Social media has a way of making us feel like bonafide experts in all things. Whether it’s a face contouring tutorial or a hack on how to slice an apple properly, we often walk away (and confidently, at that) thinking we’re a jack of all trades. The downside of having such an easily accessible wealth of knowledge at our fingertips? It’s sometimes hard to distinguish what is actually attainable to try at home and what to leave to the professionals—which is where a bleach bath for hair comes into play.
Bleach washing for hair isn’t an entirely new concept; salons have done it for years to strip, tone, and lighten hair color. However, we're all too familiar with how the internet can make old ideas seem new to the masses. As soon as we saw users whipping up a bleach wash for hair in the comfort of their bathrooms, we reached out to Matrix brand ambassador Nick Stenson to give us the low-down on whether it’s effective or even safe. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know about this viral yet secondhand trend.
What is a bleach wash for hair?
Bleach washing is a process that hairdressers use to quickly remove color from wet hair at the shampoo bowl or in the sink, explains Stenson. The formula can vary from stylist to stylist, but it generally consists of bleach, peroxide, and shampoo and is known to be less harsh and damaging on strands than traditional bleaching.
Who are bleach washes for?
Bleach washes are for anyone who colors or tones their hair. If you love experimenting with new hair color trends, your stylist may use a bleach wash to strip traces of old dye before applying new color. It’s also a reliable option to remove old toner, play down over-toned hair, subtly lighten color, or soften the contrast between your base hue and highlights. In addition, if you have fragile hair, your salon pro may enlist the help of a bleach wash to lighten your hair since it’s a gentler, more diluted process.
It’s worth noting that bleach washing can only “cleanse” color from previously dyed or toned hair and is not meant for virgin hair. Traditional bleaching or toning service may be in order if you're new to color processing.
How long can you leave a bleach wash in your hair?
The amount of time a bleach bath needs to sit varies depending on your hair type, current color, and the result you want to achieve, which is why it’s so important to leave it to a pro. Your stylist will either rinse it out as soon as hair reaches its appropriate lift level or leave it on for up to 30 minutes if more lightening is needed. Stenson explains that after the stylist applies the formula to strands, they will watch it closely to stop the “action” when the hair attains the desired color removal.
Do you put bleach bath on wet or dry hair?
As its name suggests, a bleach wash for hair is applied to wet strands. This allows the formula to spread faster and more evenly throughout the hair and dilutes the potent formula so that less damage occurs compared to a regular bleach process.
How much does a bleach bath lighten hair?
Since wet hair weakens the bleach, the lightening effects will be much milder. You can expect to see a bleach bath for hair lighten your existing hue by one to two shades.
Can I try a bleach bath for hair at home?
In short, Stenson warns against it. “Because [you] can’t control the amount of water and lightener, where to apply it, and how long to leave it on, doing it at home can cause a lot of damage to the hair.”
After all, there’s a significant difference between bleaching your precious mane over your bathroom sink and having a trained salon professional doing it—the two can have completely different outcomes. Your stylist has access to pro-only formulas that keep hair strong and healthy at every stage of your coloring service.
Will a bleach bath damage my hair?
“If someone’s hair is overprocessed or compromised before a bleach wash, it could increase the damage,” says Stenson. “If the hair is naturally healthy and the stylist watches as it processes, it is the most gentle way to lighten hair.”
While your colorist will strive to keep your strands as uncompromised as possible, there’s always a risk that salon color can leave them dry, brittle, or damaged. That said, stripping color from hair using bleach can inherently damage your hair’s structural integrity. Luckily, a few tweaks to your at-home routine can help keep your tresses in tip-top shape.
First, we recommend swapping out your shampoo and conditioner for a bleach-recovery system like Redken Extreme Bleach Recovery Shampoo and Cica Cream Leave-In Treatment. The shampoo gently cleanses weakened hair, while the leave-in treatment repairs and nourishes the hair from the inside out to increase strength and resiliency between highlighting services. It’s also formulated with cica to promote healthy, strong hair and to reduce the appearance of split ends visibly.
For those times that your hair needs even more TLC, we suggest using a mask like Redken Acidic Bonding Concentrate Intensive Treatment. This highly reparative rinse-off formula works within your hair to strengthen hair bonds weakened by stressors like hair color and lightening, while also smoothing and conditioning your hair’s cuticle for a silkier, healthier appearance. You can either let the mask work its magic before shampooing or as an added pick-me-up when hair is in dire need.
Finally, a hair mask like Biolage Professional Ultra Hydra Source Deep Treatment Pack can transform dry, brittle hair. The vegan formula delivers high levels of natural emollients, glycerin, and sustainably-sourced cupuaçu butter, which has a high water absorption property, making it a super moisturizer.
Armed with everything you need to know about getting a bleach bath for hair, you can ask your stylist whether this process suits your #hairgoals—just pinky promise not to try it at home!
Looking for more products that professionals rely on to repair and strengthen hair after coloring services? Hair.com has you covered.