The following is an “Everything you ever wanted to know about DP Blonding, but were afraid to ask.” It’s a combination of my own original material plus paraphrased material from Clairol, Framesi and other companies. Once you know your lightening product, the techniques and processing, you should have no fear of DP Blonding – it’s a very profitable service and one you can specialise in since so many hairdresser’s won’t do it or are afraid of it. An excellent colorist who can create healthy, natural looking DP results will have a dedicated client for life.
In addition to creating translucent pastel or dusky blondes on naturally dark hair (Level 5 or below), Double Processing is also used to produce ash browns that are truly ash without a trace of warmth. Often, with a brunette client, inability to totally eliminate red, gold or yellow tones from the hair is a good indication that you need to go to a Double-Process service to achieve the desired results. In addition, Double Processing can be used to create stunning, clear, pure-toned reds. And you can Double Process to remove ‘muddy’ color build-up. Another use is when a client uses a high-lift color but can’t get totally drab results.
Many hairdressers believe that single-step high-lift tints are ‘kinder’ to the hair than bleach, but in many cases this is simply not true – when high-lift tints are combined with double 40 volume peroxide and long development times, a single-process can be much more damaging to the hair than a bleach and tone. Some hairdressers and clients think that very dark hair cannot be lightened to the yellow or pale-yellow stage safely – or that white-white or platinum’s can’t be achieved on dark hair. All of this is false. To create a Double Process you can start from any natural level – even a Level 1, black. If proper care is taken almost any level and type of hair can be safely Double Processed. The key is proper analysis of the hair – its condition, porosity and tenacity. Knowing your product is also very important – its speed, gentleness and performance characteristics, as well as proper application techniques. Client education is also VERY important – they need to know the total cost, both of the initial service as well as the retouches – and that they’ll spend up to two hours every month or even more often (depending on the final color and natural base level) in your salon to maintain that look. They need to know that Double Processed hair can be fragile and that they must take excellent care of it at home – no harsh shampoos, minimal exposure to strong sunlight, deep reconditioning every third shampoo, etc… To assure yourself that your client is properly caring for their hair, be sure to always include the necessary home-care products in the price of the initial service – 5 oz bottles of a gentle shampoo, daily conditioner and reconstructor would be fine – the client will feel they are getting ‘something for nothing’ and that you really care about the quality of their hair – it’s quite a low-cost thing to do but has many long-term benefits.
Success in creating pale, translucent pastel blondes is entirely dependent on proper pre-lightening of the hair. Hair must always be made not only light enough but porous enough to be receptive to the shade of toner selected. The shade of toner selected must be the one that will do the best job of toning on the degree of lightening achieved. Frequently, in choosing a high-fashion blonde shade, color selection must be left up to you and not the client because the result is dependent on the pigmentation of the hair and how far it can be decolorized during that specific visit. This is especially true in the first or second treatments when some red, gold or yellow pigment may remain in the hair. When this happens the shade of toner selected must be deeper and not as silvery as the client desires – the color the client chose may result in a shade with a greenish cast or might not take at all – it’s often necessary to give a few more lightening treatments before the hair is ready for the color the client wants.
Be sure to make clear to your client the required frequency of retouches – advise them that if they wait too long between retouches they will have to go through almost as long a lightening period as the initial treatment. If they retouch before there is too much resistant new-growth they will save themselves time and money.
*-Dark Brown or Black hair should be retouched about every ten days;
*-Medium Brown or hair with a great quantity of red pigment should be done every two weeks or so; *-They may wait three or four weeks before retouching Light Brown or naturally Blonde hair.
Stage 1 – Black hair changes to
Stage 2 – Brown, then to
Stage 3 – Red, next to
Stage 4 – Red-Gold, then to
Stage 5 – Gold, then to
Stage 6 – Yellow, then finally to
Stage 7 – Pale Yellow.
There are actually two final stages of Pale Yellow – the first is the yellow of the inside of a bananna – the second is the same color but with a slight transparency and it is the optimal stage of lightening for the application of White or Platinum toners. Note that “White” or completely decolorized should NEVER be used as a stage of bleach-out. As the lightener disolves the natural pigment, it leaves ‘holes’ where the pigment was – hair bleached to white will be severely damaged and have almost no internal structure to support itself or the toner – You must ALWAYS have supporting pigment remaining in the hair for the toner to attach to, to give strength to the hair and for the toner to drab out – toners are made to work with a specific stage of supporting pigment and without it, they will pull-base or turn to off shades and the clients hair will be at risk of breakage. You need not be too afraid of breakage at the darker stages of bleach-out. If you started with healthy hair, the hair will still be strong at the gold and yellow stages. Breakage is typically caused by too much pigment removal so if you stay at the stage of bleach-out required, you’ll be safe. The key is to stay with the client and strand test the hair every 5 – 10 minutes until desired lightness is achieved.
