Bleached hair is meant to be the blank canvas upon which you add your color or toner, not the final color of your hair. Whether you want to go blonde or hot pink, if you have dark hair, you are going to have to bleach it in order to get there.
Toners, semi-permanent dyes, and bright colors don’t work on dark hair. The problem with bleaching dark hair is that it tends to go orange.
In this article, we explain why it turns orange and tell you how to bleach dark hair without it turning orange.
Prevent a Bleach Fail: A Little Understanding Can Go a Long Way
In order to figure out ‘how’, you need to understand the ‘why’.
Often when people get an undesired result from bleaching their hair. For example, if it turns orange they think it’s because they used the wrong product or they didn’t leave it on long enough or maybe they didn’t follow instructions properly.
Herein lies the problem.
People try to ‘correct’ their unwanted color without understanding why it happened. This usually results in a hair catastrophe.
You only have to search “hair bleaching fails” on YouTube to see what I mean and to bear witness to the damage and even hair being burned right off, in some cases.
Why Does My Hair Go Orange When I Bleach It?
Bleaching breaks down the color pigment molecules in your hair. Once they are lifted out, you are left with a brassy yellow color base.
If all of the warmer pigments are not lifted during the lightening process, then you will be left with an orangey/yellow hair color. That’s because your hair color is a combination of the visible color and the underlying pigments.
The darker your hair, the more pigment it contains.
All hair has a red shade within its base color. Black has a large quantity of dark red base pigment and brunettes have an orange base pigment.
When you bleach your hair, you strip the visible pigments in your hair, revealing the underlying pigments which are all predominantly red or orange.
Cool-toned color pigments are the first to be lifted out of your hair during the bleaching process. There are more warm color (red & orange) molecules than cool color molecules. The warmer molecules are also larger, so they are the last to be lifted out of hair.
Bleach and Developer
Back in the day, the only way to lighten your hair was to get a box dye from the drugstore. Now, much higher-end salon products are available to the general public.
The only problem with this is that most people didn’t graduate from a hair and cosmetology school where they teach you how to use these products, and which one(s) you need!
A hair developer is a product that’s mixed with color to activate it and enable it to penetrate the hair cuticle. It contains hydrogen peroxide, and it either lifts or deposits the color.
You must mix a developer with a basic ingredient, like hair color or bleach to activate it.
No products found. comes in powder form and needs to be mixed with a developer. Using bleach without a developer will not lighten your hair. The bleach is unable to penetrate the hair cuticle without it.
Developer comes in different strengths, the most common being 10 volume, 20 volume, 30 volume and 40 volume. Developer strength is sometimes represented as a percentage.
- 10 volume = 3%
- 20 volume = 6%
- 30 volume = 9%
- 40 volume = 12%
Now your first instinct might be to go for the stronger developer (40 volume) if your hair is dark.
And if you want frizzy, damaged, and horrible-looking hair — but lighter — then knock yourself out! However, if you want healthy lighter hair, then it’s not recommended to use more than a 20 volume developer.
We will get into details below.
How to Bleach Dark Hair Without It Turning Orange
Spoiler alert – if you have dark hair, it will probably turn some sort of orange. And you are more than likely going to have to bleach it more than once.
That’s okay. That’s just the chemistry of your hair. It’s nothing to do with what you did, what you used, or how you did it.
If your hair is in generally good condition, you should wait a week to ten days to repeat the bleaching process.
You just want to avoid the carrot top look!
How to Dye Dark Brown Hair Blonde Without it Turning Orange
You probably can’t due dark brown hair blonde without going through an “orangey” stage, unfortunately. The reality is that your bleaching process will likely require multiple steps, and that means you’re going to have intermediate colors before you reach your luxe blonde tone.
Bleach. Then bleach again if necessary. Then tone.
How to put blonde highlights in dark brown hair without it turning orange
At this point, you probably know what we’re going to say here. If you’re lifting dark brown hair to a blonde tone, you’ll likely need to do it in multiple stages. One of them is going to be an orangey tone for your highlights.
It won’t last long.
You have to go down the path to get to the destination.
If I Use a 40 Volume Developer, Will It Bleach It More?
Yes, but it will really damage your hair.
You are going through all this trouble to make yourself look good! It doesn’t matter what color your hair is – if it’s damaged, frizzy, and breaking off, that’s not a good look for anyone.
Beauty Takes Time
If you are looking to go light blonde from a dark hair color, you need to understand that this is not something that will happen overnight. It’s a long process!
You need to do it right and not find yourself crying in the shower as you watch your frizzled hair fall off and get washed down the drain.
Whether you like it or not, the orange is most likely unavoidable. And you will have to live with it between bleaching sessions which should be at least a week to 10 days, and that’s only if your hair is in good condition.
If you have dry, damaged hair, then it’s advised to wait a month before you try to bleach it again. See our article on how to hydrate your hair after bleaching for more info.
Once you have achieved the lightness you want, you may still have unwanted orange or brassy undertones.
We’ll tell you how to deal with those below.
But before you do anything, if the bleaching process has taken a toll on your hair and it’s dry, damaged, or brittle, you should wait another 10 days before bleaching again or adding anything else.
How Can I Prevent My Natural Orange Undertones From Showing Through?
If you have dark brown hair, or black hair, even if you’ve bleached it blonde, you will still have brassy orange-looking undertones. The best way to get your hair looking fabulous is to use a toner.
If your hair is in good condition, you can use toner the same day as bleaching.
The trick is not getting rid of the orange undertones, it’s figuring out how to neutralize them!
Toners (technically toning shampoos) are specifically designed to neutralize unwanted tones. If you want to cancel out yellow, go for a violet-based toner, red tones are negated by green, and blue-based toners will neutralize orange tones.
Here are some of our picks for best blue toning shampoos for neutralizing orange undertones.
Toning shampoos should be used about once a week for best results.
You’re here because you have very dark or black hair and you want to go blond without it turning orange. We hate to burst your bubble, but your hair will most likely turn an orangey color when you bleach it.
There’s not much you can do about it.
And you will probably have to bleach it more than once.
Once you’ve achieved your desired lightness, you can neutralize those orange undertones with a blue-based toner.
The biggest takeaway is to not rush the process. You are asking a lot of your hair! Give it some time to breathe and repair and you will be rewarded with fabulous hair.