Bleaching Dark Hair

Dark-haired woman with bleached highlights
Well placed highlights flatter!

Bleaching dark hair is a chemical process that should only be performed in a salon. Because there are potential challenges when lifting dark hair through the many levels needed to achieve the desired lightness, a colorist is your best bet to protect your hair while ensuring there are no unwanted tones remaining in the hair shaft.

Points to Consider When Bleaching Dark Hair

If you're ready to lighten up, you'll want to consider the integrity and health of your hair prior to opting for bleach. Bleaching the hair, although a common practice, is extremely damaging and should only be performed on hair that has the strength and vitality needed to withstand the abuse.

Bleaching dark hair may take several salon processes, including lifting and toning. In addition, maintenance for lifted dark hair is much more extensive since outgrowth will be appear much more obvious. Here's a few things to consider prior to lightening your hair color with bleach:

  • Desired Outcome: Do you want just a few highlights, or do you want an allover platinum hair color? The more drastic your desired outcome, the more challenges, steps, and maintenance you should expect. If you opt to lift the hair any lighter than 1-2 levels, you're going to need professional help. Before booking an appointment with your colorist, consider how much you're willing to spend to maintain your color, and what steps and changes you're willing to make to protect your hair after the process. A free consultation with your colorist is the best way to discuss options, cost, and potential challenges.
  • Styling Requirements: Any type of color treated hair requires alternate styling practices. Once the hair has been stressed from chemical processing, you may need to wean from the blow dryer or straightening iron to give your hair a much needed break. What changes are you willing to make to your styling routine? If you wash and style your hair daily, you may not be the best candidate for bleaching dark hair. Bleached hair should only be washed a couple days a week to help maintain moisture levels and reduce the risk of long-term damage.
  • Making the Cut: In addition to altered styling plans, you may need to part with some of your length prior of immediately after bleaching the hair. Damaged, frizzy and flyaway ends cannot withstand the stress of a chemical procedure. If your dark hair is compromised in health, you can expect to shed inches along with your color change.
  • Cost: If you can't afford to maintain your hair color, don't bother opting for a high maintenance treatment. While a full head of blonde hair may seem exciting, every-other-month visits in your colorist's chair is bound to take a toll on your wallet. Once again, discuss the cost and maintenance for your color with your colorist prior to the service commitment.


Once you've made the commitment to lighten up and have considered the pros and cons of the process, your colorist will begin the chemical process. Depending on your desired look, you may have a few foils put in your hair to create natural, sexy highlights, or you may lighten up allover from scalp to ends. Dark hair will travel through many levels of color before it reaches a lightened state allowing it to be toned for desired effects.

If you want funky hair color fashions, such as pink or blue streaks, your hair will be lifted and highlighted and then deposited with a semi or permanent hair color. If you want blonde, chances are your colorist will tone the hair immediately after the bleach is rinsed to achieve desired results and remove any unwanted tones.

If your hair has the tendency to get stuck in the orange zone, your colorist may need to repeat the process several times. Bear in mind once the hair is lifted, maintenance will be easier.

The Reality of Light Hair

Always consider the damaging and physical effects of hair color prior to making a drastic change. While bleaching hair is common practice, if it's not done properly by a trained and experience colorist, the outcome can prove disastrous. In addition, maintaining color processes is a commitment. The simplest to lighten dark hair is to opt for a few well placed face framing hair highlights rather than an allover blonde. Not only is this the least damaging procedure, it's also cost effective and makes major impact.

Your colorist can help you determine the best method of lightening once you've discussed your desired results. Keep an open mind and prepare yourself for their suggestions. A good colorist will explain all the risks and requirements of the procedure prior to applying bleach.

If you're considering bleaching to lighten your locks, you need to consider a wide range of factors first. Make sure you and your colorist are working towards the same goal, and be ready to commit to the change for the best long term results!

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