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Hydrogen Peroxide Usage For Your Hair

Updated on January 4, 2015

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) has been popular for generations as a cheap, easily accessible way to lighten hair color. Famously, motion picture superstar Marilyn Monroe’s blonde was achieved through the use of hydrogen peroxide. In her day, hydrogen peroxide was regularly used as a bleaching agent, leading to the genesis of the term “peroxide blonde.” Today, hydrogen peroxide is still widely used as a bleaching agent and in the professional hair coloring process.

Hydrogen peroxide is a highly reactive chemical compound that bleaches hair through a process called oxidation. During the oxidation process, a hydrogen molecule leaves the H2O2 compound and binds with the pigment molecules of the hair shaft. When the two bond together, light reflects off of them differently than before, giving the hair a lighter look. This same process is what makes hydrogen peroxide an effective bleaching agent for paper, straw, teeth, and laundry soaps.

Almost all professional hair colors contain a certain level of hydrogen peroxide as a developer. Hydrogen peroxide first opens the hair shaft to allow pigment to enter and change the color of the hair. The peroxide and pigment mixture then causes a chemical reaction within the hair shaft. Because hydrogen peroxide opens the hair shaft, some believe that using it to lighten hair can open hair up for damage from the environment, such as chlorine from swimming pools, and can cause hair to have a green or orange tint. Many others, however, use the chemical compound as a lightening agent with no undesired discoloration.

To lighten hair using hydrogen peroxide, pour the solution into a steel spray bottle. Thoroughly wash and dry the hair, comb, and then divide into small sections. Working through all the hair one section at a time, spray each section with the hydrogen peroxide spray, taking special care not to spray the skin, face, or eyes with the peroxide. Let the hair sit for up to 30 minutes. Leaving the peroxide on longer than 30 minutes could cause hair damage. Rinse the hair with water and condition the hair. Allow hair to air dry. Gloves should be worn throughout the lightening process to prevent skin irritation or discoloration. Repeat up to three times weekly for lighter hair and periodically treat with hot oil or other deep conditioning treatments to retain hair’s moisture and health.

Most of the hydrogen peroxide available in pharmacies and other stores comes pre-diluted in water at three percent or less peroxide. Though this concentration is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and deemed safe for household use, some skin irritation may occur when using the product to lighten or dye hair. Higher concentrations, such as those found in professional hair color products, are much more likely to cause irritation. To minimize any negative effects of the product, keep it away from the eyes, skin, and hands.

Whether going for the glamour look of Marilyn Monroe, or just looking to lighten up a bit, many people have leveraged the cosmetic bleaching properties of hydrogen peroxide. If used with proper care to prevent extended contact with exposed skin, this household chemical can be a great way to get that peroxide blonde look.


The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician or health care provider before taking any home remedies or supplements.


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