A Step-by-Step Guide to Safely Bleach Your Hair At Home


Are you ready? Ready to have more fun? Chances are you’ve been contemplating going blonde for a minute. Let this serve as a sign from the universe to go for it! While it’s always best to consult a professional, if quarantine has you cooped inside, here is a step-by-step guide to safely bleaching your own hair at home. ELLE.com talked to Colorist and R+ Co Collective member Richy Kandasamy and Wella Colorcharm and Clairol Professional Top Artist Oliver Adams who broke down 12 steps to giving yourself the ultimate bleach from the comfort of your own home. Oh, and for the people in the back, Kandasamy’s best tip is, “Go to a salon or let a hairdresser do their job.” If you still can’t hear us, read on for a safe guide to DIY bleach blonde hair.

Step 1: Check your situation

How does your hair feel? Can it truly handle the damage that you’re about to do to it? Kandasamy recommends beginning with a test. “Conduct an elasticity strand test,he says. “Spray some water on a piece of hair, and let it absorb—stretch the wet hair very gently. If the wet hair stretches more than usual, or the texture turns a bit gummy, it is not safe to dye, if the hair goes back to its natural state, it’s in good condition to bleach.” He also recommends doing a patch test with a bleach mixture to see how your hair will react using the same method afterward with the small area of processed hair.

Additionally, it’s important to understand your current hair color situation. If your hair is already processed, if you have used any type of box dye, or if you have virgin, unprocessed hair, these can cause variations in how your hair will lift with the bleach.

Step 2: Gather your materials

You’re going to need a few items in your tool kit before you begin.

  • Developer (30v and 20v): This is the liquid base to your bleach (and toner) mixture, when combined it creates what we all know to be bleach.
  • Lightener: Usually found in a powder form, this is the second part to a bleach mixture that causes the actual lightening in the hair.
  • Purple Shampoo: This will help tone the brassiness in your hair and neutralize unwanted yellow and orange hues.
  • Toner: Like purple shampoos, these will neutralize brassy hair on a chemical level.
  • Mixing bowl, Gloves, Brush
  • Plastic bag/shower cap


    Pure Unrefined Coconut Oil



    Step 3: Prep! Prep! Prep!

    When beginning to prep your hair Kandasamy recommends sectioning your hair in four parts. For added protection, rub coconut oil from the root to tip within sectioned hair to hydrate hair. “Using coconut oil before lightening hair can be very beneficial for the condition of the hair,” adds Kandasamy. “You want it to absorb into your hair for at least one hour, even longer if possible and then you can pre-light or bleach.”

    Step 4: Mixing the product

    Once all the necessary materials and prep have been done (and you’ve fully committed to the Blonde lifestyle!) you’re ready to make the bleach mixture.

    1. Read the directions on your lightener and developer materials, not all brands are the same, but most bleach mix calls for a 2:1 ratio (meaning two parts developer to one part lightener).
    2. Don’t eyeball–proper portions are important, so measure properly! Depending on how much hair you’re trying to bleach you might need more mixture as you go, but start with 2 oz of a 30v developer and 1 oz of lightener, add the ingredients to your mixing bowl and combine them together using the painting brush until smooth.
    3. Kandasamy recommends using one bleach mixture with a 30v developer for the length of the hair and then another bleach mixture with a 20v developer for the roots.

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      Step 5: Application (no turning back now!)

      For each of the sections that you’ve divided, you’ll follow the below instructions. Kandasamy and Adams both recommend taking small portions within the sections of your hair and saturating the strands to make sure the hair is completely covered.

      “Apply the bleach with 30 volume to mid-length and ends about two inches away from the scalp,” says Kandasamy.Then, right after, I’d apply the bleach with 20 volume on the roots.” This is the best method to use to avoid hot roots.

      Adams explains that hot roots are what happens when you apply bleach to the hair (from root to tip) at once and after processing the roots become a much lighter blonde shade compared to the yellow hair of the length.

      He explains, “The hair closest to the scalp processes color quicker than anywhere else on the hair shaft because the natural heat from the body acts as a heater when hair color is applied. This means that when you are doing a virgin (hair that hasn’t been color-treated) application you must apply the color on the roots last, not first.”

            Kandasamy also recommends making sure you use enough bleach mixture on your strands. Once the mixture has been applied, just pop on a shower cap or plastic bag and set your timer.

            Step 6: Now you wait

            Okay, let’s talk hair levels and wait time! “Processing time depends on the manufacturer recommendation and also the natural level of starting point and end result desired,” says Kandasamy.

