.

      • profile image


        20 months ago

        **I want to say to anyone bleaching their hair, please, PLEASE, follow all precautions when dealing with chemicals as caustic and volatile as bleach! I know it's easy and tempting to forego the gloves for a sec, or leave it on longer, but you can seriously damage your skin and scalp and any other place you have it touch. I had some hair flip in my eye the other night! Just a tiny piece, barely flicked into the outer corner of my left eye. I ripped gloves off, flushed it for maybe a minute and went back to doing my hair. I did my front while my sister did the back but my hair kept wanting to rest over my eyes once I had the bleach on because of the way I was standing and applying it towards the front. The next morning, I woke up with a blood red ring in my right eye, not even the eye it got into! Just from my hair being near the eye when it kept trying to lay across straight down, was enough to give me a major chemical burn! It doesn't hurt thankfully, but it made me realize I've been careless, especially after googling "My eye is red after bleaching my hair" or something like that, and reading these poor girls an d women's horror stories!! One gal couldn't see colors properly anymore! All the Dr.s said they couldn't find a reason, everything looked fine, but her vision was severely damaged in some way and it had been a year since it happened.

        Ok, enough warning, here's some anecdotal evidence after many years of playing god with my hair: I have very dark hair, like coffee with no cream, very dark, dark brown, but not quite black, so it's always a huge undertaking to go lighter. Even if I have virgin hair it still takes forever, but if it's been dyed several times before, then it's impossible without color oops color remover first!

        I left my hair 100% alone for the past 4 years, not even a wash out dye or roll of curlers, nothing. However it's still taking 3 rounds of lightening, a bleach wash, and I even used a bottle of Sun In for the few golden/slightly brass hues on top. It was enough to bug me, but not enough to warrant another round of bleach, or even a bleach wash, to fix. The Sun In worked amazingly and it did zero damage to my hair, unlike some things....**Ahem** I'm lookin' right at you bleach!!

        I would seriously recommend it if you have just a little amount to go lighter!!

        It took the last few spots that weren't bright, light blonde and lightened them right up with my blow dryer on low. It took 2 bottles and 4 rounds with the blow dryer, but my hair is below my bra line, so it's really long.

        Of course, I use coconut oil before bleach and I give it a week or 2 rest between bleachings; I don't rest as long as the Pros say to, but I rest until my hair feels like it can go again.

        While it's resting I use tons of masks, protein treatments, Vo5 hot oil treatment, Ion Repair BB Cream, Garnier Sleek 'n' Shine. I only use Sleek n Shine to tame it to go out in public, it has cetyl alcohol as it's 2nd or 3rd ingredient, so I don't use it to moisturize, just mellow it out.

        Okay, so I don't get why these leave in "moisturizing" conditioners, masks, and oils all have 4 or 5 different types of alcohol in them and usually at least 2 or 3 are within the 1st ten ingredients; they make up a good part of its formula. Talk about working against yourself!

        I know why!! It's a conspiracy! Maybe "they" don't want us to fix our hair! If we fix our hair then we won't need their product anymore. So while it does make our hair feel better than when we started, it still has drying agents to keep us hooked on their junk.., I have too much time on my hands.....back to finishing my hair! LMAO)

        Anyway, I thought it was light enough, tossed in my Wella T14/T18 toner mix, but the brass at the bottom was too brassy so it made me a honey blonde on bottom and platinum on the upper half. An unintentional ombré that should have never been. lol

        The thing is, I've been bleaching on and off for about 20 years now, I KNOW to put the roots on long after, but it still turns out that way! I look at it now as just part of the price we pay for having dark, dark hair and wanting to be a carefree blonde every once in awhile! I really do think blondes have more fun, there's a certain feeling that comes with it, it's different than any other color. I was planning on doing granny hair again, I had it about 6 years ago (before it was so popular) but after having it blonde for a few days, I think I'm gonna hold off on silver and stay a blonde for now, I read that dark eyebrows and blonde hair is def. in now, finally! There's something I never, ever thought would be a thing beyond Marilyn and Madonna!

        I have one final thing to say, but it's so important, I think I'm going to add it in on the top, so that if people don't read any other part of my long, long, loooong comment, they will at least read that most important part.

        Good luck with your hair! Just remember, it isn't permanent, it will grow back, and everything will be okay! If all else fails, it's super fun to wear wigs!! :)

      • profile image


        21 months ago

        I just recently bleach my hair and it turn a light blue i think I forgot the toner the lady at sallies DIDNT tell me I needed that but give tryed almost everything inthe book to get the blue out if you can help please do my hair is black wanting to go blonde instead went blue not a happy camper

      • profile image


        23 months ago

        For the love of grammar, please have someone read over your writing before you post it! I can't count how many grammar/spelling/punctuation mistakes I saw just skimming through this article. I don't mean to be harsh, but frequent mistakes in your writing make you look uneducated, and will automatically turn people away from the article.

      • Madelynn Harrah profile image


        4 years ago from USA

        Toner! Now that one is definitely the key in all of this!

        One other tip: ASK THE SALLY'S GIRLS! If you're going to do this at home, consult a Sally's worker on your toner! [They'll probably tell you never to do it at home, but they'll still point you in the right direction.]

        Great article!

      • profile image


        4 years ago

        Great How To video! Thank you!

      • erorantes profile image

        Ana Maria Orantes 

        5 years ago from Miami Florida

        good advice brittannie

      • Shiley profile image

        Karen Shiley 

        5 years ago from Washington

        Ah yes the toner is a very important step!


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