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High lift color

Platinum blonde hairHigh lift dye is different to regular dyes because it is designed to give greater lightening power that is more equivalent to bleach than a regular blonde dye. This is what makes high lift dye particularly useful as it can often replace the use of bleach and may even be a lot less damaging to the hair and less irritating to the scalp depending on how it is used.

Bleach vs high lift dye

The choice of whether you should use bleach or high lift dye to lighten hair is dependent on a few requirements that indicate whether a high lift dye will work properly. You can lighten hair with a high lift dye if:
  1. You have not dyed it before
  2. You only need to lighten your hair by a maximum of 3 - 4 levels

If you've used any permanent or demi-permanent hair dye on your hair previously, it will not respond properly to the use of high lift dye generally. This is because the dye doesn't effectively lighten artificial pigment to anywhere near the same extent as it does natural pigment so most of the previous dye won't budge. Technically this is the case with bleach too as the product is less effective at lightening a previous dye job, but this problem is even more apparent with a high lift product.

The other major factor in your decision if how much lift you need to get the result you want. Achieving up to 5 levels of lightening with a high lift dye is not impossible, but is unlikely depending on hair type and texture. You can expect to lighten hair 3 - 4 levels with any great certainty when using high lift dye, although many products can give up to 5 levels of lift.

Hair that is a level 5 is light brown and it will reach light blonde, whilst hair that is a level 6 is dark blonde, and it can be lightened to a platinum blonde. For anything darker, it is preferable to lighten your hair with bleach in order to achieve the best results and actually reach blonde because bleach will be a lot more reliable for the task at hand.

Essentially, to summarize the above, you can't effectively lighten hair that is previously dyed, nor should you expect more than 4 levels of lightening (at least until you know how your own hair reacts anyway). If you compare this with bleach, which isn't hindered anywhere near as much by previous dye applications and can lighten a maximum of 7 - 8 levels when working with virgin hair and high quality bleach powder, you get a good idea of the differences between the two products. Bleach is stronger and more reliable because of that strength, but it also carries a higher risk of damage.

If your hair is darker than a level 5 and you want to be blonde, you should use bleach right from the beginning. If you're a level 5 or lighter, high lift dye can be used.

How to prepare high lift dye

High lift dye is prepared a little differently to other dyes. One of the most important differences is that it is mixed with 40 vol peroxide. This is because the dye was designed to use this high strength of developer and it needs to be used for it to work properly.

Most people will notice less irritation from a high lift dye incorporating 40 vol peroxide than they will with a standard bleach powder formulation containing 20 or 30 vol developer. This is because high lift dye is not bleach, and the developer added to bleach is not the only lightener or irritating ingredient in bleach powder.

Basically, different directions exist for high lift compared to bleach because they are different and whilst you would seldom use 40 vol developer with bleach, it's not unusual to mix 40 vol with regular or high lift dyes because it's an intended use of the products.

The other main difference is that high lift color has a different ratio of dye to developer compared to a regular permanent dye. This will surprise most people who know that hair dye is generally mixed in an equal ratio of color and developer depending on brand. For high lift color however, anywhere from 1.5⁠–3 parts developer to dye ratio is common and varies with brand.

High lift dyes also remain on the hair for longer after application. It's not unusual for the dye to be left in the hair for up to an hour, whereas other hair dyes are removed anywhere between 20 - 45 minutes depending on the lift required and the color desired. High lift color needs the extra time to develop because it is expected to produce more lightening for the intended result.

How to use high lift dye

To use high lift color, mix it with 40 vol developer in a 1 to 2 ratio of high lift color to 40 vol developer unless directions for the specific brand being used say otherwise. Once prepared, the high lift color needs to be used immediately because a chemical reaction is taking place and lightening will decrease with time as this reaction runs its course.

Section your hair into quadrants by parting it from the middle of your forehead to the nape of your neck, and then again from each ear. These four sections are easy to work with and a good way to apply any hair dye or bleach. Apply the high lift color to each of the quadrants until your entire head is covered in the dye and allow the dye to process for up to 1 hour at most, depending on the lightening required and specifics of the brand being used.

Rinsing high lift dye out

After you rinse the high lift dye out, you may still need to tone your hair. It seems counter-intuitive that you would have to tone your hair after just using a hair dye, but it is often the caseespecially if used on darker hair. The fact is, high lift color is better at lightening hair than it is at depositing color into your hair. 

When you use this type of hair dye, the color that is deposited by the high lift color isn't always strong enough to tone out the underlying pigment that is revealed when you lighten dark hair. On lighter natural colors this is less of an issue and it is often possible to avoid the need for toning by tweaking the mixture with extra ash additive if available in the brand being used.

To tone your hair, use an ash toned blonde dye at a level that is slightly lighter than the level your hair has reached. The ash dye contains cool tones which will act to neutralize the warmth that appeared when you lightened your hair, and the result is a neutral tone. You can alternatively use either a semi-permanent or temporary toner, or a blonde toning shampoo for this if preferred.

If you want slightly more warmth in the final result, rinse the toner out sooner; you can remove it as soon as you're satisfied with how the color looks. Leaving it for longer will produce a result that is cooler or more ashy.

In deciding whether to use high lift color or bleach, make sure you take the history of your hair into account, as well as its current color. Both hair lightening methods have their positives and negatives, and it's a matter of finding the product that will best suit your hair. That is how you achieve hair lightening that looks good and is sufficient to give you the color you really want.

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