Hairstyles, Hair Care & Fashion

Lighten Hair

Q: I am a student stylist. I have a question about hair coloring and want to add highlights to a customer/family member. I recently placed a level 6 reddish brown in a family member’s hair. It took very well and looks fabulous. Great reddish tint and very shiny and looks great with the cut and its movement. She wants highlights put in now. I did a test strand in the back area and cannot get the color to break.
I have tried 3 levels of bleach developer and can not get a color change at all. I have tried a toner of 2 level differences to give me a new base. No effect at all. Either I put the color in so perfect or the cuticle is shut down due to too much color and cannot receive anymore or something. I don’t know what to do. I won’t ask my instructor due to her credibility in the past. She has helped me before and her advice was wrong. Please assist me if at all possible.

A: Okay, if you are simply using a developer on the hair in order to achieve lift this is likely your problem. Peroxide developer WILL lighten the hair (how quickly depends on the strength of the developer) but it is not a “fast” process. Developer typically works best in conjunction with a bleaching agent or another color agent of a higher light level.
Depending on the base color of the hair before you applied your first color (the level 6 reddish-brown) and depending on the porosity of the hair before it was initially colored, you may need to use a hair bleach to lighten the hair sufficiently. This usually comes in “on the scalp” (milder formula) or “off the scalp” (stronger formula). Both may need to be combined with peroxide developer before use, but remember that you can only use an “off the scalp” bleach agent in combination with a highlighting cap or a foil method. “Off the scalp” lighteners are caustic and can result in scalp burns.
My suggestion is to use hair bleach with 20-volume peroxide and do a test strand. (As you get more comfortable and more familiar with using bleaches and such you can get a manikin and experiment with stronger bleach/peroxide combinations). Remember that you can speed up and strengthen a bleaching action by using heat in the processing. (This means when you apply the bleach, cover the head with a plastic cap and place the hair under a dryer or use a blow-dryer to heat the hair). Just monitor it closely, because once the process starts it can speed up dramatically.
Once the hair lightens to the shade you want and you like the result, you will know the timing required and strength of the peroxide bleach to use on the rest of the hair. Just remember that haircolor and bleaching agents behave differently. Haircolor formulas, when mixed with peroxide developer have a lifespan of about 30 minutes before they become defunct and will no longer color the hair. Bleaching agents, when mixed with peroxide developer, will remain active as long as they have moisture. So as long as you leave the bleaching agent on the hair, and it remains moist, it will continue to process. If you don’t pay attention, you WILL burn the hair off.
I would also like to comment on your unwillingness to approach your instructor for information. If, as you say, you cannot trust her credibility, why are you still in her class? If I did not feel I could trust the instructor I was working with, then I would make arrangements to get a different instructor, or report the erroneous information. You aren’t doing yourself or your future clients any favors by “coasting” with a teacher you don’t feel you can trust.
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How to color hair
Haircolor levels and peroxide developer
What does the haircolor developer do?