While we love a good DIY beauty treatment, bleaching your hair at home does not fall into the same category as your beloved #SelfCareSunday face mask. This is one process that is typically best handled by professionals at the salon. Yet, times are a-changing and many beauty treatments that were once thought to be salon- or spa-only are now being attempted at home, including bleaching your own hair.
Fortunately, there are ways to go lighter — and do it safely. (And by safely, we do not mean using Clorox; that bleach is most definitely not meant for hair!) So for those who just can't resist going the DIY route, we turned to Clairol Color Partner Priscilla Valles for all of the tips, tricks, and expert advice you need to know about how to bleach your hair at home without damage.
First things first: Is bleaching your own hair a bad idea?
Not if it's done properly, Valles says. "When you are in the salon, colorists are careful to not leave in any hair lightening products for too long or use high volume developers that can cause damage," she explains. "If you’re doing it at home, always carefully follow the instructions on the package." That said, if you have dark hair and want to go platinum, you can’t reach that level of lightening with one round of bleach. Valles advises working your way up through different levels of blonde with enough time, ideally a few months, in between each bleaching to let your hair heal.
You ideally want to start with healthy hair before bleaching. Valles typically looks at the hair to make sure it’s not too dry, overly chemically-treated, and doesn't have a ton of split ends. One way to prevent damage is to bleach just your roots instead of your whole head. "The roots are virgin hair that has not been chemically-treated," she explains. If you've never chemically-treated or colored your hair, consider yourself lucky; you have a better chance of not damaging your hair if you decide to do a DIY bleach job.
What are the different ways to bleach hair at home?
For an all-over, full-dye blonde job: Use hydrogen peroxide mixed with hair bleach. This combo removes the natural pigment in the hair strand and helps open the hair cuticle to allow the bleach to easily strip the color. Valles doesn't recommend bleaching hair with just peroxide, as it can cause hair to look very brassy and doesn’t lift as strongly as bleach does.
To lighten hair at home without bleach: Try a permanent hair dye. Valles suggests choosing a color that is two shades lighter than your natural hair color. (For example, if you are a level 5 brunette, you can use a level 7 blonde hair dye to go slightly lighter.)
To go bright white: "You should always start coloring in the back, then move forward to the sides, and finish at the top of your head for an even bleach," Valles explains. Then use a silver toner to get rid of any yellow tones and brighten up your shade.
To bleach black hair: "While you can bleach black hair, you shouldn’t go from black to platinum in one day because it can cause damage," Valles says. She recommends going two shades lighter each time you bleach, giving hair a break in between colorings. This allows you to gradually work your way to your desired brightness, without the risk of your hair breaking or falling out from over-processing.
To bleach hair before dyeing it another color: This process will differ depending on the color you choose. For example, if you are trying a warm brunette color, you don’t have to go too blonde first. The key is to get to the level of lightness you desire and then use a toner to get rid of any brassiness. Bleach will make your hair light, and then the color or toner gives you the final color you want.
What do you need to safely bleach your hair?
Valles recommends using a DIY bleaching kit, like Clairol Nice'n Easy Borne Blonde Permanent Hair Color, because it'll have a step-by-step guide and precisely measured chemicals, including hair bleach, developer, and conditioner. In addition to the bleaching kit you're using, grab a hair color brush, a couple of hair clips, and a towel that you don't mind staining to wrap around your shoulders to protect your clothes. You should also have coconut oil to apply around your hairline to protect your skin from any excess bleach, and a wide tooth comb and rattail comb to separate the hair sections.
Now that I'm ready, how do I actually bleach my hair at home?
Before you jump in, a few quick pointers: Make sure you are near a mirror so you can see your hair from all angles, apply bleach to dry hair only, and always start in the back where the hair is darkest because that will require more time to process. Now, ready, set, bleach!
Dab coconut oil around your hairline, avoiding touching any hair.
Divide your hair into four sections: Two in the back and two at the top. Starting with a back section, begin at the nape and use a rattail comb to divide a ½ inch wide strip.
Apply the bleach to the first section starting at your roots (try not to touch your scalp) and work down to mid-shaft, leaving about three inches of the ends out. Repeat until all your sections are covered in bleach.
Go over the ends with bleach starting from the back to the sides and top.
Let the bleach process for 20 to 45 minutes, according to the product packaging instructions and your desired color.
Rinse and shampoo immediately, and follow with conditioner if included.
Finally, how can I prevent damage when I bleach my hair?
Use a low-volume bleach developer, never higher than 20 volume, and ensure it doesn’t sit on your head for too long to prevent breakage.
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