After rinsing the bleach from the hair you should always follow with a shampoo – if you don’t shampoo, any bleach remaining in the hair will re-activate with the application of the toner and actually destroy its color-value. Bleach left in the hair can also cause severe fading and breakage a week or so later if the client exposes it to strong sunlight. After the shampoo and rinse, be sure to give an acidifying conditioning treatment – it will eliminate all residual peroxide and ammonia as well as shrink and harden the hair, making it stronger and with an abundance of positive (cationic) charges to accept the toner more evenly. If the hair feels slimy or stretchy when wet, it is over-bleached and will need a series of concentrated acidified protein treatments to displace excess moisture. If the hair is brittle with no ability to stretch, it has too much protein and needs moisture to increase stretch and eliminate brittleness. Most properly lightened hair will need a combination of both protein and moisture – Lipids and Essentail Fatty Acids will increase the hairs pliability, retard moisture loss and add sheen. Double Processed hair is a good candidate for Botanic Oil treatments and reconstruction.
Lighteners come in many different forms; Oil’s, Powder’s, Paste’s and Gel’s.
Oil Lighteners for on-the-scalp bleaching are probably the oldest type available – they typically have booster or Protinator packets that you add to the oil to increase its speed and lightening ability. They are flexible because you can use the oil by itself for mild lighteneing or add from 1 to 3 boosters to increase strength as needed. The drawback of oil lighteners is that they can have a high free-ammonia content. They are usually much more gentle on the clients scalp, which is a strong bonus if your client is sensitive. Adding up to 8 packets of Sweet ‘N Low to any bleach or toner mixture will protect the clients scalp and help prevent sensitivity.
Powder Bleaches use to be recommended only for Off-the-scalp lighteneing – they were the strongest lighteners available and used for highlighting and such – now, there are many powder bleaches that can be used on-the-scalp for any type of bleaching. They are economical because they can be mixed in small quantities as needed and there are no activators needed. To vary their strength, different volumes of peroxide are used, from 5 to 40 volume. Unless the manufacturer states otherwise, NEVER used higher than 20 volume peroxide with a powder bleach on the scalp. Many companys have added polymers, oils and proteins to their powder bleach formulations to lessen sensitivity and keep the hair in better condition. Experimentation will let you know which bleach is best for you – often you will need to keep several bleaches available for clients who are too sensitive to one particular bleach.
Gel Lighteners, such as Compliments Gel Lightener and Logics Gel, are comprable to the oil-based creme lighteners, and like oil lighteners they can be used alone for mild bleaching or with boosters for more intense effects. Gels typically have a thicker viscosity than cremes and stay where you put them with less puffing or running. They can also be very gentle, depending on the conditioning ingredients the manufacturer adds to them.
Lightening Paste, typified by L’Oreal’s Platinum, is the newest type of lightener – it’s a very thick paste with a consistency like spackle. L’Oreal has a patent on this type of bleach and it’s VERY gentle with special ingredients to protect the hair’s cuticle, internal moisture and Ceramide balance. Its drawback is its cost – the paste plus the required matching developer are quite expensive. This may not be a drawback, however, if the client has fragile hair that needs a gentle bleach. L’Oreal makes two versions of Platinum – one for dark hair, and one for light, easy-to-lift, hair and it contains no Ammonium Persulfate, which is a strong oxidizer that can be somewhat damaging to the hair.
When selecting a bleach, always check the ingredients – bleaches with Sodium Hydroxide or Potassium Hydroxide are the most damaging and those ingredients will tend to relax naturally curly and permed hair. Ammonium Hydroxide is the equivalent of free Ammonia water. Most powder bleaches are based on Potassium Persulfate and Ammonium Persulfate – they don’t contain free Ammonia, but Ammonium Persulfate releases Ammonia as it releases oxygen, so the bleach will still have a mild ammonia odor. Bleaches without Ammonium Persulfate tend to be a bit weaker and a little more gentle – good for fragile or naturally light hair. Powder bleaches can also be mixed with warm water for doing slight color corrections.
