Are you bored of your hair? Pondering, if it’s stylish to switch up the colours of your fashion, then why not your follicles too? Then considering going platinum.
Everyone from Channing Tatum to Riz Ahmed have been at it recently, but bleached hair has been a bold option for barber’s chair for decades. There’s a peroxide bottle behind some of history’s most iconic men’s hairstyles, from David Beckham to Brad Pitt. And now, with trendsetters such as rapper G-Eazy and actor-director Jonah Hill also going blond, it’s clear the whiteout is where it’s it at.
To save you the embarrassment of trying to style out fluoro-ginger, we’ve compiled the do’s and don’ts of embracing your inner Eminem. This is your no-BS guide to bleaching your hair.
Will Bleached Hair Suit Me?
It really isn’t just a number. Bleached-out ‘dos might be more popular than ever, but they’re still a young man’s game. Past your late 30s – 40 at a stretch – bleaching your hair is the equivalent to having a regrettable affair in the backseat of a Maserati you can’t afford. That said, if you just can’t help yourself, go for a steely blond grey that doesn’t so much highlight your age, as complement it.
This is not one for the faint of skin. While darker skin tones pair well with bleached blond hair (as do lighter, even skin tones), very fair, freckled skin doesn’t have the requisite melanin to balance out a bleached style’s strong tones. There are no hard and fast rules of course, but it’s important to know that if you’re fair-skinned, bleached hair, like a pastel polo shirt, has a very good chance of washing you out.
Hair Type & Colour
The darker and thicker your hair, the harder it’ll be to bleach. “Someone with fine, light natural hair should have no problem going platinum with one application,” says Jazzy Bayoumi, stylist and men’s colour specialist at London barbers Joe & Co. “Someone with thick, dark or curly hair, however, might have to have a second application.”
Think about your overall grooming routine. Are you basically Patrick Bateman? Or more of a shit, shower and shave bloke? If the latter, the maintenance required to keep bleached hair looking its best may prove a pain in the proverbial. Not only can the bleaching itself take multiple appointments, but once bleached, your hair will also require additional TLC including specialist shampoos and deep-conditioning treatments.
Going peroxide might not be the subversive style statement it once was (shout out to Billy Idol), but that’s not to say it’ll wash in every situation. If you work a corporate job in an office with a business-casual dress code, bleached blond hair probably isn’t a vibe. Similarly, if your off-duty wardrobe consists mostly of smart shirts and sensible chinos, then a less eye-catching hairstyle might be a snugger fit for your aesthetic.
Before You Bleach
Wash Your Hair
“Do this the day before you intend to bleach it, rather than the day of,” says Bayoumi. “Washing your hair the day of can leave your scalp dry and sensitive, which puts you at risk of irritation from the bleach that you could otherwise avoid.” This is especially important if you’re going the whole root-to-tip hog, rather than just adding tips or highlights.
Hold The Product
“Styling products slow the rate at which the bleach takes effect on hair, which can delay the whole process,” says Bayoumi. So, no matter how Sideshow Bob your hair’s disposition, arrive at your appointment sans-pomade.
Ditch Heat-Styling Tools
Straighteners and hair dryers can be hard on hair, leaving it dry and brittle even before any bleaching chemicals have been slathered on. So, to better your chances of a safer and more successful bleach, swerve them for a few days in advance of your appointment.
Cut The Chemical Relaxant
Guys with afro hair, if you’re considering having your natural ‘do chemically relaxed, don’t. “Hair that has been chemically relaxed is already weak, so bleaching it would only result in breakage,” says Bayoumi. This leaves with you two options: have your hair cut, or wait for the relaxant to grow out.
Even London’s best barbers will have a hard job magically transplanting David Beckham’s bonce directly onto yours. That said, arriving at your appointment equipped with references illustrating the look you have in mind can help whoever’s welding the bleach to get a better idea of what you’re after. Remember, they’re stylists, not miracle workers.
How To Bleach Your Hair Professionally
Ready for a newer, blonder you? Start by doing your research. Chances are your regular barber won’t offer a bleaching service, which means you’ll need to decamp to a salon. So get Googling before you decide who to entrust your locks to.
The bleaching process itself is similar to colouring hair, but often more time-consuming and laborious than a straightforward dye job. Here’s the lowdown, according to award-winning hairstylist Jamie Stevens (who, by the way, is totally worth entrusting your locks to.)
