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How to Bleach Your Hair

Updated on September 10, 2011

To seriously lighten hair, especially if your own locks are any darker than light brown, bleach is the only way to do it. Unfortunately it's a harsh process, so first and foremost, your hair needs to be in very good condition before you begin - otherwise you run the risk of breakage and general damage. Getting a good cut, so split ends are eliminated and any old residual colour is cut out, is a wise start to the bleaching process.

In addition, it's worth noting before you begin, that after the bleaching process, you will need to take extra care of your hair, with regular conditioning and cutting and minimising the use of damaging heat appliances, environmental damage (eg; sun, chlorine) and anything else that might negatively affect the condition of your hair. Unless you don't mind dark roots, you'll also have to retouch hair with the bleach preparation again, every few weeks

What is Bleaching?

Bleaching is used for a variety of reasons...not just to go blonde all over or to add blonde highlights. As it strips the colour from the hair, it is often used to provide receptive base for another colour and to make a coloured tint, such as red or chestnut, appear more intense.

Pre Lightening is part of the process for darker shades of hair, so that the hair is first stripped of colour and prepared for the desired shade of blonde to go over the top. Most commercial blonding kits have a colour chart on the back or side, as a guide to whether or not it's the right one for your natural hair colour.

Hair has natural colour due to melanin. Bleaching chemicals, which are oxidising agents, cause a chemical reaction with the melanin when applied to the hair, which lightens the natural colour. Hydrogen peroxide is the most common of the bleaching agents and the one most often found in commercial, off the shelf bleaching products..

If you intend to bleach your hair at home, it's definitely best to buy a purpose made bleaching kit, which come in various degrees of lightening strengths and follow the instructions. Don't just grab a bottle of peroxide and hope for the best! Hydrogen peroxide is used as a propellant in rocketry, so it's very powerful stuff.

Strand Testing

Although strand testing might seem like an unnecessary waste of time - it's not. Bleaching your whole head of hair is a big deal and you'll be stuck with the results for a long time, so you want to be sure a) your hair is going to be able to handle it and b) the optimum time for leaving the bleach solution on your hair. You don't want to end up with a head of bright orange hair, bitterly regretting that didn't do that strand test.

Another important step, often overlooked,is the allergy test. Applying a small amount of preparation onto the back of the hand, to make sure you wont get a bad reaction to the chemicals, can save you a host of problems later, should you be one of the few people who's skin can't cope. Signs of a reaction may include redness, swelling, severe stinging or burning. If you experience this rinse off immediately and obviously do-not apply the solution to your head.

If you've purchased a commercial preparation, instructions for the strand test will be included but in general, these are the steps:

  • Gather no more than a straw width amount of hair from a discreet spot so it wont be missed, such as an underneath layer on the lower part of the head, near the back. Snip off the section and tie a thread or rubber band around the snippet so it wont fall apart.
  • Mix solution in the same ratio of parts as you would if you were doing were whole head, ie: if the solution requires one part peroxide to two parts powder, do the same for the strand test, only on a smaller scale.
  • Apply to strand and wait the recommended amount of time.
  • Keep checking results every five to ten minutes to see how much it's lightening. Bear in mind, during the bleaching process hair goes though various colour stages so may appear brown, red, orange or yellow at certain times. (When checking, wipe off the bleach so you can get a better idea of the colour, then reapply bleach).
  • When the required time is up, rinse hair thoroughly and dry. Asses the colour to see if it meets your expectations. If it is still too orange or yellow, reapply solution and wait a little longer. Also check the texture and general condition - does it compare to your untouched hair or does it feel dry, brittle and damaged? If it's the latter, your hair is not in good enough condition to bleach all over.
  • If you are happy with the result, go ahead with the bleaching, being careful to follow the manufacturers instructions.

Things to be Aware of When Bleaching

If you already have a colour in your hair, this is likely to affect the end result, so bleaching is best done when your hair is chemical free.

In general, the darker your biological hair colour, the less natural the final look will probably be -remember that nature designed your hair to go with your skin colour, eyes, eyebrows etc. Of course, if it's a dramatic, appearance transforming look you're after, this may not matter.

DO the strand and allergy test

Set up everything before you begin- towel, timer, scissors, comb, tissues, bowl etc.

Make sure you mix the ingredients thoroughly, following the ratio instructions on the box. It should be the consistency of thick gravy.

Wear gloves to protect hands and keep a box of tissues handy to wipe any solution off your skin.

Don't, whatever you do, over process, or your hair could be severely damaged, Keep an eye on that clock or timer.

Good Luck!


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