Why Bleach is Necessary for Highlights
Highlights are the first obvious option for how to lighten hair. The thing with highlights is that there’s no getting around the use of bleach. With highlights comes bleach, end of story.
Before we get to how to lighten hair without bleach, it helps to understand why bleach is essential for highlights. We want you to be informed so you can make the best decision for how you want to lighten your hair. Sound fair?
It’s actually pretty simple. Bleach has properties that prepare hair to accept new color. When a bleach solution comes into contact with hair, the hair cuticle lifts, allowing for the hair to absorb the highlight color.
That’s it. It’s that simple. Now that you understand why no bleach means no highlights, let’s get into other ways you can lighten your hair.
Lightening Hair, Naturally
Here at Prose, we’re all about natural, so we’ve put together the ultimate guide of ways you can lighten your hair, without bleach. Sit back and comb through these different techniques and decide which one may be the match for you.
There are actually quite a few ways of achieving lighter hair without using harmful chemicals. Depending on your initial hair color and type, you may need stronger methods. Here are a few of our favorite natural ways to lighten hair, without bleach.
If you’ve ever noticed that your hair seems lighter after a summer under the sun, you’re absolutely right. Sunshine is a 100% natural and 100% free lightener for hair. This is because when the sun’s rays mix with oxygen in the air, it causes a reaction in the melanin (our hairs natural pigmentation) which makes hair appear lighter.
Double down on sunscreen and skip the hat to leave hair exposed to the sun and (literally) soak up all its light. Just try to incorporate a hairspray that has UV protection to help keep hair healthy and hydrated.
Lemon juice is a gentle oxidizing agent. It’s similar to bleach, just on a much lesser scale. The acidity of lemon juice chemically reduces hair pigmentation, which is why it can make hair appear lighter and closer to “white.”
The citrus juice in lemon is heat activated, so once the sun’s heat opens up hair cuticles, the lemon juice can start to lighten hair’s color. So, by covering hair in lemon juice before sun exposure, this “bleaching” process is accelerated.
Try creating a mixture that is one-part lemon juice and two-parts water and soak your hair before heading out for your next tanning session.
The benefits of chamomile go beyond making great tasting tea. Chamomile can be used to lighten hair too! It’s 100% natural and won’t break your hair’s cuticles; it simply fades your color. It won’t make a drastic difference, but it can definitely lighten up your hair. Pure chamomile also helps revive dull hair to give it a freshened up and healthy glow.
Brew a few strong cups of chamomile tea and apply it all over your hair. It will work even better if you can go lie in the sun. If not, use the chamomile tea as a pre-soak before your regular shower routine. Try to let it soak in your hair for 30 minutes before rinsing it out and carrying on with your regular routine.
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Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) seems to be the answer to everything these days. ACV is a popular home-remedy for many beauty routines, including lightening hair.
ACV works as a lightener because it helps balance out our hair’s pH levels. It’s an acidic substance that will gently lighten strands by dissolving any unwanted oils, dirt, and residue that’s on your hair. As an added bonus, ACV is also a great detangler and can help with frizz management too.
You’ll want to dilute ACV by mixing it with five times as much water. After shampooing and before conditioning, pour this mixture over your hair and massage it in for about 30 seconds. Then rinse it out and carry on with your conditioner. ACV is one of our favorite ingredients to add into our conditioner; it works wonders for not only your hair, but for your scalp as well.
You can simulate the lightening effects of saltwater from the ocean by creating your own saltwater solution at home. Salt reacts with the keratin in your hair to naturally lighten its tone. Sea salt is also full of minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium that all promote healthy hair, skin, and nails.
Mix one tablespoon of sea salt with ½ cup of warm water and cover hair evenly with this solution. Let it soak for about twenty minutes and then rinse out. The best place to use this method would be near a beach or at a cottage. However, if you’re at home, try running a bath for the soaking process and then follow with a shower to rinse it out.
Yes, baking soda. Baking soda is another one of those one-hit-wonders that seemingly does everything. In the same way that baking soda whitens teeth, it can also help lighten hair.
In a small bowl, mix baking soda and warm water to create a paste-like consistency. (Depending on how much hair you have, make enough so that you’ll be able to cover the entirety of your hair with a light coating). Apply the paste evenly and massage it into the strands of your hair. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then hop into the shower to rinse it out. The baking soda will help remove impurities and lighten hair to leave it fresh, clean, and full of volume. Just be sure to thoroughly rinse it out and follow with a deep conditioner, as residual baking soda left on your hair can be harsh and may leave your scalp feeling dry.
Super-Lightening Color Treatment
A super-lightening color dye is a treatment that will get you close to bleach-like effects without any actual bleach. If you’re trying to achieve a near-blonde color or as light as possible, super-lightening may be for you.
Super-lightening treatments highlight your hair and can bump it up to 3-5 lighter tones. The color-dyes in super-lightening treatments use an alkaline agent, like ammonia, in a strong dosage to open up hair’s cuticles to allow colorants to penetrate. It uses oxygenated water to dissolve hair’s natural pigmentation and allow the new color to settle in and “attach” to hair.
If you’re trying to lighten as much as possible without the use of bleach, a super-lightener is your best bet.
Say Bye-Bye to Bleach
Going from dark hair to a lighter shade can put a lot of stress on your hair. Before resorting to bleach, try these more natural ways of lightening hair first.
Whichever way you decide to go about it, Prose pre-shampoo masks and oil treatments are perfect for when you’re going through a lightening process. They’re individually formulated based on your hair’s density, condition, and anticipated treatments.
It’s important to remember that lightening hair is a process— don’t expect instant results, especially when you’re using natural lightening methods. It may take a few tpreatments to get to your desired shade, and that’s ok. Trust us, by skipping out on the bleach, your hair will thank you and you’ll be thanking us later. Bleaching can cause irreparable damage; it’s definitely worth giving these natural methods a try first.
If these natural lightening methods really aren’t cutting it for you and you prefer to highlight or bleach hair, whether at home or professionally, we’ll still be here for you. Hydration will be the most important thing to focus on. All of our products are deeply hydrating and full of nourishment to help your hair stay healthy – through any process. We create hair care that’s custom-tailored for your exact needs. Let us know during your consultation any color treatments you have received or anticipate receiving, and we’ll create your products with additional ingredients that will help your hair flourish.
For color protection, we’ll add in ingredients like acai oil, butterfly pea flower, and chia oil. For hydration we use plum oil, raspberry oil, sweet almond oil, and so much more. All of our products are created without the use of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, mineral oils, or GMOs.
No matter how you decide to lighten your hair, we’ll treat it with love and care, guaranteed.
Please don’t use lemon juice on your body before exposing it to sunlight or UV. You can get serious burns. “The use of citrus fruits on the skin could leave you with bigger worries, like a second-degree burn. The psoralens in lemons and limes can cause a phototoxic reaction on your skin when it’s exposed to UV light.”
Hi there, you’re totally correct! We do not recommend using lemon juice anywhere on the body, this blog post is focused just on hair strands.
-Keely, Prose Community Manager
You can also lighten your hair with 20-40 volume developer. No bleach required.