for whatever reason, most of us who weren't born blonde, attempt at some point in our lives, the home bleaching. While common openly-public stores like Wal-mart and CVS offer relatively inexpensive chemical blonding kits to the everyday, most of them, quite honestly, are crap.
A typical blonding kit consists of small packets of bleach, just a bit bigger than a packet of Kool-Aid, A small tube of creme or gel lightener, and a medium-sized bottle of "developing creme".
the packets are powdered bleach, un-dusted [meaning do this in a well-ventillated area, but don't put the fan on unless you want a bad buzz and some burned nostrils from the powdered ammonia] white, low-grade plain-ol' hair bleach. its two steps up from Old Dutch cleanser.
the creme or gel stuff in a tube is God-knows-what, and the mysterious thick "Developing Creme" is concentrated peroxide, and although the packaging may not have it printed anywhere, its usually a half-filled bottle of 20-Volume peroxide.
What's peroxide? we'll get to that.
basicly, you mix parts one and three, empty the tube labled part two, and shake it up and stick it on your head. what happens? is it magic? is it that stuff chemistry teachers ramble on about?
the average person buys an eleven-dollar bleaching kit, skims the instructions, inhales a little bit of un-dusted powdered ammonia, and leaves their bathroon one to two hours later with yellow roots, an orange midsection, and bright red ends. they contemplate shaving their heads, or commiting cosmetic suicide, but instead, they call their hairdresser, explain the whole thing, get yelled at, and have it fixed the following weekend.
Why did your head turn three different colors? Why did you see jesus in your bathroom mirror after sneezing through the mushroom-cloud of bleach? Why did your hairdresser yell at you and threaten to beat you to within an inch of your life with a dollar-store hairbrush she paid seven dollars for at a salon supply? Is it because you're an idiot? Are the chemicals in those pretty little boxes with the pretty little blonde models on the front really crap? Is it a lie? Did you cheat death?
Your head turned three different colors because chances are, your hair was three different colors to begin with. the average american has already previously colored their hair an array of reds and blacks before considering home blonding. Bleach cannot be applied to previously-colored hair if the previous artificial colors are still within the hair. you either have to grow the dyed parts out, or strip them with a color-stripper first. [more on strippers that don't wear pasties and Frederik's of Hollywood thongs later.] bleach has to work twice as hard to lift pigment when it encounters artificial dyes, whether they be permanent or not, it gets in the way, resulting in dark tones in the ends, which are the dryest and most dense parts of the hair, the middle bit turns bright orange, because chances are, within two months prior, it was colored with something cheap and permanent, so its not old, but its not new, and its not blonde. the roots turn yellow, because virgin, or uncolored hair processes faster, and therefore more thorough. Which leads me to the second less common scenario.
if you've used a cheap bleach kit on completely virgin, uncolored hair, and it still turned three different distinct tones, go fetch the instruction-sheet from the garbage and read it again.
most bleach kit instructions will tell you to put the mixture the ends or the main part of the hair first for thirty minutes, then only after those thirty minutes, should you put the bleach on any hair close to the scalp, i.e--roots. even if there's no visible difference between your roots and the rest of your hair, you have to process the ends first and the roots fast, because newly grown hair hasn't exactly...grown into itself yet, and its very pliable and easy to color. it soaks up chemical and pigment twice as fast as the the rest of its surroundings, and should be tinted carefully under a watchfull eye, because a regular root-to-tip application often results in a three-colored mess.
why did you see Jesus in the bathroom mirror when you sneezed into that mushroom-cloud of un-dusted powdered bleach? I told you to do it in an open well ventillated area, without a fan on. most bleach kits use cheap white bleach, and that stuff gets everywhere. calm down, you just need some fresh air.