The bleach powder and activator (this is usually peroxide, which activates the bleach powder) are mixed. The amount of powder required depends on a few factors including hair type, colour and the look you’re trying to achieve – roots, for example, will require less than a full head of hair.
The mixture is applied to the hair. If you have hair longer than an inch or so, the tips and mid-lengths should be painted first, as these take longer to develop than the roots. Once the hair is totally covered, it’s time to allow the bleach to get to work.The colour is left to develop. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the colour of your existing hair, the strength of the peroxide used and the tone you want to achieve. Next, the hair is rinsed thoroughly with warm water and shampoo.
Toner is applied, which helps neutralise any brassy, yellow tones in the hair to achieve a cool, white hue. Once applied, it’s left to do its work for around 15-30 minutes. The toner is thoroughly rinsed from the hair, and a conditioning treatment is applied. While not absolutely necessary, a conditioning treatment is advisable as it helps repair the hair after bleaching.
NB. Bleaching is less an instant style switch-up as a dedicated lifestyle. If you want to go whiteout blond, there’s a good chance you’ll need to pay your colourist at least one more visit, and possibly two.
How To Bleach Your Hair At Home
Don’t. At least, don’t unless you absolutely have to. “I would never recommend bleaching your hair at home,” says Stevens. “Whether you’ve bought products on the high street or even invested in some from a salon, it can end in disaster if not used correctly and carefully.”
Bleaching your hair DIY-style is like sleeping with someone you work with: not (usually) lethal, but seriously ill-advised. But if you can’t be dissuaded, follow these steps to minimise the risks. And don’t say we didn’t tell you so.
When bleaching your hair at home, wear clothes you don’t mind ruining and always protect your hands with plastic gloves as bleaching powders are strong and irritating to the skin. It’s advisable to do a patch test first. Mix a small amount of the colour and use a cotton swab to apply it to the inside of your elbow. Wait at least 24 hours, if there’s no irritation, you’re good to go.
Follow the instructions and mix the developer and bleach powder at the correct ratio for the planned effect. Apply the bleach all over your head, using a dye brush if possible. If you have medium-length or long hair, part it to get as close to the roots as possible.
Leave the bleach in for the recommended time until your hair is a light-yellow colour. Darker hair may require several treatments, but leave two weeks between each to minimise damage. Follow up with toner to get the exact colour you want before rinsing twice.
Finish off with a hydrating hair mask to keep the hair from getting brittle.
How To Look After Bleached Hair
Wash Your Hair Less
Because bleach tends to strip the hair and scalp of sebum (the oily substance that keeps it from drying out), it’s worth skipping a wash every now and then to prevent your scalp becoming irritated and your hair extremely dry and brittle.
Use Purple Shampoo And Conditioner
“Blond doesn’t fade as such, but it does tend to turn a brassy gold due to factors such as air pollution or chemicals in swimming pools for example,” says Bayoumi. “A good purple shampoo and conditioner will help neutralise any yellow tones so that the hair keeps its platinum shade for longer.”
Just as it’s important to go easy on the straighteners and hair dryers before you get your hair bleached, it’s crucial you avoid them as much as possible once it’s bleached too. That’s not to say you need to boycott them entirely, but it’s worth assessing your hair’s condition before using a straightener, and remember to always use a hair dryer on a cool setting where possible.
Use A Mask Or Treatment Conditioner
“If your hair is longer than a short crop, swap purple conditioner for a nourishing treatment conditioner twice a week to keep it strong, healthy and looking its best,” says Bayoumi.
3 Bleached Celebrity Hair Styles To Try
Need some bleachspo? We asked Joe & Co’s Bayoumi to weigh in on some of the best celebrity styles, and why they work.
“The platinum blond effect here really shows off the silhouette of Zac Efron’s parted hairstyle. It also complements his blue eyes and the naturally cooler tones of his facial hair.”
“Thanks to his skin tone, Zayn Malik is as suited to warm blond tones as he is to cool ones. Here, his hair colour sits somewhere between. The tone of his hair has a warmth, but it’s also got a distinctive iridescent finish.”
“Miles Teller’s hair here is perfect for someone who’s looking to go blond but doesn’t want to commit to a lot of maintenance. The warmer, golden tone at the roots suits his eye colour and skin tone well, and won’t clash harshly with his hair’s natural colour as it grows out. The ends, which are bleached lighter, are a nice contrast and brilliantly highlight the style’s texture.”