Going Blonde? Everything You Need to Know When Lightening Your Hair

First of all, please let a professional help you along the journey of lighter hair! I promise you will end up spending less time, money, and stress on your hair if you let us help you before you attempt it at home! I’m going to break down everything you need to know (or at least be familiar with) that comes with lightening your hair. 1. What is happening to the hair when lightening 2. The stages of lightening 3. Bond Builders  4. Artificial color doesn’t remove artificial color 5. Different services/terms and what they mean

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What is happening to the hair when it gets lighter-The Peroxide in the lightening agents makes the outer covering of your hair strand (the cuticle) swell. The swelling enables the oxidative agents to reach the core of your hair where the melanin is stored. Melanin is the natural pigment that gives you your natural color. The lighteners then react with the melanin and start to break it down. As the melanin breaks down, the lighter the hair becomes. 

The stages of lightening-The melanin in your hair will break down in stages. Thanks @wellaeducation for explaining things so nicely, "Every natural hair color has an 'underlying pigment'. So that’s why if you have black hair, and want white hair, your hair literally will be red, copper, orange and yellow before it is that bright platinum blonde that you want. Depending on where you are on the left side, sometimes your hair goes through all those stages in one session and your goal can be met. Or sometimes your hair is super resistant and getting it past orange or yellow is REALLY hard and it takes multiple sessions to get where you want to be. The more you lighten hair, the more porous your hair becomes, so sometimes, at the yellow stage your hair is so weak that it can’t withstand any more lightening. Everyones hair texture and makeup is a little bit different, so the steps it will take to get to the goal will vary. But what doesn’t change is the underlying pigment."

Olaplex and other bond builders/preservers- “If you just use Olaplex can’t you get me any more lighter?” Sorry, no. Bond builders are like a seatbelt in your car. You still need to drive your car safely and follow the traffic rules. But if you do get in an accident, the seatbelt helps prevent more serious injuries that could happen. When lightening your hair with a bond builder, you still need to use correct proper strength of developers/formulation, appropriate timing, and controlled application. Bond builders help to protect the disulfide bonds in your hair while the melanin oxidizes (breaks down). Olaplex, Wellaplex, and Brazilian Bond Builder are some common brands of bond builders. 

Artificial color does not remove artificial color- “I want to be a really light blonde, but I don’t want you to use any bleach.” We totally understand that you are concerned about the health of your hair, and we will do everything in our power to keep your hair healthy! However, sometimes using “bleach” is the best option. When used correctly bleach can create beautiful results that only bleach can achieve. There are options of high lift color, but they can only be used on hair that has not been treated with artificial color before. The chemical makeup of high lift color does not break down artificial pigment molecules. Only bleach can break down artificial color molecules. Also, sometimes high lift color isn’t strong enough to break down enough melanin in virgin hair. High lift color can typically only lighten up to 3 levels. Sometimes the best option is to use bleach in a professional and safe manner. 

Different lightening services, and what they mean- Have you ever looked at a salon menu and get totally overwhelmed? Then you just end up asking for a cut and color. But when you get to the salon, the stylist gets flustered because she doesn’t have enough time for what you are asking for! So frustrating for everyone! I’ll help steer you through some stylist jargon to help alleviate some stress! Popular terms you hear around the salon, instagram, hair magazines, and other places of hair inspiration are terms like highlights, babylights, full highlight, partial highlight, weave, balayage (bah-lee-AHZGE, rhymes with massage), and ombre.

Highlights are used to describe lighter pieces of hair. Typically the hair is insulated in foil with the lightener when you ask for highlights. The hair is lightened equally from scalp to ends, and results in more of a noticeable regrowth line (after 6-8 weeks). Around the  Utah area, a weave, typically means getting highlights. A full highlight means creating highlights from the nape of your neck to the front of your hairline around your face. A partial highlight describes creating highlights from the top of your ears to the front of your hairline around your face.


Example of a Highlight Weave

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Babylights is used to describe very fine highlights. The stylist picks up, or weaves, very fine pieces of hair to lighten. This technique gives a subtle shimmering look. It’s also a great technique to use around your face.  


Example of Babylights

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Balayage means ‘to sweep’ in French. Balayage describes the stylist using sweeping motions to apply lightener (or color). Balayage is used to enhance natural highlights and mimic where light naturally bounces off the hair. It is usually applied concentrated on the ends and gently fades up toward your scalp to ensure a soft and gradual grow out. A clay based lightener can be used to do balayage, and processes in the open air. It is also common to use longer pieces of foil or plastic wrap to insulate the lightener to achieve lighter levels of lift. It is up to your stylist to determine if your desired results would be better achieved with a clay based lightener, or insulated with traditional lightener. 


Example of Balayage

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Ombre means ‘dark to light’ in French. This is also a good option for those who want easy maintenance and can only come in to the salon every couple months. The current trend is more of a natural ombre, instead of the harsh “black to platinum” look ombre was first associated with. 


Example of Ombre

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