Any Colourist knows that to display the perfect bright colour, delicate pastel or glorious grey, you must create a clean pale canvas. And this means lightening the hair. But how good are you at lightening trivia? Here are some useful facts and pointers that can lead you to the light: -

The weather does affect your lightening!

Have you ever lightened your hair in August and noticed it seemed to jump from that dreaded deep orange to a perfect pale yellow within no time at all? Many chemical-based products become fast acting when applied in a warm environment. With bleaches and lighteners, the acceleration in speed occurs because oxidizers such as bleach and peroxide can pass quickly through the hair cuticle, which will also raise under warm environments. When first mixed, oxidizers are at their most potent, with the hair cuticle raised and the additional warmth boosting the bleach and peroxides activity, the chemicals can quickly enter the hair and begin lightening the pigment. By contrast, you could then attempt to lighten on a snowy day in November and find your hair much more resistant to lifting. In this situation, the hair cuticle is taking longer to raise, the chemicals longer to enter the hair and the oxidizers are then slower at lightening out pigments.

Its why blonde roots lift faster than whole head!

You might have gone to great lengths to create an all-over blonde base, perhaps with more than one lightening process. A lot of orange in between and a lot of waiting around. However, when you got to 6 weeks and went to lighten just your new regrowth, were you surprised how quickly it lifted to pale? Well, it’s the heat factor again. Your scalp emits a lot of heat and so that first inch of regrowth gets a good accelerated lift. However, if you leave your regrowth several months before re-lightening, you might find you achieve a clear perfect pale for the first inch and then a deeper yellow in the higher sections. This is due to the fact scalp heat can only reach so far. Therefore, maintaining a regular regrowth regime will ensure you keep a perfect pale base, as those lightened roots grow down throughout the hair.

Do not think heat is all good!

Whilst a warm environment is perfect for good lightening, you should ultimately avoid ‘hot’. Applying direct heat to bleach and peroxide is a bad idea, because it can cause ‘aggressive’ lightening whereby the hair is expanded open and oxidized too quickly. You should never wrap the hair up in foil or clingfilm and then direct hairdryer heat onto it. Also, if the weather is extremely hot, you should avoid lightening hair at home. Causing bleach and peroxide to become ‘heated’ will not only cause severe damage to the hair structure (leading to breakage and snapping), but you also risk sweating, which can cause the lightener to move onto the skin. And yes, we know salons use heat, but these are controlled infrared devices which create a stable ‘warm’ as opposed to a ‘hot’ environment.

High peroxide strength does not mean good lift!

The biggest mistake people make is believing using a strong 40 volume (or 12%) peroxide will give the best lightening results. Whilst the strength of 40 volume peroxide means it appears to lift very fast, it is very aggressive on the hair fibres and does not lighten in a stable and even manner. Therefore, darker hair lightened with 40 volume peroxide will tend to be very orange, as a great deal of the red and yellow colour pigments are left untouched within the hair. In addition, the strength of 40 volume peroxide will cause the cuticle to become ‘blasted’ open, making the hair more porous and generally create a very bad base for subsequent recolouring. Often, people who have bleached with 40 volume peroxide will find subsequent colours applied will fade very quickly. Alternatively, semi-permanent colours may irreversibly stain the hair, due to the damage caused from such an aggressive process.

Low strength peroxide does not mean low lift!

By contrast, using a peroxide around the strength of 20 volume (6%) to lighten hair, may seem a much slower process on darker bases, but ultimately the hair is lightened correctly. Because a lower level peroxide strength is more stable, it will evenly lighten the red, then the orange and yellow pigments. Natural darker hair can often have a very high level of red or gold pigment. Therefore, using a lower strength peroxide (such as 20 volume) when lightening, will not only safely lift these pigments, but also retain more of the hair’s strength, so subsequent colours and shades can be applied to the hair, without risk of colour fading, staining or damage.

