Thursday, 27 July 2017

How I go from Dark Brown to Platinum Blonde.

Closeup Photo of Woman on Blue Textile

How I reach a very light result from box-dyed dark brown base, along with some of the science behind why I use the products I do, and why they work.

This is just my experience, and I want to make it very clear that I am not a hairdresser, and this is not intended as a guide for how you should do your hair, merely an account of how I do mine. I am happy to tackle this job myself, although I would always advise anyone who is in the slightest bit unsure to find a reputable salon colour specialist through recommendations who can do this for you.  If your hair  long and is darker than a level six and the colourist tells
you that they can achieve platinum in one go...I would walk.  Be vary wary of anyone who isn't prepared to explain things to you and properly manage your expectations about what is after all, a huge change in colour using a complicated chemical process.

Lightening Your Hair...The Science Part.

Each hair is protected by a cuticle. This is a layer of dead cells, sometimes 12 cells thick, which overlap one another, and protect the inner part of the hair which contains the pigment. Ideally the cuticle cells are closed, that is, pressed closely onto each other, forming a smooth outer casing, and giving the hair its characteristic smooth, shiny appearance. The cuticle cells are not pigmented, and for a dye to affect the pigment, the cuticle cells must be lifted up, effectively 'opening' the way into the inner pigmented part of the hair.
The only effective way to lighten hair by 6-8 shades is to use a product containing several chemicals which must be mixed together in order to activate them. These chemicals can contain hydrogen peroxide, as well as other harsh chemicals, and their purpose is to remove the colour pigments in the hair. Different natural colours have differing amounts of pigment in them. Very fair hair may only have yellow pigments and a small amount of orange. Brown and red hair will have the yellow and orange pigments, in addition to red and brown, and black hair contains all the pigments. This explains why darker hair takes longer to lighten, as the chemicals need time to remove each pigment in turn, rendering black hair down through brown and red, to orange then yellow and finally (if it is still intact) very light yellow blonde.
The opening of the cuticle takes away the smooth protective layer of the hair, leaving it feeling rough, puffy, and dull. Hair with an opened cuticle is vulnerable to further damage, and needs careful treatment to encourage the waterproof cuticle layer to close down again.
In addition to the smooth cuticle layer, hair follicles secrete a protective oil which works its way down the hair shaft to help the cells to stay smooth and closed, waterproofed and protected. When bleaching chemicals are applied, this oil is destroyed, increasing the rough feel of the chemically treated hair.

I wouldn't be able to achieve this dramatic change without a colour remover like Colour B4. Now that we finally have Olaplex in this country I could also use this during the bleach process to protect my hair even further.

Colour Remover can save a LOT of bleaching...

Colour remover is applied to the hair and left for up to an hour. It works by changing the size of the molecules of hair dye in the hair, allowing them to float out of the hair shaft, and be washed out by thorough rinsing. The rinsing part of the process takes 10 minutes each time (you do it three times) and is absolutely intrinsic in the removal of the colour, so set your timer and be thorough about sticking to the time, as well as rubbing the hair whilst you rinse.  If you don't rinse the hair thoroughly enough the molecules will remain in the hair, and it will revert back to how it was before you started...even if it appears really light blonde when you first take the cover from your hair.

It's a great product to use if you want a lighter look after a period of using dark dyes, because even the darkest shades use peroxide to help the colour to 'take' and stay in the hair. This means that even when dyeing it black, you will actually be lightening it a little first, without realising it. When the dye is removed, the natural shade of the hair can be considerably lighter than it was originally, giving you a great head start on the lightening process, without any damage, and provided you use enough product and put it on evenly, and be sure to stay out of draughts, it actually gives an amazingly even result.

The colour removing process is slowed considerably by cool temperatures, so make sure your room is nice and warm and draught-free before you start. You will be rinsing your hair three times, for at least 10 minutes the first two times, and it is best if this water is warm, to aid the process.

