In this post, I’ll be discussing the steps you should take when you’re putting color over bleached hair.
But first, let me tell you a little story about my hair journey.
When I was growing up, I was never sure what color my hair actually was.
In my little nine-year-old brain, your hair was either blonde, brown, black, or red.
My hair, however, would be best described as strawberry blonde.
It always had been a mix of red and blonde highlights and light brown and auburn lowlights.
I’ve been called a red head, blonde, dirty blonde, and my personal favorite from my kindergarten students in Korea, “Teacher, your hair is pretty gold like money!”
While I have grown to love and appreciate my natural hair color, that was not always the case.
Throughout middle school and high school, I always wanted black hair with blue undertones.
I never had the nerve to go there.
In my first year in university, however, I learned about semi-permanent dye and naively thought I could try black and have it wash out in a few weeks.
So, I tried it. It did not wash out.
I was thrilled though. I finally had the hair color I had been wanting.
Every time my roots grew in, I would dump more dye on and bask happily in my midnight tresses.
After about a year and a half, I wasn’t as thrilled.
So, What Happened?
While my older brother was gifted with naturally sun-kissed skin and the ability to tan easily, I was not as fortunate.
I am just about as pale as they come with freckles.
No matter what techniques I have tried in order to tan, the result was always the same.
I turn bright red and once that heals, I am back to pale.
Needless to say, instead of complimenting my skin tone, my black hair made me look washed out.
Fortunately, I have a cousin, who at that time, was over halfway through cosmetology training.
She offered to help me get back to my natural hair color, and all I had to do was pay for the products.
Great deal, right?
While I am thankful for her help and knowledge, there were ways we both could have been more prepared for this endeavor.
Long story short, it took three rounds of bleaching, four rounds of deep conditioning treatments, and two rounds of dye over a period of 11 hours, and I still ended up with hair that had the hue of the inside of a watermelon for three days.
Looking back, there was a lot of information I wish we had both known and utilized before attempting to dye my bleached hair.
What Exactly Is Bleached Hair?
The short answer is that bleached hair is hair that has had all the color pigment completely removed.
This is the only way you can change your hair to a lighter color.
To explain a little more in-depth, when hair is bleached it undergoes a chemical reaction called oxidation.
The process starts with an alkaline (pH higher than 7) agent, which opens up your hair cuticles and pores.
Next, the oxidizing agent enters the hair cuticle and dissolves the natural melanin, which gives you your natural hair color, or dye if your hair has been previously dyed.
Things To Consider Before Putting Color Over Bleached Hair
When you put your hair through any intense chemical process, it takes on damage.
Bleaching can be particularly harsh and damaging to your hair, especially if it is done at home or incorrectly.
One of the impacts bleach has on your hair, is that it opens your hair cuticles and makes your hair more porous.
If you did not apply the bleach and let it process evenly, then your hair may be more porous in some spots and less porous than others.
This can cause your dye job to become uneven.
If you started applying the bleach at your roots, then there is a good chance they are significantly lighter than the rest of your hair.
This is because bleach processes faster with heat, and your scalp gives off a lot of heat.
This will cause your dye job to be lighter at the roots, when typically, roots are a little darker with natural growth and color.
The bleaching process has completely stripped your hair of all pigment.
When you dye your hair, the dye needs pigment molecules to bond to.
You may need to use a filler such as brassy orange or yellow tones to put those color molecules back into your hair.
This will help give a more even coloring all around, and add dimension to your hair.
You may also need to apply several rounds of color.
Be aware of the current lightness level of your hair.
The bleaching has taken a toll on your hair health, so you should stick to either the same lightness or a darker level.
I would be wary of lightening your hair any more.
Difficulties Of Dyeing Bleached Hair
As mentioned above there are many factors to consider when you are putting color over bleached hair.
If you are unsure about the process or have any doubts about what you’re doing, I would highly recommend going to a professional colorist.
Also, you should be ready to commit to your dyed color.
Generally, you would be hard-pressed to find a colorist that will re-bleach hair that has been bleached and dyed, and this would be considered a color correction.
There are several processes that generally need to take place including, fillers, color, and gloss.
This can be a very time-consuming process, so make sure you free up a large block of your time.
If you go to a salon, this can also get quite expensive if you need to do several rounds of processes.
Your best bet is to sit down with your colorist for a consultation, and be as detailed and open as possible about what has been done to your hair.
That way, the colorist knows exactly what they are getting into, and there won’t be any surprises about the price.
While hair dye will not come close to being as damaging as bleach, there is still a bit of ammonia in most dyes, and it may dry out your hair.
You want to be sure that you start the dyeing process with the healthiest hair possible, so that will require some TLC before dying.
Picking The Right Color To Suit You
Hair tones can be divided into two categories: warm tones and cool tones.
So, how can you tell what is the best tone for you?
The best way is to go and stand in natural light and look at the veins on the inside of your wrist.
