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How to dye hair blonde

With the advent of hair dye, it's become possible to change our look and style as we see fit and present ourselves however we like. Of course, with the popularity of blonde hair, it's no wonder a lot of people yearn for pale silky strands even though it can be one of the more difficult colours to both accomplish and maintain. Are you wondering how to dye hair blonde?
Platinum blonde hair

Blonde is a difficult colour to achieve

Make no doubt about it, blonde hair can be a difficult colour to achieve. The problem with dyeing your hair blonde is that the process generally requires significant lightening; especially if you have darker brown hair. Many people fall into the trap of simply applying a blonde box dye and end up with orange hair. You can't dye dark hair blonde with these, nor should you.

Ash blonde hair boy
Box dyes contain weaker peroxide and less ammonia, which is good for the manufacturer as there's less chance of destroying your hair if you have no clue how to use it, but bad in the sense that these dyes don't provide the lift needed to dye hair blonde.

Without the proper concentration of ammonia, the colour doesn't penetrate the hair shaft properly, and without a high enough concentration of peroxide, the dye won't lift enough colour out of the hair. This leads to dull colours that fade quickly and don't lighten.

The only way you can dye dark hair blonde is to pre-lighten your hair with bleach first. Dark hair simply has too much pigment to be dyed blonde with hair dye alone, although if your hair is a light brown or dark blonde shade already, you can generally get good results using a professional high lift dye.

The blonding process

Beige blonde hair

There are two options to go about dyeing your hair blonde: high lift dye, or the standard bleach and tone method. The bleach and tone method has been in use for years, and it involves bleaching the hair to the yellow stage and then applying a blonde colour to give the final result.

High lift dyes are a newer product that are able to potentially lift close to the amount that bleach can when applied to virgin hair. These products are somewhat less damaging than bleach, but are ineffective on dyed hair, and some people's scalps are just as sensitive to them as bleach.

As a word of caution, don't attempt to dye your hair blonde if you've dyed it dark repeatedly. Colour remover won't budge enough of the dye to help, and the amount of bleach processes needed to remove it isn't for the inexperienced. If your hair has never been dyed, or has only been dyed once or twice, you can proceed to dye it blonde.

How to use high lift dyes

The high lift dye is the answer to the question: "how do you lighten hair significantly without bleach"? These dyes can sometimes be as effective as bleach powder when used on hair that is already light brown. They are able to drab colour whilst lifting, and are gentler and somewhat less damaging than bleach. This is made possible with additional ammonia and lightening enhancers, coupled with the use of 40 vol peroxide.

Natural blonde hair
The main drawback of this method is that it is ineffective on hair that has been dyed before, and this can include demi-permanent colour. High lift dyes are able to lift up to 4 levels, when using certain brands like Igora and Matrix. A lift booster that is sold in many professional lines can be added to the dye to add another level of lift, allowing you to reach a lighter colour. However, even though high lift dyes tone your hair during the lightening process, you will likely still need to tone it with a permanent blonde toner afterwards if too much warmth is revealed.

To use them, mix up most of the needed amount of dye in a ratio of 2:1:2 of high lift dye, lift booster, and 40 vol peroxide. If you're unable to find lift booster, it can be left out, though the dye will lose a little lightening power without it.

Apply the dye to the lengths of your hair, an inch away from the roots, and leave this for 15 minutes, then mix up enough fresh colour to apply to your roots, leaving it to process for a further 45 minutes. This helps to prevent the warmth from your scalp causing the roots to be lighter than your lengths. After the colour is processed and washed out, if your hair is too brassy for your liking, mix up a pearl or ash toner and apply it to your hair, leaving it until it tones to the desired shade.

High lift dyes should be used on hair that is dark blonde. Hair that is at least light brown can also be dyed with a high lift dye. Darker hair should preferentially be treated with bleach though because the high lift colour doesn't have enough lightening power to lift your hair to blonde. If you have dark hair, you need to use bleach in order to dye hair blonde.

How to use bleach

Myths abound with bleach, but it is unusual for bleach to destroy hair, and very very rare for it to cause it to fall out, melt, turn to jelly, or any of the similar horror stories people tend to share.

Carelessness causes hair to be destroyed, and it is the people who use it incorrectly and then blame the bleach itself that give it a bad name. Used properly, on hair that is in good condition, bleach is only mildly damaging and extremely useful. As long as your hair isn't over-processed, you don't go crazy with high volumes of developer, and you avoid bleaching your hair more than once in a 1 - 2 week period, your hair will be no worse for wear after bleaching.

