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How to Lighten Your Hair With Hydrogen Peroxide

Updated on April 30, 2018
Athlyn Green profile image

Athlyn Green is interested in common-sense approaches to health, quality of life, and planning for the future.

Lighten and brighten your hair color, quickly, easily, inexpensively.

No More Dull, Dishwater Blond

You can have beautiful light-colored locks without having to use hair dye. And instead of having to coat your entire head with dye, then waiting for the dye to work, you simply spray on peroxide, brush it through your hair, and you are good to go.
You can have beautiful light-colored locks without having to use hair dye. And instead of having to coat your entire head with dye, then waiting for the dye to work, you simply spray on peroxide, brush it through your hair, and you are good to go. | Source

Do You Want to Lighten Your Hair Color?

Many people want to give their locks a lift but worry about the chemicals in hair dye. Coloring roots every couple of weeks can be time-consuming and expensive and the same goes for having to visit a salon to maintain your hair color.

There's a easier way. You can lighten your hair at home using 3% hydrogen peroxide.

Peroxide is simply hydrogen and oxygen or H202 (a water molecule with an extra oxygen atom). When used in a weaker solution, and taking appropriate precautions, peroxide can be used to effectively lighten hair.

Many people rely on hair-lightening products to change the color of their hair and some of these products, such as highlighting shampoos, hair dyes, and bleaching agents contain hydrogen peroxide already.

But peroxide can also be used on its own to achieve lighter colored hair and when you use it by itself, you reduce the number of chemicals you apply to your scalp.

How Does Peroxide Act on Different Hair Colors?

Peroxide isn't recommended for all hair colors and will work best if you already have lighter-colored hair. If you have very dark brown hair or black hair, and you want to change your hair color, it may be best to talk to a stylist or visiting a salon may be your best bet.

  • If you are a blond and want to lighten your hair color, you can use hydrogen peroxide to effectively do so. Dirty or dishwater blonds can lighten up their hair to a pleasing shade and it will look natural. Repeated applications will result in lighter hair color, so one can keep spraying on peroxide until the desired shade is achieved.
  • If you are a brunette and simply want some lighter highlights, this is possible using peroxide. Because of possible red undertones that may be present in your hair,, a test piece should be sprayed first to estimate how your hair will react to peroxide and to see the color that will result. Allow your test piece to dry thoroughly to check on the final color.
  • If you are a redhead and want a strawberry blond look, peroxide may provide just the right amount of lightening. Again, a test piece is recommended before applying peroxide to the rest of your hair.

Lightening blond hair.
Lightening blond hair.
Adding highlights to brown hair.
Adding highlights to brown hair.
From red hair to strawberry blond.
From red hair to strawberry blond.

Drawbacks of Using Hair Dye


If you've used hair dye in the past, you know the drawbacks.

How to Lighten Your Hair Using Hydrogen Peroxide

  • Purchase a bottle of 3% peroxide from your local pharmacy. Stick with this weaker solution to protect hair from damage.
  • Buy a spray bottle and fill it with peroxide and keep it near a mirror. You do not need to dilute peroxide.
  • Place a towel around your shoulders and use it to protect your eyes.
  • Spray peroxide on your hair and brush it through with a comb or a brush.
  • Allow hair to dry. (Some people choose to wash their hair after applying peroxide, others just spray it on and go and simply wash their hair when they normally would.)
  • If you want greater lightening, harness the power of the sun by sitting or walking outdoors after applying peroxide to your hair.
  • Continue to use peroxide, repeating sprayings over time until you achieve the desired hair lightening.


3% hydrogen peroxide
Spray bottle
Comb or Brush

If you keep your spray bottle near a mirror, you can spray your hair any time it's needed.


  • You may opt to spray peroxide on clean dry hair or apply it after your hair has been freshly washed and while it is still damp.
  • If your hair has been heavily treated or dyed and you are worried about how the peroxide might react with your hair or how that will affect the color, it may be best to check with a stylist or do a test swatch first.

What You May Notice Over Time

Hair may continue to lighten over time. You may opt to wait between sprayings to gauge hair color.

Maintaining Lighter Hair Using Hydrogen Peroxide

Once your hair color is the desired shade, maintaining it is an easy. Simply treat dark areas with a quick spray and you are good to go. The benefit of this is that when your hair needs a redo, you don't have to redo your whole head, like you would have to do with hair dye. You can treat dark roots by spraying them and you can section hair with a comb, lifting hair and spraying darker areas underneath.

Is Peroxide Safe?

Peroxide, in lower concentrations, is generally considered safe for a number of applications, one of which is hair lightening.


  • Always use recommended weaker percentages of 3% peroxide. Peroxide comes in different strengths and can be caustic in stronger solutions.
  • Depending on your hair color, try a test piece to see what color may result. People with red undertones may find their hair goes a reddish color.
  • Keep a towel or facecloth close by to catch drips before they run down and into eyes. Peroxide can burn and sting eyes, so be vigilant about protecting eyes.
  • If your hair has been previously dyed, check with your stylist.
  • Be aware that prolonged use of peroxide could contribute to development of grey hair later.

Did You Know?

Hair is comprised of keratin. Hair color is determined by quantities of eumelanine (brown to black shades) and phaemelanine (blond, ginger, and red shades). The absence of either melanin shows in grey or white hair.

In humans, hydrogen peroxide is a by-product of metabolism and is generated in small amounts throughout the body and in hair follicles. But, over time, the process that neutralizes hydrogen peroxide is reduced.

According to Professor Heinz Decker of the Institute of Biophysics at Mainz University, as people age, “hydrogen peroxide builds up in larger amounts in the hair follicle and ultimately inhibits the synthesis of the color pigment melanin." Grey Hair in Old Age: Hydrogen Peroxide Inhibits the Synthesis of Melanin, Science Centric.

This impacts on human hair as the hydrogen peroxide attacks the enzyme tyrosinase by oxidizing the amino acid methionine. Normally, this enzyme starts the synthesizing pathway of the coloring pigment melanin.

This begs the question: if naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide contributes to grey hair, should an actual peroxide solution be applied to hair as a means to lighten it?

Lighter Hair in the Present but Grey Hair in the Future?

As with any beauty treatment, risk should be weighed against potential benefit. Hydrogen peroxide can be used to lighten hair but continual use may result in greyer hair down the road.

Considerations for Long-term Use and Risk of Greying Hair

Lightening hair with hydrogen peroxide involves using peroxide in an alkaline solution, whereby the peroxide reacts with the melanin.

According to DR. D. J. Verret, MD, recent research suggests that continual use of hydrogen peroxide can play a part in turning hair gray. It is believed that peroxide creates free radicals that can damage the tyrosinase ensyme, an ensyme in the pathway that creates pigment in hair.

  • Some people feel this is a reasonable trade-off to achieve a different shade of hair color.
  • Since using hydrogen peroxide to lighten hair mimics a natural process that occurs in the body anyway, some consumers consider hydrogen peroxide to be a safer ingredient.
  • Peroxide is part of many hair-lightening products already and has been in use for many years, so some feel the risk of later grey hair is negligible.
  • Others feel that greying is also a part of aging and will happen with or without peroxide.

Easy-Peasy Hair Lightening

Now that you've read the pros and cons, you are in a position to determine if using peroxide is the right choice for you. Lightening your hair with peroxide is an easy and inexpensive method. If used properly, hydrogen peroxide can be a quick way to lighten hair color at home, without using smelly dye and without the exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

After reading this article and weighing the pros and cons, would you use hydrogen peroxide to lighten your hair?

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© 2017 Athlyn Green


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