Most bleaches come in either a Blue/Violet or Clear/White formula. Blue bleaches are good for seeing exact product placement – the manufacturers claim that they help produce cooler bleach-outs and drab the yellow. In my experience, and that of many other colorists, this is simply not true. Blue bleaches DO drab the yellow while on the hair, but they make it look lighter and whiter than it really is – if you don’t wash all the bleach off with soapy water when strand testing, you can get quite a suprise when shampooing it off the entire head only to discover the hair is bright gold or yellow. Some blue/violet bleaches slowly turn clear as they process, which gives you the best of both – clear product placement and accurate reading of level. The clear/white formulas are easier to read – in terms of lightening power, both blue and white bleaches perform the same.
As you can see, you have a wide selection of lighteners available – to fit any need or client. Experiment to find the best for you, and get to know the performance of each type of bleach. Always strand test – there is no set time for bleaching – some clients with a quantity of red pigment can take up to 2 hours or even two applications to reach the necessary stage of lightness. If you do two applications on the cold shaft of the hair and only one application to the scalp, you should be able to lighten the hair to the stage required. If you don’t reach the stage of lightness required, and have already done two applications, it’s best to give the hair a rest for 24-48 hours before resuming lightening – it will give the hair time to re-harden and broken disulfide bonds to reform. NEVER do more than one application of bleach to the scalp in a 24 hour period – this can lead to sensitivity or blisters and abrasions. Note, however, that blistering is not necessarily a sign of allergy to the bleach – some clients are just extra sensitive. A cool water rinse will help soothe the clients scalp after the bleach-out.
The ultimate success of any Double Process blonding treatment depends entirely upon proper pre-lightening. To reach the right stage for the toner selected, hair must be lightened to the correct stage of supporting pigment; typically Gold, Yellow or Pale (clear) Yellow. In the case of naturally light blonde or grey hair, the lightening must be continued for the full time for the hair to reach the proper degree of porosity – 45 minutes, minimum – even though the required color stage is reached sooner. If the hair is not sufficently porous, it will throw off the color of the toner.
It is very difficult to judge porosity unless certain basic questions are answered:
1-What is the final stage desired?
2-What is the natural hair color?
3-What is the hair texture?
4-How long has the hair already been lightened?
If the lightener has been on the hair for several hours, chances are that it has reached the correct degree of porosity.
If there is any doubt about the proper porosity, take a Strand Test and examine the strand. When the shade produced matches the shade on the color chart or the desired shade, that means porosity is sufficient. If the color is not deep or drab enough, with too much gold/yellow coming through, then the hair is not porous enough and must be lightened further. If the color is too drab, too gray or not holding color, then the hair is over-porous and must be filled and reconditioned before proceeding further. No color take at all means the porosity of the hair is far from ready and requires much longer lightening.
The first concern of any colorist is to leave the client’s hair in the best condition – this is accomplished in two ways:
1-Avoid lightening longer than necessary. Lighten at least 45 minutes, but beyond that, no longer than is needed to reach the Supporting Pigment stage for the color of toner selected.
2-On very dark hair, use a fast-acting lightener, which will shorten lightening time.
3-On light hair, use a slow, gentle lightener – this will allow you to reach the correct degree of porosity without over-lightening the hair.
If you follow these rules you can avoid the hair-weakening and time-consuming lightening – after all, why reach the yellow stage when the gold stage is far as you need to go for a particular toner shade?
Improper pre-lightening may lead to any or all of the following results:
1-The hair may have a greenish cast after application of a toner with a bluish base.
2-Uneven lightening will result in an uneven finished color. If the hair is unevenly lightened, there will be gold-bands visible throughout. These gold-bands will show through the toner.
3 – Damaged hair will result in breakage.
Because of the uneveness of natural pigment, hair is often not lightened evenly from roots to ends. Or, this may be due to careless application of the lightener. When this happens, gold-bands or yellow spots will show through the delicate toner shade. Spot lightening, applied only to the gold areas, will be required to make the shade even and the toner take correctly.
Retouching a Double Process is one of the most precise techniques you need to master. The bleach should be applied only to the new growth, without any overlapping onto previously bleached hair. Overlapping, even the smallest amount, can cause severe breakage and damage to the hair. To help prevent overlap, before applying the bleach, apply a heavy conditioner to the previously lightened hair, right up to the point where the newgrowth starts. Then go back and apply the lightener to the new growth – by doing this you are protecting the previously lightened hair from the bleach and doing a reconditioning treatment at the same time. When doing a 10 day or two week retouch on very dark hair, there will be very small bands of regrowth – to prevent overlapping, use a tint bottle with a very fine applicator tip – the Clairol Creme Toner bottle, available at Sally’s, is perfect for this. Lay a line of bleach across the new growth but do not push it in or rub it into the hair. Just lay it on the hair, take another very thin section (you should be able to see the previously applied bleach through the section), lay another line of bleach and release the hair ontop of the previous section – do not pack or push the hair down – this will cause spreading and overlap. You might also want to apply cotton strips between each section to keep the hair from being packed down. Retouching without overlapping CAN be done – just be neat, precise and quick – have all of your materials ready before you begin. Always start at the back of the head, where the hair is darkest – if the back lightens too quickly, you can rinse the back of the head while the front processes.