The majority of bleach damage isn't damage, it is just dryness - the result of cuticles that haven't closed properly. With adequate moisture and proper care, this will remedy itself in a week. People mistake this for damage as their hair feels rough and brittle directly after a bleach process, but it's the same concept as a leaf that has dried out in the sun. The structure is intact, but the moisture is stripped and it is more prone to breaking when being handled. In actuality, hair is rather resistant to bleach damaging its keratin structure, but when hair dries out it can wreak havoc. Moisturise and care for your hair and this will not happen.

You can technically use any volume of peroxide with bleach from 2.5 vol up to 40 vol, but unless you're aiming for orange hair, a concentration from 20 - 30 is needed to dye dark hair blonde. The darkest hair requires high quality bleach because this offers the best lift and least damage and drying.

Higher volumes of peroxide generally mean more lift, but if you're using a high quality bleach powder like Igora Vario, you will get the same results with 20 vol that you would with a higher volume. For dark hair, use the highest volume recommended for on-scalp lightening by your particular bleach powder. If your skin is sensitive, use a lower volume to prevent irritation and expect to have to bleach it more than once for the same results.

In order to use bleach, mix the powder in a 1 : 2 ratio of powder to developer, unless your bleach powder specifies a different ratio. For example, Loreal Platinum bleach uses a 1 : 3 ratio of bleach to developer.

Apply bleach quickly and evenly to the lengths of your hair first, leaving the roots uncovered. Allow this to lighten for 15 minutes before applying bleach to your roots. Leave this for a further 30 minutes until your hair is yellow, and then wash it out thoroughly with a pH neutralising shampoo and condition it well. The maximum time you should leave bleach in your hair is 45 - 55 minutes depending on product and if your hair isn't yellow at this point, you will need to bleach it again.

If you do need to bleach it again, do so only after at least a one week resting period, after using a good deep conditioner and protein treatment. This rest period allows your hair to regain moisture and reduces the damage of a subsequent bleach.

Once your hair is yellow, prepare a pearl blonde dye and apply it to your hair to tone the yellow out for a natural blonde result. If you want an ashier result, use an ash blonde. If you'd prefer a warmer result though, use a natural blonde.

Enjoy your new colour, and remember that your blonde hair will need to be toned regularly, and cared for appropriately. Click either of those links for relevant information on those topics.

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Further information

Dyeing hair blonde - Dive deeper into the method and process of dyeing your hair blonde.

Choosing a shade of blonde hair - Discover the different shades of blonde colour and how to match them to your features.


  1. Hey Maffew. My highlights have grown out and now half my head is dark blonde. I'd like to use high lift color to achieve the look of the girl with long hair above with the black T-shirt. Is there a mixture u can recommend for me to buy? I don't want to order the wrong products with the 40 volume.

    1. Hi Christine,

      Good brands like Igora Royal or Wella Koleston will work well (Eg, Igora Royal 12-1 or Wella Koleston 12/1). Keep in mind that high lift dye can be less reliable compared to the traditional bleach and tone though. If you're working on hair that hasn't been previously dyed, they lift very well, although you may need to tone further after rinsing. On dyed hair, it's better to bleach instead for optimum results as the dye won't always lighten properly when your hair is previously processed.

  2. My mother bleacher her hair to a pale yellow with quick blue and 20 volume. She then used a loreal box platinum color but ended with that brassy light yellow. We did not tone. It's been a month and we have been waiting to learn more about fixing it. Will Wella Blondor Extra Cool Blonde fix this?

    1. Hi,

      If she's happy with how light it is, toning is all that's required. The Wella Extra Cool Blonde is bleach and this will lighten her hair further. Even if you do want it closer to platinum and choose to use the bleach, you'll still need to tone afterwards to counteract the last traces of yellow pigment.

      Best option at this stage is to tone using very light ash blonde (9A) to neutralise that remaining yellow. If she wants to get it to platinum, bleach first and then tone with a pastel ash shade.

      Alternatively, a purple shampoo can easily eradicate the brassiness. Products like Fudge Violet are strong and very effective for toning. With hair close to platinum though, you'll need to be careful of over-toning because you'll only need a little to get rid of the warmth. If you go with a shampoo, test it first and if it's too strong, you can always dilute it down with white shampoo in the same brand to the strength you need.


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