Help me bleach my virgin black hair!
February 10, 2016 10:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm asian and my hair is jet black, never been dyed, no other processing. It's in good condition and I use salon shampoo and conditioners with no crap in them. I want to go blonde! And I want to DIY. I've done all the reading and watched all the youtube videos I can stand. Help me fill in some gaps.

So I understand that I'm probably going to have to bleach more than once and that I should wait inbetween bleachings for my hair to recover, in particular for my cuticles to flatten and "close" again.

1. How long do I need to wait? In salon videos, it looks like they regularly do two bleachings back to back on the same day, and ditto in some of the DIY videos. Can I slather on treatment/coconut oil/conditioner and just do it again the next day if my hair feels fine? I've done my strand test (processed twice, 3 days apart) and the hair feels fine, not breaking or anything.

2. If I need to wait for weeks, can I tone my hair in the meantime? Or would that make no difference at the orange stage? Will dying or toning affect the subsequent bleaching?

And about toners. Some people seem to just use a purple shampoo. Others use something that they mix with developer (like Wella Colorcharm t18) and others use stuff they just put in (like Manic Panic Virgin Snow).

3. Is this just about preference or do I choose which kind based on my hair type/intended colour/something else?

4. Is colorcharm t18 just a box dye (if so, does that mean I can any box dye?).

And finally, here is my order of operations. Let me know if anything is missing/bad idea:

- I've already done a strand test and patch test.
- stop washing hair several days before.
- coconut oil night before
- old tee shirt, gloves, helpful friend
- blue bleach powder & 40vol developer, all over, roots last. Shower cap.
- check colour periodically but leave on no longer than 40 mins.
- rinse

5. When I bleach a second time, should I drop to a lower volume developer?
6. When I am happy with the lightness, can I then dye it with whatever box dye I like?

Any other tips welcome. Thank you.
posted by stellathon to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I really want to encourage you to have this done professionally.
posted by k8t at 10:40 PM on February 10, 2016 [35 favorites]

Get yourself some Olaplex. That stuff transformed my damaged hair in one treatment.
posted by Dragonness at 10:58 PM on February 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

I would also encourage a professional, at least for the first time. And use Olaplex. It's really helped mitigate the damage caused by the multiple bleachings my hair suffered through.
posted by bahama mama at 11:00 PM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Beneath the dye, my hair is black. Well, it was when I started dying my hair, now there's a lot more grey scattered in the roots. But my process has always been this:

1. Bleach. 30 vol, I've tried 40 vol and it's not worth the damage it causes if you leave it in a little too long. Yes it will take longer, no it won't remove as much color. It also won't leave half your hair gummy and stretchy. Don't bother.
2. Shampoo. If the bleach comes with conditioner don't use it.
3. Dye.
4. Let dye sit for a few hours. Maybe overnight.
5. Rinse hair, condition.
6. For the next week or so, avoid shampoo - just rinse and condition.

Realistically I want to say start with a streak, get the hang of the whole process, then go for it on the whole head.

I only use aggressively unnatural dye colors, I don't have any experience with dyes aiming at "natural" colors.

I don't bleach my hair to complete near-blondness when I need to re-dye, I just take it down to "very very pastel" where there's previous dye. The new dye covers it fine.
posted by egypturnash at 11:04 PM on February 10, 2016

Best answer: I have the stereotypical Asian coarse, jet-black hair, and have been DIY bleaching it blonde semi-regularly.

Reading your post, I would also encourage you to go the professional route at least once, if it at all possible. It sounds like you really want to get it right and have done a lot of excellent background research to that end. Every time I've bleached my hair, there's always been at last one thing that's gone sideways in the process that I've had to roll with -- it seems that for our hair type, the DIY route is really best for if you're going for a punkish scarecrow look/don't care how the end result looks because you're going to dye it blue/purple/hot pink right after anyway. (If this is what you're going for, or if your friend is a hair colourist, disregard this paragraph.)

That said, here are my thoughts on your questions:

I've never waited more than a few hours between bleachings. I usually try to make a day of it: bleach once in the morning, slather it in conditioner and hang out for a few hours, wash it out and bleach again, condition again (sometimes overnight).

