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Home / Blog/ How long should I leave in my bleach?
Home Blog How long should I leave in my bleach?

How long should I leave in my bleach?


The number one question we always get about bleach is:

How long should I leave the bleach on the hair?

And the number two question is:

I bleached my hair and it's still orange. Why?

We'll try to answer both these questions in this article.

What are the Hair Bleaching levels?

The first thing to understand about bleach is that as long as the mixture is moist, it will continue to lighten the hair.

And as you bleach the hair it starts to change color. When it is very dark, it will turn copper.

Then orange, then orange yellow.

Then yellow, and finally pale yellow.

This is totally normal, and is to do with the way the hair lightens when you are using bleach.

See the bleaching levels below:

Hair Bleaching Levels

Hair bleaching levels

Which bleach should I use?

It is a mistake to think that all bleaches are the same. They are not, nor do they have equal lifting power.

Many also require you to bump up the developer strength to 40 Vol to get results.

Which can be a disaster for the hair.

At Ugly Duckling, we have 2 bleaches which we would recommend.

Brilliant Blondexx Bleach with Bond Protect

Brilliant Blondexx

Brilliant Blondexx Bleach with Bond Protect

Brilliant Blondexx would be our go-tor recommendation for most cases.

It contains Bond Protect to prevent breakage, and it is comfortable sitting on the scalp thanks to its oil-enriched properties.

So you can use it as your on-scalp and off-scalp bleach, with 20 or 30 Vol developer, and get excellent lift.

Brilliant Blonde for Dark Bases

Brilliant Blonde

Brilliant Blonde Bleach - made for dark bases

If your client has exceptionally dark hair you should consider using Brilliant Blonde blue bleach.

For Asian or hispanic hair, for example, or the hair has been very heavily colored darker this would be our recommendation.

It's one of the strongest, fastest acting bleaches on the market.

Which developer strength should I use?

With Ugly Duckling bleaches, you should never need to use anything stronger than 30 Vol.

The rule is as follows:

For 1-2 levels lift, use 20 Vol developer.

For anything higher, use 30 Vol developer.

For the root area, which gets lifted relatively fast, 20 Vol is best.

And always use 20 Vol for second applications.

What mix ratio should I use?

The correct mix ratio is 1 part bleach to 2 parts developer.

That way you get a nice, runny mix, rather like gravy.

This mix will help you saturate the hair properly, and literally drench it in the bleach mixture, which is what you need to do.

Also, a runnier mix will allow you to work fast, and you need to work fast when you are using bleach.

No half-hearted poking around with the bleach brush, the way some hairdressers do it.

Those are the hairdressers who end up with results which are too warm, too yellow!

How should I apply the bleach mixture?

Always start applying at the part of the hair where it is darkest.

Very often this will be at the root or regrowth area, as in the picture below.

But in other cases (full head application on virgin hair, for example) you should start at the back of the hair.

That is where the hair is thickest. Then work your way around to the sides, where the hair is typically thinner.

Dark Regrowth

Ultra dark regrowth, white lengths.

In the above case you would apply only on the dark part and nowhere else.

Otherwise you will get breakage.

If for some reason you have overlapped some of the bleach mixture onto the white, don't worry.

Just wipe back with a wet cloth to during processing time.

In the above case, you will really need to lift and lift until the roots are equal to the lengths before attempting to rinse and tone.

Bleaching Drama

Dark regrowth, orange lengths.

In the above case, you would start on the regrowth area. But after 10 minutes you would need to extend to the lengths which orange and also need lifting.

Then, when checking you would need to re-apply until the whole hair is consistent from root to ends.

That's the whole art of bleaching.

Once you get the whole head a consistent level 10, the toning will come out very well.

Should I use Foil?

Using Foils and Heat

Using foil and indirect heat will help you speed up the lifting

Using foil is a great idea, because the foil keeps in the heat and will allow you to process the hair faster.

Using indirect heat is also good, and will do the same.

How Long Should I leave the bleach my Hair?

This is the million dollar question!

The answer is not in a fixed number of minutes.

It will depend first on how dark your hair is, and what level you are seeing right now.

