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Hair Lightening? Know What to Expect

4 mins

Shelly Jones

Hair lightening can be a complex process, especially if you have a darker shade of hair or black hair. Remove the complexity by being well-informed.

Lightening hair refers to the process of “lightening” or “reducing” your hair’s natural color. It differs from bleaching as the latter applies to lightening already colored hair. Though the process of bleaching and lightening may be similar, the former involves lightening hair that has been colored dark.

If you like turning your hair to a beautiful blonde, or would like to style up with lighter highlights, then lightening is the perfect solution. As lightening is a little complicated, it is always better to have a stylist’s help, especially if you are new to it.

While approaching an expert is good, it is also best to acknowledge the process of hair lightening. With awareness, you will be more informed not only about styling and coloring but also about the haircare you would have to follow to reduce damage.

Table of Contents:

  • Different Types of Hair Lightening
  • Highlights
  • Ombre
  • Babylights
  • Balayage
  • The Lightening Process
  • Stage One – Mixing of Powdered Bleach and Developer
  • Stage Two – Application of Lightening Mix
  • Stage Three – Application of a Toner
  • After Application
  • Lightening Darker Strands
  • Hair Lightening Aftercare

Different Types of Hair Lightening

Each hair-lightening type imparts a different stunning effect. Learn the different effects so that you choose the right one for you.

  • Highlights

Highlights impart a distinct style to normal hair. A portion of the hair is kept in base color – a color different from your existing hair color or the same. Highlights are created by lightening portions of hair. The lightened portions and the strands in the base color coexist, creating a visible style.

  • Ombre

The ombre effect shows a dark background dissolving into a lighter color. The top stretch of the hair is dark, while the lower half is lightened. The seamless blend of dark with a light color creates the stunning ombre effect.

hair ombre
  • Babylights

Babylights deliver an effect similar to that of a baby’s hair lightened by the sun. This technique uses bleach for hair lightening. The roots are hand-painted with bleach to deliver the required effect.

  • Balayage

Balayage, similar to ombre, focuses on lightening the bottom half of the hair. But there is a visible difference between the styles. The highlights are paced vertically here. Also, not all hairs in the lower half are lightened. A chosen set of hairs is bleached for effect. 

hair Balayage

The Lightening Process

The time taken for hair lightening depends on your natural hair color. Dark hair is difficult to lighten.

If you are lightening darker hair, then it can take multiple sessions to achieve desired results.

  • Stage One – Mixing of Powdered Bleach and Developer

This stage involves the application of bleaching powder.

Start by choosing between a bleaching powder and a lightening cream. While both formulations work to lighten the hair, there is a significant difference in the levels of lightening achieved.

Bleaching powder delivers stronger lighetning effects than a cream. With a powder, you can achieve a maximum of 8 levels of lightening with a single use. If you have darker hair or have colored your hair dark, then bleaching powder is apt to achieve faster results.

If your hair is not too dark or if you have not color-treated your hair, then a lightening cream is best.

light hair color

Before applying powdered bleach, a developer is chosen and mixed with the powder. A developer is a chemical with hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide helps open hair cuticles so that the lightening product penetrates deep into the hair.

Developers with different amounts of hydrogen peroxide are available. The higher the amount of peroxide, the lighter your hair would be. While lightening is quicker and deeper, using higher amounts of hydrogen peroxide can increase hair damage.

Most experts recommend a developer of 3% or 6% strength. The exact proportion of powdered bleach-developer mix depends on the required lightening shade. The usual ratio of the developer–bleach powder mix is 1:2.

Stage One involves the preparation of powdered bleach (or lightening cream/high-lift colors) and developer mix. The powder works by removing hair’s natural pigment, which makes strands lighter in the shade.

  • Stage Two – Application of Lightening Mix

This stage involves the application of the mix prepared in Stage One to hair. The mix is applied in sections to ensure consistent lightening across strands.

Hair is usually left unwashed and dry for lightening. But sometimes, there may be exceptions. Your stylist will guide you if you are approaching a professional. If you are lightening at home, then follow the instructions on the product packaging.

bleached hair

Application is usually performed from the back of the head. The hair here is stronger, and, therefore, the damage is minimal. The application involves running the mix along the length of the strands, stopping about 2.5 centimeters away from the scalp. Skin tends to lighten faster near the scalp, which is why this section is lightened toward the end of the process.

The hair on the front is lightened next. Hair in this part is softer and weaker and therefore gets lightened faster.

Leave the application as per your stylist’s instructions or as per the instructions on the product packaging.

Wash the hair to rinse off the product from your hair.

  • Stage Three – Application of a Toner

A toning treatment is an essential part of lightening, performed to minimize damage. Without a toner, hair becomes dry and brittle after the application of powder bleach.

Toning serves a dual purpose. It delivers the required lightening shade to hair and also makes strands healthy. Without a toner, brassy tones of orange and yellow can make your lightening session a disaster.

A toner helps achieve the desired lightening shade successfully because it adds a layer of tone over the existing lightening shade without altering the color. As a result, you get that perfect silver hair or platinum blonde, or other pastel colors you may be desiring for your hair.

silver hair, how to have gray hair

Your stylist may use a toning shampoo or a tinting dye.

When applying a toner, start from the back of the head and continue till the tip. Then, apply the toner at the roots. Leave for the specified time. Rinse the toner away with water.

  • After Application

After leaving the application for the specified time, wash hair with a shampoo that has a damage repair formulation.

  • Lightening Darker Strands

If you are lightening darker strands, then the process is lengthier and involves:

  1. Lightening hair from the darkest brown or black shade to dark brown
  2. Achieving a light brown shade
  3. Lightening further to receive a dark blonde color
  4. Attaining a medium blonde shade
  5. Achieving a light blonde color
  6. Lightening to a white color or a platinum blonde or icy blonde shade
    Lightening to a white color

Hair Lightening Aftercare

Good aftercare after a lightening treatment is critical to preventing major damage to hair and maintaining its strength. Reliable aftercare also restores your scalp’s normal pH, which is important to preserve its protective properties.

Some aftercare tips you need to follow after a lightening treatment:

  • If you feel you have not achieved the correct color, then go for a lightening session with an intense lightener at lower concentrations. Remember to lighten only after a gap of 2 weeks from the last lightening appointment. This time is essential to allow the hair to heal from the last treatment.
  • Treat your hair to shampooing and conditioning to restore its natural strength and shine while retaining the effects of lightening for a long time. You may want to explore the range of shampoo-conditioner packs from WOW Skin Science. They are 100% natural, vegan and free of silicones, sulfates, parabens, and mineral oils.

  • Use a nourishing hair mask. Hair masks are powerful damage controllers. They provide excellent moisturization while maintaining the effects of lightening. They also keep strands smooth and radiant.

 The Moroccan Argan Oil Hair Mask by WOW Skin Science has been formulated exclusively for dry and damaged hair. This hair mask has powerful natural ingredients, including sunflower biolipids, shea butter, argan oil, and hydrolyzed wheat proteins. They work to keep your hair moisturized, enriched with nutrients, and repair damage.

You may also want to explore a range of other hair masks, including Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Mask and Moroccan Argan Oil Mask for Color-Treated Hair

Moroccan Argan Oil Mask for Color-Treated Hair

Whether you are looking to create a stunning balayage or appear different with teasy lights, lightening is the way to go. Efficient aftercare is critical to maintaining the strength of your hair and preparing it for further styling and coloring.

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Shelly Jones

Shelly is a beauty blogger and freelance lifestyle writer. She has been blogging for over ten years now, and her articles have appeared on major lifestyle websites. Readers from all across the world await and believe in her authentic product reviews.

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