How to Bleach Red Hair

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Consider using blonde highlights to lighten red hair.
Consider using blonde highlights to lighten red hair. (Image: face of blonde image by jimcox40 from Fotolia.com)

Because it differs in chemical makeup than other hair colors, red hair does not respond well to the same bleaching processes. All hair contains two types of pigments: phaeomelanin and eumelanin. Where dark hair contains more eumelanin, red hair contains more phaeomelanin. Because eumelanin responds more easily to bleaching action than phaeomelanin, red hair requires a stronger bleaching process than dark black hair. But even though red hair may give you some trouble, a little tenacity will get it to the color you want.

Things You'll Need

  • 20-volume peroxide
  • Towel
  • Shower cap
  • Blow dryer
  • Diffuser
  • Toner
  • Protein conditioner

Apply 20-volume peroxide to the back of the hair near the nape of your neck. Do not rub into the scalp or you might suffer discomfort or even burns from the bleach.

You may use 30-volume for naturally dark red hair, but pay close attention to your scalp. The second you feel pain, rinse out the peroxide.

Quickly continue to apply bleach toward the front of your head.

Wipe any bleach off of your forehead, ears and the back of your neck.

Cover your hair with a shower cap.

Bleach loses its effectiveness when it dries, so covering the hair allows the bleach to stay moist.

Attach your diffuser to your blow dryer’s nozzle. Blow dry the hair, through the cap.

To avoid patchy hair color, keep the heat even.

Watch your hair color closely. Stop when you reach the desired result or after 30 minutes, whichever comes first.

Repeat the bleaching process, if you did not reach the desired color. Always wait a few days to let the skin on your scalp repair itself.

Tone your hair, using semi-permanent ash or neutral blonde in the color you want your hair. Semi-permanent hair color does not “lift” (lighten your hair), but instead deposits color on your pre-lightened hair. Because red hair shows more difficulty in lightening, it can turn orange or brassy. Toner cuts this brassiness.

Condition your hair using a protein-based conditioning treatment.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not try bleaching your hair if your hair contains red dye. This could lead to mismatched colors and hair loss. Instead, seek the advice of a stylist.
  • Bleaching often causes scalp discomfort. However, if your scalp begins burning while bleaching, then quickly rinse off bleach with cool water. If you notice any blistering or bleeding, report to the emergency room immediately.
  • Check the label for metallic dyes. Do not use a semi-permanent toner with metallic dyes.

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