Thursday, 5 December 2013

How To: Lighten Dark Asian Hair Without Bleach

Be patient. No, seriously! It is your hair we are talking about here.
I have wanted to colour my hair for as long as I can remember. I know many beauty/hairstyle bloggers/vloggers say they have been colouring their hair since they were 11 (I haven't heard anyone mention lower than that). I wish I could start early too. The thing is most of them live in the western hemisphere. The school years were slightly different on this side of the pond. We wore uniforms and there are still dress codes everyone has to follow. We had to keep our hair in non-fussy ponytails or braids unless it was too short to be tied up. Also, generally no bangs were allowed, you had to pin them up. Lord knows how many times I got told to tie up my hair or to tuck in the loose layers, but I just didn't like their policing something as trivial as hair. Anyway I hate tying it up now, I mostly keep my hair down, I guess 18yrs of subservience to stupid school uniform rules does that, I am only recently getting into wearing skirts comfortably enough and not feeling school girly doing so. We had little to no scope for experimentation is what I am staying. The outcome would have been like this or worse.

I have slowly gathered info on DIY hair colouring and lightening for many years now. I had to improvise because all the information was by people who already had light hair to begin with and had access to all these products that I didn't. There is info out there regarding dark hair but, it is not too easy to find or follow (there are always different methods of doing a single thing). When I grew frustrated I even tried to find methods where I didn't have to lighten my hair to colour it. Here's the post on - How To Do Pastel Hair (if you do not have chalk pastel), then again it was temporary, a 24-48hr thing. If you see this post you'll see I did the ombre red hair - Almost Famous, but the red showed up most prominently in light, it was pretty red in sunlight, and I loved having red hair.
This is a text heavy post, there will be a couple of photos too. Let's jump right in.
Indian girl with blue hair
yes this is how my hair looks right now :) .. blue streaks and all
This is for those who have non-dyed/dyed dark hair. You can use this method if you want to lighten your hair a few shades no matter what your hair colour is to begin with. I have coloured my hair before without lightening it and I never wanted to use bleach. So, I didn't use bleach. I get asked how I "coloured" it a lot. When I say I didn't, that I just lightened it, I get a lot of confused looks. After mentioning bleach a couple of times a semi-confused I-think-I-get-it kind of look dawns on their faces, because they recognize the word bleach and what it does. But, I told you I didn't use bleach.

What You Will Need
  1. Baking soda
  2. Developer (I used 30 volume, you can use 20vol., 30vol is stronger). Bought it here for INR90 (less than $2)
  3. Shampoo (any would do)
  4. A plastic bowl
  5. Brush
  6. Gloves
  7. Aluminum Foil/Shower Cap
#How to use?
A. I used developer, shampoo and baking soda in 4:3:1 ratio. I am giving you a ratio because the quantity depends on how much you will need based on how much hair you will be lightening (as much as I did, whole head, just a few streaks). Throw away leftovers, it goes bad. I used a scooped plastic spoon for measuring (it probably came with some detergent packet).
A. Mix everything in the bowl with the brush wearing your gloves. Massage it in your damp (not wet) hair for better absorption. Wrap up the hair in foil or shower cap, this keeps it from touching your skin and clothes and also keeps the heat in. If it touches the skin just wipe it off with water, it doesn't burn like bleach would have. I used my blow drier a couple of times on the foil, because I was doing the tips which wasn't getting any reflected heat from the scalp. I had to keep it in for 45-60 minutes (time it from when you start not when you end application) even though some would suggest not to exceed 20-30mins. I saw no change till the 45th minute. If the hair feels too dry just wash it off. Keep an eye on it essentially. Just use water to wash it off. Then deep condition it.

dark to blonde hair without bleach
these are phone photos
I didn't expect it to be so much lighter after the very first time. I deep conditioned and applied coconut oil in my hair the next week. I repeated this whole process again a week later. Deep conditioned. Oiled. Then repeated again only on the patches which seemed darker than the rest of it.
You can carry on lightening further if you want pastel hair. If it gets too brassy though use a blue/green toner to neutralize it. I didn't have to because I don't want pastel shades, I wanted a darker shade.
Go to this website - Not So Mundane for all your research. Chloe's blog is a treasure trove of hair colouring related info and you can ask her questions if you have any queries. I wished I had found it earlier. I found her when I had started with the lightening process already, but realised I didn't know how many more times I have to keep doing it.

