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Home Blog How to Bleach Hair: The 13 Steps to Blonde Success - With Pictures & Detailed Explanations

How to Bleach Hair: The 13 Steps to Blonde Success - With Pictures & Detailed Explanations


1. How Hair Bleach Works

Bleach is the most effective way of lightening hair & it's widely used in salons.  When you bleach hair, the combination of bleach and developer reacts with the melanin inside the hair cortex, removing its natural color through an irreversible chemical reaction. 

As you bleach, and as the natural melanin of the hair gets lifted out, only the secondary pigment is left.

This secondary pigment passes through various stages, depending on your starting point. These are known as bleaching levels. Typically what you see when you bleach hair is that the hair progressively turns red, then orange, then orange-yellow, then yellow, and finally very very pale lemon yellow level 10.

Hair Bleaching Levels

Hair Bleaching Levels

One of the unique things about bleach (and the reason why thee are stylists who aren't comfortable working with it) is that as long as it is moist, it's active and will keep on lifting and lightening. 

But get everything right (and we will cover those things in this tutorial) you can get excellent lightening and lifting. And you can transform your client's hair from whatever color it is right now to the most beautiful blonde results of your choice - platinum, silver, white, silver grey etc. You can also do beautiful fashion coloring - blue, violet, fuchsia pink etc. 

But you need to get the bleaching right first!

2. What is my Client's Hair Level?

First you need to determine what color your client's hair is right now.

Use the chart above or the one below to determine your client's hair color level right now.

The one above will be more relevant if the hair has already been bleached. The one below will be more relevant if it is natural hair or previously colored hair. 

Hair Color Levels

3. How do I know how many levels I need to lift by?

First, determine your target color.

Normally, if your client is looking to go blonde, ash blonde, platinum blonde, silver grey etc, then your target level is 10.

Most clients with North European hair looking to go blonde will expect to get their hair taken to level 10 and you as a stylist would need to cater to this.

If your client is only looking to go medium blonde, and she is coming from a dark base, then you can aim for level 9.

If she is only looking to go light brown, then level 8 is acceptable.

Now subtract the target color from the current color - and you get the number of levels that you need to lift by.

Be aware that customers may have different hair color levels going on in their hair at the same time.

Look, for example at the client below. What level would you say her hair is?

It's level 6/7 at the root area.

It's level 8/9 at the mid-lengths.

And it's level 10 on the ends.

So clearly, in this case you would need to apply bleach to the root area and also extend to the mid-length area, but you should not apply bleach to her ends.

Which is what we did (see the 3 pictures below).

Our client - before bleaching

What is the level of this hair?

Our client - during bleaching

Our client - during bleaching

Our client - after bleaching & coloring with Ugly Duckling 10.1b

After bleaching & coloring

4. Which Bleach Should I use?

It's important to use a quality bleach which has effective lift and which is gentle. This enabling you to get good results even working with a low developer strength.

Ugly Duckling Bleaches

Use our blue-based bleach Brilliant Blonde if you have very very dark, resistant-to-bleaching Asian hair.

It is recommended for off-scalp use. It is one of the strongest and most effective bleaches on the market. It lifts by up to 8 levels.

For all other customers, we would recommend our white Brilliant Blondexx. It has Bond Protect built in and is safe and incredibly gentle.

It lifts by up to 7 levels.

It can be used on-scalp and off-scalp.

5. Which Strength of Developer?

Use 20 Vol developer for 1-2 levels lift and for the near-root area.

Use 30 Vol developer for 3 levels lift and more.

6. How should I prepare my Bleach mix?

Our recommended mix is 1 part bleach to 2 parts developer. It is important that the bleach mix should be fairly moist.

This will enable good product saturation on the hair.

Also, it will enable you to work fast, which is important with bleach, so that you can give most of the hair as equal a processing time as possible.

7. How do I apply the bleach?

If it's a re-growth application ( as in the picture above) then of course you apply on the regrowth area only and rinse when lifted.

If it's a full head bleach application, always start on the part which needs it the most. Generally this will be at the back. Then work your way around.

In both cases, you need to segment the hair finely so that you are rally saturating the hair very very well with product.

Don't be nervous, envelop the hair with your mixture.

There is no way you are going to get the hair all the way to level 8 or 9 or 10 until it really comes into contact with the bleach mixture.

8. How should I know whether or not to do a second application of bleach?

Check the hair as it is lifting by peeling back some of the mixture, If necessary take a few strands in your fingers and rub as the stylist is doing here.

Be aware that with the mixture still on the hair it sometimes look whiter than it actually is.

Checking hair levels

10. How long should I leave the bleach in the hair?

It needs to get as close to level 10 as you can make it. See below for how the hair should look after rinsing. This is level 10.

Bleached Hair after Rinsing

11. Are there any products I should put in after washing at the back wash?

Yes there are. We would recommend a very thorough application of Ugly Duckling Brilliant Blonde purple mask.

This will help get rid of any traces of incremental yellow left.

See picture below for a shot of Ugly Duckling's purple mask being applied.

Purple Mask at the back wash

12. How do I tone hair after bleaching?

Tone the hair with any of Ugly Duckling's toners.

Use intense pearl blonde or intense silver blonde if there is still some yellow left and you want to push the hair to level 10 white blonde.

Use no-lift pearl blonde or no-lift silver blonde if the hair is already very light. Also if this is a repeat application on the hair and no further lift is required.

You can also use silver greyextra cold ash blonde 10.1 or extra cold violet based blonde 10.2

All Ugly Duckling toners are very intensely pigmented and should give you excellent results.

13. How do I look after & maintain bleached hair?

Use Ugly Duckling's Purple Shampoo & Mask at least once a week to maintain the reflect and fight yellow.

Use Ugly Duckling's Brilliant Blondexx Shampoo and Mask with Bond Protect to strengthen and condition bleached or fragile hair.

About the author

Sally has been a hair colorist and trainer for many years in both the US & Europe. She currently does hair color training for Ugly Duckling. She also helps develop new & awesome products for the brand.