How to Bleach Your Hair

How to Bleach Your Hair at Home

Most people like to alter their appearance from time to time. Sometimes it’s a seasonal decision, and sometimes it happens on a whim. One of the most profound ways to change one’s look is to alter the hair color. Because of the drastic change that this action will provide, it’s not something that should be done on a whim—especially when it involves bleach.

There are several steps to take before, during and after the bleaching process that will save you from walking away with orange or damaged hair. If you are patient throughout the bleaching process, chances are that you will love your new hair color!

Prepping the Hair

There’s no way around it—you are going to damage your hair whenever you apply bleach to it. The concept of bleaching is simple: it is a chemical which strips the hair of color (along with moisture and nutrients). In order to maintain as much health as possible while bleaching, you will need to spend two weeks boosting the health of your hair with a deep conditioner. This will prevent the hair from becoming brittle after the bleaching process, resulting in less breakage.

Choosing a Bleach

When it comes to boxed hair dye, companies tend to play it safe. They don’t want to be held responsible for over-processing or skin irritations, so the strength of their product is much weaker than what professionals use. The upside is that you don’t have to worry about too much damage. The downside is that your hair will not end up as light as you’d probably like it.

The best way to choose a bleach is to visit your local beauty supply store and buy a powdered bleach along with a peroxide developer mix-in. This is what stylists do, so it’s a great way to get salon results without paying for the labor. Levels of peroxide (developer) vary. Higher levels work faster, but are more damaging. The exact level will depend on the color of your hair at the time of purchase, and a specialist at the store will be able to help you choose appropriately.

Strip Test

Always test the bleach on a small strip of hair to make sure you’re actually able to achieve the shade you desire, as well as making sure you don’t have an allergy to the chemical.

*Remember: the top layer of your hair has access to the sun, so not only will it be lighter than the hair underneath, but it will also be slightly drier.  Do a test on both layers of hair.

Protect Your Skin

Dress in old clothes that can be thrown away later. Rub a layer of thick lotion over any exposed skin to protect it from bleach spatters (pay special attention to the ears). Petroleum gel works best on the facial skin along the hairline. Don a pair of latex gloves that fit tightly over your hands. Bleach fumes are very strong, so be sure to have a nearby window open for ventilation.

Ready to Bleach

When bleaching at home, it is best to use a plastic highlight cap (which can be purchased from any beauty supply store). If you want a natural-looking allover lightening, pull small amounts of hair through most of the holes of the cap. If you want chunky highlights, pull more hair through the holes in the cap, but leave large spaces between each strip.

Using a glass or plastic bowl (never metal), mix the powdered bleach and developer according to directions obtained from the beauty supply store. It should look like a blue or purple paste. There does come a point where the bleach becomes inactive, so you’ll need to act fast. This time range depends on the strength of the peroxide mix-in.

Keeping away from the cap itself, paint the bleach mixture over the exposed strands of hair starting from the roots and working down to the ends. If you paint directly onto the cap, you are risking the bleach bleeding through the holes and under the cap, which will result in large bleach spots at the roots when all is said and done.

Once the mixture has been painted on, wrap hair with a plastic bag to keep bleach-activating heat inside and time it according to directions obtained from the beauty supply store. Times will vary depending on starting color, but an extremely important rule of thumb is to leave it on long enough to get past the orange stage. If you take it off too soon, you will be left with orange hair which is nearly impossible to re-bleach to a healthy shade of blonde. Test the color by rinsing a small strand. If the color is still in the orange to bright yellow family, continue the bleaching process and check back every ten minutes.


Once you’re satisfied with the color, rinse and gently shampoo the hair. The ends may feel like elastic at this time, but that is initial trauma to the hair that will settle down over the course of the next couple of weeks. Apply an intense protein conditioner to the hair and allow it sit for several minutes. Once hair is completely rinsed, allow to air-dry. Using a hair-dryer at this point could cause irreversible damage.

Hair is very porous and will be in need of moisture in the weeks ahead. Treat it tenderly and always use a coating product before applying heated tools to it.

Still Not Satisfied?

If you’re seeing golden or brassy undertones from not processing the bleach long enough, you can purchase a toner which will lessen those effects. Chlorine and minerals from tap water can bring out these tones as well. Be sure to use a made-for-blonde shampoo and conditioner at least once a week to keep brass away!

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