Are you dreaming of going from dark brown to blonde, but don't fancy spending $$$ at the hairdressers? Dying dark brown hair blonde at home may sound challenging but it's not actually that difficult. A DIY bleach job is not for the faint of heart, but if you do it right you can achieve your dream blonde right from the comfort of your home. Here is how to bleach hair at home safely, step by step.
Bleach can be very damaging for your hair, and a botched attempt at bleaching your hair at home can be expensive to fix. So, before you start buying supplies, ask yourself the following questions:
In order to figure out how to bleach hair at home without damage it's important to be realistic about your start point and your end goal.
Going from dark brown to blonde is often a multi-step process. Leaving bleach on your hair for too long can seriously damage your hair. For example, lifting virgin level 2 hair to a platinum blonde level 10 will often require several applications of bleach.
Wondering how to get platinum blonde hair from a golden blonde? You can dye brown hair blonde without bleach using box dye! The only requirement is to apply the dye on virgin hair, as dye won't lift dye. Only bleach can lighten chemically colored hair. Some high lift hair color can lift up to 4 levels, so dying brown hair blonde with box dye is also possible.
If you are looking at a radical color change of more than 6 levels, a visit to the hairdresser may be in order. Or at least expect several bleach sessions, with a couple of weeks in-between. Same goes if you have never dyed your hair before at home, as bleach application requires you to be quick and apply the product evenly.
Virgin hair is hair that has never been color treated or permed is the best candidate for DIY at home bleaching. If you have been using permanent or semi-permanent dyes, or even henna, bleach can be quite unpredictable. You
While your roots may lift just fine, the existing pigments on your hair can go all sorts of funny colors, resulting in banding and a patchy result. And if your hair is damaged before bleaching, the risk of it breaking after bleaching is too high.
If you have been chemically treating your hair it's better to go to an experienced hairdresser. You can always bleach your roots at home afterwards to lower the cost of blonde hair maintenance. Ideally do not use chemical processes on hair for at least 3 months before bleaching it.
Bleaching your hair will damage it, and too much damage will lead to breakage and possible an unflattering chemical haircut. If your hair is naturally very fine, very dry or damaged, bleach can destroy it. This also applies to natural hair, which can be really fragile to start with.
Using bleach additives such as olaplex can help reduce the amount of damage significantly, but you should still be careful. A good haircut post-bleach and an intensive conditioning regime are a must have before you bleach your hair at home.
There is no two ways about it: bleached hair is high maintenance. It will be dryer and more fragile than what you are used to. You'll need to use products to remove brassy undertones and keep your blonde looking bright. You may have to lay down your heat styling tools to prevent damage. And you will need to bleach your roots regularly to avoid stripes and bands.
In exchange, your hair will have more volume and hold, making styling easier in some cases. And bleach doesn't fade, so you won't need to worry about faded hair color like with permanent hair dyes. However, expect yellow and brassy tones to appear after a while, which can be corrected using a toner or mitigated with a purple shampoo once a week.
Before you start reading about how to bleach and dye hair at home, particularly how to bleach brown hair at home... consider this. There is an answer to the question "how to dye brown hair blonde at home without bleach" called hi-lift hair dye. Hi-lift hair dye only works on virgin hair, so if you have already been dying your hair then this is not for you and you'll need to go back to considering how to bleach dark hair at home. Same if your hair is darker than a light brown.
But if you are naturally dark blonde or medium to light brunette, who has never colored their hair... you can use a hi-lift hair color to lighten and color your hair in one single step. This means no bleach, no toning and way less mess. You can lift up to 5 levels with a hi-lift dye, but be careful as the health of your hair may suffer.
Start deep conditioning your hair at least 2 weeks before bleaching it, and make sure you avoid heat styling as much as possible during this period. Twice a week use a deep conditioning mask and always use a conditioner to strengthen your hair.
The goal is for your hair to be as strong and conditioned as possible before bleaching it, so it comes out the other side of bleaching looking good, and not like a birds nest. You're going to subject your hair to quite a lot of damage, be very kind to it beforehand (and afterwards!) to compensate.
