The Proper At-Home Bleaching Technique

Aaron and Tayler

Aaron de Mey is a makeup artist, but first and foremost he's a blonde–a good blonde. The kind of flaxen hair that says you spend all your time on the beach, going platinum from the sun and letting the salt-water style it into that halo of wavy, cool-kid frizz...always with a generous helping of dark roots, and the ends completely washed out because they've been around for a while. We saw him backstage at the Opening Ceremony show in February, and while the look was gorgeous and all, we all we really wanted to know about was his hair:

"It’s better to bleach your hair yourself; I like that homemade style. When I go to the hairdresser's I feel like they always try to do the foils or something. I fell for it a few times and didn't like how it came out. So I do it myself, and Tayler does it to her hair as well—she’s the blond kid that’s with me. You just take a chunk of hair and back-comb about half of it up from the ends. Then, bleach everything that's backcombed, so when you brush it out again you don’t get the hard line of demarcation. It's so easy, I don’t even tone it or anything. I think for the girls, however, you do need to tone it so that it grows a little more beautiful, but for the boys it’s really great to bleach it and leave alone. Even if it’s a little yellow, it looks kind of cool—like school-bus blonde. Then I do the Christophe Robin purple mask, otherwise it just goes dull. And I wash it once a week—Tayler as well—it helps keep the moisture in. It'll go lighter in the sun, which I'm into as well. Having all the blondes around right now is a great thing—it’s such a good look!"

—Aaron de Mey

Tayler and Aaron photographed by Emily Weiss in New York backstage at Opening Ceremony Fall 2014 on February 9, 2014.

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  • Alyssa Gapske

    I so do not trust myself to bleach my own hair, but they make it look so easy!

  • melissa

    Very helpful, i've been thinking about doing this!

  • mlle p

    Every time I ask someone with really good bleached hair who did it, it turns out to be a DIY job! My dye experiences at salons have not been good, but I still haven't tried to bleach my own hair....maybe this summer...

  • Cay

    Argggasdfasdfasdkcasdfdas. Is the only response I can have to this.

    Yes, I agree that salon bleaches run the risk of edging into Malibu Barbie on Drugs territory. But I know SO SO SO many people who have serious messed up their hair doing at home bleaches. Like, completely frazzled and/or chunks falling out - ESPECIALLY if you have very dark hair or hair that has already been chemically processed in other ways. The benefit of going to a good salon is that they know what's too much, how to condition, etc. It's not easy and doing it wrong has some pretty bad consequences.

    • Hannah M.

      I agree, but I've been to several hair stylists that just didn't get what I was going for aesthetically. Like, they bleached my hair and it came out healthy-looking and all, but they didn't get the "look" I wanted. They didn't seem to understand why I would ever want anything other than "all over blonde" or "natural-looking highlights". Especially in small cities, it can be hard to find a stylist who understands how to execute the right grungy, lived-in, grown-out blonde -- like what these two folks have. So I can see why some people feel like they have no option other than to DIY.

  • Jessica

    I'm having a hard time visualizing the "back combing" part. Sadface. I'd like to try this, especially since dyeing my hair at a salon costs over $250 and I don't have the money right now.

    • llama

      this is a (terrible horrible) sketch of how i do this. if you want to bleach all of your hair, just do this in sections all over your head

  • WhenThePagesWereBlank

    By "bleach everything that's backcombed" he means the hair that was *not* brushed up towards the head, right?

  • Colleen

    i'm tutorial?

  • Gina

    I'm far too scared to try this alone!

  • Sydney

    Last time I bleached my hair, I tried out a new salon. It ended up being a HUGE mistake because they burned my scalp and the color was uneven. Not to mention I had to deal with the shittiest customer service I have ever dealt with. At any rate, I touched up my roots at home once, and while I had to do them twice (I had to re-do a week after because it didn't lift quite enough) it was pretty painless and very inexpensive. With that being said, I would not try to do it without the help of a friend!

    • D R Reed

      Can you share the products you use? Thanks

      • Sydney

        Head to your local beauty supply store. You'll need bleach powder (make sure it's on-scalp bleach) and a cream developer, most recommend 20 volume. Make sure to get gloves, a brush, and a mixing bowl. Also, you'll need to get a toner. I like manic panic's toner but it works well only if you lift your hair up SUPER light. Some people like Wella's t18, but I tried it and I had purpley gray grandma hair for a couple of days. Not the look I wanted. I got everything I used at Sally's beauty supply. Keep in mind that when I initially went blonde, I had a professional do it because doing your whole head is a LOT harder than just touching up the roots!

