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How Long Are You Supposed to Leave Bleach on Your Hair?

Hair Color Application

How Long Are You Supposed to Leave Bleach on Your Hair? How Long Are You Supposed to Leave Bleach on Your Hair? How Long Are You Supposed to Leave Bleach on Your Hair?

When it comes to hair coloring, you likely know how to use permanent and temporary hair colors. But are you familiar with the rules of bleaching your strands? If you’ve ever wondered how long to leave bleach in hair, you’ve come to the right place. As it turns out, there are quite a few factors that go into putting this hair lightening product to use, and we’re here to share the details. Below, find out how long to leave bleach on your hair—and what happens if you exceed the recommended time.


Let’s cut to the chase—how long should you leave bleach in your hair? We hate to break it to you, but there’s no one-size-fits-all rule on the amount of time you should leave bleach on. As a general rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to follow the instructions included with the hair bleaching kit you’re using. Be sure not to leave it on for longer than recommended!

There are various factors that can impact how you bleach your hair. Keep all of the following in mind if you’re determining how long to leave bleach in your hair.

Factor #1: Hair type. Different hair types, such as virgin hair, tend to lighten quicker than others. First-timers will want to be especially careful not to leave bleach on for too long!

Factor #2: Starting color. What hair color are you starting with? If you’re starting with dark brown or black strands, you’ll likely need to leave bleach on your hair for longer in order to achieve the lightness you crave. If you’re starting with hair that’s already been previously bleached or is already light in color, chances are the bleach won’t have to sit on your strands for quite as long.  

Factor #3: Desired color. Of course, your hair color goals play a role in how long you should leave bleach on your hair. If you only want a subtle change, the amount of time necessary will be much less than if you’re looking to make a dramatic change like going platinum blonde. To clarify, the longer you leave bleach on your hair, the more your natural hair color will lift, and the lighter your strands will become.

Factor #4: Type of developer. If you’re using an at-home bleaching kit, you can easily follow the instructions on the box, which will break down how long to leave bleach on. If your hair is being done at a salon, your colorist will mix bleach and developer. How long the bleach sits on your hair will be impacted by the type of developer they use. Developer comes in different volumes, and typically a lower volume developer will require leaving the bleach mixture on for longer.


So, how do you know when you should go ahead and wash the bleach out? Set timers and periodically look at your hair as it’s lifting to see how it’s lightening and whether it needs more time. Don’t just let your hair go and come back after 30 minutes!

Another option is to do a test strand before you bleach your whole head. This way, you can get an idea of how your hair handles bleaching and how long it takes to lighten without experimenting with your whole head of hair. Apply bleach to a hidden strand from the underneath layer of your hair and time how long it takes to lighten.  


With all these details on how long to leave bleach on hair, you may be wondering if it’s possible to leave bleach in your hair for too long. The short answer—yes! Leaving bleach on your strands for more than the recommended time can lead to less than desirable results. Speaking of…


Like we said, leaving bleach on your hair for too long can lead to unwanted results. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Your hair can become damaged. First and foremost, leaving bleach on your strands for too long can result in damaged hair. Yikes! This is why it’s extremely important to follow the directions on pack, as well as wait at least 14 days between bleaching sessions.

2. Your hair can become too light. Like we mentioned, the longer you leave bleach on your hair, the lighter it will become. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s an important factor to keep in mind. If your hair inspo is on the subtle side of things, you can end up with much lighter strands that you planned for!

3. Your hair can become orange. Particularly when starting with a darker hair color, leaving bleach on your strands for too long can result in orange hair. No thanks! Too late? Don’t worry. Check out our article, What Color Can You Use to Cover Orange Hair?, for your hair color fix.

4. The bleach may stop working. If you never wash bleach out of your hair, would your hair just continue to get lighter and lighter until it became invisible? Not quite. In actuality, bleach stops working after a certain period of time. Generally, once the bleach starts to dry, it stops processing your hair, and your strands won’t get any lighter from that point on. So, don’t assume that leaving bleach on longer than recommended will get you to that white-blonde shade you’re dreaming of!

Next: How to Take Care of Bleach Damaged Hair