In order to achieve bright colored hair, you have to bleach. There is no way around it. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s scary. Of course it is, this is what could hurt your hair and leave it damaged. You will need to bleach your hair even if it’s fair to begin with. Bleaching your hair not only makes it lighter but makes it porous so the dye can be absorbed.
This guide was written with a two different types of people in mind – those with hair that is already dyed a “fantasy” color and want to start doing it themselves, and those with light colored hair. If you have dark hair that is either dyed dark, or naturally dark this post may not be for you. My hair is fairly light to begin with so it’s pretty easy to me to achieve a light color. I am not a professional and I can only speak from my own experiences. Just be aware that everyone’s hair is different and will react differently to bleach.
When I first decided I wanted pink hair I had been dyeing my hair black for years and years. I knew nothing about hair so I went to a professional who over the process of a few months lightened my hair slowly to a light enough color that I was able to dye it pink. Because it’s something I’m not personally experienced in I really don’t have much to say about going from black to a bright color except that it’s very rarely possible to do safely in one step. Patience is key, and I would highly recommend going to a professional who is extremely knowledgeable in color. Take your time lightening your hair! Seriously, all the work you did to get from black to pink (or whatever color) won’t be so pretty when your hair is fried, looks like straw, feels gummy when wet, and takes forever to dry.
My bleach of choice is, and always has been, Beyond The Zone Radical Bleach Kit. It works like a charm. By the time I’m done applying it I usually only have to wait seven or eight minutes before my hair is nearly white and ready to rinse. I follow the directions on the package all except for the recommended time which in my opinion is extremely excessive. If you were to follow the time guidelines there is a very good chance your hair would be fried. My best advice is to peek up under the cap every few minutes to keep an eye on how quickly it’s processing.
A few days before.
I recommend bleaching a few days after making the decision to bleach. Not because you’ll change your mind or anything like that but because those few days will give you time to prepare. I use those days before bleaching to deep condition the heck out of my hair (which also helps with fading!) You want your hair to be in tip top shape before bleaching it. Here’s a list of my favorite deep conditioners, and I cannot recommend a boar hair brush enough. Boar hair brushes are great for distributing your scalps natural oils to the rest of your hair and your oils help protect your hair. When I know I’ll be bleaching my hair I try my best to use the boar hair brush every night before bed.
I recommend not washing your hair on the day you bleach your hair. Like I mentioned above, oils protect your hair. I like to make sure mine is good and greasy so I’ll use the boar hair brush right before bleaching.
Follow the package’s direction, and get to applying. Not to stress you out or anything, but every minute counts. Don’t dilly dally around. If you have long hair make sure you have enough bleach mixed up before starting. For reference, my hair is on the thin side and at shoulder length one Beyond The Zone Radical Bleach Kit will cover about half of my hair. If I’m only doing my roots, which is usually the case, one pacakge is fine.
Don’t forget to put a shower cap on after applying bleach. You don’t want it dry up.
You’ve checked in the mirror and your hair looks sufficiently light enough? Rinse it immediately! I try to rinse out bleach in the sink just so I don’t have it running all down my body. I do not use any products when rinsing out. Just make sure to rinse thoroughly. Like I mentioned above, part of the reason we’re bleaching is to make the hair porous enough to hold color. Conditioning your hair at this point would be counterproductive.
Now it’s time to dye your hair. I’ve never found a difference whether I wait until my hair dries or if it’s wet when dyeing it so it’s your preference – just make sure you’re doing it same day. Waiting until the next day will give your hair time to produce new oils that will effect how porous your hair is and how it holds dye.
A few more tips…
▴ It doesn’t have to be white or one even color after bleaching for it look great after dyeing. Just like “normal” hair colors, bright colors look best when they have more than one shade and aren’t a flat color. I honestly think that’s the biggest factor in whether or not hair color looks good or not.
How light your hair needs to be depends on which color you’re trying to achieve. The blue-ish tint that the bleach left my hair in the photo above was perfectly fine for dyeing my hair pink/purple but probably wouldn’t have been acceptable for a shade of orange. Something to remember is that rules of color blending somewhat apply with hair dye too. The dark blue streaks the bleach left appeared purple when I applied pink dye to my hair.
▴ If possible, only bleach your roots. If your roots are getting long and that’s why you’re working with bleach, only apply the bleach to your new growth. Overlapping bleached hair makes your hair brittle in that spot. I recently shared my two tips for switching hair colors easily which should help eliminate any need to bleach the whole length of your hair if you already have an unnatural color.
▴ Do not double bleach. Meaning don’t rinse your hair after bleaching and start all over again…EVER. Your hair will need a resting period and a handful conditioning treatments before bleaching again. If your hair is dark most likely the easiest option will be to bleach, then dye your hair a color similar to what the bleach left you with and keep doing this over a period of time making sure to condition and baby your hair. Like I said at the beginning of this post, patience is key here.
▴ Have a friend help, if possible. If not, get yourself a few mirrors! The hardest part about bleaching (and dyeing) your own hair is getting the back. It’s super easy to miss pieces unless you can see. If you’ve got a friend willing to help ya, that’s awesome. If not, you’re not outta luck, just pick yourself up a handheld mirror. I do as best as I can then double check my work the handheld mirror. If you’re not confident in your skills find a way to rig your handheld mirror to something so you always be watching what you’re doing in the bathroom mirror.
You can find more hair dye tips and guides in my hair master post.