Your hairdresser probably yelled at your for using, in his or her eyes, an inferior product. most blonding kits that are sold to the public are a few steps down from professional chemicals, and though they react and have the capability of a lift or usually to within some extent do what's expected of them, they are in no way real bleaching or blonding chemicals. its watered down developing creme you're using. I've already warned you about the un-dusted bleach powder, and that creme-gel stuff in the tube, don't even ask. Only its manufacturers know what its comprised of, and what its for. Chances are, your beauty professional tried to kill you with a hairbrush because you probably burned your scalp, your head is a rainbow of warm-toned monstrosity, and even though I'm sure she's probably more than willing to take your money to fix your mistake, its soul-numbing to fix things like that, day after day. from a technical standpoint, its pretty hard to correct and to make it look natural, and she wasn't really trying to kill you, just the ignorance that led you to use such an inferior product. its not completely your fault, just stay away from the HBA section for a while.
if its such an inferior product--why sell it?
because profits are sooooo good. yes, it is a lie. No, you're not an idiot. the pictures on the box are digitally enhanced and made perfect so you'll buy the damned thing, and if you made it out of the salon alive without that overpriced bright-green hairbrush fused to your head, why yes, you did cheat death.
so if you'd rather not end up looking like one-hit-wonder pop-singer vitamin-C, and be beaten half to death by an overworked liscenced asthetic professional who could really use a hug, follow these kind words of advice.
if you ever attempt another home bleaching, don't use over-the-counter hair bleach. go straight to the source of all your beauty needs, and that is the Public Beauty Supply. the most common being Sally Beauty, many supply wholesale and single-order cosmetic goodies to lisenced professionals, and a select, but wide-ranging number of items to the public, at a very fair price.
a large packet of bleach, which is enough to cover a thick head of medium hair, is about $4, sometimes as little as $3.15 w/ applicable tax, etc, etc, whatever. remember that creamy stuff called "developing creme?" that magical elixer called peroxide is your activating agent when it comes to dying and lightening. it comes in four standard strengths, all available to the public at an inexpensive price.
10-Volume peroxide is simply an activator. it provides no lift when mixed with haircolor, but simply allows the color its mixed with to deposit into the hair shaft.
20-Volume peroxide is a standard lift. it provides an activation, as well as a pleasing lightend result when mixed with permanent color or bleach powder.
30-Volume is a bit of an extra lift. its most commomly used with hi-lift colors, which lift natural pigment from dark hair, and then deposit lighter shades of color onto brunettes and those of stubborn dark hair.
40-Volume is the most common high-range peroxide legally available to the public. it offers a maximum lift, and a bit of a burning itch to sensitive scalps. its best used on hair that has never been treated to a chemical process, and on skin that isn't prone to allergic reactions and rashes. if 40-volume developer is used as a lifting agent on hair that's being bleached or treated with color for the second time around, it may fry the hair. the higher the number, the stronger it is, the stronger it is, the more dangerous it is.
if you've previously colored your hair, go no higher than thirty, especially if you have a sensitive scalp.
in terms of bleach, whether you're a natural blonde, or a deep brunette, don't buy white bleach, unless you want to process four times and tone like crazy. even professional-grade white bleach, regular old neutral powdered bleach, will lift a significant number of levels off of regular or pre-lightened hair, but will leave anyone with a slightly brassy or orange-yellow tone.
the magic word of the day here, is tone, boys and girls. Once you lift with good white bleach, wait two weeks--though some say you can do it in the same day--and those people are very brave--and pick up a bottle of Creme Toner back at Sally's.
creme toner comes in several bases, the most commong being ash and blue-violet. toners are chemicals that when paired with a color that's the oposite of their base on the color wheel, they neutralize that color into something natural-looking.
if you have an unwanted orange or brassy tone, you take a blue-based toner, mixed with one to two parts 20-volume developer, and let it sit for fifteen to thirty minutes, or until the mixture turns a bright-blue. when the mixture achieves its base color, it can be rinsed out, and the unwanted orange tone will have been neutralized into something a bit more yellow, but a bit more...passable.
i like to skip as many steps as i can when lifting hair--but that's because i know what I'm doing--so I like to use a color-based bleach that has a toner built into it.
the most common color-based bleaches are Loreal Quick-Blue, and Clairol Kalidecolors lightners. they come in both one-pound buckets and single-application packets.
