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Home / Blog/ What Ratio of Bleach to Developer Should I Use? Which Developer Strength? Get Your Bleaching Right - the EASY way.
Home Blog What Ratio of Bleach to Developer Should I Use? Which Developer Strength? Get Your Bleaching Right - the EASY way.
Hair that has been correctly lifted with bleach

What Ratio of Bleach to Developer Should I Use? Which Developer Strength? Get Your Bleaching Right - the EASY way.


Bullet-Point Summary: Get your Bleaching Right - EASY, FOOL-PROOF CHECKLIST

  • Use a good quality bleach, and get ready your 20 or 30 Vol developer.
  • Use 20 Vol when you need to lift by 1-2 levels.
  • Use 30 Vol when you need to lift by 3 levels or more.
  • Use 2 parts of developer to 1 part of bleach. 
  • Mix in a non-metallic bowl until you get a smooth, nice paste.
  • Apply on dry, unwashed hair.
  • Always lift to a very pale yellow (see the picture above and also level 10 in the chart below).
  • If there is orange in the hair after bleaching, it just means you did not bleach enough. You will need to rinse and do it again. 
  • To get an even consistent result from roots to ends, always apply bleach first to the parts that are the brassiest so that they get more processing time.
  • For full head bleaching, do the roots last. They always process faster.
  • If you have a dark regrowth to lift and blonde ends, only apply bleach to the regrowth area and lift that part up.
  • Then rinse and you will be ready to tone.


How long to bleach hair - stages of bleaching hair


Hair by Elona Taki

1. Which Bleach Should I Use?

A good quality lightener which will lift quickly and efficiently without breaking or damaging is really essential. 

Ugly Duckling bleaches are very safe and have excellent lifting properties.

If you are looking to do near-scalp bleaching, or if your client's is excessively fine and fragile and prone to breakage, use Brilliant Blondexx lightener with Bond Protect.

Thanks to the Bond Protect technology, its protects your hair from breakage as you lift it.

It is also gentle enough to use on the near-root area and near scalp bleaching with minimal scalp irritation.

Brilliant Blondexx lifts 7 levels without requiring excessively strong developers. 

20 or 30 Vol developer is the most you will ever need.

Bond Protect Lightener - best scalp bleach

Brilliant Blondexx Bleach with Bond Protect


2. What do I need apart from bleach?

In addition to your bleach you will also need:

  • a developer - 20 or 30 Volume, sometimes both 
  • a hair toner
  • Purple shampoo and mask for afterwards (optional)

You will also need application tools, including rubber gloves, a couple of brushes and bowls, a kitchen weighing scale, and a timer.

3. What Developer Should I Use with Bleach?

If you are aiming to lift by 1-2 levels, you need 20 Vol developer.

If you are aiming  to lift by 3 levels and more, you need 30 Vol developer.

If you are working with very dark hair, then you may need to do a first application with 30 Vol developer and then make a second application using 20 Vol developer. Just make a fresh mix and reapply on the bleached hair while it is processing - no need to rinse and then bleach.

For the root area it should be 20 Vol developer only. It processes fast due to the heat from the scalp.

We do not recommend that you ever "bump up the Volume" and use 40 Volume with our bleaches. It is not necessary when you use Ugly Duckling bleaches, which are fairly powerful and lift well.

Use the level guide underneath to assess how much bleaching is necessary in your case & which developer you are going to need.

If you are trying to get to ash or platinum blonde, you must lift all the way up to level 10. 

Hair Coloring Levels

Hair Color Levels

4. What is the Correct Bleach to Developer Ratio? 

The recommended bleach to developer ratio is 1 part Bleach to 2 parts developer.

This will give you a fairly runny mix which will be easy and quick to apply.

Our recommended "fairly runny" mix will make it easier to cover all the hair evenly, thus avoiding patchy results.
It will also allow you to work fast. This also means you have longer to work before the mixture turns dry.

The only time you will need a thicker mixture which won't drip is when you are doing a balayage (free painting of highlights) or when you have a small area - for example a dark regrowth which you want to focus on.

If a thicker mix is preferred, 1 part lightener to 1 part developer is good.

5. How do I Mix the Bleach With the Developer?

Use the scoop provided in your Ugly Duckling bleach to measure out the bleach. Then you can use the same scoop to measure out your developer.
Later, when you are more experienced, you can do it by sight.

Mix the bleach with your color brush until it forms a smooth consistency (similar to gravy).
Do this in a plastic mixing bowl. Add the developer to the powder bleach a little at a time, stirring as you do.

Brilliant Blondexx Bleach Mix

What a bleach mix should look like - runny, but not too runny.

