Home / / Here's How to Bleach Hair Without Damaging It - Step by Step Guide with Pictures and Video Tutorials

Here's How to Bleach Hair Without Damaging It - Step by Step Guide with Pictures and Video Tutorials

Before Bleaching

Hair before Bleaching 

After Bleaching

Hair after Bleaching with Brilliant Blonde: lifted to level 10

Hair After Bleaching and Toning

Hair After Bleaching and Toning (Pearl Blonde Toner 100V)

1. Which products do I Need When Bleaching?

  • You need a salon quality lightener and a developer of different strengths for your bleaching mix. Otherwise you won't be able to lift safely and efficiently and your hair will come out brassy.
  • For the bleaching we would recommend Brilliant Blonde lightener. It has been designed for dark bases and can lift up to 8 levels safely and effectively. 
  • You will need 20 or 30 Vol Developer. depending on the lift required.
  • For 1-2 levels lift and for the root area, you will need 20 Vol.
  • But for 3 levels lift and more you will need 30 Vol.
  • Very often you may need to make separate mixes for the root area versus the rest or adjust processing time.
  • You will also need coloring tools: a feather brush, a sectioning brush, a mixing bowl, & crocodile clips. Ugly Duckling sells a professional tool kit which contains these.
  • You will also need gloves.

Brilliant Blonde Lightener

Brilliant Blonde dust-free lightener

2. What Developer Should I Use with the Bleach?

  • Consult the table "Hair Color Levels" below. 
  • Compare the current hair level with the target hair level and subtract. 
  • In general, if you are trying to take hair ash blonde, you will need to lighten to level 10.
  • This means you will need to bleach the hair until it is a very very pale yellow.
  • So if, for example, your hair is currently medium brown (level 4) and you want to go like the picture at the top of the page (level 10) you are going to need to lift by 6 levels.
  • The more that you need to lift, the higher strength of developer you will need.
  • In general, more than 3 levels of lift on the lengths: use 30 Vol developer.
  • For the root area (regrowth applications): use 20 Vol Developer.
  • If you are using a bleach like Brilliant Blonde, 40 Vol is not necessary however dark the hair.
  • If the hair has not lifted enough using 30 Vol after 30 minutes of application, you can always rinse and re-apply provided the hair is in good condition.
  • If you are lifting dark hair you will need to have 2 different developer strengths ready, and make 2 separate mixes for the root area versus the lengths.

Hair Color Levels

Hair Color Levels

3. What is the Correct Bleach to Developer Ratio? How do I mix the Bleach With the Developer?

  • We generally recommend a mix of 1 part Bleach to 2 parts developer.
  • This will give you a fairly runny mix which will be easy and quick to apply.
  • Mix the bleach 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.
  • 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.

Bleach Mixture, Not too Runny, Not Too Thick.

Lightener Mixture

4. How Should I Apply the Bleach Mixture?

  • 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.
  • Make sure that you saturate the hair properly with the product mixture. You need to literally smother the hair with bleach.
  • Work fast so that that you can give the whole head an equal amount of processing time.
  • Also, you don’t want the mixture to dry out before it is applied. 
  • Always keep at least half an inch away from the scalp.
  • If you are looking to lift all the way from the root, return to the last half inch (nearest to the root) after having applied everywhere else.
  • The part nearest the scalp will process the fastest because it is getting heat from the scalp.
  • Try and avoid actually touching the scalp unless your bleach mix is a fairly mild one.
  • Also, 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.
  • This way you can have better control and avoid over lifting the root area.

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

Applying Bleach After Sectioning

5. How Long should I leave the Bleach Mixture in the Hair? How Long DOes it Take to Bleach Hair?

  • There is no fixed development time for bleach, you need to keep watching and rinse when the hair has been sufficiently lifted.
  • The development time can vary from 15 minutes to 30 minutes, depending on the starting hair color level, texture, and thickness. 
  • You need to check that the hair is lifting every 10 minutes. When you do that, test also by pulling one strand of hair to be sure that the hair is still elastic and strong and taking well to bleach.
  • Add in more mixture if you can see that there are parts which are lifting more slowly or parts where the bleach mixture is drying out.
  • If you are running out of product at this stage, don't hesitate to make a fresh mix. It will help you lift quickly.
  • Wash off when the hair reaches the desired level.
  • Above all, make sure you do not rinse too early - this is the number one mistake that stylists make!
  • If you are trying to do a true ash blonde, you should try and take the hair to a level 10 (see bleaching levels below and also the picture of what level 10 looks like)
  • After 30 minutes, rinse off whatever the level. It will be dry anyway, and will have stopped working. (Bleach stops processing when it turns dry).
  • If you have not attained level 10, and provided the hair is still in good condition (ie it's still elastic and strong) you can do a second application.
  • Asian hair, Hispanic hair, other dark hair may require a second bleach application to take it to level 10.
  • Hair that has been box dyed dark will also require a second application.
  • You need to get rid of all the orange pigments and also most of the yellow pigments before you rinse. 
  • When you get to your target level, rinse using an acidic shampoo. This will close the hair cuticle after the bleaching process. 