In order to get hair blonde, you need to get the hair to level 10 very palest yellow, as we saw in the bleaching level chart.

If it's not at level 10, keep the bleach in and keep processing. 

How do you check whether the hair is lifting correctly?

You do this by peeling back the mixture and checking carefully.

The first check should be at 10 to 15 minutes after application.

A first check might show the hair looking like this.

If it does look like this, it means that hair has not lifted to level 10. You will need to do a fresh bleach application.

Incidentally, if you have been using foils, this is where the foil comes off.

You check, then you re-apply fresh mix straight onto the hair this time (20 Vol only, remember).

Peel Back hair

This hair is at level 8 and will need a fresh application of bleach

How do I know whether I should add in more bleach mixture?

If the hair is still at 9 or so, and it's been 15 minutes you need to keep processing it.

If the hair is darker than that at this stage (as in the picture above), you need to make a fresh mix and apply again.

Then re-check again after another 10-15 minutes.

The 30 minute rule is not a hard and fast rule.

Won't I break the hair if I bleach too long?

By all means you need to rinse if it looks like the hair is losing its elasticity.

You can check that by pulling an individual hair strand and see whether it is stretching or not.

If it is stretching, that's good. It means that it is still elastic and that the integrity of the hair has been maintained.

What does this level look like?

But shouldn't I rinse after 30 minutes and bleach again?

It all depends.

In most cases, if it's a question of 10 more minutes, and the hair is still elastic, give it 10 more minutes.

But remember, the bleach won't lift if it is dry. So do think about re-applying fresh mix.

What does level 10 hair look like?

Under-bleaching is the most common mistake that colorists make.

You need to look very carefully at the hair, and be aware that it will look one color when wet.

And another color when towel dried.

And still another when towel dried and combed.

Use your eyes as a colorist and make sure that you see the hair the same level as in the pictures below.

Level 10 hair

Level 10 hair, Dried and combed

Level 10 hair dried but not combed

Level 10 hair, dried but not combed 

I bleached my hair but it's still orange. Why?

Getting mediocre results when you bleach either means that you used a poor quality bleach with insufficient lifting power.

Which goes back to our point that all bleaches are by no means the same.

Or you used 20 Vol when you should have used 30 Vol.

Or you did not leave it on long enough - see our point about checking and assessing.

Or you did not re-apply fresh mix after checking.

Get the above points right and you should have no problem getting to that level 10 ultra pale yellow.

A level which even expert hairdressers sometimes find hard to get to!

How do I tone the hair after bleaching?

Hair toned with Blondify

Hair toned with Blondify 010V after bleaching. Hair by Elona Taki

If you have done all our recommended steps correctly, the hair should be consistently very very pale yellow after bleaching and rinsing.

In which case we would suggest you use Blondify liquid toners.

They are ammonia-free, PPD-free, so very gentle to use and perfect for the hair after what has perhaps been a very strenuous bleaching session.

They only take 10 minutes to process.

And they are easy to apply because they are liquid.

How do I choose my toner?

Use the ash blonde toner if the hair is still on the brassy side.

Use the violet blonde toner if the hair is more on the yellow side.

You can also combine the 2 toners, do get both ash blonde and violet blonde toning in one go, as some hairdressers do.

Ash Toner

Natural Ash Blonde Toner

Natural Violet Blonde Toner

Natural Violet Blonde Toner

What developer should I use with my toner?

You can use with either 10 or 20 Vol developer. The mix ratio is 1+1. 

How should I apply it?

You can mix by shaking in an applicator bottle or in a coloring bowl, as you wish.

Then just pour over the hair and rub in very vigorously, so the entire head gets into contact with the toner.

Or apply with a brush, segmenting well if you are using a coloring bowl.

How can I maintain the whiteness of my blonde hair after bleaching and toning?

Purple Mask

Brilliant Blonde Purple Mask in use at a salon.

Use Brilliant Blonde Purple Shampoo and Mask.

And use Bond Protect Shampoo and Mask to strengthen and condition blonde and bleached hair.

Bond Protect Shampoo & Mask

Bond Protect Shampoo and Mask


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.