If the color is a little ‘muddy’ after two or three retouches, the bleach should be carried down onto the shaft only for the last 5 minutes of the lightening. DO NOT use a fresh mixture of bleach for this – use only what is left over in the applicator – the bleach will still be strong enough to remove the unwanted toner, but not too strong to cause more damage. Always be sure to rinse the bleach completely from the hair, taking care with the back of the head where some bleach can remain – when giving the shampoo, be careful not to manipulate the scalp – some heads are extra sensitive and excessive rubbing can be quite painful to the client – it can also cause blistering when a peroxide toner is applied. An acid rinse will help soothe the clients scalp and make them more comfortable. Some clients may be so sensitive that you must wait 24 hours before applying the toner, or use a non-peroxide toner such as Clairol Born Blonde.
Wella Wellite Creme Scalp Bleach: A nice, gentle on-the-scalp oil bleach. Comes with Booster packets to increase speed and strength of bleaching. Contains free ammonia, but no Sodium Hydroxide. Can be used without boosters for gentle lightening – without boosters it is comparable to a neutral oil bleach like Lady Clairol Instant Whip.
Clairol 7th Stage, Born Blonde and Instant Whip: These are all very good bleaches – 7th Stage is the strongest and most damaging of the three. All use the same booster packages – for deep bleaching on dark, strong hair, you can use up to 3 booster packets in the mix. All three are oil bleaches. Instant Whip is the mildest for minor corrections or naturally light/fine hair. 7th Stage can be kind of ‘gritty’ or ‘sandy’ and a bit difficult to rinse from the hair, so always rinse well and give a good shampoo. Also, 7th Stage is VERY blue and will make the bleach-out look much lighter than it really is – clean the test strand very well before reading the level of bleach-out achieved.
Goldwell Oxycur Platin Dust Free: An all-purpose blue powder bleach, for on- or off-the-scalp bleaching. Contains no free ammonia or ingredients that will relax permanently waved hair. Contains a cationic polymer for, what Goldwell claims, is 15% better combability. Has strong lifting action – a light blue color – rinses easily from the hair. Goldwell also makes a gentler white version called Oxycur Platin Ultra – it contains no Ammonium Persulfate and is for lighter hair or less intensive bleaching. Personally, I really like Oxycur Platin Dust Free. You can add up to 50 ml of high-lift Blonding Creme to your Oxycur Platin mix to increase the pH and degree of bleaching – this is approved by Goldwell.
Lamaur 30 Minute Creme Scalp Bleach: Another good oil-based blue bleach – uses booster packets. Each box contains enough product for 4 complete applications – it’s economical. Up to 3 booster packages can be used. Lightens quickly, so you need to work fast and use it only on very dark, strong hair.
L’Oreal Platinum: Excellent product – can be a bit hard to work with since the consistency is like spackle. Mags recommends using the Sprush to apply the product. It’s expensive too. VERY conditioning – it leaves the hair in wonderful condition. A new standard in bleach quality.
Redken Levitation Balanced Decolorizing Complex: Yet another oil bleach – this time it’s white. Very ammoniated, but is a good product with consistent lightening action. Good at cutting through the gold. Can be irritating to some scalps. Boosters are used.
Nexxus Aloxxi White & Blue Powder Lighteners: All-purpose on- or off-the-scalp powder bleach. Somewhat unique since Nexxus allows you to use up to 40 Volume Peroxide for ON-THE-SCALP bleaching. Both white and blue are the same strength, just a different color. I prefer the white.
Clairol Compliments Gel Lightener: A thick, clear, gel lightening product – uses boosters. You can use up to 3 booster packets for off-the-scalp only on dark, resistant hair. Leaves the hair in shiny, strong condition. Contains Panthenol and Keratin Proteins. Good for precise product placement – it doesn’t swell or run.
