Coloring your hair with permanent dye is a huge commitment. You’re basically selling your soul to the hair color devil and saying you’re ready to sport that color for life. Just kidding, it’s not that intense.
But permanent hair color really is hard to wash out, no matter how much you shampoo your locks.
But staying true to your word about not changing up your hair color again can be a challenge.
So when you start eyeing a new, lighter color you want to rock, your first thought is probably: bleach. But is bleach even okay for already dyed hair?
The answer isn’t that simple. There are many factors you must consider before jumping in and bleaching your colored hair.
Think about the condition of your hair currently or what the healthiest way to go about bleaching is.
So, can you bleach over permanent hair dye? Let’s find out.
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What Happens When You Color Your Hair With Permanent Dye?
Before you decide on whether you want to strip your natural color from hair, it’s important to understand how permanent dye works on your locks in the first place.
Permanent dye isn’t like clays or hair color sprays that simply sit on top of the surface of your hair.
It has chemicals like ammonia and hydrogen peroxide that forcefully open your hair cuticles wide so that the permanent color molecules can penetrate them.
The dye then travels to your hair cortex, where your natural hair pigments are.
They bond with those pigments and alter the color through a process called oxidation.
The coloring process also changes the structure of your hair, making it weaker.
That’s because when the chemicals force your cuticle open, they tend to break down the proteins that make your hair strong.
This is where hair coloring’s bad reputation of being extremely damaging comes from, and for good reason.
Dyeing your hair can leave your tresses damaged, dehydrated, and prone to breakage, especially when done frequently.
Can You Bleach Over Permanent Hair Dye?
The short answer is yes.
Technically, you can bleach your hair even if it’s been dyed with permanent color.
It’s the gold standard for lightening hair and sucking out all the stubborn old pigments, so it’s a must if you want to go from a dark shade and recolor to something lighter.
But the answer isn’t that simple.
There are still many things you have to consider before you can say that your colored hair is completely ready to be bleached.
Is bleaching the best option for you right now?
The answer lies in your hair’s current condition.
Although bleaching colored hair is okay, you have to assess your hair and ask yourself honestly, “Can my hair withstand even more damage from chemical processes?”
Bleach is only recommended to those who have relatively healthy hair that still has resilience and bounce.
So if you’ve only dyed your hair with permanent color once, and it’s been months since then, you’ll probably have a better shot at bleaching your hair.
But if you constantly get color touch-ups, relaxers, and other chemical processes done, think twice about bleaching your hair.
If you’re always exposing your hair to potent chemicals, it might be too brittle and dry to handle bleach.
If you force the bleach on ultra-damaged locks, you might regret it and end up with fried hair that you have no choice but to chop off later.
Word Of Caution: Bleaching Dyed Hair Can Cause Intense Damage
You might be thinking, “Even if I bleach my damaged hair, the result can’t be that bad, right?”
Well, let me explain what might happen to your hair if you push through with bleaching it while it’s in a bad, unhealthy state.
The initial damage of your permanent dye job is already bad for your hair.
Bleaching it after it already went through that chemical process will make your hair even weaker.
This is because bleach is extremely strong.
It contains ammonia, which breaks down not just the permanent dye pigments in your hair, but everything else – even the bonds and proteins that make your hair healthy.
And then, it’s mixed with a 20 or 30 developer, making it even stronger.
Because you’re exposing already damaged hair to these chemicals, you run the risk of over-processing your hair.
When this happens, your hair will be so porous and brittle that you won’t even be able to style it right.
First off, it’s going to lose all its shine and elasticity.
It’s essentially going to feel like straw when you run your hands through it.
Then, you’ll notice that breakage is always an issue.
Whether it’s hair fall or your strands simply snapping off when you try to brush them, you’ll have to deal with the fragility of your thin, fried hair.
Other dreadful signs of overprocessed hair include not being able to hold a curl when heat-styling, being prone to tangles, and zero shine.
The worst part is that it’s pretty much impossible to reverse over-processed hair.
You’ll just have to wait until you can cut it off.
So before you bleach your already dyed hair, be sure that your locks are healthy enough to handle more chemical processes.
Use A Hair Color Remover First For A Healthier Bleaching Process
Bleaching will deal at least some amount of damage to your hair, no matter what you do.
But one way to soften the blow of that damage is to think about using a hair color remover or bleach bath before you go through the full bleaching process.
Hair Color Remover
First up, let’s talk about hair color remover – yes, such a thing exists.
Hair color remover is designed for exactly that – removing dye from your hair without damaging it.
It works by penetrating your hair shaft and dissolving only the artificial color molecules in your cortex.
That means the rest of your hair stays healthy and intact.
Then, you just rinse your hair with water, and the color will wash out. Easy peasy.
You might be thinking, “What’s the difference between that and bleach?”
Bleach has lots of active chemicals that wear out not just the dye in your hair fibers, but also the main structure of your hair.
So while it breaks down the pigments you want to get rid of, bleach also dissolves your natural pigment, which is why it’s known as a hair lightener.
It also harms the proteins that make up your hair, leaving them damaged.
If you want to try a hair color remover before you bleach your locks, I highly recommend the Color Oops Extra Strength Hair Color Remover.