Toners (without developers) are basically just really really weak purple/blue dyes that deposit colours specifically intended to cancel out "brassy" tones. So if you're toning between your bleach sessions, you're basically just adding a bit of extra colour for the next bleaching to smack out. I've tried to tone orange-yellow hair with a purple shampoo and ended up with an odd yellowish-tan colour, not great. I've never tried a toner that included a developer before so can't comment on that.

I've always done back-to-back 40vol bleach with no ill effects (I just pulled out a single hair and tried to snap it; it took a considerable amount of force to do so), but I've also had multiple hair stylists comment on how ridiculously wiry my hair is so YMMV. I once tried 40vol and then 20vol, which totally did not work.

I've also heard lots of very good things about Olaplex, but have never tried it first-hand.
posted by btfreek at 11:38 PM on February 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Well, imma try and address some of your questions from the point of view of a former d.i.y.-er who later got liscensed, and a half-asian dark brown. IANY hairdresser, this is not ... etc.

1. The wait is for your scalp to rebound. Even careful applications will end up with bleach on your scalp skin to some degree at some point in the process. A salon with a technician minimizes this exposure (more on this later). This, plus very thourough rinsing is probably why the salon examples go back to back. I don't know what to tell you about your conditioner choices. There are some that would be ok, others that might actually hinder the process by sealing the remaining color in.

Make no mistake about it, going from black to blonde, your cuticle will never actually fully close, ever, again. Might as well get all the color out while it's blown open, would be my approach, and then use a reconstructor after the whole shebang. The advantage of waiting a week between, if you can handle the transition color, besides having your scalp forgive you, is that there is usually a point a few days after a bleach where a bunch more pigment will oxidize on its own.

2. If it's orange, no, toning is not going to work great. You would basically be ashing it out to light brown, then working to get it out again. No dying. Color of a very impermanent nature like a shampoo, maybe, to calm the brass, because, yes, whatever you do at this stage could affect the bleaching.

3. Toning seals the hair back up (as much as possible) and modulates the color by adding the opposite hue to neutralize ... thus blue toners will make a pale orange look like wheat and violet will make pale yellow look platinum. I would recommend actual toner products used per label, as it will help even out porosity and fill the empty spaces where you release the pigment out with something so your hair is less brittle. You can still use tinted shampoos/conditioners during maintenance, but on non-toned hair you could get the ends holding onto more of the pigment and lookin all weird.

Manic Panic type dyes stain, so I'd use with caution. I am assuming the above commenter who leaves the dye on overnight is using this family of colorant. Please, never leave an oxidative dye (box color) or toner on your head for any other amount of time than listed in the instructions.

You might be able to get ahold of a demi gloss, I think Clarol made one called jazzing, color icicle, and I think clear ones are sold in drugstores now. These are applied and then developed with heat, and would be the only thing I would consider using instead of traditional toner for the finish, they are also good for maintence every couple of months.

4. I'm guessing the T in the Wella code indicates toner, but ask where you buy it. Not the same as dye. Different pigment load, plus dye will often have lifting built in because it assumes you will not pre-bleach. Thus it would be too harsh on hair that you have just harshed out. Do not substitute. Not for your first forays. Sylists do have some tricks to play fast and loose toning with dye, but they have study and experience and products that are more sophisticated than box color.

In your process, I want to point out a couple of things. It is very important to keep the bleach as much off your scalp as possible. Your instructions may say to prep your scalp with vaseline or cream ... take that seriously. There is also something called the heat band, which is the "roots" from your scalp to maybe an inch out, which bleaches alot faster than the rest of the hair. So the "do the roots last" thing is no joke, as in let the rest of the hair develop half-an-hour, have helpful friend get in there and apply the rest (without getting it on the scalp, in less than five minutes). Depending on what the strand tests looked like, I might even do them the second time only. If you feel uncomfortable and burning, chances are that is the bleach blistering your scalp. Have a squirt bottle of water and qtips and paper towels or bleachable washcloths handy to clean it off with and, no joke, do not let that bleach sit on your scalp.

