Bleaching Hair at Home: Do’s and Don’ts, According to a Hairstylist

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We’re going to start by saying that normally we wouldn’t advise bleaching your hair at home. However, as celebrity hairstylist DaRico Jackson explains, “considering the circumstances, we have no other choice. We have to work together with our clients until we get through this pandemic.” To that end, we asked Jackson to share some of his tips for safely bleaching your hair at home until we’re able to resume salon visits.

When should you bleach at home and when should you avoid it?

Again, under most circumstances, DIY bleaching isn’t advised and is a job that’s best left to professionals. Alas, given the ongoing quarantine we’re in, Jackson recommends consulting with your regular stylist virtually before hitting up the hydrogen peroxide. 

“You’ll want to examine your hair and make sure that it’s in optimum condition, meaning it’s in good health and strong enough to handle the process,” says Jackson. If you see a lot of splitting, dryness or weakened ends, hold off on the bleach, which can cause more damage and even breakage.

“If you’ve determined that it’s safe to proceed, I’d recommend starting with a test strand. First, take a small strand from the lower back region and apply a small amount of the color to see if you have any allergic reactions or scalp irritation from it,” explains Jackson. “Go with lower levels of developer and lift the color slowly instead of going in with a higher level of developer (like 40 volume) to get faster results,” he adds. Slow and steady is the name of the game here.

Are there any specific do's and don'ts to ensuring that you get the best results? 

“First off, note the difference between overall color vs a retouch,” says Jackson. “If you are doing a color retouch, you should only apply the bleach to the area of regrowth and try to avoid excessive overlapping of the previous color application.”

And if you’re going for overall color, “you must start in the center or hair shaft and avoid the hair ends until last,” says Jackson. If you’re wondering why you’d start in the center as opposed to the roots, that’s because “your body temperature speeds up processing, causing the hair to go lighter at the scalp and produce an uneven result, which stylists refer to that as ‘hot roots.’”

So, to clarify, when applying overall color, start at the center or mid-lengths, then your roots and finish with the ends. Got it? OK, moving along.

What products do you need to bleach your hair at home?

You’ll need a plastic bowl and measuring cup, as well as a brush, hair clips and a cape or some sort of covering for your shoulders to prevent staining your clothing. (On that note, make sure not to wear anything you’d be sad about getting messy.) 

As for specific products, Jackson recommends the Clairol Professional and Wella ColorCharm lines because “they all work great for at-home use to create beautiful blondes.”

Shop the products: Clairol Professional BW2 Powder Lightener ($15); Clairol Pure White 30 Volume Creme Developer ($14); Wella Color Charm Demi Permanent Hair Color ($7); Wella Wella Color Charm Activating Lotion ($6)

Can you walk us through the steps of bleaching your hair at home?

Step 1: Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Step 2: “Start with parting your hair into four sections (forehead to nape and ear to ear) and clip away each section separately. You will find that it is easier to work through the hair one section at a time,” explains Jackson.

Step 3: Mix equal amounts of bleach to developer (2 ounces of each) until it’s creamy like pancake batter. Start your timer for 45 minutes. 

Step 4: Next, start your application in the front two sections, work your way to the back two, making sure to apply the color evenly. Process for the remaining time on the timer.

Step 5: Shampoo thoroughly, then do a deep conditioner or treatment for 3 to 5 minutes, rinse well, and blot hair dry.

What should you do to upkeep your hair after it’s been bleached?

As anyone with bleached hair knows, it’s a constant battle against brass and breakage, so make sure to get yourself a good purple shampoo. (FYI: Jackson likes Clairol Shimmer Lights for maintaining the hair's integrity, while revitalizing your color whenever you wash.) We’d also recommend a good mask to use weekly and a showerhead filter to remove any potentially dulling minerals and metals from your water.

Shop the products: NatureLab. Tokyo Perfect Repair Treatment Masque ($16); Matrix Total Results Brass Off Custom Neutralization Hair Mask ($24); Pureology Hydrate Superfood Deep Treatment Mask ($38); Raindrops Shower Filter ($95); T3 Source Showerhead Filter ($150)

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Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...