In order to bleach hair at home you'll need the following:
Optionally, bond building additives can be added to the bleach powder to help prevent damage while bleaching. Keep in mind this can make the bleach work a bit slower, but it's worth it to keep your hair as healthy as possible. Just follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter: bleach is not experiment-friendly and you could burn your hair or get uneven results.
Bleach works quicker with heat, and hair that is thicker and darker will require more processing time. What does that mean? You want to start applying bleach to the back of your head, moving forward in small half-inch sections. And you want to apply the bleach to the lengths and tips first, and leave the roots for last as they will process quicker. Professional hairdressers often use a 30 vol developer mix for the lengths and tips, and a 20 vol mix only for the roots.
Try to work fast, otherwise you'll end up with uneven results. If you have never coloured your hair or have no experience applying hair dye, it's probably safer to go to a professional. Bleach can be quite unforgiving!
Wear your gloves and your oldest t-shirt, as bleach can cause burns on your skin. Use a plastic bowl to mix the bleach powder and developer and make sure it's very well blended and the mixture is not too runny and not too thick, with no lumps.
Most bleach powders use two parts developers to one part powder, but always read the instructions and adjust as necessary. If you are using a bond building additive add it to the mixture as well.
If you are going to use two different mixtures with different developer volumes, prepare them beforehand. Last thing you want is to start looking for a bowl when your hair is covered in bleach.
Start by sectioning your hair in at least 4 large sections, using hair clips. This will keep hair out of the way.
Start applying bleach to the back of the head, working fast so the processing time is similar all over your head. It is very important to saturate the hair properly with the bleach mixture, which is why a slightly runnier bleach is easier for beginners.
Work your way in half an inch sections from the back of your head to the front, leaving the roots alone. Once a section is done, use the clips to wrap it out of the way again.
Usually you should wait about 20 minutes before you start applying bleach to your roots, which will process faster due to heat from the scalp. Once you are done, wrap your hair in transparent cling film, a transparent shower cap or a plastic bag. This will keep heat in and help develop the bleach evenly.
Bleach doesn't have a set development time, unlike permanent and semi-permanent hair color. Bleach will keep lifting hair color until you rinse it off, or until it dries. This is why you need a transparent shower cap, so you can check the color for the right time to rinse.
Depending on the starting hair color, texture and thickness you are looking at a development time between 15 and 30 minutes. The closer you are to your target lightness, the more you should check. Keep in mind that at this point your hair may be quite brassy or even orange, but all you are looking for is lift. You will tone your hair after bleaching to achieve the desired color.
If you see sections that are drying off but are darker than the rest of the hair, you can mix some fresh 20v developer with bleach and apply only to those sections to achieve an even lift.
After 30 minutes, it's time to wash of the bleach. Wash it off no matter the level, if the hair is too dark you can always bleach again later. Last thing you want is for the bleach at the top to dry off and stop working… while the inner layers of the hair keep developing. You'll get stripes or bands of different lightness, and that's difficult to correct.
If your hair is naturally very dark (asian and hispanic hair for example) or you have coloured with a box dye before, you may need another application to reach level 10 (platinum). If the hair was in a really good condition, you may be able to do this right away but generally speaking is safer to wait a couple of weeks and give your hair lots of deep conditioning treatments during this time. To reduce damage, use a vol. 20 developer on this second application (as you shouldn't need to lift so many levels anyway).
The goal after bleaching is hair that is all over the same lightness. If there are sections that are darker, you will need to bleach them again to get all your head to the same even color. Bleaching needs constant monitoring and agile feet with adjustments, particularly if the hair was color treated to start with. Do not assume that you need to bleach your entire head all the time, focus on the bits that need lifting and wash it off as soon as you get there.
Once your hair is evenly lifted, wash with an acid based shampoo to equalise the hair pH, and towel dry. Make sure to wash the bleach really, really well and shampoo properly. Any bleach left in your hair will continue bleaching it. Do not use conditioner at this point, as we aren't done yet.
