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How To Bleach Your Hair at Home and Keep Your Blonde Bright

What to know before becoming your own colorist.
  • Leann Garofolo
March 20, 2024

Whether you’re toying with going blonde or are ready to swap your espresso mane for a trendy pastel pink, your transformation will likely require a round (or two) of hair bleach. You may think visiting a colorist is the only way to achieve the shade pinned to your vision board, but that’s far from the only option nowadays. Innovations in at-home bleaching products have also made it possible to give you salon-worthy results while upholding the integrity of your hair. Knowing the proper way to do it, though, can make all the difference.

Ahead, our step-by-step guide will teach you how to bleach your hair using our best hair bleach kits. We’ll also provide recommendations on which aftercare products you should keep on hand to keep your lightened hair bright and healthy-looking. Keep scrolling for the low-down on your future high-lift.

What You Need To Know Before Bleaching Your Hair

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Before committing to a new hue, it’s important to take stock of how bleach can impact your strands. Consider these factors before slipping on your bleaching gloves and getting to work.

It can be damaging

Hair bleach–whether applied in the salon or at home—always risks damaging your hair. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the chemicals involved in the bleaching process can strip the protective fibers and oils from the hair. When this happens, hair becomes weaker, thinner, and more vulnerable to dryness and damage.

Understanding how to bleach your hair properly, picking the right products, and curating a reparative haircare routine can all help lessen the negative effects. With that said, if your hair is already showing severe signs of damage, you may want to table your hair color dreams until your locks can better withstand a round of bleach.

You’ll need patience

Bleaching your hair can be a time-consuming process, so patience is key. Achieving your desired hue could take multiple sessions, depending on how dark your starting color is. If you want to make a seriously drastic change—like bleaching dark brown hair to platinum blonde—you may want to let a professional colorist handle the transformation. Lightening your hair by that many levels often takes a lot of work and skill to get just right.

You should forego other styling services

It’s best not to dye your hair or undergo any kind of straightening or perming treatment for at least two weeks before bleaching your hair at home. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends only one chemical process at a time (color, relaxer, or perm) to help prevent excess damage.

A week before bleaching, it’s also a good idea to limit your hot tool usage. If you do need to use heat, follow AAD’s recommended guidelines of turning them to their lowest setting (and never skipping the heat protectant, of course). Minimizing your hair’s exposure to stressors can help ensure your strands are strong enough to come out of the bleaching process with minimal damage.

Dirty hair works best

Bleaching clean and unwashed hair yields the same color results, but many stylists recommend the latter for those with sensitive skin. Applying bleach to unwashed hair allows your scalp’s natural oils to build up over a few days. This natural lubrication may act as a protective barrier between your scalp and the bleach, reducing potential irritation. When you’re about two or three days out from the day you’re going to bleach your hair at home, skip the washes and let your scalp oils do their thing.

What You Need To Bleach Your Hair at Home

Once you have your inspo photos on deck and a clear space to work in, gather up all your products. This is what you’ll need:

  • A bleaching kit
  • An old T-shirt
  • A towel
  • Hair clips
  • Hair gloss or toner
  • Color-safe shampoo and conditioner

How To Bleach Your Hair

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Now that you’re more aware of what your hair transformation will require, you can dive into the actual process of bleaching your hair. Allot yourself more time than you think you’ll need to complete the entire routine so you don’t feel rushed. Here’s our full how-to.

Step 1: Prep your area

If possible, bleach your hair in a well-lit and well-ventilated area. To avoid staining, cover exposed surfaces with old towels or newspapers. It’s also a good idea to wear an old shirt that’s no longer in your wardrobe rotation. Or, drape a towel over your shoulders to protect your clothing.

Step 2: Grab your hair bleach kit

Opting for a hair bleach kit can simplify the bleaching process, especially if you’re a novice. Kits usually include the exact formula you need so that there’s less room for error than there would be when DIYing your lightener. Kits also typically provide you with the necessary tools, like a plastic bowl, an application brush, and latex gloves—but read the box carefully to make sure. Speaking of which, follow the label included since instructions can vary among products.

If you’re bleaching brown hair that’s on the darker side, consider using the L’Oréal Paris Feria Hyper Platinum Advanced Lightening System Bleach. This kit, which is available in five shades, allows you to lighten your hair up to eight levels in a single application. It also includes a purple conditioner to help keep brassy undertones at bay. Anyone with dark blonde, light brown, and medium brown hair can opt for L’Oréal Paris Colorista Hair Bleach & Lightener At Home Kit. It’s specifically designed to give you a gorgeous all-over bleached, ombré, or highlighted look.

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Step 3: Mix your lightener and developer

Follow the instructions from your chosen hair bleach and combine the pre-portioned lightener and developer in a bowl. Remember always to wear gloves when handling these formulas.

Step 4: Section your hair and apply bleach

Use your hair clips to divide your dry, unwashed hair into four manageable sections. Brush your bleach mixture evenly over each section of hair, starting about one inch down from your roots. This placement is key since your roots tend to process more quickly from your body heat. Once you evenly saturate every section of hair with bleach, sweep it onto your roots last.

