When done right, bleaching your hair can give you an amazing platinum shine to your strands that’s going to help you stand out in a crowd. Do it wrong, however, and you’ll very much damage your hair, your scalp, and give your hair a horrible color.
Scared yet? Well, you shouldn’t be: hair bleaching isn’t all that complicated if you have the right tools, know your hair type, and know how to apply it. Here are some basic things you should know before bleaching your hair:
How Does Bleaching Work?
Put bleach on hair. Wait. Ta-da! Bleached hair!
Kidding aside, bleaching works by stripping your hair of its natural pigmentation through the process of oxidation. Through oxidation, oxygen molecules are released from your hair, which in turn break up the microscopic chains of chromosphores in your hair (i.e. the structures that provide ‘color’).
This happens when the hydrogen peroxide in the bleach oxidizes the melanin in your hair, which in turn strips of its natural color.
How Long Does it Take to Bleach Hair?
It can be anywhere between 5 minutes and 15 minutes. Any more than that, and you run the risk of damaging your hair. This, of course, will depend on a whole number of factors, from hair type, hair color, hair texture, what kind of bleaching you want, and what type of bleach you’re using.
In general, the darker your hair is, the longer you’ll have to leave on the bleach: light brown and dark blonde hair will require much less time, depending on how light you want your hair to be. Meanwhile, dark hair or black hair need about 10-15 minutes of bleaching to lighten them up a lot.
And remember: unlike dye, which, depending on how long your permanent hair color lasts (usually a couple of months), bleaching will last forever. Or, at least, until your hair grows out again. Any hair that’s been bleached will retain their lack of color, so the only way to get rid of it is to chop them off.
Do the Chunk Test
For you to find out how long you’ll have to leave the bleach, do the chunk test. The chunk test is a safe way for you to experiment with bleaching without using up your entire head’s real estate.
Do the Chunk Test in 4 easy steps:
- Mix a small amount of bleach powder and 20 Volume Peroxide (it’s the safest activator as it’s milder and more forgiving on delicate hair)
- Take a small chunk of your hair and apply it there (hence the name!)
- Start your timer
- Check on the color every 2 minutes
- Once your hair achieves the desired shade, mark down the time on your timer
- Wash off the chunk test
In this way, you’ll know exactly how long it would take you to bleach your hair to your desired shade without running the risk of damaging your entire head. Usually, over-bleaching can result in hair that is completely devoid of moisture, giving it that brittle, straw-like feel.
Using the wrong products can also lead to pretty bad coloring: cheap or bad-quality bleach powders and activators can give your hair a very off-putting and unappealing rusty orange, not to mention drying out your hair severely.
Bleach burns on your scalp can also occur. Bleach burns are basically chemical burns that happen when you leave the caustic hydrogen peroxide for too long on your scalp. Other than making sure you don’t leave the bleach in your hair for too long , there are other ways to make sure that you minimize the risk of damaging your hair or giving yourself a pretty bad hair day that’s going to last for however long it takes for your hair to grow.
Prep Your Hair for Bleaching
Prepping your hair for bleaching, at least, effective prepping, takes about a month. That’s right, a month. Bleaching is serious business: I know it’s tempting to soak your hair in chemicals after a box of wine and a sad movie, but please, I beg you, don’t.
At least 30 days before bleaching, you should already be prepping your hair and scalp for the chemical routine you’ll be putting it through. This involves making sure that your hair is completely moisturized and stronger than usual. You can accomplish this by using mild, sulfate-free shampoo that contain either argan oil or coconut oil. These essential oils will simultaneously open your hair cuticles so it receives more moisture, while creating a protective barrier that will help your hair resist chemical abrasion, allowing only the melanin to pass through and oxidize.
About a week before your bleaching schedule, start using a deep conditioner to further build up your hair’s moisture. Later, I’ll give you a recipe for a home-made deep conditioner that is chemical and sulfate-free. At this point, you can also see if you have allergic reactions to your product by mixing a very, very small batch and applying it on a very discreet part of your scalp and leaving it on for a couple of minutes. No reaction means it’s a go, but any itching, burning, or hives means you’re allergic and should not proceed.
Now that your hair is prepped, it’s time to start bleaching: follow the instructions on your bleaching product and mix the right ratio of bleach-to-activator and apply it on your hair. Leave it on for the appropriate amount of time, and wash it off as soon as your timer hits. Remember: even after you wash it, it’s going to lighten a bit after a few minutes, so try to wash it off a shade or two before your target color.
Note: some people try to speed up the process by using a hair dryer. I am completely against this because, at that point, you’re only drying out your hair even more, not to mention messing up the application times you chunk tested earlier. Don’t do this: be patient, it’s only going to take a few minutes. Watch Netflix or something (but set that timer anyway!).
Home-Made Deep Conditioner
As mentioned earlier, here’s a recipe for a home-made deep conditioner that uses all-natural ingredients, sans chemicals:
- 100ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 100ml Coconut Oil (Or Argan Oil)
- 100ml Lemon Juice
- 100ml Vinegar
- Dash of Honey
- 3 Egg Yolks
Mix everything until you create a smooth mixture that you can easily work into your hair. Apply it all over hair and leave it on for half an hour. This will allow the mixture’s essential ingredients to seep into the hair shaft. After half an hour, rinse it off completely.
This all-natural mix is designed to give your hair the moisture it needs, reinforce the proteins within the cuticles, and give it the protection it needs from the pretty rough and harsh process of bleaching.