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Hair that has been correctly lifted with bleach

Your 20 most frequently asked questions about bleaching - answered!


Bullet-Point Summary: Get your bleaching right - OUR EASY, FOOL-PROOF CHECKLIST

  • Use our recommended Ugly Duckling bleaches. They will give you better results.
  • Always use salon quality developer (hydrogen peroxide).
  • Use 20 Vol developer when you need to lift by 1-2 levels.
  • Use 30 Vol developer 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.
  • Segment the hair finely and make sure you saturate the hair with mixture.
  • Do not rinse until you get a very pale yellow
  • For full head bleaching, do the roots last. They process faster.
  • For regrowth bleaching, apply to the root area first, then extend as necessary.
  • Rinse when you get to pale yellow level 10 and not before.
  • Use our recommended list of toning products to achieve stunning blonde results
  • After toning, use Brilliant Blonde Purple Shampoo & Mask
  • Also use Brilliant Blondexx anti-breakage Shampoo & Mask

1. How does hair bleaching work?

Hair bleaching is a process used to lighten the natural color of the hair.

You mix bleach with developer (hydrogen peroxide).

This mix opens up the hair cuticles and lifts out the hair's natural color molecules.

This process will lighten the hair all the way up to level 10 extra light blonde if you do it correctly.

2. Which bleach should I use on my hair?

Brilliant Blondexx Bleach with Bond Protect 

For most cases involving lifts of up to 7 levels, we would recommend you use Brilliant Blondexx.

It contains Bond Protect.

This protects your hair from breakage as you lift it. It also provides for greater scalp comfort.

At the same time, it is a powerful bleach and will lift up to 7 levels without requiring excessively strong developers.

3. Which bleach is best for on-scalp applications?

Brilliant Blondexx would also be the best for most on-scalp applications.

The Bond Protect means that the mix you get with this bleach is really smooth, creamy and almost oily.

Which means there is much less scalp irritation when you apply.

So this means you won't need to pre-apply coconut oil to protect the scalp.

Note: when applying bleach on the scalp, make sure you are using a feather brush (not the ordinary brushes beauty stores sell).

Ugly Duckling's coloring brushes are all feather brushes and we do recommend them for bleaching & coloring.

Plus, don't jab with your brush! You will only provoke the scalp.

Just gently place the bleach mix onto the scalp area with your brush.

And remember: you don't need to go right to the scalp.

A quarter of an inch away is fine, and indeed that is how experienced hairdressers place their bleach.

The mixture will always travel up to the root and process fast owing to the heat coming from the scalp.

And of course, do a scalp sensitivity test first. We do always recommend that.

4. Which bleach is best for very dark hair? 

Brilliant Blonde bleach - blue based bleach for dark hair & very resistant hair

If your client has extremely dark, resistant hair, for example Asian and African American hair, or indeed hair with color build-up, then use Brilliant Blonde instead.

It is a blue dust-free bleach and it can lift up to 8 levels.

It is one of the most powerful bleaches on the market.

5. Should I use 20 or 30 Vol developer with my bleach?

Hair bleaching levels

It all depends on how many levels you are going to be lifting by.

Use the bleaching level chart above to assess how much bleaching is necessary in your case.

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

Subtract 10 from your current hair level.

In other words, if you are currently level 5 light brown, that would mean that you need to lift the hair by 10 levels.

Once you know how much you are going to lift by, apply the following rule to select your developer:

To lift hair by up to 3 levels, and always when working on the root area, use 20 Vol developer.

To lift by 3 levels and more when working on the lengths, you need 30 Vol developer.

6. What developer should I use for dark or black hair?

If you are working with very dark hair or black, you should do a first application with 30 Vol developer.

Make your mix nice and wet. 2 parts developer to 1 part bleach is good.

Make sure you saturate the hair very well with your mix.

Give it 15 minutes and see how much lift you can get in that time.

Then after that, make a second application using 20 Vol developer.

For the root area, stay with 20 Vol developer only, even with dark hair.

Hair processes faster there due to the heat from the scalp. 

7. Is it possible to bleach hair that has already been colored?

Yes you can, but you need to be aware that depending on exactly what color you used in the past, the bleaching will be harder and will take longer.

Very often you may need to bump up the developer strength.

8. 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.

9. How should I mix the bleach with the developer?

Mix made with Ugly Duckling Brilliant Blondexx and 30 Vol developer

Use the scoop provided in your Ugly Duckling bleach to measure out the bleach and the developer.

