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How to bleach hair white

White hair is an illusive and rare colour. Not only is it difficult to achieve, but it also requires a high level of maintenance to keep it looking perfect. If you want to achieve white hair, you will need to be familiar with bleach and comfortable with using it.

You will also need to understand how toning works. So, if you're keen for a challenge and yearning for snow white hair, continue reading to find out how to bleach hair white and get this illusive hair colour.

Pre-lightening your hair

To dye hair white, your need to ensure that your hair is light enough first. Very few people have hair that is naturally light enough to simply apply a dye and end up with a white result. If you're like most people, this means you will need to use bleach to pre-lighten your hair to the point that it is light enough to be toned.

Pale yellow is the colour that needs to be achieved with lightening, and your hair must be the colour of banana flesh to be toned properly. Anything darker can be toned to silver or a greyish ash blonde shade, but can't be toned to white. To put this into perspective, your hair needs to be lightened to the point that is close to a level 10.

When bleaching your hair, there is a maximum amount of processing that your hair can take, depending on how coarse, thick, and strong your hair is. This varies greatly between people, but a simple rule of thumb is that medium to coarse virgin hair will usually stand up to two bleach processes without showing signs of damage.

After this point, the condition of your hair will begin to degrade with each subsequent bleaching, but exactly how much bleach your hair can handle will depend greatly on its individual characteristics. Some people can have their hair bleached multiple times and it still looks and feels healthy. This is a process where you really need to pay attention to how your own hair reacts to the bleach.

If your hair is finer in texture, previously dyed, has already been bleached in the past, or is already damaged, this doesn't mean you can't bleach your hair again either, but you do need to be particularly careful with this. Pay attention to your hair and your hair will remain healthy and strong.


Preparing bleach

To dye your hair white, you need to lighten it properly, and this shouldn't be done with just any bleach. A high quality bleach powder is a requirement. These bleach powders lighten more effectively, cause less damage, and work much more quickly:
  • Indola Rapid Blonde
  • Schwarzkopf Igora Vario
  • Schwarzkopf BlondeMe
  • Loreal Infinie Platine
  • Loreal Platinum Plus
  • Wella Multi Blonde
When you prepare one of these bleach powders, you also have to do so differently to cheaper bleach products. These powders contain ingredients like boosters and lightening enhancers that influence the reaction. The volume and ratio of developer you use will need to be adjusted as directed by the manufacturer.

As an example, Loreal Infinie Platine requires a 1:3 ratio of powder to developer, compared to the usual ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. Salon bleach like this should usually only be used with 20 vol developer as it will lighten just as effectively with 20 vol as a cheaper bleach will with 30 - 40 vol. Using a higher volume of developer with these powders should be avoided to prevent scalp irritation and excess damage. Follow the correct mixing ratio and maximum on-scalp developer volume for your particular bleach powder or you can harm your hair or scalp.

Applying bleach

After you've mixed up your bleach, you need to divide your hair into sections. This can be done in a variety of ways, but it is generally easiest for most people to divide the hair into four equal sections.

To do this, part your hair down the middle from the front of your head to the back, then once more from ear to ear to give four quadrant sections which must be clipped up. Once your hair is sectioned, you can begin working on it one section at a time by applying bleach to thin layers of hair from the top of the section.

If your hair is darker, it is a good idea to not apply to the roots immediately or else they will end up lighter than the rest of your hair due to the warmth of your scalp. If this will be an issue, apply bleach to the roots 15 minutes into the application to produce an equal and even result.

After you've completely applied bleach to one section, you simply need to move through each of the other sections until your hair is covered fully. The quicker you do this, the more even the colour result will be. In learning how to bleach hair white, this is a key factor in the tutorial. An even bleaching gives the best result.


Processing bleach

The bleach needs to be left to process until your hair is pale yellow. If you take it off any sooner while it's still a darker yellow, you can't achieve white hair. The colour you are left with can be effectively toned to a nice shade of blonde, but it will not be white, regardless of what dye you apply.

Depending on what brand of bleach you're using, your bleach can remain active anywhere from 40 minutes to 55 minutes. After it reaches the maximum development time, it needs to be removed. If your hair is not pale yellow at this stage, you will need to rest your hair for a week or two and then bleach it again, but you can't leave the bleach in any longer.

The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, the majority of the reaction has already occurred, meaning any more lightening that occurs afterwards will take exponentially longer to occur. Secondly, your hair is under damaging alkaline conditions during this time, and exposing it to these conditions for this minimal lightening will just result in unwanted damage without enough gained.

Rinse out your bleach, shampoo, apply a protein treatment like Redken Cat Treatment, and then apply a good pH correcting conditioner to restore moisture to your hair. You can also apply a leave-in conditioner to speed up the recovery of the natural moisture balance of your hair, and seal all that moisture into your hair with a hair serum. If your hair needs to be lightened again, you will now need to rest it for at least a week before you do this

Toning hair to white

Toning your hair is the second step required in this tutorial of how to bleach hair white. You can't proceed with this step unless your hair is pale yellow (nearly level 10). If your hair isn't at this stage yet, it needs to be lightened further or it can't be toned to white.

If your hair is indeed pale yellow, congratulations, the most difficult part is already over. To finish the colour, you now need to apply a pale violet shade of dye to counteract this residual pale yellow pigment in your hair. Doing so will give you a white result.

This can be done with several different brands and shades of dyes, and you also have a choice between semi-permanent or demi-permanent dye. A semi-permanent dye causes no further damage and is easier to remove if you end up over-toning your hair, but this also means it washes out quicker. A demi-permanent is gentle but still very mildly damaging because it partially oxidises. The benefit of using one is that it will last longer. You can also use a permanent dye.

Some of the dyes you could use to finish the colour include:
  • I.Color 10SA (Permanent)
  • Indola P.01 or P.1 (Demi)
  • Igora Royal 9.5-1 (Permanent)
  • Igora Mousse 9.5-1 (Semi)
  • Wella Koleston 10/6, 10/8, or 10/1 (Permanent)
  • Wella Color Touch 10/6 (Demi)
Any of these dyes will give you a white result on pale yellow hair. The key here is to apply the dye, very quickly, then allow it to develop until your hair reaches a silvery white shade. Rinse it out immediately. If you let it develop longer than this, you will end up with an ashier colour than you actually want. Should you accidentally tone it for too long, let it fade with washing and it will gradually turn white as the ash softens.

Once this is done, your hair is now white, but it won't stay this way. White hair is difficult to maintain because it's a very exact shade. After every shampoo, you will need to tone it to counteract the colour loss that occurs during washing. Luckily, when your hair is this light, a violet shampoo can keep it looking white without having to use dye again. If anything, you may find you have to dilute your violet shampoo down a little to avoid over-toning.

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