So, what is 40 volume peroxide for?
The irony is, 40 volume peroxide is most effective on lighter natural bases to achieve a quick effect blonde. And most notably for salon environments. If 40 volume peroxide is used with bleach and applied as just a few highlights to a dark blonde (natural) base, it will lift to a pale blonde in as little as 10 minutes and can be then washed off. The hair colourist can apply it quickly and remove it quickly without a high risk of damage to the hair structure. The biggest misconception with 40 volume peroxide is its purpose is for use on very dark natural hair colours. Use on such a depth, could cause a lot of damage and still leave a heavy orange result that would have difficulty being re-coloured.

Try to avoid applying a semi-permanent colourant immediately after bleaching or lightening

It is the most common thing to do. You have bleached your hair to pale and now you want to apply your desired vibrant or pastel semi-permanent colour. However, it is very common for mild oxidation (from bleach and peroxide) to remain active within the cortex for hours after you have washed the bleach from the hair. If you apply a semi-permanent colourant to the hair immediately after rinsing off bleach, you run the risk the active peroxide (still residing within the hair) could oxidize the semi-permanent dye molecules, causing them to become more permanent or the opposite effect, whereby they lift and cannot remain stable within the hair.
After bleaching, if you can wait until the following day to apply your semi-permanent colour, you run a far better chance of achieving a colour result, that not only has vibrancy but also retains and then fades off the hair as expected.

Peroxide based colourants CAN be applied immediately after bleaching

The opposite principles apply to re-colouring if you are using a peroxide based, oxidation colourant. Because these products contain peroxide, they will enter the hair and combine with any oxidation molecules remaining following the bleach treatment. The oxidation colour pigments will then connect within the hair during development and the hair is rinsed. So, any of the active peroxide left within the hair (from the initial bleaching treatment), simply attaches to colour molecules to form your desired shade. This approach is particularly effective if re-colouring to a tonal blonde, grey or silver shade.

And use a semi-toner after not before!

Grey and Silver hair colours need a neutralised pale base to display correctly. However, if you bleach the hair, apply a product such as Colour-Freedom White Blonde and then use a peroxide-based product such as Metallic Glory, you run the risk of the permanent colourant formula flushing out the underlying semi-permanent toner. Instead, apply the Metallic Glory shade immediately after bleaching onto the untoned yellow base. You will likely notice the result is either a green tinged or murky grey. This is normal, as the underlying yellow tone in the hair has not yet been neutralised. However, after rinsing off the Metallic Glory colourant, apply the White Blonde toner and give a full 20-minute development. White Blonde will neutralise that underlying yellow tone and when you dry and style, you will notice the hair has become a crisp silver or cool grey.

Bleach is permanent!

Whereas artificial hair colourants deposit a colour into the hair, bleach is irreversible. The process lightens out natural pigments and whilst you can apply artificial colourants to go darker again, the hair underneath those colour pigments has still been bleached. Bleached hair is highly compromised and further bleaching or lightening may cause this hair to begin breaking apart. It is amazing how many people (we see) who have claimed to have applied bleach onto a natural dark base, experienced serious damage on the mid-lengths and ends, only to proclaim they have not bleached their hair for over a year – since they coloured it brown. They have forgotten that underneath the brown mid-lengths and ends was pre-existing bleached hair that could not withstand a subsequent bleaching.

If you like to go light for summer and dark for winter – take this approach….

Many people like to cover bleached blonde hair during the winter months to “give it a rest”. However, when spring arrives, they decide to bleach the whole head and damage occurs. If you coloured over bleached hair the previous year, but wish to go light again, we recommend firstly using a hair colour remover to flush out the dark artificial colour molecules and re-expose those old lightened, bleached areas. Leave the hair several weeks and condition well. Then apply your desired bleach or lightening process to just the new darker areas, avoiding the previously bleached sections. This method will enable you to achieve your desired blonde or light result, without risk of bleaching delicate pre-lightened hair holding stubborn to lift artificial hair colour molecules.

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