Bleaching Your Hair: Step by Step Guide

Bleaching hair at home is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it can be so tricky and risky that a lot of hairstylists vehemently argue against it. And we can agree with them too – bleaching your hair is not something for the inexperienced or for the faint of heart. If you’ve never done it we’d recommend that you consult with a hairstylist first or, at least, that you have someone experienced by your side when you first attempt it. And please note that we said “experienced” not “done-it-once”.

Still, say you’ve made your mind – we certainly can’t judge you, it’s perfectly normal to want to experiment a little, and having darker hair can make that difficult. How should you do it? What bleaching hair products should you use? How long to leave the bleach on hair? Let’s try and answer all these questions in a quick step by step guide so you know what to do.

What is bleaching?

Bleach works on your hair by oxidizing the natural color pigment of your hair in its shaft. In other words – bleach outright damages your hair. A bleached set of hair isn’t just colored in a different color – it’s damaged to the point of losing its original color. We’re not saying this to dissuade you from doing it but to prepare you for what you’re getting into. So, with that in mind, let’s go over the whole process.

Prepare your hair

Since with bleach you’ll essentially be damaging your hair, you’ll need to make sure that it’s in the best possible condition before you start. That doesn’t mean just washing it and towel-drying it, it means that you’ll need to give your hair at least a couple of weeks of no styling, applying nourishing conditioners and oils, and hydrating your hair as well as possible. If your hair is naturally dry or if it has been damaged by something else, wait at least a month or two before you bleach it, and make sure that you use that time to nourish your hair back to health.

In other words, only attempt bleaching if your hair has been moisturized, healthy and untreated for at least two weeks.

Prepare your supplies and tools

Once the time has come, you should set your eyes to what to use to bleach hair. There are main things you should get before you start:

  • Bleach powder. It’s important that you get your bleach powder from a reputable manufacturer such as Blondor, Matrix, Salon Care, or Wella. Using a sub-par quality bleach powder will put your hair at great risk of being damaged.
  • Developer or Peroxide. The peroxide liquid is the liquid that activates the bleach so you can use it on your hair. It comes in several different volumes depending on how light or dark your hair is. There are ten levels of hair color – 1 being dark and completely black hair, and 10 being a pale blond hair. Different peroxide solutions should be used for different colors.
    • Vol 10 peroxide is meant for subtly fading dyed hair lightening an already light hair.
    • Vol 20 peroxide is intended for light brown hair that you just want to lift a little bit in color.
    • Vol 30 peroxide will lift your darker hair by several levels. However, it shouldn’t be left on your scalp for too long, so if you’ve been wondering how long to leave the bleach on black hair, the answer is – not long. Don’t let this volume of peroxide make contact with your skin, apply it in multiple short sessions, and make sure you wash it off before you start feeling any irritations.
    • Vol 40 peroxide is the strongest of the four. It can offer great color lifts and can shoot your hair from fully black to light blonde very quickly. It’s very damaging, however, we don’t really recommend it in 99% of the standard bleaching situations. If you are adamant about using Vol 40 peroxide, make sure you don’t leave in on your hair for more than 10 minutes at a time.

Aside from the two main bleaching products, you’ll also need a lot of auxiliary tools to help you with the whole process:

  • Tinting brush
  • Latex or plastic gloves
  • Glass or plastic mixing bowl
  • A plastic bag or a shower cap
  • Clips for sectioning your hair
  • Old towel and clothes that are expendable
  • A balancing shampoo
  • A protein balancing conditioner

The whole process

So, here’s a quick guide on how you should go about bleaching your hair at home:

  • Put on your old clothes and plastic gloves.
  • Section your hair using the hair clips.
  • Mix the bleach powder and the peroxide.
  • Using the tinting brush apply the mixture to your hair – first to the tips and mid-length and then to the roots, to ensure an even color.
  • Cover everything with a shower cap or a plastic bag.
  • Wait a while. For Vol 10 or Vol 20 peroxide you can wait 30-45 minutes per treatment. For Vol 30 or Vol 40 – no more than 10-15 minutes at most.
  • Wash your hair. Use balancing shampoo after rinsing the bleach to balance the pH levels on your scalp. Use a protein-rich conditioner after that.
  • Let your hair air dry. Don’t try to hot-air dry it or towel-dry it – just let it be.

And that’s about it. If you want to turn a very dark or black hair (category 1) into a pale blond color (categories 8-10), you’re going to have to repeat the process several times. Don’t try to rush it – don’t apply more bleach than you should and don’t keep in on your hair for longer than the recommended time. It’s better if the whole process takes an annoyingly long time but gives you the great, light, and healthy hair you want, rather than quickly ruining your hair altogether.

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