#What is this method called?
A. It is called soap capping. Instead of baking soda you can use bleach. It is a gradual process. The hair gets to rest in between lightening sessions.

#How to choose a developer?
A. The hydrogen peroxide in the developer activates the baking soda/bleach and that is what lightens your hair. The 40vol has 12% hydrogen peroxide and is very very strong, it is not recommended that you use it at home. 30vol has 9% hydrogen peroxide, it is strong, but if you have strong enough hair that can take it you can use it. Otherwise, stick to low strength developers like the 20vol(recommended if you want to be on the safe side) and the 10vol.
P.S. - If peroxide is available to you it can be used as well. You have to adjust the quantities though. 3:1:1:3 ratio of developer, peroxide, baking soda and shampoo according to this article.
#Will this damage my hair?
A. You will know the answer to that. Do you have unhealthy hair? If it has split ends, is generally weak and thin or very dry and rough then don't experiment with your hair. Go to a doctor to see what is wrong. It might be a health issue. If you have coloured it before and nothing has happened then go ahead I say.
#Now can I colour it blue/red/pink/green?
A. Yes! I loved the honey blond shade I got after the 1st stages of lightening. So, I stuck to it. I am going for random streaks from time to time though. After another haircut I may dip-dye the tips completely. You can buy blue, green and violet shades from here (each tube costs INR120, about $2).
#What products did you use?
A. I used Streax Pro 30 volume Developer and for the colour I used Streax Pro Salon Premium Hair Colourant Creme Blue.
I hope I have included everything that I did, and that you would find this informative and helpful if you are planning on colouring your hair any unnatural shades at home. Ask me anything if you have any queries. You can leave behind a comment, an email, a tweet, I even have a formspring where you can ask away anonymously (all links on the sidebar). If you have any info about where I can buy more colours from any Indian website you know of (apart from then let me know.

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  1. Did you say you could color your hair blue? :D I always wanted to have blue highlights. Is it electric blue or a dull one?

    1. It's dark (cobalt I think) blue. Is it not showing up in the 1st photo?

    2. Oh that is blue, right? I thought it was your natural black hair reflecting the light. :-/ Can you send me another picture? A whole length one would be really good.

    3. It is pretty dark :P
      But my natural black hair has no blue undertones..I have only this pic now. Will take a better one and load it/send you soon :)

  2. I think I am going to benefit most out of this post. I have dark black hair, accidentally dyed black on black .its faded a lot, but the ends sucks. I can try on them atleast !

  3. It' s a very interesting method for dark haired!

  4. wow.. nice DIY you air color looks as if got done from salon...

  5. Wow Debi! Great post! I think anything other than bleach is much healthier for your hair. It's great that you're sharing this information.

  6. Wow...!! Brilliant... I must try this soon. Debi.. want some more pictures with complete look. Is that possible..?

  7. I've never colored my hair due to similar fears! I'm glad this turned out well for you (:

    <3 Carsla
    Founder & CEO of Connect-the-Cloths
    A stylist's, foodie's, & writer's blog in development.

  8. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

    Jasrina P.

  9. hey girl, thanks for sharing.. but can you tell me where i can buy the developer cuz the link that you have put is not working..

  10. This post was really helpful because I didn't want to directly bleach my hair. I am going to colour my hair for the first time. I wanted to ask whether I can colour my black hair silver gray after using this method. Will the colour be visible on my dark hair?

    1. You can, but you will have to be patient. Anyway after the last stage you will have to use a toner to get it to silver

  11. Hey! I wanted to get an ombre effect on my hair given the trend and I was looking for ways which would do the least damage to my hair. Now baking soda can be drying on hair. Is it necessary to use baking soda as I'm not looking for absolute color wash? I want my hair medium brown at the most. And can I replace baking soda with conditioner as my hair is a little on the drier side?

    1. baking soda is essential as that only lightens the hair. you can increase the amount of conditioner in the mixture though.