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Hair bleaching questions

No hair colouring product accrues quite as many questions as bleach, and there are a few common misconceptions regarding the use of the product. These 5 questions explore the many misconceptions of hair bleach, and will better explain how it should be used.

1. Can you dye your hair with bleach?

One of the most common questions about hair bleach is whether you can dye your hair with bleach. It's usually when people dye their hair blonde that they may fail to realise that hair needs to be toned after bleaching.

The key element behind dyeing your hair, is that you're adding colour to it. Bleach doesn't add colour; it only lightens existing colour. This means that you can't technically dye your hair with bleach, but it's still a useful product for reaching a new shade in conjunction with actual dye.

Dyeing hair blonde is a good example of the way bleach should be used. After lightening, you still need to apply a blonde hair dye to produce a real colour by neutralising the bright yellow tone that results from lightening. As another example, if you bleach your hair from black to brown, you end up with orange or red hair depending on how much pigment is left. The hair is at the brown level and it will turn brown after you dye it with an ash dye to neutralise the warmth, but it won't look brown from bleaching alone.

Bleach removes colour, but it cannot add colour. When you use it to dye your hair, you need to bleach and tone as two separate steps for the best results.

2. Can you dye your hair without bleaching?

Similarly, a lot of people ask whether they can dye their hair without bleaching it. This question is most often asked when people dye their hair lighter. The simple answer is yes, but there are a few rules regarding this.

As long as you have hair that has either never been dyed, or any dye has completely grown out of your hair, you can lighten your hair with dye. However, you can only lighten your hair 1 - 3 levels with most dyes. High lift dyes add up to one additional level. If you need to go any lighter than 3 - 4 levels however, you should bleach your hair first and then dye it.

Also, if your hair has already been dyed in the past and the dye hasn't grown out of your hair, you should avoid attempting to lighten it further; especially if you have applied many layers of dark dyes. Dye can't remove dye. For that, you'll need either colour remover or bleach. The artificial pigment of a previous dye job isn't susceptible to lightening through the use of another dye, although any remaining natural pigment can still be lifted to some extent.

3. Can you bleach your hair with regular bleach?

As shocking as it may seem, this question is somewhat common. Many people don't realise that there is a significant chemical difference between hair bleach and household bleach. The word bleach is used to describe both, and sometimes people fall into the trap of thinking they are equivalent products. This is not the case however.

You shouldn't ever use household bleach on any part of your body. Household bleach is chlorine bleach; a chemical that is completely different to hair bleach. It also usually contains a high concentration of sodium hydroxide, which is itself caustic and dangerous. If you use chlorine bleach on your body, you risk chemical burns, blindness, and other injuries. On top of that, it won't even bleach your hair properly.

Real hair bleach contains peroxide compounds that release oxygen, and this is what bleaches your hair in combination with ammonia. Peroxide even breaks down into harmless water and oxygen when it decomposes, whilst household bleach releases toxic chlorine gas. Hair bleach and chlorine bleach are completely different products. Please don't bleach hair with Clorox or any other household bleach product.


4. Is dyeing black hair without bleach possible?

It certainly is possible to dye your hair from black to a lighter colour without bleach, but this is only possible if you have virgin hair that hasn't been dyed, or any dye has grown out. Hair that has been dyed black can't usually be lightened sufficiently without bleach.

You also can't achieve a blonde hair color on black hair without using bleach, regardless of whether you have virgin hair or not. Hair dye simply can't lift enough colour out of your hair to lighten it to that extent. At the most, expect shades of brown; possibly light brown if you use a high lift dye. Anything else is beyond the capabilities of hair dye and bleach will be necessary.

5. Will bleach destroy hair?

Bleach doesn't necessarily destroy hair. Used appropriately, on hair that is in good condition and the right hair type, bleach causes very little damage. The hair bleach horror stories you hear about are almost always a case of product misuse and overuse rather than a common event.

The greatest problem here is that many people apply bleach to hair that they've already dyed or lightened several times. In this case, the hair is fragile and over processed; it's severely weakened and can't stand up to more chemical process. Applying bleach to hair like this is a misuse of the product.

Many people also simply use it too much. They bleach their hair several times; often even several times in one day. Your hair should never be bleached more than once in any one-week period. Bleach dries the hair and your hair needs time to regain moisture balance after the process. If you apply more bleach to hair that is dried out, potential damage is significantly multiplied. You end up really damaging your hair, whilst if you just allowed your hair to rest, it would still feel and look healthy.

Finally, many people mix bleach improperly. A high quality salon bleach should always be used, because they cause less damage and lighten the hair more effectively. However, even with the best bleach powder you will need to use the appropriate volume of developer. Using a developer that is too concentrated for your hair or the bleach powder being used will cause significant damage. You can avoid this by using a gentler formula. Often, the strongest formula isn't always going to be the most effective or the best choice for the job.

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Have another question about hair bleach? Wondering how best to use it for your particular hair type, how to mix it, or have you heard something strange and wondering if it's true? Leave a comment below.

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