Bleach is one of the most useful tools you must familiarise yourself with if you want to lighten your hair. However, bleach is damaging to the hair, and even if you use Olaplex or other bond restorers you still want to use it conservatively. A bleach bath for hair is a different formulation that is more gentle than a regular full bleach.
What Is A Bleach Bath Used For?
In order to bleach your hair you mix bleach powder with peroxide and apply it to the sections of dry hair that you want to lighten. The bleach mixture will be more or less harsh depending on the volume of peroxide used, and any other additives like Olaplex. It will lift virgin or dyed hair until you wash it off or your hair chemically burns and breaks off. A bleach wash on hair is nowhere as damaging to the hair, but doesn’t have the same dramatic results either.
However, sometimes you don’t need the full lightening power of a hair bleach process. Maybe you are dealing with fragile, overprocessed hair. Or you only want to lift the hair colour subtly, or remove pastel hair dye from your hair. Regular bleach would be too much damage to your hair for little benefit. Enter the hair bleach bath.
Unlike regular bleach, a bleach bath has shampoo added to the mixture, and it’s applied to wet instead of dry hair. Usually the peroxide used is lower volume that for a full bleach. It’s much gentler on the hair, and can be applied quickly all over the head for more even results. Learning how to do a bleach wash is easy, and can make all the difference between a failed hair color job and successful color correction. Using a bleach wash on hair is perfect if you just want to color correct or remove rainbow hair dye, but it won’t make your hair go blonde.
Note: If you are looking at how to use a bleach bath to detangle a weave, or a wig, this is not the right place. This guide to bleach bath hair is only for hairdressing bleach, not chlorine bleach that should NEVER go near your head. But seems to work fine to untangle and smooth wigs when you are not wearing them. Haven’t tried myself, but people do it and are happy with the results. Anyway, back to bleach baths 🙂
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Common Uses Of A Bleach Bath
Bleach baths are easy and much gentler on their hair than a regular bleach. They are the perfect home solution for things like:
- Stripping hair dye, or toner
- Removing the last remains of pastel rainbow colours
- Lightening dyed hair by one level all over
- Gently lightening damaged or fragile hair
A bleach bath is harsher on the hair than other methods to remove hair colour, so you should try milder alternatives first. For example, if you are trying to lighten box dye that has come out too dark, or when there is buildup, a hair dye remover should be your first option.
You can also use a bleach bath instead of full bleach if you are trying to lighten your hair just a bit more, all over. For example, if your last bleach process left you with hair that is a level 9 and you want that bit extra lift to achieve platinum hair. Unlike bleach, which requires practice and technique to apply to achieve even results, a bleach wash on hair is easy to use even for a novice to bleach. There is little mystery about how to do a bleach wash, and no specialist equipment is required. Apart from hair bleach of course (DO NOT USE CLEANING BLEACH ON HAIR OR SKIN OR ANYWHERE NEAR A LIVING PERSON)
How To Prepare a Hair Bleach Bath
To prepare a bleach bath you’ll need:
- Bleach powder
- Peroxide developer, 10 or 20 volume
Mix 1 part bleach and 2 part developers as usual on a plastic bowl. If you are familiar with bleaching hair at home, you can use the same bleach powder you usually use but with a lower volume developer. Always follow the mixing instructions on your hair bleach. Once that is mixed, add at least one part shampoo. You can add more shampoo if you want an even weaker effect, or you can use a lower volume of developer.
Keep in mind that you will be applying this mixture to wet hair. If you have been bleaching your hair at home, you may try to estimate the lift you’ll get from the amount of peroxide. However, keep in mind that the peroxide will be further diluted by the water on your hair. It won’t lift as much as you are used to with straight bleach. A bleach wash on hair that has already been lightened may damage the hair a bit and even the color, but it won’t actually change it drastically.
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- Use with all permanent hair color
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- Great conditioning
How To Apply A Bleach Bath
Applying a bleach bath is fairly straightforward, but we are still talking bleach here so the usual security measures apply.
- Cover anything that can be stained with towels.
- Wear an old tshirt you don’t mind getting bleach stains on.
- Do an allergy test if you have not bleached your hair recently.
- Wear vinyl or latex gloves to protect the skin on your hands.