5. How Should I Apply the Bleach on the Hair?

Hair bleach is just like hair color. It is best applied on dry, unwashed hair.
Unwashed hair contains natural hair oils & this helps protects the hair during the bleaching process.
Before bleaching, just brush the hair so that you can then section & apply easily.

When applying, make fine segments using a tailcomb. Apply segment by segment and keep moving around.

Always start in the areas where the hair is thickest or darkest. Hair at the back is generally the slowest to bleach.

6. How Long Should I Leave the Bleach on the Hair?

Video Tutorial - How Long Should you leave bleach on the hair?

If your client's hair is blonde (level 7 and higher) aim at between 15-20 minutes using 20 Vol developer.
If your client's hair is dark blonde/light brown (level 5-6), aim at around 30 minutes using 30 Vol developer.
If your client's hair is brown/dark brown (level 4-5), aim at around around 30-40 minutes using 30 Vol developer with fresh mix added in during processing time.

The above indications apply to Ugly Duckling bleaches only. Not all bleaches have the same lifting property.

More important than the time is the target color that you are aiming for.

You need to keep watching and rinse only when the hair has been sufficiently lifted.

Remember, in most cases you need to try & achieve a very pale yellow - level 9 or 10. See pictures below for what level 9 and 10 look like.

You need to check that the hair is lifting every 10 minutes. 
If there are parts which are drying out and still not lifted to very pale yellow, make some more fresh mix and just add it in.


Bleaching hair


Correctly Bleached Hair


Hair Color After Bleaching

7. How do I an application of bleach on the root area?

Generally speaking, virgin regrowth near the root will process and lift fairly quickly due to the heat of the scalp.
20 Vol developer is what you need for the regrowth area near the scalp. Never use anything stronger there unless you have some color removal you need to do.

If your client's ends are perfectly light and only your regrowth is dark, then you only need to apply bleach on the regrowth area.
How long you leave it in will once again depend on how quickly that part takes to get to level 9/10.

Brilliant Blondexx is a great lightener to use for a near root application - it's more comfortable & we do strongly recommend it for near root applications.
Note that you don't actually need to deposit the bleach mixture on the scalp: we recommend you stay 1/8 inch away from the root area.
The mixture will travel up, and the heat from the scalp will take care of the rest.
Section the hair finely when you apply your color, using a "pasting" motion with the brush.
Then flick over a new section with your tail-comb and continue in this way.
The finer and more consistent your sections, the better a lifting result you will get.

Near Root Application of Bleach

Near Root application with Brilliant Blondexx Bleach

Bleach Processing on Scalp

Brilliant Blondexx Bleach processing for 35 min near the root.

8. How do I do a full head bleach?

If your client's entire head is dark, or brassy you will need to do a full head application 

Section the hair into 4 large sections with sectioning clips.
Then unclip one section and create mini half-inch sections using your tail comb.
Start applying bleach in the back of the head where the hair is usually darkest and thickest, working your way round to the front sections, in half-inch sections.

Work fast so that that you can give the whole head an equal amount of processing time.

Keep the root area to the last unless the hair is very short: it is going to process faster there, so you need less processing time.
If you have been using 30 Vol developer for the lengths, it is a good idea to make a fresh mix, with 20 Vol this time for the root area.

Make sure that you saturate the hair properly with the product mixture. You need to literally smother the hair with bleach.
Watch carefully and rinse when done, and rinse anyway after 30-35 minutes.
If after rinsing you see that the hair is still not a pale yellow level 9/10, so a second application, using 20 Vol developer only this time.

Section the hair, then start applying the bleach from the back.

Bleaching Dark Hair - Full Head

9. How do I get a nice even consistent result from roots to ends? 

Very often clients have hair which is different colors. Take the client below:

Inconsistent hair color levels

This model has:

  • a regrowth area which is level 6
  • mid-lengths which have been colored but which are brassy yellow - level 8/9
  • ends which have been lightened many times in the past and are really pale white blonde - level 10.

Clearly, it would be a mistake to just apply bleach to the whole head. You won't get a good result that way. You could also end up with breakage issues on those level 10 ends.

In such cases you as the hairdresser will need to have a clear bleaching strategy. 

In the above case, we applied bleach first to the level 6 root area, then extended to the brassy part. We did not apply any bleach to the level 10 area.

Then we rinsed. Then we toned with an Ugly Duckling toner.

10. How do I Tone the Hair After Bleaching?

You will need to tone the hair with a good quality toner. Otherwise there will always be some yellow left.