Apply back first, front last because the hair that is shaded will take the longest.

Secondly, I see no mention of applying heat to develop the bleach. Don't get me wrong. I advocate following the instructions on your purchased product to the letter. And I do know that hair texture--coarse versus silky--affects how much the hair will lift. It is just in my experience black hair is not going to get to blonde without heat. Which makes me wonder if your bleach product will get you where you want to go, even with two applications.

5. I'm guessing no. If anything, you would just leave it on for less time. But your strand test should have given some indication of this.

6. No. Use a toner.

A last tip: My friend just told me a story of a hair bleaching that started smoking ... turns out was the result of metal poisoning. So please don't mess around if anything seems weird (even if your strand test were uneventful, body heat can make all the difference) rinse it out right away, and seek further assistance!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 12:42 AM on February 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I disagree with the people who told you to do it professionally. Bleaching your hair at home is fun!

I think others (and your online research) have given you a lot of good advice. What I have to add is:

1. Yes, stick a bunch of coconut oil on your hair, otherwise, ouch, scalp.

2. Yes, buy Wella Colorcharm t18 for toning to get rid of the orange/brassiness. You will need to mix it with developer. It works well. I got mine on Amazon, and it was a pretty easy process. This is so that your hair doesn't look orange, but rather more blonde.

3. No, don't use box dye.

4. Figure out what you'll do if something gets messed up, i.e. your hair turns orange or you miss a chunk of hair, or you hate it.

5. Figure out now what you're going to do when this starts growing out. I dyed my hair purple when my roots got too long for the blonde to look good. Your preference may be less extreme.
posted by aaanastasia at 12:58 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Find a salon that uses Olaplex. Olaplex is a professional product, and lifting your colour that drastically is a professional job.
posted by nerdfish at 1:53 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would not do this yourself the first time, if for no other reason that it's so hard to do this evenly, especially if there is any length to your hair, and extra-especially if you're planning on staying blonde.

If you're going to cover it with dye, maybe give it a shot. If you work in a professional environment I would not mess around with this unless you can get away with funky-looking hair until you can fix it. I've done everything to my hair over the years and never cared because covering it all up with black hair dye was always an option for me to hide mistakes. (However, if the hair underneath is not consistent, even the blackest dye will fade unevenly.)

Yes, it's very fun to play with your hair when your lifestyle supports hair failures. It's much worse when you fuck up your hair a day or two before that big presentation and your have to scramble to get it fixed, usually at a premium.

I'm also another person who used to go bleach crazy and do as many processes as I could stand in a day. When I was 18 we bleached my hair a bunch of times the day before I went to Europe for a few weeks. Did you know that when your scalp peels you can see light coming through all the hole where the hair grows? Be careful!
posted by Room 641-A at 3:35 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Came to say that I too bleach my hair at home and it is indeed fun.

1. Coconut oil--Absolutely, it helps the bleach to work faster, it keeps your hair lovely and soft. I bought LouAna at the grocery store for $3.47.

2. The bleaching will take time, about 45-60 minutes and when you're done it will be a brassy orange. Don't panic.

3. T18 and T14 are both Toners. 050 is an additive.

4. I use 20V Peroxide, works fine.

5. I am sporting a lovely head of silver hair just today. I used 1 oz of T18 .5 oz of 050 and 3 oz of 20V peroxide. I also threw some purple filler in there, helps with the protein structures of the hair.

6. The toner stage should be very short. Like just a couple of minutes! I left my concoction on for 15 minutes to get silver. I got a lovely winter-wheat blond with just 2 minutes.

I want to say that the key to this is an even bleaching. I didn't do a good job the first time, so I waited a week and bleached again. Worked out fine.

It's hair, if you botch it really badly, just cover with a light brown dye and try again in a bit.