If you have purple or blue veins then you have a cool skin tone, and should stick to cool tones.
If your veins appear to be green or blue-green, then warm-toned colors are for you.
Now, if you have a difficult time distinguishing between the two colors, or you see a mix of both, then you have a neutral skin tone and both warm and cold will compliment you.
Another way to tell is what jewelry looks best on you.
Silver complements cool skin tones.
Gold compliments warm skin tones.
Neutral skin tones will be complemented by both.
Putting Color Over Bleached Hair: The Application Process
So, I am going to touch on two options here.
The first will be if you are taking your bleached hair back to a darker natural color.
Then, I am going to talk about going for unnatural colors, like blue, purple, green…etc.
Natural brunette color
Going from bleach blonde back to a natural brunette color is a bit involving.
The first thing you want to do is even out the porosity of your hair with a bonding agent.
This will make sure the color will take evenly and consistently.
Then, since bleaching dissolves all the pigment in your hair, you will need to put those tones back in with a filler.
This will help give your dimension and more natural-looking color.
(This is also the reason I ended up with watermelon pink hair. We did not use a filler and so the color did not take as it should have and it did not have anything to bond to.)
The filler should add orange/yellow tones back into your hair.
Hair dye needs existing color molecules to bond to.
Now, you’re ready for the hair dye of your choice.
I would use a 10 volume developer with a professional color.
You may need to do several rounds of dying to achieve the color and shade that you want.
Section your hair into four equal parts, and start at the bottom back while working in small sections.
Process according to the directions and use lukewarm water, color shampoo, and conditioner.
Avoid washing your hair for 72 hours after dyeing it.
You will want to do at least one glossing process once your hair is dyed.
This will make the color more vibrant and bring out the dimensions in your darker color.
Bright unnatural colors
For these types of colors, you want to start with hair that is as white as possible, for the best canvas.
When you bleach your hair, you may find you have orange or yellow tones throughout your hair.
You want to go through a toning treatment to mute these tones.
A blue toner will mute orange tones, while a purple toner will cancel out the yellow.
In regards to color theory, the idea behind this is, that you locate the color of your tones on the color wheel, and then move to the opposite color.
The first thing you want to do is make sure you have everything you need.
Your color, around a 10 volume developer, as this will permanently deposit the color, and an old shirt.
I would advise against box dyes, just because the cost difference is not that much for professional colors, and you have more control over the results.
Also, start with dry hair.
I would advise using a bonding treatment beforehand to even out the porosity of your hair.
Furthermore, if you are using multiple colors, I would advise using foils to keep them from mixing.
For foils, take your section and lay it on the foil.
Start at the root and paint the dye onto the section on the foil.
Use the brush handle to help you crease the foil in the middle and fold up.
Tuck in the sides and secure if necessary.
To section off your hair, first, make a part down the middle of your head, and divide your hair into two equal parts, one on the left, and one on the right.
Then for each side, start at the top of your head at the highest point, and part that section down past your ear, so that you have four equal sections, two on each side.
Let down one of the very back sections and start at the hair that is at the very bottom of your head that falls underneath.
Take a small section of hair about ¼ of an inch.
You can start at the root and work the dye down towards the ends.
Work from bottom to top to stay organized and to keep from having a mess.
Allow the dye to process.
Follow the instructions to gauge how much time to leave the dye in.
Then proceed to rinse your hair in lukewarm water.
I usually work the foils out while I am rinsing.
Use a color-preserving shampoo and conditioner.
Then, do not wash your hair again for 72 hours after dyeing, so that the color has a chance to lock-in.
Maintaining Your Hair Color And Keeping Your Hair Healthy
To maintain the integrity of your new color, there are several things to be wary of.
Do not dye your hair right before a big beach trip, or traveling somewhere tropical.
The heat and UV rays from the sun can damage your hair and fade your color.
Ocean and especially pool water can react with the dye and cause discoloration.
Cut back on washing your hair, one or two times a week.
The more you wash your hair, the more the color will fade.
Again, hold off on washing your hair until 72 hours after dyeing your hair.
This is the time it takes for the color molecules to really lock into your cuticles.
Try a color depositing shampoo, conditioner, and hair mask.
This will give your color a needed boost and keep it looking fresh.
You can also maintain your color and shine by regularly undergoing glossing treatments.
The occasional deep conditioning treatment and being mindful of what causes damage to your hair will help your hair stay healthy.
Avoid or limit heat styling, and when you do, use the correct protective products.
Stay out of direct sunlight, and keep away from harsh chemicals such as pool water.
Remember, a lot of factors play into dyeing your bleached hair.
From what color(s) you’re using to your hair health, texture, thickness, and dryness.
This does not have to be an overly complicated endeavor as long as you find good resources, products, and follow the directions.
Changing your hair color should be fun and not something overly stressful.
Lastly, if you ever feel too uncomfortable doing this yourself at home, have a consultation with a professional.
It will be worth the ease of mind.