  • Kay

    I did an at home-bleach job with supplies from Sally's Beauty. It took 3 gentle bleach sessions (or as gentle as 20 volume developer can be) to get it to a pale blonde. I soaked my hair in coconut oil before for a few hours (and left it on for bleaching) and my hair actually isn't that damaged at all. I used a toner from Wella (the "pale blonde" one) and it didn't give me the ashy, natural shade I wanted. So I mixed Manic Panic Ultra Violet with a TON of deep conditioner (so the mixture turned a pale purple color) and left it on for 15 minutes. It completely neutralized all the brassy tones and left my hair super soft and baby blonde. Not a purple strand in sight.

    • Hannah M.

      I wanna try something similar to lighten my already bleached hair at home using bleach baths... low volume developer and bleach mixed with shampoo, lightening gradually over the course of a few treatments, and all buffered by lots of coconut oil. My ends are a little beat up already, so I figure that would be the gentlest way.

    • Hope

      Wonder if Manic Panic Virgin Snow would do the same thing on its own, since it looks similar in the jar to your combination.

      • Sydney

        Virgin snow is great. It does not make your hair purple at all. You just have to make sure to lift your hair up to a super light blonde.

  • Clever Girl Reviews

    Sounds easy in theory!

  • llama

    you're welcome! :)

  • Luanda

    That sounds like a good technique. I might try it on my hair, but was wondering how well the hair mix up afterwards...does it look stripy after it's dry?

    • llama

      i think the trick to avoiding a stripy look is to not get too close to your scalp, start the bleach at least 2 inches down.

  • NingNing

    My dears. I'm asian with waist long hair. And I "colour" my own hair blonde. Yep, colour, not bleach. After a shitty Korean salon experience (I'm not Korean but I thought I'd go to d best Korean salon in town) who bleached my hair orange, I bought myself 2packets of Schwartzkopf Nordic Blonde L1 permanent haircolor & after coloring my hair in full everytime I get roots (which I've done 4 times), all my hair has become platinum blonde except now I only needed to color my roots. It's possible withouth bleach for BLACK/DARK BROWN haired women n believe me, I have "white" girl friends asking me why my hair is blonder than theirs and ask for MY advice!

    • Just Saying

      Pretty sure that's still bleach. They call it "lightener" now because people have bad associations with the word bleach.

  • Gudrun

    We have some awesome sketches here, but We seriously need a video. Anyone?

    • Isabella


  • Katie

    No. No. NOO!

  • Colleen, Alix

    Hey Thanks for the tips it seems to be cool but I'm scared... to ruin my hair!!

  • Ember

    Now this might seem like an extremely amateur question but indulge me. When we say 'bleach' what exactly are we talking about? I was the kid in high school who took cotton balls and hydrogen peroxide to my hair and haven't ventured to lighten my hair since. I'm working with a scalp full of light brown hair that naturally lightens up a bit in the summer but I am wanting to artificially speed up the process and tone. I read the comments below and can understand the basic technique needed for the bleach process (bless the back comb) but what products should I be drenching my strands in? Should they be drenched?

    I love you ITG but sometimes your articles are far too over simplified.

  • Dana Fox

    Oh gosh.. I can see it now... all of those who attempt this ruining their hair in hopes of it turning out like the featured picture. Maybe with some actual instructions (besides just backcombing and brushing some dye on!?!) and a warning, it might save some headaches. I don't think I'd recommend this for anyone who hasn't had experience with dying their hair blonde before though... eek.
    xo dana

  • mia

    thank you!

  • Laura Kelly

    I always use coconut oil on my hair before bleaching it and leave it on, it's a trick I recently starting doing but it works so well! I recently did a tutorial for how I bleach my hair at home

  • Alejandra

    I've been dyeing(and cutting) my own hair for a while now and i feel like i am going to bleach it next.. i would really appreciate if my beauty godmother(ITG) did a more detailed post on it. My natural hair is darker than Taylers and i would want to achieve that same color she has. SOS

  • Molly

    Pretty please ITG do a follow up on this with a video!

  • jennifer Carney

    I want to dye my hair blonde but I don't have the money to go to a salon want can I use at home to dye my hair

  • Dina Abou el Oula

    I just tried this and is like the best way ever, i love having dark roots since my eyebrows are dark and very thick, couldnt finish the top of my head because the bottom was bleaching super fast so ill finish tomorrow. Btw, i saturated all my hair with olive oil the day before and bleached without washing it out and it feels so much better, is way easier to apply the bleach and everything. (I read about coconut oil but couldnt find it so i used olive oil instead)
    I definitely love doing my hair, i dont trust hairdressers anymore, way too expensive and they never get it right!!

  • Crystal Favreau

    Is it possible to use a regular conditioner. As developer with prism lites tonal lightner.