when bleaching orange hair to its next lightest level, or when bleaching dark natural hair, a blue-based bleach will lift up to seven color levels [more on levels soon] and neutralize unwanted tones as it lifts. though in most cases they cannot completely neutralize unwanted tones, they are life-savers for those with stubborn hair or previously-dyed hair that weren't able to strip it first.
a purple-based bleach is good for pre-lightend or naturally-light hair, because it removes unwanted yellow tones, and can give a more platinum or more believeable blonde look to hair.
a pretty good reason as to why over-the-counter-kit-bleach gives off orange and yellow tones, lies not only in its quality, but its chemial composition. a plain white bleach will not tone, but simply lift, and leaves hair ready for a lighter color-scheme, but it will not make hair blonde.
natural hair has ten, sometimes eleven levels. one being black, and ten being platinum, the illusive eleven is white.
standard professional bleach lifts seven levels. no amount of bleaching, without toning, will process to white. [as for white hair, there is a tutorial floating around that became somewhat popular and infamous recently. in it, the girl, who I must say, is very experienced in chemical processses, is another amateur. she takes the everyday color-enthusiast through a dark-to-platinum scenario on her virgin dark brown roots. its all well and good until the end. you see, the writer achieves her platinum hair through two bleachings and a toning or two. its nearly white, but has a small natural yellow tone to it. nothing distracting or brassy, but there is a difference between platinum and white hair. the writer goes back to her beauty supply and is convinced to buy another packet of bleach and some 40-Volume developer. this is a bad thing. when hair has been lightened to the color of--some say the inside of a banana, perhaps a post-it-note, it can no longer be bleached, from an ethical standpoint. by then the hair has given out so much protein and nutrients that it could be a grave mistake to attempt to lighten it again, at least for the sake of the hair and the folicles themselves. if using a high level of peroxide on previously double-processed hair, meaning 40-volume on a repeat-bleaching, the consequences could be dire if not done in a controlled setting by a professional. in the end, she burns her scalp, appears to have lost some hair, and the ends look a bit knackered--but she gets white hair.
so would you rather be bald and burned--or blonde? stick with me, here.
after the bleach mixture is properly applied and timed, when its ready to rinse out, some instructions say to add a bit of mild pH-balance shampoo [like baby shampoo, but not clairfying shampoo] to the hair to help cleanse the hair of its bleach, and then condition, but some colorists say its better to use conditioner as you rinse, to help mask any further possible damage done by the bleach.
a lightening process can damage hair, and after its done, hair technically is damaged. if the hair feels brittle, even after being conditioned, and breaks off or falls out, then it may have been processed too long, or it may be lacking essential hair protein called Keratin. there is NO way to repair split ends or to stick broken pieces back onto the hair shaft of folicle. if there is significant damage to the scalp or hair, commonly referred to as a "chemical haircut", see a colorist, and then a dermatologist to go about repairing and possibly regrowing some of the lost hair.
now that doomsday situation is rare, but it does happen. if you have previously damaged, or even PERMED or RELAXED hair, such a scenario may happen. its important to know that when bleach is mixed with hair that has been permed or relaxed, a "nair"-like chemical-reaction occurs and the hair will melt and break off. also, if hair has been bleached, it cannot be permed or relaxed, or it will also suffer unforseen circumstances, so choose wisely what chemical and asthetic path to take with your hair, or you may lose it. certain sacrifices have to be made in order to attain unattainable beauty, so be prepared to make a commitment with your new hair.
one thing I cannot stress enough, is that besides the fact that a home lightening, when done carefully and properly with the right chemicals, IS possible; its still very dangerous when done by teenagers and irresponsible uninformed adults.
bleach is ammonia. powdered ammonia. when ammonia is mixed with fabric bleach or cleaning chemicals, it makes mustard gas. mustard gas is highly toxic and may cause blindness, and even death. it was used as a revolutionary weapon in WWI, and should not be attempted to be made, or taken lightly--so no science experiments! DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, ATTEMPT TO SUPPLIMENT HAIR-BLEACH MIXTURES WITH CLOROX OR POWDERED CLEANSERS, PLEASE!