It is best to apply a bleach bath to unwashed hair, so the natural build-up of grease in the roots protects your scalp from the bleach. However, for best results, you need to apply to hair that is free from styling products and silicones so if needed wash your hair the night before and don’t put any leave-in products on it. Wet your hair before you begin, and towel dry it so it’s not soaking wet.
Apply the bleach wash on hair quickly, using your hands or a brush, making sure to massage it into your hair thoroughly. You want to take sections of hair, apply the mixture to the roots and pushing it downwards towards the tips instead of massaging it against your scalp. You can use a wide teeth comb to make sure it’s distributed evenly.
Usually bleach baths aren’t left in the hair more than 20 or 30 minutes, as the result you are after is hair dye removal or subtle lightening. You will need to watch your hair for the right time to wash the bleach bath off. Once you get the desired level of lift, or the unwanted undertones are gone, it’s time to wash your hair.
Rinse your hair carefully for a few minutes with lukewarm water. Bleach will keep lightening your hair until you wash it off, so you really want to rinse your hair thoroughly. While a bleach wash on hair will work much slowly than real bleach, it will still remove pigment and damage the disulphide bonds that keep protein in your hair together. So afterwards, a good deep conditioning mask will help restore your hair’s moisture.
Avoid the temptation to keep your bleach bath on your hair for too long. If there are still unwanted undertones or rainbow dye, you can repeat this process several times, leaving a few days in between treatments. Do plenty of conditioning treatments during this time to make sure your hair is as healthy as it can get.
Best Shampoo for a Bleach Bath
The best shampoo for a bleach bath is a clarifying shampoo, as it will have less additives. This will help you gauge the strength of the bleach bath better. At the very least, you want something without silicones or conditioning ingredients. This is so the bleach can work on your hair.
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If you are trying to remove brassy tones or orange from your hair you may be thinking “Can I do a bleach bath hair with purple shampoo?”. The answer, I’m afraid, it’s no. The bleach on the bleach bath will remove the pigments on purple shampoo. A bleach wash on hair will also remove most rainbow dye (direct dyes like Manic Panic for example) instead of lightening them. You can also try a micellar shampoo if your hair is very sensitised or damaged.
If you think of using conditioner instead of shampoo to lower bleach bath hair damage, it won’t work. Conditioner closes the hair cuticle, while shampoo opens it. Conditioner will interfere with the bleach bath, and give you even more subtle results. You’ll be better off using a lower volume developer if you are worried about bleach damage to your hair.
How To Care For Hair After A Bleach Bath
Bleach baths are gentler on hair than full bleach, but the aftercare treatment should be the same. Nurturing your hair back to good health means using a variety of products to restore your bleached strands. Bond rebuilding products such as Olaplex n3 can help restore damaged hair to its former glory. Deep conditioning treatments a couple of times a week, or even a good sleep with your hair soaked in coconut oil, can make a huge difference.
If you intend to do a follow-up bleach bath, you should wait at least a week and apply oils and masks to your hair so it recovers quickly. Alongside color, bleach strips hair of protein and moisture and that’s why you need to add it back to avoid straw like hair. A bleach wash on hair that is already damaged by recent bleaching can still cause a lot of damage, so be kind to your hair.
You should avoid heat styling when possible, or at least use heat protectors and as low heat as you can to get the results you want. Try to give your hair a couple of days of heat-free styling after a bleach bath. Use leave-in conditioners and smoothing serums to keep hair frizz free and moisturised.
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Full Bleach vs Hair Bleach Bath
While there are other peroxide based lighteners, bleach is the only way to make dyed hair lighter. If your goal is to achieve platinum or silver hair, and you are not naturally blonde, you’ll need to use a full bleach.
However, if you want to strip fantasy hair colours, or remove excess toner, bleach baths are easier on the hair and need less technique. They also work well if you are looking at removing orange from hair but your hair is not light enough for purple toner to work. Or if your hair is yellow after bleaching and you don’t want to overprocess it with another full bleach.
The best thing about bleach baths for hair is that they are much less damaging than a full bleach and still can make a dramatic difference. Remove the last remains of that ill-thought pastel pink hair dye, get rid of green over-toned hair or refresh your blonde. A bleach wash on hair is kinder but still gets the job done.
If you have questions about bleach baths or want to share your tricks and tips, please leave a comment below. Share your insight with other readers, or tell us your cautionary tales. We’re here to offer expert guidance on bleach baths and hair.