Can You Bleach Box Dyed Hair?

As of 2020, 1.06 million Americans have been reported to use hair dye. Box dyed hair is usually synonymous to winging it. Hair professionals advise against box dyes because they’re made using harsh ingredients which strip the health out of hair. Though going a step further to bleach over-dyed hair may be cutting it close, all is not lost. When/if done the right way, the bleach blonde color can be achieved. But first, I start from the basics.

What are hair dyes and how do they work?

Hair dyes have been around for centuries, as early as the Celtic era. They are pretty much natural or synthetic chemicals that impose a new color on hair, either to mask an undesired hair color or simply as a fashion statement.

So how do they work? Each hair strand is completely coated with the dye. The dye permeates the hair cuticle and forms either a permanent or temporary bond with the hair. This depends on whether the permanent or temporary dye is applied. The temporary dye can be washed off easily by using a clarifying shampoo.

Some people prefer to have their hair colored by hair professionals. Others prefer to do it themselves using box dyes. Let’s, first of all, understand the difference between box dye and professional dye. Box dyes may be more affordable, but they come at a cost of damaging hair. Unlike professional dyes, box dyes come in a sort of one size fits all. Hair professionals are trained and certified to cater to the needs of the client’s hair. They are able to customize the professional dye to the client’s specific needs taking into consideration the hair type. Kind of like when I’m sick and choose to go to the doctor’s or Google my symptoms for a diagnosis. The latter is more informative and spot on.

How can I bleach box dyed hair?

This is a three-step process. Removing the box dye from hair, assessing the hair, and then bleaching the hair, depending on the outcome.

Removing the box dye from hair

To the main question of whether one can bleach box dyed hair. Yes, it is possible. I would recommend having it done professionally because then the bleach will not damage hair. Box dye is strongly bonded to hair, so lifting it off the hair is an uphill task and requires more effort.

Applying color remover is the first step. It can be used to strip the dye of the hair, though, depending on the pigmentation impacted by the dye, it may or may not be effective. If temporary box dye was used, the color can be easily washed out. If permanent box dye was used, lifting off the dye requires more effort.

Assessing the hair

Evaluate the hair. This is the most crucial step. Everyone’s hair is different. From porosity to texture, to elasticity, to the level of melanin pigmentation, and so on. Get to understand how the hair feels. Check for any damage. Is the hair healthy? Is it moisturized? Does it have split ends? Just take this time to understand the status of the hair before subjecting it to any more chemical treatment. I cannot emphasize this more. This is the game-changer.

Ø If and only if the hair is healthy, can bleaching be an option.

Ø If the hair is damaged, limp, and lifeless, hair restoration and repair are necessary. Treat the hair with hydration masks and deep conditioning treatments to moisturize it. Protein treatments work wonders for damaged hair. They restore the structure of the hair and strengthen it.

They also double up as a pre-treatment to dying hair. Coconut oil is also great as a coloring pre-treatment. What coconut oil does, is moisturize the hair and hair drinks it up quickly.

Applying bleach to hair

Bleaching hair is not a one-off event. If the hair was initially dyed say black, it will definitely take more than one bleaching session to get the hair blonde. The first session will slightly lighten the hair to probably an orange or strawberry hue. The next session might get it to blonde. Though this all depends on the level of pigmentation imposed on the hair by the box dye, and also the desired shade.

The safest thing to do is first do a dry run by performing a patch test. This is a great starting point because at this point it’s still uncertain how the bleach will react on hair. No one wants to end up with a head full of damaged or even broken hair.

So partition out a small portion of the hair at the back and apply the bleach to it. Let it sit, then wash it out. Ensure that the hair reverts back to its healthy state. But if the end result is dry brittle hair, then either the hair doesn’t gel with bleach or probably the particular brand is too harsh for the hair. This test also serves to check for allergies and prevent burns and injuries.

Hair needs protection because bleach is a harsh chemical containing hydrogen peroxide and ammonia which dry out hair. So saturate hair with coconut oil to moisturize it and ensure that hair remains healthy even after bleaching. So now I’m going to give a step-by-step guide on how to safely bleach hair.

· Prepare hair for bleaching. Deep condition hair in the weeks prior to bleaching to ensure hair maintains healthy even after bleaching.

· Let hair ‘rest’ for a few days right before bleaching. The natural oils secreted on the scalp over time are important in protecting the scalp from damage by bleach. It is after all a chemical and can cause serious burns if not used appropriately. The greasier the better. Plus, rest easy because bleach is super effective and can go through any build-up on hair strands.

· Mix the bleach with developer according to the instructions. Apply bleach to the mid-sections of the strands. Avoid starting with the roots because they sometimes end up having a lighter color than the rest of the length.

Wait for about 10 minutes for the mid and end sections of the hair to get a headstart on the bleaching, then apply the bleach to the roots. If the hair has darker shades, start applying on those ones as well. The bleach will melt the pigment away.

· Wear a bag or a disposable shower cap over the head and cover any gaps to avoid moisture escape. Let it sit for the required period.

· Wash out the bleach thoroughly using lukewarm water, starting with the section in which bleach was applied first. Please don’t use cold water, because the sudden change in temperature from the warm environment underneath the shower cap might cause the hair to break. Be gentle on the scalp.

· Treat hair to some moisture. Probably deep condition or apply a hydrating mask to restore the moisture.

· Assess hair and look for any damage to the hair.

· Apply toner to hair. It sits on the hair strand and sort of manipulates the color tone to the desired hue. This enhances the desired hue and reduces brassiness. Be careful to pick the right toner color.

If the desired color is not achieved, separate out dying sessions by two or more weeks to protect hair from damage. Bleaching immediately will send hair strands circling the drain instead of sitting on the head. In this period between bleaching, make sure to show hair some love by deep conditioning and applying protein treatments.

Can color be lifted off of hair without using bleach?

Bleach has the capacity to lighten hair several shades lighter. But if avoiding the harshness and probable hair damage is a priority, there are a bunch of options out there.

Ø Baking soda. A natural whitening agent. Mixing this with anti-dandruff shampoo will wash out the color leaving lighter tresses.

Ø Dish soap. Mix a few drops of dish soap and shampoo and rinse. Repeat this process three times and the color will slowly but surely flow out of the hair.

Ø White vinegar. Mix white vinegar and water in equal parts and rinse after washing. Let it sit in the hair for 20 minutes and rinse it out. The acid will wash out the dye.

Ø Vitamin C. has the same concept as white vinegar. The acid washes out the color in the hair. Make a thick paste of vitamin C tablets and water. Coat the paste on wet hair and give it 1 hour to work its magic. Shampoo as usual.

Ø Colour remover is also an option.

Dos and don’ts of bleaching hair

· Detangle hair to ensure uniform bleaching throughout the strands. Bleaching tangled and/or matted hair might result in a tie and dye look which is not the look we’re going for.

· Please wear gloves to protect your hands from bleach damage.

· Wear protective clothing and remove jewelry.

· Don’t apply the bleach all over the head in one pile. Section the hair. Four quadrants work for me. This ensures that the bleach is well distributed and no section is unbleached.

· Don’t comb through the hair with bleach in it. The hair may break because it’s in a fragile state.

· Work on dry hair. Wet hair will water down the bleach and desired results will not be achieved.