Remember, 1 bleach to 2 parts developer.

You will probably need around 3 scoops of bleach at a minimum for root touch up.

And of course more for a full head.

You can always use kitchen scales instead of the scoop if you prefer.

Later, when you are more experienced, you can do it by sight.

Mix the bleach with a whisk until it forms a very smooth consistency which is 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.

Don't stop until it is really smooth and totally creamy, with developer and bleach fully blended.

10. How should I apply the bleach on the hair?

Hair bleach 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 tail-comb. Apply segment by segment and keep moving around.

Always start in the areas where the hair is thickest or darkest.

Normally that would be the hair at the back of the head.

11. How long should I leave the 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.

Bleached hair level 8. This hair needs to be bleached some more before rinsing

Bleached hair level 9/10

Bleached hair level 10

12. How do I do 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.

Brilliant Blondexx is a great lightener to use for a near root application: the mix is comfortable and does not itch.

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 with Brilliant Blondexx Bleach

Brilliant Blondexx Bleach processing for 35 min near the root.

13. 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.

14. How do I avoid hair breakage when I bleach?

Hair breakage very often occurs on the ends.

This is where the hair has been bleached the most often in the past.

And where the hair is the thinnest.

Take the client in the picture below, for example.

This model has a regrowth area which is level 6, mid-lengths level 8/9 and ends level 10.

As you can see, this model's root area is natural regrowth and it is at level 6.

The mid-lengths have been lightened in the past, although not very well, and they are at level 8-9

As for the ends, they have clearly been colored and bleached before. And they are level 10.

Very often what novice stylists do is to indiscriminately apply bleach to the whole head!

This is exactly what you should NOT do.

Because if you do that, that's when you get breakage.

Rather, you what you should do is bleach first the level 6 root area and let the mix sit there for 10 minutes or so.

Then extend to the brassy part after around 10 minutes.

And not apply any bleach at all to the ends which are already at level 10!

Otherwise you would indeed get major breakage.

Also of course, use Brilliant Blondexx bleach.

The Bond Protect will protect the hair from breakage.

Good product always helps.

15. 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. Plus you will not get the perfect blonde reflect that your client is surely looking for.

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 100V Intense Silver Blonde 100B No-Lift Pearl Blonde Toner 10V No-Lift Silver Blonde Toner 10B
Silver Grey Smoky Blue Grey Extra Light Cold Ash Blonde 10.1B 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.14. How do I do a bleach wash?

If you want to do a quick and light color correction to remove existing color build up, then you can do what is called a bleach wash.

This is very often done on short hair.

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.

16. What hair care should I use to keep the hair yellow-free?

We would recommend you use Brilliant Blonde Purple Shampoo & Mask after bleaching.

Brilliant Blonde Purple Shampoo & Mask

These products give you additional purple toning and help keep the hair very white.

They contain very intense pigments which help fight yellow.

They are acid based products and they are sulfate-free.

Intense purple toning ingredients

17. How can I minimize damage and take care of the hair after bleaching and toning?

We would suggest you use Brilliant Blondexx Anti-Breakage Shampoo & Mask

These products contain Bond Protect (Plex Technology).

They will help strengthen bleached hair after bleaching.

They are also acid based and sulfate-free.

Brilliant Blondexx Mask

18. Can I bleach my client's hair if she has sensitive scalp or skin?

Most clients find bleaching perfectly safe.

Nevertheless, we always do a skin sensitivity test before bleaching.

To do this, make a very small amount of bleach and developer mix.

Apply this to a small portion of the skin

Wait 24 hours.

If there is no allergic reaction, you can apply.

But even when doing so, take suitable precautions:

Use the best quality of bleach possible.

Don't push up the developer strength more than needed.

When bleaching the root area, try to stay around 1/8 inch away from the scalp itself.

Doing the above will help you avoid unnecessary discomfort and possibly allergies.

19. How often can I bleach my client's hair?

You sometimes hear (even from hairdressers) that bleaching is an incremental process, especially when going from dark to blonde level 10.

Trust us, nothing could be further from the truth.

Do your bleaching once and once only.

Do the bleaching right, all the way to level 10, and just once.

20. What do I do if I break my client's hair?

If you are watchful, and you bleach as we suggest above, it really should not happen.

However, if it does, you would need to trim off that 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.

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