Ugly Duckling toners are very fast acting & they remove any remaining yellowness in the hair. They act in 10- 15 minutes. They can be applied on wet hair which has been towel dried after bleaching.

Use Intense Pearl Blonde 100V or Intense Silver Blonde 100B if your are looking for ultra white results and your hair still has a fair amount of yellow. 

Use Pearl Blonde Toner 10V or Silver Blonde Toner 10B if you are have already achieved a true level 10 and you are looking to do a refresh toning applications.

Ugly Duckling has other colors such as the blue based ash blonde series which also work very well for toning applications.
Silver Grey and Smoky Blue Grey also work very well.

Intense Pearl Blonde Intense Pearl Blonde 100V Intense Silver Blonde Intense Silver Blonde 100B Pearl Blonde No-Lift Pearl Blonde Toner 10V Silver Blonde No-Lift Silver Blonde Toner 10B
Silver Grey Silver Grey Smoky Blue Grey Smoky Blue Grey Extra Cold Ash Blonde (Blue Based) Extra Light Cold Ash Blonde 10.1B Very Light Cold Ash Blonde Very Light Cold Ash Blonde 9.1B

And remember: never ever start toning until you have brought the hair to a consistent level 10 from roots to ends.


Hair by Elona Taki

11. How do I do a bleach wash?

If you want to do a quick and light color correction to remove existing color build up, mix equal parts Brilliant Blondexx Bleach, 20 Vol developer, shampoo and warm water.

Then apply and massage through the entire hair. Leave it for around 15 minutes and rinse off.

You should be able to get rid of at least basic color build-up in this way.

12. How long should I leave bleach in hair when I am using 20 Vol, 30 Vol & 40 Vol Developer?

First of all, we do not recommend you use 40 Vol developer with bleach.

If you are using a good quality bleach, (and this includes Ugly Duckling bleaches of course) it will work and lift very well with 20 or 30 Vol Developer.

For 20 and 30 Vol developer, the time taken can vary from 15 minutes up to 30 minutes.

Please note, however, there is no fixed development time with bleach - you need to check every few minutes and rinse when the hair is lifted.

If you see that certain parts of the hair are drying out during processing time or not lifting fast enough, you need to use your judgement and add in more fresh mix of bleach

13. Which Ugly Duckling Bleach is Right for Me?

If you are looking for a very gentle bleach and you are looking to lift 2-7 levels, we would recommend our new Bond Protect Brilliant Blondexx.
It's got a special ingredient which contains anti-breakage properties, it's very comfortable on the scalp, and mixes to a color-like consistency.

If you have ultra dark Asian hair, or if you have already box colored your hair and you need a super strong bleach to remove the color, then we would suggest Brilliant Blonde 8 Level+ Bleach.
It's a blue anti-dust bleach. It can lift up to 8 levels and it has been specially formulated for dark Asian hair which is the hardest of all to lift.

Bond Protect Bleach

New Brilliant Blondexx with Bond Protect: The only lightener in the US with Bond Protect built in. Recommended for most bleaching cases, especially for near scalp and root applications.

Brilliant Blonde Lightener: 8+ Level Lift. Recommended for dark bases & where ultra high lift is needed.

14. What is the best bleach for black hair?

Virgin "black" hair is generally level 2/3 at its darkest. This applies to Asian hair & African hair also.
For natural dark hair, use Brilliant Blonde with 30 Vol developer on lengths. Use Brilliant Blonde with 20 Vol on the root area.
Also use 20 Vol for a second application if the hair has not lifted enough.

Brilliant Blonde has a 8 level lift and will give you good results on very dark hair if you apply correctly. Without damage.
If your hair has been box-dyed black, it may require several applications. Be patient. Don't bump up the developer level and don'yt use cheap bleach. You will only end up causing irrevocable damage.

15. What Hair Care Should I Use After Bleaching and Toning?

There are 2 hair care ranges that Ugly Duckling would recommend after bleaching.

The first is Ugly Duckling's Purple Shampoo or Mask

These products give you additional toning and help keep the hair very white. They contain very intense pigments which help fight yellow.

Learn More About Purple Shampoo and Mask Here.

See pictures below.

Purple Shampoo

Purple Mask


You should also consider using the Brilliant Blondexx Hair Care & Treatment Line.

These products contain Bond Protect and help strengthen bleached hair. 

Learn More About Brilliant Blondexx Hair Care Here.

16. What if I only want to go medium blonde. Do I still need bleach?

Using bleach is necessary whenever you want to lift hair by 3 levels and more. So if your hair is brown or even light brown (level 4) , and you want to go to medium blonde (level 8), you have a 4 level lift to do. And that requires bleach!

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.