It's important to follow the instructions given with whatever product you choose, and not to skimp on any part of the process. Colour removing will not damage your hair anywhere near as much as using bleach to get the same result. You can repeat the process if you have a patchy result, (although in my experience this very rarely happens) or you find that you need the stronger version of the product, without worrying about damage. You can also colour immediately afterwards, as long as you are confident that you have completed the buffering step properly. If you are in any doubt about this, don't proceed with colouring, otherwise the hair might 'grab' the colour, the result of which can be unpredictable and bizarre as one particular pigment may predominate, or one area of the hair be dyed and another area remain untouched

Red pigments are the most difficult to lift, whether natural or dyed. Removing the red and orange pigments can take the longest time whilst bleaching, but when the hair is dyed red, it can prove too much even for the colour remover. I was extremely lucky that I was able to quite easily get rid of my red hair with colour remover, others find that the cuticle is permanently stained by red, which creates the most enduring stain. My hair had been repeatedly dyed using a box dye, essentially a high-lift tint, and also with fashion shades of pillar box red, purples and pinks. The ends of my blonde hair are still warmer and darker than the top, almost a year on, so the message here is, be patient!
If you have dyed your hair with red, warm browns, purples and even some blacks, and then used products intended to increase shine, with silicone, you might find the stain even more stubborn. Add to this heat straightening and you will further drive the colour into the hair molecules and stain them for good.
Colour removing products may be defeated by these processes, or they may work a treat for you like they did for me. It's worth trying them, as the damage is minimal and the result can be spectacular. From my experience, blue turquoise and light blue fashion shades are even more difficult to remove from blonde than red shades are.

My colouring is quite cool toned, so when I bleach I am always aiming for the lightest shades of platinum. Because I will have begun this process from a dark base, I am aware that I will not achieve the desired result immediately.  Anyone who tells you that they can get you from heavily dark dyed hair to platinum in one one to walk away from! There is only one way to safely get there, even with something as powerful as Olaplex on your side, and that is gradually, and with patience.  Not my strong point, but I have learnt the hard way. Trying to get this colour all at once will not work. The hair will be in awful condition and may even actually break, and the colour will not be good.

The way I achieve my desired result is to bleach all over with a box bleach product once after using Colour B4, and then let the hair rest for a month. I use L'Oréal Maximum Blonde, or the very similar L'Oréal product, the Prelightener.  I've yet to discover the exact difference between these two!  I love them both because they're so easy to apply, the consistency is perfect for bleaching long hair and lifting at least 6 shades. I do like a very light result, but I resist the temptation to have another go immediately, and opt for patience.  This can be so, so tedious, no two ways about it...but so worth it. During this time, the hair follicles will secrete the protective oil that coats each hair shaft and makes the cuticle cells lay flat, giving a smooth and shiny appearance, rather than that puffy dry dullness that results from bleach, chemical and heat damage.

After about a month or six weeks I bleach my roots.  I use a powder and crème bleach mixture rather than a box bleach product (box bleaches usually have a liquid developer and lightening cream as well as powder, and the result is more 'runny' liquid result), which is fine for all over bleaching. Powder and crème, like Jerome Russell products which are available on the high street allow me to control the thickness of the resulting bleach, and a thick bleach is easier to control. I use a gentle low volume bleach developer at 30 vol on my roots. Hairs at the root are still fresh and soft and as they're close to the scalp there is a lot of heat so the roots always bleach quickly and easily in comparison with the rest of the hair. If I need to refresh or actually lighten the lengths of hair I do my roots first, then during rinsing I kind of work the bleach through the rest of the hair, leave it for 5 minutes, and then rinse. It may still not be perfect, but it will be a few steps closer, and my patience will have paid off in the condition of my hair.

Following a bleach, I use a good conditioner, preferably a reconstructing conditioner. I don't wash the hair too often, and allow the hair's natural oils to work their way down the shaft from where they are secreted in the follicle. I leave at least 4-6 weeks in between root bleaching and 8-10 weeks in between using any bleach to lighten lengths. Keep up with regular trims, and condition after every wash.

I purchase really good quality shampoo, conditioner and hair treatments that are designed for damaged hair. They are quite a bit more expensive than ordinary products, but they are totally worth the money, and actually last a lot longer than cheaper products. I do also use cheaper shampoos in between the more costly ones, and other cost-effective things to use are coconut oil, Moisture seal oil intended for Afro-Caribbean hair, serums (although can be drying), and good old olive oil!

I will talk about toning in a separate blog post if you'd like, because it is actually one of the things that I struggle the most with, and I have tried quite a few different ways to banish brassiness. Let me know in the comments if that's something you'd find helpful!  Also please comment below to let me know about your experiences of leaving the dark side and going to the light!

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