Listen Up Before Lightening Up: 5 Tips for Lightening Your Hair

by August 22, 2018

hair lightening, blonde, brown and red

Image by Madison Reed

Thinking of lightening your hair? Well hold it light there! Whether you want just a few subtle sun-kissed highlights, or want to go full-on platinum blondie, here are 5 tips you simply must know before reaching for the bleach…

Hair Lightening Tips

  1. Don’t look now, but your undertone is showing

    Here’s a fun fact for you: no matter what color hair you have, as you go lighter, you expose warm undertones (hints of red, orange and yellow). Here’s how it works:

    Black, dark brown and medium brown hair exposes red to red/orange undertones

    Light brown, dark blond and medium blonde hair exposes orange to orange/yellow undertones

    Light blonde to pale blonde hair exposes yellow undertones

    This is why a hair toner is so important when lightening your hair. A toner counteracts any unwanted warmth and brassiness without interfering with your base color, and can help refine the exposed warmth leaving you with hints of rich honey and caramel.

  2. How light will you go?

    How much lightness can be expected doesn’t just depend on how long you leave the bleach on your hair, but on a few different factors. Obviously saturation is key—how much hair lightener is applied. But also your starting shade, and whether or not your hair has previously been colored. That is, hair that has previously been colored will lift—or lighten—less than hair that has never been colored. The darker your hair, and the more it has been colored, means it will lighten less.

  3. It takes time to get it light

    We know, we know—you want lighter hair, and you want it NOW. But it takes time to go light the right way. Cutting corners to get lighter faster may result in damaged hair, especially if you have colored your hair before. Hair lightening is a process. You have to gradually remove the layers of color. Be patient! Building up to your desired level of lightness is better for the health of your hair, plus it’s always a good idea to play around with how light your really want to go along the way.

  4. Lighter ... thicker? Straighter???

    If you think your lightened hair seems thicker, you’re not imagining it. The alkaline chemicals used to lighten hair—ahem, bleach—cause your hair strands to swell, resulting in hair that appears more voluminous. Hello bodacious blonde! It can also change the porosity and elasticity of your hair, i.e. the texture seems different. Fine hair may become thicker, while curly hair may straighten out a bit. Regardless of texture, your hair will become drier and possibly more brittle. This is why it is important to pamper your lightened hair with a weekly bond building treatment to strengthen hair and prevent future breakage.

  5. What a difference a dye makes

    So you’re blonder, now what? Well, you may have to change up your look a bit, depending on how much lighter you went. The color of your hair can actually change the appearance of your complexion, so some of your makeup may not work with your new, lighter locks. Dramatic shades of makeup may need to be softened, and you might want to take a look at the shade of your brows. Darker brows are, of course, fine, but too dark of a contrast and you may want to have them professionally lightened a smidge.

Of course, the #1 tip for going lighter is this: blondes have more fun, but we honestly think brunettes know how to have a good time, too, and redheads, people with glossy black hair, people without hair. So do just that—sun-kissed or platinum, no matter your hair color, remember to pamper your locks and have a blast with your new blonde if you decide to go for it.

Curious about balayage? Learn balayage techniques on our in-depth balayage page.