            It might be confusing, but like Kandasamy said it’s important to understand what hair level (shade) you’re starting with and what color you want to achieve to figure out how long the bleach mixture should stay on your head. This chart from Wella shows exactly what a hair level is.

            wella lift chart

            Hair Level Chart


            Adams explains, “The level system for hair tells you how light or dark your color is going to be. One is the darkest and 10 is the lightest. It’s important to understand that all blondes must be at least level seven or above. So if you are starting at a level one you have to lift (bleach/lighten) your hair six levels to level seven to even begin to see any type of blonde.”

            Once you figure out your hair level and how light you want it, you can determine the wait time. If you want your hair to lift as light as possible then leave the mixture on for 35-4o minutes (remember to never exceed 45 minutes). Adams recommends checking your hair to see if it’s lifted to the level you desire and says, “you wouldn’t want to lift hair from one to seven if you only need to lift it to four or five.”

            Step 7: Wash It

            When it’s fully processed, it’s time to wash it out. Use lukewarm water, too hot or cold of water can shock your hair in its already fragile state. Make sure to completely rinse out the bleach and gently wash your hair to get out all the product.

            Step 8: Assess And Bleach Again (If Needed)

            Don’t freak out! Your hair may look yellow or orange even and that’s okay, it just means you might have to bleach again! Make sure you assess and check the health of your hair using the stretch technique Kandasamy recommended in the first step. Using the hair level chart discussed in Step 6, determine your hair level to see if you need to bleach your hair again. If you do need to bleach again, follow steps three to seven again ( your hair needs to be dry).

            Most importantly, make sure you’re giving your hair enough recovery time and consider waiting a couple of days before doing another bleach treatment.

            Step 9: Time To Tone

            Remember the color wheel from elementary school, this is where that comes to play. Toner will help neutralize any brassiness or yellow hues that will be lingering in your hair after bleaching.

            Before you can tone, just make sure that your hair is light enough (remember the chart in Step 6). Adams said, “It is important to understand that if the hair hasn’t been lifted light enough or to the proper level, putting a toner on it is not going to fix the problem and could possibly create a very unpleasant color. So always make sure you are using toner on the correct (hair) level.”

            Toner can be applied to slightly damp hair and uses the same 2:1 mixing ratio and application method as the bleach.

            1. Use one part toner to two parts 20v developer: Mix using the same method in Step 4 with the same measurements as your bleach mixture. If you used 2oz of a developer to 1oz of a lightener do the same proportions for the toner: 2oz of 20v developer to 1oz of toner.
            2. Make sure to use gloves and apply the mixture to sectioned hair: Similar to the bleaching application method, you’ll want to section your hair and saturate the strands with the product; mid-lengths first and then roots.
            3. The toner and mixture will turn purple and that’s normal: The purple means the toner is activating to eliminate the yellow/orange tones in the hair.
            4. Wait for the toner to process: Let the toner sit on your hair for 20-25 minutes or according to the time recommendation on the label. You don’t want to leave it on for too long because it can tint your hair purple.
            5. Wash and Shampoo: Rinse your hair with lukewarm water and gently follow up with a shampoo and conditioner.

              Step 10: Invest in a Purple Shampoo/Mask

              Similar to the toner, a purple shampoo helps eliminate orange or yellow hues in your hair. Using a non-chemical toner (purple shampoo) is a great way to upkeep your blonde hair to keep it from getting brassy. Use a purple shampoo once or week or whenever your hair starts to get too yellow.

                My personal favorite is the Matrix Total Results Brass Off, but there are tons of great purple shampoos to choose from.

                Step 11: Repair

                After all the chemical damage you just did to your hair, it’s important to put some love back into it to try and repair, “My best advice is always to use a professional haircare product–once or twice a week, use a hydrating hair mask,” says Kandasamy. Also, avoid using heat on your hair, Adams says, “You will want to minimize thermal heat like excessive blow-drying and ceramic heat styling in the 3-4 weeks after bleaching your hair.”

                Step 12: Live Your Best Blonde Life

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                At this point you’re blonde! Since this is an at-home hair job it might look different than what you thought, but embrace that you did it by yourself and rock it with pride! Now go make Dolly Parton, Billie Eilish, and Selena Gomez proud and embrace your new hue.

                In case you’re still nervous or unsure, here’s a round-up of YouTube videos that can help you on your blonde journey.

                This content is imported from YouTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

                This content is imported from YouTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

                This content is imported from YouTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

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