We’ve been there: One day you wake up and realize you’ve gone from blonde to accidentally ombré. The truth is, nine times out of ten, you’ll want to go to a professional for a fix—even if you have to wait longer than you’d like to for an appointment. That’s because dyeing your hair at home can be done successfully. Bleaching, however, is another story.
“Bleaching the hair is a very in-depth process,” explains celebrity colorist and Hush & Hush brand ambassador Ryan Pearl. “A lot of factors go into achieving good color when using bleach, such as the hair’s overall condition, processing time, and also the pattern of the highlights.” Shvonne Perkins, Madison Reed expert colorist, agrees: “Bleach can be incredibly damaging to your scalp health. From a results point of view, it’s extremely hard to anticipate results from bleach, since it often leaves your hair color somewhere between orange and yellow.”
Generally speaking, it’s better to do a root touch-up than attempt a full platinum makeover. “I would recommend coloring your roots well before bleach dyeing your entire head of hair,” says Perkins. “A full head of bleach is such a complicated and unique process—there is no universal process that fits everyone, with the timing and application subject to change depending on your hair color and hair type.”
If you simply can’t resist, the experts are here to talk you through it. Read on for bleaching tips from Pearl, Perkins, and celeb colorist colorist and #mydentity founder Guy Tang.
When to Bleach—and When Not To
The first step is determining if your hair is healthy enough to bleach. If your hair is super-fine or you’re experiencing any kind of porosity issues, such as frizziness, dryness, and breakage, leave the bleaching to your professional colorist, who can use the most appropriate products and strengtheners for your hair.
“The big questions you have to ask yourself are, how hydrated is my hair? Is it coarse? When was the last time my hair was colored, bleached or received an in-salon service,” advises Tang. Your answers should determine whether or not to move forward.
If your hair color is naturally blonde or light brown, you can likely go forth and conquer with store-bought color. “For those with lighter brown or light hair, you can use permanent blonde colors to touch up your roots. You might not get the same lift or tonality as bleach highlights, but at least it’s not a color correction waiting to happen,” explains Perkins. The same can be said for those looking to touch-up grown-out highlights. “The Madison Reed Light Works Balayage Kit contains enough bleach to lighten your hair, but will allow for a much more controlled and gentle application, steering clear of your roots. It also comes with a toner and bond-building cleansing treatment in the box to avoid emergencies while doing home highlights.”
“As far as bathroom set up goes, I always like to treat mine as a little ritual space,” says Perkins. “I’d recommend putting down some parchment paper and laying everything you need out, so once you begin the process, you don’t have to go searching around for things. Think of it like mise en place [for cooking ingredients], but for your hair.”
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Hair bleach of choice
- Old T-shirt
- Old towel
- Hair clips
“Hair should almost always be somewhat clean and dry—meaning no dry shampoo, no styling products, and no excessive oils, although a little natural oil is fine,” says Perkins. Remember, bleach is notorious for ruining fabrics—so choose what you wear wisely. “Remove your bathroom rugs to ensure nothing drips. If any product does accidentally get on the floor just wipe it up to ensure no harm is done,” adds Tang. “Another good tip is to be sure you are in clothes that allow you to easily wash your hair. Whether you are getting in the shower or having a friend help you rinse it, when that timer goes off, make you shampoo immediately,” he adds.
- Section the hair into four quadrants in order to neatly apply product. You’ll also want to apply the bleach to smaller segments within each section to ensure you’re fully saturating the hair.
- Then, apply bleach 1 inch away from the scalp, and work down the hair section. It’s important not to start at the scalp, as it processes quicker from body heat. Once the rest of the hair is done, go back and apply bleach to the roots.
- Let bleach process between 20-45 minutes, depending on your hair color, desired results, and package directions. “I recommend reading the manufacturer directions on the back of the bottle to ensure you aren’t over-processing,” says Tang.
- When the timer goes off, shampoo immediately and thoroughly.
One of the most important parts of lightening your hair, whether you do so at home or at a salon, is how you treat it after the fact. “Hair care is key, both pre and post color,” says Pearl, who recommends Hush & Hush’s DeeplyRooted hair supplement to keep hair healthy before and after a color service, as well as Redken Frizz Dismiss Leave-In Cream. Tang is also a fan of deep conditioning, and says that if a hair mask isn’t doing the trick on its own, “hit it with a blow dryer to ensure the hair cuticle is soaking up all the nutrients to rehydrate your hair.”
When you’re able to go to the salon again, Tang recommends asking your stylist for the #mydentity #myhero Collagen Treatment to help with hair elasticity, as well as an Olaplex treatment for strengthening.
Meanwhile, Perkins is a fan of glosses to keep color looking brand-new. “People often color their hair too frequently because they see it getting dull, when they don’t necessarily need a permanent colors,” says the expert colorist. “Glosses are a great way to freshen up your color without causing any damage.”
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