How To Lighten Your Hair Without Killing It — Yes, It's Possible
As the seasons gently transition and the leaves change hues, it's only fair to crave a change of your own—be it a wardrobe refresh, spring cleaning session, or even a hair color change. With the latter, you'll see a common spring beauty theme: leaving darker tones in the winter and adopting a brighter color palette for warmer months.
However, hairstylists will be the first to tell you that drastic hair transitions like this come with an increased risk of damage. We're here to answer the common query: How can you lighten your hair without completely frying it? Celebrity hairstylist and color expert Jenna Perry is here to help us out.
Never go from dark to blonde in one session
The cardinal rule of hair transitions: Never go blonde in just one session. Now, if you're already blonde-ish, then you may be able to achieve the lighter tone you desire in one go, but those transitioning from brunette to blonde have to proceed with caution.
"In this case, for all hair types, I recommend more than one session of hair coloring," Perry says. "'Low and slow' is my motto for a transformation like this in order to keep the hair healthy."
How many sessions it takes will depend on what color you start with, the color you want to reach, your hair type, past damage, etc. To be safe, ask your stylist for the best approach to preserve your hair's health.
Minimize how much bleach you use
While bleach is essential most of the time, you don't have to use tons of bleach all over your hair. "With my approach to highlighting, I always use a clay bleach with a lower volume," Perry notes, as it's a gentler way to lighten hair than going in full force with traditional bleach.
Each stylist will have a different approach, but it's worth asking your local hair experts and finding someone who is on the same page and shares your goal of lighter yet healthy strands.
You may also consider trying balayage first—this coloring technique involves hand painting highlights into the hair, generally starting at the mid-shaft and becoming more opaque as it moves toward the ends of the hair.
"I find that balayage is a lot less harsh of a way to lighten hair, and I have never had any issues," Perry notes.
Ramp up the bond-repair products
Perry's choice? "I always recommend Living Proof's Triple Bond Complex for all clients with bleached hair—it helps to maintain the color and keep it healthy."
As a final tip, Perry recommends all of her clients with bleached hair get a water filter for their shower to avoid hard water, too. See, hard water is often filled with drying chemicals that may exacerbate dehydrated strands. If you'd like to go above and beyond, you may want to invest in a filter system for your showerhead.
It is certainly possible to lighten your hair without completely wrecking your strands, but you'll have to book with intention. Find a stylist who shares your goal of lightening your hair in the safest way possible, be patient if it takes more than one session (knowing that's a good thing), and start using bond-repairing products ASAP. Still not sure what color you're going for? This quiz could help.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including skin care, women’s health, mental health, sustainability, social media trends, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends and innovations, women’s health research, brain health news, and plenty more.