How to perfect and protect: The do’s and don’ts of bleaching hair at home

illustration of woman bleaching hair
Emily Bi/Senior Staff

With all this summer magic in the air, why not change your hair? Many would argue that college is the perfect time to apply these bold changes. From pink to blue to green or purple, the same hairstyles you’re used to wearing can look different with a little help from bleach and dye. But bleach is a very strong chemical, and there are some precautions to take before and while using it to lighten hair at home. (In fact, we recommend that first-timers have their hair bleached at the salon.)

Wear clothes you don’t care about.

Bleach is also commonly used to whiten clothes and remove stains, so letting bleach fall on your clothes and, especially, leaving it on your clothes will most definitely cause the fabric to lose its color. Do not wear clothes you love — you will ruin them. Instead, wear your old high school gym class shirt or the free shirts you get at blood drives so you can protect your favorites from powerful bleach.

Carefully control the amount of mixture you make.

In order to activate the bleach, you’re going to have to mix the bleach with a developer. Make sure you have enough of both and the right measurements of both, as timing is extremely important for every step of the process. Don’t make more than you need because the mixture of bleach and developer will foam up and harden quickly, and it will lose its lightening properties. Depending on how much hair you have and its color, you’ll probably need to make a few separate mixtures throughout one bleaching session.

You have to be quick.

As mentioned before, timing is extremely important. If you take too long to apply the bleach, you can end up with unevenly colored hair; some patches may be lighter than others. A good tip is to section your hair before applying bleach. Pin it into sections so it’s easier to equally saturate each part of your head.

Work from the bottom to the top.

Bleach becomes more activated with heat. And your scalp exudes a lot of heat, which will help the bleach near your scalp work at a much faster pace than the bleach on the rest of your head. Therefore, to bleach all parts of your hair to the same shade, you should start with the hair farthest from your scalp. Bleach can also make your scalp itch and sting if it’s on for too long of if you have sensitive skin, so it’s better to keep it away from your scalp for as long as you can. 

Ventilate your environment.

Bleach does release a pungent odor when used. The smell of chemicals fills up the room quickly, and it’s not healthy to breathe all that in. Make sure your windows, or even your front door, are open so the air can be ventilated. If you have pets, please do your best to keep them away from the fumes throughout the process. Their smaller bodies often do not handle the strong chemical as well as our own.

It’s time to enjoy the summer look with newly bleached hair. While doing it at home can save you hundreds of dollars, it does require a lot of effort and care for it to look good. We urge you to refer to this list when making those magical hair changes!

Contact Christina Kim at [email protected].