Brunette to Lavender | Part 1 Bleaching to Blonde + Toning (with as little damage as possible)

Disclaimer: I'm NOT a licensed hairstylist or anything of the sort. I've never been to beauty school and am not a professional. This is simply my personal experience. Altering your hair is serious and using chemicals is going to be damaging.

Now, I'm not like a lot of people out there who do their own hair and haven't been "every color under the sun". I've actually had my hair a relatively few number of colors. For years now I've wanted pastel lavender hair and I finally built up enough courage to do it!

This first post will cover my actual process of going from brunette to blonde and includes toning. The second post will cover dyeing and maintaining the pastel lavender.

Also, at the end of this post I will have a list of links to videos, blog posts, etc. that have been helpful to me and may help you as well.

I have been terrified to start this process for several reasons:
1 - I LOVE my hair. Right now it's long and, even though it's not super healthy, I don't want to cut it off. I've also got a wedding come up here in about a years... so hair decisions I make now will determine some decisions I will have to make later.

2 - Bleach is SCARY and, not to mention, PERMANENT! Contrary to what I saw on some blog ( I can't recall the name now) it will make your hair fall out if done wrong. And I've had my own horrible experience to prove it (that story a little further on).

3 - To go pastel you must first go platinum (or so I heard). I've been told numerous times that if your hair isn't naturally light there basically isn't a way to get your hair light enough without absolutely destroying it in the process. Then there's the upkeep...

Being a person with a brain grounded in science and with my chemistry background I thought there must be a way to bleach your hair while avoiding major damage and without frying my hair completely.

So, needless to say, I've done A LOT of research.

I could dedicate a whole post on tips for bleaching hair and ways of minimize damage. Would that be helpful?

| Hair History |

My natural hair is an medium ashy brown. It's fairly fine but there seems to be quite of bit of it (but I definitely wouldn't call it thick). In elementary school my mom let me bleach a streak of blonde into my bangs and I think that's where my constant urge to change my hair began. Later, in high school, I dyed my hair black and for a while that's what I stuck with. My sophomore year I cut my hair off so short I could put it up into a rather nice faux hawk. Shortly after that I bleached the underside and dyed it hot pink. Then about my Jr. year I stopped dying it and let my natural color grow until I was in college.

| My personal horror story |

A couple years into college I got bored again and this time wanted to add some more interesting colors to my hair. I thought it would be great to have some (what later became called) peek-a-boo highlights with some loud colors. I bought myself supplies to lighten and color my hair and dove in. The first color I wanted to do, ironically, was purple. Because I had no experience, I applied the Manic Panic Ultra Violet right to freshly bleached underside of my bangs with no test strip or anything. Surprise, surprise! It turned out electric blue (the tub was mislabeled) and I was furious and attempted to BLEACH the color out of my hair. Um... yeah, don't do that. I ended up leaving the bleach on while I was studying for a huge organic chemistry exam and I forgot about it, oh and did I not mention I was using 40 vol. developer? I am physically cringing even at the thought of using 40 vol. So basically I over processed part of my bangs to the point where they got all stringy and stretchy and fell out of my head. Serves me right I suppose.

Once my bangs grew back I actually really liked having the sort of Cruella Deville/ Frankenstein / Vintage Pin-up thing I had going on. So I kept up with that until just recently when I decided to make THE CHANGE.

| Process |


Loreal Quick Blue Bleach
20 vol. creme developer

| Hair Preparation | 

Going from brunette to blonde/platinum IS the process. Once your blonde going lavender is almost too easy. I had intended on doing the whole lightening process over about a month (maybe longer, depending) and expected it to take at least 3 full sessions of bleach to get it light enough to even tone, let alone put any purple in.

First things first, for about 2 weeks before touching my hair with bleach I conditioned and built up moisture in my hair. This meant sleeping with coconut oil hair masks, slathering my hair any sort of moisture treatment I could get my hands on, and using a repairative strengthening deep conditioner every time I was in the shower. ( I have hair mask 'recipes' that I used, I could include them if that would be helpful). So, pretty much I was grease ball when the time came to actually bleach my hair (which is actually quite desirable). Then for 48 hours before bleaching I didn't wash my hair at all. I really could have gone for longer and probably should have, but I was really excited.

| 1st Session |

As expected with the first bleach session my hair turned a really lovely(NOT) shade of orange. But it lightened way more than I had expected it to, so that was exciting. I also found that have way too much hair to be bleaching my whole head at once by my self. It definitely came out with lighter and darker areas of hair because it took me so long to apply the bleach.