Bleaching Levels

  • The chart below shows what the hair will look like as you bleach the hair.
  • If you are trying to get an ash blonde result, you must try to take it as close to level 10 as possible.
  • Very yellow hair means you have not bleached enough.

Hair Coloring Levels

Color At Level 10 After Bleaching

Hair Color at Level 10 After Bleaching

6. How do I Prevent "Hot Roots" when I bleach? 

  • Only use 20 Vol with bleach at the root area because it will process fast there.
  • In general, it is better to apply bleach first on the lengths and then return to the regrowth area in the last 10 minutes only. Rinse before the roots get "hot".
  • Remember that even when doing the root area you don't need to apply the bleach mixture directly right onto the scalp.
  • If you stop a quarter of an inch away, the mixture will travel up and process with the heat from the scalp.

7. What do I do if my Client's Ends are one Color and Her Mid-Lengths are Another Color ? 

  • If you have inconsistent color on your lengths, for example a chunk which has been colored darker and another chunk which has been lightened in the past, plus the natural regrowth hair at the root area, you will need to have a clear bleaching strategy.
  • You will need to figure out which areas need the most lifting and apply bleach first on those areas.
  • Remember: the aim is to get the entire head of hair up to a consistent pale yellow level.
  • You may need to divide up your client's hair mentally into 3 different sections and apply bleach at different times to each section.
  • You may also need to keep watching as your customer's hair develops and then add more bleach onto sections which are not lifting fast enough.
  • In this way you can bring all your hair to one consistent color level, which is absolutely what you need to do to achieve an attractive color result.

8. How do I Tone the Hair After Bleaching?

  • Coloring or toning after bleaching is necessary in order to achieve a vivid, 3 dimensional color. 
  • Ugly Duckling toners are very effective and we would recommend these if you are trying to achieve ultra white blonde results such as silver blonde or pearl blonde.
  • Use Intense Pearl Blonde 100V or Intense Silver Blonde 100B if your are looking for ultra white results and you still need to lift a little more.
  • Use Pearl Blonde Toner 10V or Silver Blonde Toner 10B if you are have already achieved a true level 10 and for refresh toning applications.
  • See digital shade charts below of Ugly Duckling Toners.

Intense Silver Blonde

Intense Pearl Blonde 100V

 Intense Pearl Blonde

Intense Silver Blonde 100B

Pearl Blonde

Pearl Blonde Toner 10V

Silver Blonde

Silver Blonde Toner 10B

9. How Should I Rinse The Hair After Bleaching and Toning?

  • First rinse with water.
  • Then use Ugly Duckling Purple Shampoo and Mask for additional toning.
  • Purple Shampoo and Mask can also be used as a maintenance treatment to keep your color white and ashy.
  • Ugly Duckling's Purple Shampoo and Mask contain very intense pigments which help fight yellow.
  • They are also low pH formula and wil help close the cuticle after bleaching and restore it to a healthy condition.
  • See pictures below.

Purple Shampoo

Purple Mask

Learn More About Purple Shampoo and Mask Here.


Hair by Ashley Betancourt.

(1) This model had dark (level 5) virgin hair. It was also very very long - about a yard!

(2) We needed to make separate mixes with different developer strengths for different areas.

(3) We also needed to work very fast to give the whole head equal processing time.

(4) This hair was lifted and toned in 1 session. Watch the video!

Dark Hair Lifted Blonde in 1 Session


  • Brilliant Blonde Lightener
  • Intense Pearl Blonde Toner 100V
  • 20 Vol Developer
  • Purple Shampoo and Mask


Hair by Elona Taki

(1) This model had a very dark regrowth but extremely white lengths.

(2) Here the challenge was to take care of the regrowth without overlapping on the lengths and compromising hair quality.

(3) In such cases, avoid overloading the overlap area with product - wipe off with a towel during processing time as you can see in the video.


  • Brilliant Blonde Lightener
  • 30 Vol Developer
  • Silver Blonde
  • Pearl Blonde Toner
  • 10 Vol Developer


Hair by Elona Taki

(1) Our model had fairly light (Caucasian/European) hair.

(2) We lifted the regrowth with Brilliant Blonde.

(3) We judged our model's hair to be fair enough to tone only with Purple Shampoo - it worked!


  • Brilliant Blonde Lightener
  • 20 Vol Developer
  • Purple Shampoo

Blonding Set

Everything you need to start Blonding with Ugly Duckling

Free coloring tools

Set contains
Brilliant Blonde Lightener 16 oz.
Intense Pearl Blonde 100.21
Intense Silver Blonde 100.20
Pearl Blonde Toner
Small Purple Shampoo
20 Vol. Developer
Coloring Tools (FREE!)
$ 116.90
$ 90