While it is possible to apply the bleach wash solution strategically all over the hair, it’s more common to use it on the ends to get a brightening effect. “Once your highlights are rinsed, your ends may need a subtle lift to get a bit lighter,” Devin Cook, a colorist at Blackbird Salon in Washington, D.C., explains. “This is where bleach washing can be introduced.”
Bleach washing is big on TikTok right now, but it isn’t a new concept. “Bleach washing was super popular when I started doing hair 12 years ago,” says Eric Vaughn, a hairstylist and the owner of REV Salon in Houston, Texas. Now it’s coming back because people are posting videos of bleach washing on social media, introducing it to new audiences, he adds.
How does bleach washing work?
Bleach washing is most commonly done at the shampoo bowl at a salon. Traditionally, the colorist mixes the lightener with water to soften the lightener. Since the process is done on wet hair, the colorist can finish it faster than they can with a traditional bleaching process.
Bleach washing has classically been used as a technique for color correction, and even for corrective use, it is incredibly unreliable and unpredictable, says Sollars. If you’re doing it on your own at home and you’re not careful, you could expose unwanted colors in your hair without being able to successfully adjust the remaining tone like a professional can. That’s why all of the professionals we spoke to warned against DIY bleach washing. “This is not a service that should be performed at home because bleach in any condition can cause irreversible damage,” Cook says.
Bleach washing can be more gentle than traditional bleaching since the lightener is diluted and applied on wet hair, but it’s important to note that you can’t always expect to achieve the same results you would get with a traditional lightening service.
Who is bleach washing for?
Although TikTok is filled with people doing DIY bleach washes at home, the process should really only be done at a salon. It’s usually part of a corrective color process, rather than a first step in coloring. “It can be a much milder process to start with on the hair if the hair has been compromised from previous services,” Scott Tyler, a colorist and educator at Van Michael Salon in Atlanta, says. It is mostly used for overly deposited tone in the hair as well as lifting out unwanted previously darker color from the hair, he adds.