After completely rinsing out the bleach and using a very gentle shampoo (to make sure all the bleach residue was gone), I started to immediately replenish my hair. In the shower I did a long deep conditioning treatment including some purple conditioner to begin balancing those brassy tones. Once I was out of the shower I piled on leave in conditioner, argan oil, a keratin protein treatment, and finally saturated my hair with coconut oil and put on a shower cap - to keep it from getting everywhere - and slept like that.

| 2nd Session |

Two days later, with continued intensive treatment, I started the second session. Like I said before, I struggled getting through all of my hair in one hoorah so I broke this session into parts. I divided my hair into 3 sections and tackled one section at a time. First I did all the hair from the nape of my neck up to behind my ears, I let that sit, then washed it off before moving to the next section. To make sure I didn't get bleach on the other sections I portioned off my hair  and clipped it out of the way. And for added protection I brushed some conditioner onto the sections of hair I wouldn't be working with.

A small lesson on bleach (again, I'm not a professional stylist but I do know a little something about chemistry and chemical reactions) - once you mix bleach with developer and it starts to react with oxygen the activity level of the bleach is at it's highest and as time goes on it becomes less and less active.

So, I've found it better to mix up the bleach in smaller batches than to mix up once big batch. With big batches by the time you get to the end of the bleach what you're applying is pretty much inactive. This is also something to think about as you apply your bleach. If it takes you 30 minutes to get through your batch of bleach that means by the end what your applying is far less active ( and will pull less color) than the bleach you applied initially. Just something to keep in mind.

| Toning |


Wella Colorcharm Toner in T14 & T18
20 vol. liquid developer
slant tip nozzle applicator

After the second bleach session was complete I thought my hair was probably light enough ( in most places) to be toned. The first time I toned I used a combination of T14 and T18 mixed with the 20 vol. developer. I simply followed the instructions for this and left it on for the suggested amount of time. Since the first time I've only toned it once and I used only the 'Lightest Ash Blonde' and I couldn't tell a difference between that time and the first so I don't think mixing them really made a difference for me.

Also, to help counteract orange & yellow tones, I applied an overnight conditioning hair mask that included a bunch of purple conditioner and slept with that on my hair. The combination of the toner and the purple hair mask left my hair mostly cool toned with only a few areas of light yellow. At that point I decided it was bearable enough and I left it plain blonde for about a week and continued the intensive recovery.

| Recovery |


Coconut Oil
Hair treatments w/ Keratin and protein
Purple Conditioner

Once your hair has been bleached it's essentially been stripped of all of it's moisture, natural oils, and protein (along with some pigment if it all went well). So now it's time to give some of that back. I have several products I've been using consistently and I've been buying up any hair oil samples I can get my hands on. 

What to get

I choose my products by looking for them to provide certain things... You need products that replenish moisture, strengthen and rebuild, and provide amino acids and proteins. All of these things will help your hair to begin re-building all of the bonds that were just broken by the bleaching process. I think probably most importantly I use coconut oil... all the time. For other products I look for things specifically designed for dry, damaged, and fragile hair and for products that include natural oils (from fruit, nuts, seeds, etc.). I also look for products that include proteins, Keratin especially as it is one of the main proteins that makes up hair. Reading the ingredients list will be your best bet for finding out what's really in a product. 

I was amazed at how thirsty my hair was after the first bleaching. Even after my two week prep period. I found two hair oils (besides coconut oil) that I really like and I was applying 3-4 times the amount I usually would to my hair on a daily basis and was applying it every couple of hours. My hair was eating it up. Whenever my hair felt the least bit dry or unhappy I would slather some more on. I also was sleeping in hair masks and not using shampoo whatsoever. I was even at my friends and whipped out my little sample bottle of oil to apply and she looked at me and said "You're carrying that around with you in your purse?". Yes, yes I am. At one point I was carrying that oil, a full sized bottle of Garnier damage eraser split end bandage, and a full sized Organix coconut milk serum. What can I say? I was giving my hair all it could take and then some. 

After about a week and a half or two weeks of intensive recovery treatment my hair started to act like normal hair again and I only needed to apply replenishing products once or twice a day (while still using masks regularly for maintenance). 

I hope that this was helpful!

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have in comments or you can tweet me @missameliajoy.

If you want to know what I did to get to lavender and to maintain it Part 2 of this post will be up soon!

Thank you so much for reading <3


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