bleach is flamable, for the most part. don't attempt to, in extremely asinine cases, flat-iron your hair while the mixture is being applied. Sometimes the only activating heat that bleach needs comes right from a person's scalp. put on a plastic shower cap and sit tight. You can, if using a professional-grade lightener from Sally's [meaning, not a box kit from the grocery store] apply light heat to the hair to speed up the process for tough, stubborn or really strong hair. I recommend amateurs do it over a plastic cap on low heat for starters. [and stay away from open flames and cigarettes, barbeques, yadda-yadda-yadda.]
it is NOT a good idea to break out the heat-styling applicances after the hair has been lightened for at least two weeks. bleaching damages hair, and hair needs plenty of protein and cholesterol and rest after its been lifted. I implore you, no matter how stubborn and frizzy and curly and cow-lick-y your hair is, do not attempt to pack it full of gels and hairsprays and for the love of beauty, don't flat-iron it for at least a fortnight. [that's two weeks.] after the bleach has been rinsed out, instead of putting a dollop of your regular conditioner in your hair and running it through, put together a cholesterol treatment [sally's sells them, ask around] with some deep-fortifying conditioner, [preferably nothing made by pantene or suave, they're packed with silicone, which weigh hair down and attract dirt] and pile it on your head. keep it on for two hours or more, heck, even sleep with it on. [if you had planned on using something like manic panic or a veggie-based color after bleaching, now would be the time to use it, but if your hair really needs the moisture, condition it first and wait a few weeks, if you mix artificial veggie dyes with conditioner it ruins the pigment.]
keratin is natural hair protein, more natural than that Pro-Vitamin B-5. look for shampoos or conditoners or treatments that boast more keratin than b-5. too much cheap or synthetic protein can weigh hair down and cause it to break.
within two weeks to a month, once the hair has been calmed down and giving some intensive therapy, head back down to the beauty-supply and get a protein-based conditioner with keratin, and a shampoo made especially for blondes, preferably with a purple-base to keep it going brassy, as you will need to tone about as often as you re-touch your roots.
when it comes to root-retouching, just apply the blue or purple-based mixture to your roots with a precision-tip applicator-bottle and let it sit for twenty minutes. when the new growth has been bleached to an appropriate level, tone if necessary and condtion again.
i like to wait 8 weeks inbetween touching up a blondes roots, because even natural blondes have darkish roots, and i think a little rootage, provided its minimal and not overbearing, looks natural. it helps if the hair has a bit of texture or curl, like shakira's old do? that has a bit of dimention to it.
do not attempt to overprocess roots, even if the hair is dark, if you process the color for too long, it tends to fry the hair right out of the follicle, resulting in drastic hair loss. even good bleach can only do so much at a time.
recently, I've come across liquid lighteners. Clairol makes a line that's available through sally beauty. though I have yet to use one, they seem to make the lightening experience a bit easier. there are several formulas for different hair textures and starting points. i recommend researching them on thecreativestudio.com for more information, and strictly following the directions.
being blonde, or even just a bit lighter, is an adventure, but its well worth it. take the time to care about the chemical processes you want to put your hair through, and balance out the advantages and disadvantages of drastic change.
even if you don't like being a perfect blonde, a professional or a bit of semi-permanent color can fix that right up.
so give it a try, but watch what you're doing...please?
thank you for your time.
oh, and as for strippers, color-strippers are ammonia and peroxide-free. they remove unwanted artifical color from hair without lightening natural parts. they're safe, effictive, and gentle enough that one can re-color or even bleach within the same day as using a color-stripper.
colorOOPS and ColorZap are the most common. colorOOPS is sold for about eleven dollars in most major drugstores, and ColorZap is sold for thirteen in Sally Beauty Supply. Laws vary in different parts of the world, and I was shocked to recently learn that in places such as the UK, certain chemicals like color-strippers cannot be sold to the unliscenced public, so check with a local beautician before attempting to purchase certain chemials in certain areas.