Step 5: Let your bleach sit

Knowing how long to leave bleach in your hair is important, as overprocessing can result in extensive damage. However, processing time isn’t one-size-fits-all: some formulas may work faster (or slower) than others. Be sure to reference your kit’s instruction label for specific directions and set a timer so you know when your window is up.

Step 6: Wash your bleach out

Slip on your protective gloves and thoroughly shampoo your hair with lukewarm water to remove every last trace of bleach. Most kits come with an extra nourishing conditioner, but you can also reach for a product like the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Bond Strengthening Conditioner. Pair it with the corresponding shampoo; together, the fortifying line can help strengthen hair from the inside out—perfect for repairing bleached locks.

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Step 7: Tone your hair

Bleaching lightens your hair, but it probably won’t give you the final look you’re after. This is where a hair gloss or color-correcting toner comes in. These products neutralize unwanted brassy tones in your hair color for a more customized and dimensional look. One of our top ways to cool down warm-toned bleached hair is with L’Oréal Paris Feria Power Demi-Permanent Anti Brass Toner in Pearl Blonde or Ice Blonde. These demi-permanent formulas help balance red or orange pigments in your hair for a cooler-leaning blonde. Check out our article Hair Toner 101: Everything You Should Know About Toning Your Hair for a more in-depth look at toners and which one to choose.

If bleach is just a pit stop on your way to a more vibrant shade, now may be the time to apply your color. Temporary, semi-, and demi-permanent dyes are typically fine to use post-bleaching. However, if you plan to apply permanent dye to your bleached hair, it’s best to wait a few days or weeks to give your strands time to recover.

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How Long Should You Leave Bleach in Your Hair?

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A few factors can influence how long you should leave bleach in your hair, including your hair type, the color you want to achieve, and the formula used.

In general, healthy virgin hair tends to lighten more quickly since it hasn’t undergone any chemical processing. First-timers should be especially cautious about letting bleach sit for longer than necessary. The same goes for fine hair types, as fine strands lift faster than thick or coarse ones.

Other key factors to consider are your desired level of lightness and your base color. Subtle changes don’t require as much processing time as dramatic lightening transformations would. This is especially true if you’re starting with a dark brown to black base.

Last but not least, the type of developer (hydrogen peroxide that aids in the bleaching process) you use can influence how long bleach should remain on your hair. Developer is available in different volumes; lower volumes typically require a longer time to work their magic, and vice versa for higher volumes. Be sure to read (and re-read) the instructions on the box for a more accurate look at how long to leave your lightener on.

Can You Bleach Wet Hair?

Bleaching wet hair isn’t effective for major color changes. You’ll want to follow the instructions of a hair bleach kit as precisely as possible, and they generally advise applying bleach to dry hair. Water on your hair will dilute the bleach, too, resulting in a more subtle color change. This is beneficial for those who only want to lift their color a few levels, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea. Wet hair is more fragile than dry hair (meaning there is more room for damage). When in doubt, leave bleaching wet hair to the pros.

How To Care for Bleached Hair

Once you’ve safely bleached your hair at home, preserve your new hair color by adapting your haircare routine to suit your boxed hue.

Use color-safe products

Color-safe shampoos and conditioners are essential in extending the life of your bleached hair color. We’re partial to the EverPure Sulfate-Free Moisturizing Shampoo and EverPure Sulfate-Free Moisture Conditioner from L’Oréal Paris. The duo deeply replenishes dry hair with twice as much moisture, is gentle on color-treated strands, and keeps color pure for up to four weeks.

You can also swap purple shampoo into your routine whenever you notice brassy tones emerging. Reach for the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Brass Toning Purple Shampoo to neutralize unwanted yellow or orange pigments and make your lightened color appear brighter.

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Dial back the heat

Bleached hair is more fragile than non-bleached hair, and heat can further weaken your strands. Try to cut down on hot tools and opt for heatless styles as much as possible. Even lowering the temperature of your shower water can help save your hair from damage and color fading.

When breaking out your blow dryer is unavoidable, always prep your hair with a good heat protectant. Your mane is in good hands with the L’Oréal Paris EverPure Sulfate-Free Weightless Blow Dry Primer, Heat Protectant. This nourishing treatment protects hair against temperatures up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and offers up to 48 hours of frizz control.

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Treat your hair to a mask

A deep conditioning mask can target common signs of bleach-induced hair damage like dryness, split ends, and breakage. Plus, many of these treatments aim to strengthen hair and shield it from future damage. Try L’Oréal Paris Elvive Total Repair 5 Power Restore Multi-Use Treatment. The protein-infused formula helps strengthen damaged hair, leaving it looking and feeling silky.

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Add a hair gloss to your routine

Restore any lost shine and vibrancy with a glossing treatment. The L’Oréal Paris Le Color Gloss One Step In-Shower Toning Gloss is one of our favorites. This deep conditioning treatment instantly boosts color and shine—no gloves or mixing necessary. Use it once a week to enhance your tone or when your color-treated hair starts to fade. It’ll also leave your hair with an enviable, glass-like reflection. Take your pick from 15 shades, including a clear option that works on every hair hue.

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