FWIW when I go to get my hair cut at the Aveda Institute, the instructors always say what a nice job I do with the color.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:23 AM on February 11, 2016

nthing please please do olaplex! Best (only) way to do that is at the salon. You can spare yourself the damage diyers of the past have inflicted on themselves. (It works! Explanation.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:29 AM on February 11, 2016

Definitely do it professionally, but in the interest of keeping my hair healthy, I've switched to wearing wigs instead of bleaching/dyeing.
posted by evoque at 7:10 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have about $150 to $250 on hand + the name of an excellent local colorist on hand for when you have to make an appointment as a "color correction."

You should still do this! I'm just saying, have a back-up plan and the money to pay for it.
posted by jbenben at 8:04 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yikes. Please do not use 40 volume developer with bleach. I'd recommend 30 at the most or even 20 if you're planning to do multiple bleach sessions anyway.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 8:14 AM on February 11, 2016

If you've never dyed your hair before, see if you can get the help of a friend who's done it, at least for the first round. The second stage isn't as exacting.

You're going for a pretty drastic change (exciting!), and getting nice results means applying the product evenly and not missing spots like on the back of your head and at your neckline. Bleaching can be pretty intense (scalp irritation, fumes), you don't want to over-apply in an attempt to ensure you've covered everything.
posted by lizbunny at 8:16 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

At the very least, if you're going to do this at home, have *at least* one extra set of un-attached arms to help you. When my hair is more than about 3" long I really really struggle getting a consistent application because the bleaching agents stiffen as they dry (even with coconut oil, and even with some conditioner added to my bleachy goo) and it's like having a head full of Elmer's glue and if you miss a spot, you look like a leopard.

Getting the roots/heat band done in a short time is a real challenge in that mess, especially if you have quite long hair. The last time I got stuck, I had not queued up anyone to help and had to get my husband to drop what he was doing and train him on the fly. So get at least one friend in, and talk through the process ahead of time.

Anything past about 3", I have a pro do it the first time and I do the upkeep afterwards.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:57 AM on February 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have found that Ion brand Sensitive Scalp developer is much more gentle than the regular stuff. If I have to do two processes in a day I'll always go for that.
posted by bink at 11:48 AM on February 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I used to bleach my hair shiny white for years, and I've dyed it for many many more, and I totally recommend getting someone to help. It's just so much easier not to miss spots or get chemicals all over your scalp with an extra pair of hands and eyes.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:10 PM on February 12, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you everyone, especially the encouraging DIYers. I did it! If you want to see, I've just changed my profile picture. I got such a nice shade of blonde and I love it.

For future Askers:
- I used 40vol first and it was great. This may not suit your hair but mine is thick/coarse, ie each strand is thick and my hair still feels nice, but yes, it's a little drier than it was, mostly at the ends. Nothing a trim won't fix.
- After the first bleach session, you will be bright orange, and may have to stay that way for a week or two. Time this accordingly!
- I had to bleach three times over a week to fix patches. Patchy results cannot be fixed except by more processing and it's tricky. You basically need to paint over the dark bits without touching the bits you are satisfied with. Best to do an even thorough job to begin with.
- I recommend practising your sectioning and applying goop with conditioner or a hair mask etc before you bleach so you get the hang of covering your hair evenly and quickly. If you can't do it quickly, try doing one section at a time or half your head at a time. You'll need to rinse and keep the other bits dry or dry your hair after. I used a shower attachment on my basin tap.
-For subsequent bleachings I used 20vol where I only needed a little lift but 40 again on one great big orange patch that I seriously missed!
- if you need to fix patches, start with the darkest bits and stagger application so that the lightest bits that still need lifting get bleach for the shortest amount of time.
- make up a lot of product and slap it on generously. Make sure you really saturate the hair. Working in small sections helps this.
- get EVERY scrap of fabric out of your bathroom if you don't want bleach spots on it!
- hang a mirror behind you so you can what's going on at the back.
- for my Asian hair, maximum lightening is still quite yellow. I toned with manic panic ultra violet mixed with cheap white conditioner as suggested by the very helpful hairdresser at the supply shop (Price Attack for Australians).
- Blonde is so much fun. Do it.
posted by stellathon at 4:25 AM on February 17, 2016

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