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diy hair bleaching bleach trend isolation
Photography Erik Pascarelli, via @erikpascarelli

The do’s and don’ts of DIY bleaching, the eternal hair trend for gay men


TextAnthony Ronquillo

Hair colourist Anthony Ronquillo shares his guide for those brave enough in isolation

If you’re looking to get experimental or just need to address your itch to bleach your own hair during isolation, listen up! 

I’m a licensed professional who uses bleach with 100 per cent of my clientele. I would be foolish if I didn’t tell you to seek professional help first, but I also understand that with the times our world is going through currently, salons are out of the question and with social distancing we cannot safely get our hair done. 

So, if you can be patient with the colouring of your own hair, wait for a professional, but if you’re going crazy and need a change now – gay men in crisis, I’m mainly looking at you – I get you and I’ve been there. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about bleach from doing my own hair and learning from trial and error. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted but it’s a nice adventure and if you use proper guidance, you should have a great time doing it. 

Everybody’s bleaching experience will be different because not everybody’s hair type/colour is the same, so I will share some important tips to consider when bleaching your own hair at home. Most importantly, remember to take your time, follow the instructions, and have fun! 

You will need: hair lightener, developer, colour bowl, colour brush, gloves, protective cape, and clips to section hair with ease (optional) 

USE PROTECTION

DO – PROTECT YOURSELF 

Wear gloves to protect your hands and a protective cape to protect the rest of your body and clothes. If you have sensitive skin, use a protective barrier such as Vaseline around your hairline and ears to protect your skin from the bleach.

DON’T – UNDERESTIMATE THE BLEACH

This is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Although bleaching your own hair can be fun, it’s still a chemical and should be treated with caution.

NICE AND SLOW 

DO – TAKE YOUR TIME  

Remember that slow and steady wins the race with bleaching hair. I have learned from bleaching my own hair that it’s a lot easier to reach the desired lightness if I start gentle with the bleach. For example, start by using a 10 or 20 volume developer to see how your hair reacts to the bleach. This will be a more gentle approach and will give you a better chance of lightening your hair without severe damage. 

DON’T – ATTACK YOUR HAIR AGGRESSIVELY 

Despite what you might have seen in a YouTube video or heard from your fave influencer, using a high volume developer is not the best way to get a light colour. A 30 or 40 volume developer is more aggressive and using it immediately may react negatively to your hair, resulting in breakage or severe dryness. If that occurs, your chances of being able to lighten your hair successfully are slim to none. Slow and steady wins the race. 

WARM IT UP 

DO – HEAT GENTLY 

It’s a known fact that lightener works best with a little warmth. Use alternative heat sources like heat from the body or a foil or processing cap to gently warm up the bleach while lightening. These sources are gentle and can be monitored efficiently. 

DON’T – HEAT AGGRESSIVELY 

Although heat helps with lightening, using additional heat like a blowdryer will run the risk of over processing your hair and could cause breakage or skin irritation. This is especially important to note if you’ve coloured your hair previously as you don’t know how the lightener will react to pre-existing colour. Some lighteners will already develop heat with certain dyes, so any additional heat can melt (yes, melt) or overprocess the hair. 

BOTTOM TO TOP 

DO – APPLY SMARTLY 

Start on the mid-length to the end of your hair when applying lightener as this will set you up for a more even result. This is only if your hair hasn’t been previously lightened. If it has, start on the virgin hair first and then focus on the previously lightened hair afterwards. 

DON’T – APPLY ALL AT ONCE 

Think of bleaching as a double process (in most cases). You should apply the bleach in two steps: the mid-lengths and ends first (leaving a 1 ½ inch off the scalp) and then going back and applying to the roots once you notice the mid-lengths and ends have started to lighten. This is because your hair closest to the scalp reacts best with body heat, resulting in the hair lifting a little quicker than the rest of your head.

FOLLOW YOUR HEART BUT FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS 

DO – TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS 

The manufacturer of your product will give a suggestion on how long to leave it in for. The maximum time for lightener is usually 40-50 minutes, but I suggest checking your hair after 25 minutes to gauge how much longer you should leave it on for and if you need to apply more product for an even result. Starting with a low volume developer will allow you to leave it on for the full processing time without overprocessing it. 

DON’T – LEAVE IT ON OVERNIGHT 

Please, please do NOT go to bed with bleach on your hair. I often hear about people sleeping with lightener on to “get your hair super light” and this is not true. From experience, lightener stops working after 50 mins without reapplication, so leaving it on for hours will only dry out your hair and cause more damage than good. 

AFTER CARE 

Be sure to use after care products when you’ve bleached your hair, like deep conditioning masks and leave-in conditioners. My favourite brand is IN COMMON – available here at 20 per cent off with the code ‘ANTHONYVINCENT’ – its Velvet Cloud Universal Mask is packed with essential moisturising ingredients that nourish the hair without weighing it down. The leave-in conditioner Magic Myst is a multi-functional potion that assesses and restores your hair’s unique balance of repair and hydration. 

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