It does an amazing job at shrinking the permanent dye molecules in your hair, so it’s super easy to wash out.
It doesn’t contain bleach and ammonia in the formula, so it’s very safe on color-treated hair.
Another option is a bleach bath, which you can consider to be your step zero before bleaching all of your hair.
Think of it as a pre-wash before you shampoo your hair.
All you have to do to give yourself a bleach bath is combine equal parts mixed bleach and shampoo.
Add a bit of water if you want, so you can further dilute the potency of the bleach.
Saturate your wet hair with the concoction and let it absorb for about 15-20 minutes.
Then, wash it off in the shower.
Your hair will get a little bit lighter before pure bleach even touches your hair, making it a great first step in the process.
How To Bleach Hair To Get Rid Of Permanent Hair Dye
Many people will tell you that the best and only way to lighten already colored hair is to bleach it all over again.
While there are many other DIY methods to get rid of permanent dye in your hair, they got one thing right: bleach is the fastest and most effective way to do it.
When picking a date for your bleaching job, make sure it’s been at least 10 weeks since you’ve dyed your hair.
Any earlier than that and your hair will likely still be too weak to take on the prowess of bleach.
On bleaching day, make sure you don’t wash your hair.
The excess oils and debris living in your hair in the days prior will help protect your hair from the damage of the bleach.
Now, you’re ready to start bleaching.
Here’s how you go about it:
Mix Bleaching Powder And Developer
Mix your bleaching powder and developer in an old bowl.
Your specific bleach product should have instructions on how to do this and what kind of developer to use.
If they don’t specify what developer to use, stick with a 20 or 30 developer.
If your dyed hair is jet black or any other extremely deep color, consider going for a 40 developer.
While this developer should be used only by professionals and those with previous experience with bleach, it might be the only developer to work on very stubborn permanent dye.
Section Your Hair
Section off your hair to make it easier and more organized during the bleaching process.
Divide your hair straight down the middle and from one ear to another.
This should give you four quadrants to work with.
Start with the bottom sections first.
Clip up the top sections to get them out of the way.
Take one-inch pieces of hair and start applying the bleach solution with a small comb or applicator brush.
Do it from top to bottom.
When you’re done with the lower sections, start working on the top ones.
Leave 0.5inch Roots Untouched
Leave about half an inch of your roots untouched.
Because that area is so close to your scalp, it’s warmer and will process faster.
The bleach nearest the roots will trickle down and process the area anyway.
This is a good way to avoid unnecessary chemical burns and hot roots.
As you bleach each lock of hair, cover it with foil afterward.
This traps heat in the hair, allowing the bleach to activate and process better.
It’s also a great way to keep your work organized.
Leave The Bleach For A While
Leave the bleach in your hair for 30-45 minutes, or however long was instructed in your product.
Make sure you peek through the foil now and then to check on the shade.
You can stop at any time if you already like the lightness of your hair.
Rinse Your Hair
Jump into the shower and rinse out the bleach from your hair with warm or hot water.
This is the opposite of when you’re coloring your hair, which is when you want to use cold water.
Cold water locks color in, while hot water will encourage it to go out.
Since your ultimate goal is to remove the permanent color from your hair, go for water with a higher temperature.
You can also shampoo your hair if you want to get rid of the chemical-like odor that bleach leaves behind.
Wait Before Bleaching Again
Some people will need to bleach multiple times, especially when you’re starting from a very deep shade.
If you want another round to remove even more of your permanent color, wait two weeks to do the bleaching process again.
When you’re finally happy with your shade, go in with toner or gloss to finish your look.
Aftercare Tips For Bleached Hair
The following are some tips for maintaining your newly-bleached hair:
Use a protein treatment once a week.
This will help repair the bonds damaged by the bleach in your hair.
Protein masks are excellent for filling in the gaps in your damaged hair cuticles, making them look shiny and feel smooth again.
Don’t Shampoo Daily
Don’t wash your hair every day.
Shampooing daily will dry out your already damaged hair.
So while your bleached locks are still recovering, wash only every three or so days.
And on wash day, make sure you use a sulfate-free shampoo, which is gentler on bleached strands.
Avoid Heat Styling
Hit pause on heat-styling.
Heat will aggravate the damage your hair is already dealing with.
Keep those curling wands and straighteners in the drawer until your hair is completely healthy again.
We now have an answer to our question: Can you bleach over permanent hair dye? In a nutshell, yes, technically you can bleach your hair even if you’ve dyed it with a permanent color.
It’s the only sure way you’ll get rid of those old dye pigments and lighten your natural hair in one go.
So if you’re 100% sure you want to give up your dark hair of a lighter hue, go ahead and bleach it.
However, you have to make sure that your hair is in a good enough state before bleaching it.
Otherwise, you’ll be risking the overall health and integrity of your hair.
And if you abuse bleach, you could end up with irreparable, over-processed locks.
If you do bite the bullet and bleach your colored hair, take note of our aftercare tips above too.
Moisturizing and being gentle on your hair is key to ensuring that it will still be shiny, bouncy, and lively after going through multiple chemical processes.