At this point your hair should be an even shade of… yellow or even light, almost neon orange. For platinum blondes, you need to bring your hair up to a level 9 or 10 that is the color of the inside of a banana peel. Darker blondes will have a bit more orange and so look more pumpkin colored. In any case, not likely the result you are after!
The key to achieving golden blonde hair or a bright ashy platinum mane is hair toners. Toners are like a top coat of color that has a strong purple or green undertone, and cancels the yellow and orange pigments left on the hair after bleaching. They are usually applied after bleaching to cancel unwanted undertones and get hair to the desired shade of blonde.
Toners won't lift the hair color further, so you need to have achieved the desired hair color level by this point. Toners add pigment, and can cancel unwanted tones, but they won't radically change your hair color. Use toners to remove brassiness and fix yellow hair after bleaching, and also to darken hair. And use more bleach to lighten hair if the end result is not light enough.
Toners can also be used to even out highlights, and even tone down the roots if they developed more than the lengths and tips giving you an unintentional reverse ombre. Alternatively, you can use a darker toner on the roots to create a rooted blonde look. You may need to use different toners on different parts of your hair. The results are absolutely worth it and the difference between an amateur job and looking like you had your hair professionally done.
Toners do more than color correct yellow hair or brassy hair. If you have light enough hair you can use toners to achieve rainbow hair, such as rose gold, lavender or light blue hair.
Using toner on dark hair won't lift and will barely have any effect. This is because toners are almost transparent, they are a tone not a dye. There are toners for brunette hair that use blue to cancel unwanted warmth, but the effects are nowhere as dramatic as with blonde hair. So you can tone your hair and the toner will only grab on the lightened bits.
We will focus here on toners you can use right after bleaching and won't damage your hair further. You can also tone your hair using a box dye, but doing it right after bleaching can damage your hair too much. It's better to use a toner with minimal amounts of ammonia and a very low developer, such as 10v or 20v.
The results from toning will vary depending on the level of the hair you apply them to. For example, you can apply beige toner on yellow hair for a darker, natural result. However, you need to have reached level 9/10 pale yellow hair to apply a platinum toner.
Wella offers a very popular brand of toners, the Color Charm line, that work really well to cancel yellow and brassy tones on bleached hair. However, your hair must be at the right level for them to work. Most people who complain Wella Silver Lady T14 didn't work for them have not lightened their hair enough. They have silver, ash and beige toners that correct yellow-orange, yellow and red-brassy tones respectively. The beige toners are great for a natural result, while the ash and silver ones are perfect for brighter, lighter blondes.
Manic Panic series of vegetable dyes are non-ammonia conditioning dyes that you can use to create pastel looks on bleached hair. Manic Panic Silver Snow is popular to get white, silver and platinum on hair that has been pre-lifted to level 10. They also have a large variety of pastel colors that you can use to achieve lavender, rose gold, pink or pastel colored hair. They do wash out much quicker than regular ammonia toners though.
Different toner brands have different requirements, but the overall method to apply toner after bleaching is similar.
Mix the toner with the developer according to the brand instructions, if the toner requires a developer. Not all do, for example Manic Panic toners don't require developer and are conditioning on your hair.
If it's your first time using toner on bleached hair, it's worth doing a patch test on a hidden strand of hair. This way you'll see how quickly your hair reacts to the color. As with bleach, toning requires constant monitoring to make sure you reach the desired result and not something that is too green or even violet.
If you overdid it with the toner and your hair is visibly ashy or purple, a clarifying shampoo will wash some of the toner off. You can use anti-dandruff shampoo if you don't have a clarifying shampoo handy. Just be aware your hair will feel like straw afterwards, so a hot oil treatment may be in order.
Always use a deep conditioning treatment after bleaching and toning your hair, unless your toner is already a deep conditioning one.
After toning your hair, you hopefully will have the DIY blonde you dreamt off. If you are unhappy with the results, there are many ways to color correct a bleach job, so don't despair. And while you are out and about enjoying your brand new lighter do, remember to stock up on blonde friendly products to keep it looking its best.