Matrix Logics Gel Lightner and Light Reactions Powder Lightener: Another gel lightener similar to the Compliments. Uses the Light Reactions Powder Lightener as a boosting additive. You can use up to 3 scoops for on-the-scalp lightening. When the Logics Gel Lightener is used with Light Reactions Powder, the combination will work for up to 90 minutes. Many colorists really love this bleach.
Framesi Biondal I & II: Biondal-I is a blue, Oil-Bleach. Biondal-II is the corresponding activators. Up to 3 can be used off-the-scalp. A very gentle bleach – somewhat slow acting, which is good for colorists who prefer to work slowly. Good for lightening damaged hair. VERY blue, like Clairol 7th Stage, so be sure to read the degree of bleach-out correctly. Comes in a BIG bottle, so it’s economical.
Ok, that’s all I can think of for now – it’s your turn to post your favorites or any tips/tricks you’ve learned for working with the various bleaches.
Ok, we are finally here, the final step in Double Processing – Toning.
Toning, or recolorization, is where the differences between DP Blonding and other haircoloring methods becomes apparent. The precise Supporting Pigment base you achieved by pre-lighteneing is now shown off to its best advantage with delicate, translucent, pastel tones. Toning is also the step where you create the difference between a pale ash blonde and a pale strawberry blonde, or a dark tawny blonde and a deep gold. Or, perhaps bright, vibrant reds or even ashy, moonlit browns.
There are all kinds of haircolors, besides dedicated toners, that can be used for toning. Both Clairol, with Creme Toner, and Wella with the Color Charm Extra Mild Toners, offer light, pale blonde toners to create the high-fashion White-White looks or stunning silvers – delicate beiges and honey golds are also possible. Framesi’s Framcolor Futura “SS” high-lift series can also be used as a toner when mixed with 20 volume. Unless the manufacturer of the toner states otherwise, toners are meant to be mixed with 20 volume peroxide – this creates a little extra lift, for those times when the bleach-out isn’t quite light enough, and it allows the toner to deposit without being too opaque – remember, the purpose of a dedicated toner isn’t to “color” the hair or “cover up” the Supporting Pigment – it’s to deposit a delicate, ultra-pale translucent ‘wash’ of color that either counteracts or enhances the Supporting Pigment. If you have some areas that are still too gold or yellow, you can mix a seperate batch of toner with a lower volume of peroxide to increase the deposit and make the shade more even until you are able to re-bleach it.
“standard” color lines, like SoColor, Miss Clairol or demi-lines like Color Sync, create more solid and opaque blondes. With all the oxidative tints that are available, you have a very wide range of colors to achieve any shade of blonde the client might desire.
One thing you should be VERY aware of with DP Blonde toning – the colors fade – the lighter and more delicate the color, the faster it will fade. Some of the translucent silvers and other blue-based toners just seem to “evaporate” from the hair with time, even if the hair isn’t washed. Blue is the least colorfast pigment and with the increased porosity of DP Blonde hair, it fades rapidly. So, even though a manufacturer claims their permanent toners really are “permanent”, they are not. Semi-permanent colors like Clairol’s Born Blonde toners seem to hold a bit better than oxidative colors, as do demi-permanents. For your silver/white/platinum clients, always give them a violet color enhancing shampoo to keep the yellow at bay, and let them know that exposure to sunlight and even heavy cigarette smoke will cause the hair to pick up and show yellow. Roux’s Fanci-Full temporary rinse should always be on a clients bathroom shelf to keep the color looking ‘fresh’ at all times. The more they shampoo their hair and blow dry it, the faster it will fade. Recommend that they shampoo their hair no more than 3 times per week, if that, and no harsh blow-drying. Gentle towel blotting, NO rubbing, is important too. Before shampooing, have them apply a leave-in conditioner to their dry hair, then they shampoo – it seems to make the color last a bit longer. Lots of reconditioning/reconstruction and moisturizing treatments are required too.
In terms of development time, and although the hair is quite porous, sometimes the toner needs as long as 45 minutes to properly develop and drab the hair – it’s almost as if the pre-lightening makes the hair more “resistant” to drabbing for some reason. Clairol is now recommending only 5 to 15 minutes for toning with Creme Toners – this is nowhere long enough – Creme Toner will work up to 45 minutes and typically requires at least 20 minutes to properly develop and drab the Supporting Pigment. Any less and the color won’t drab or hold – it will wash right out.
Semi-permanent toners, such as Born Blonde, typically require a little more pre-lightening time than oxidative colors. Since they don’t use a developer, they have to rely on their own mild alkalinity to swell the hair and deposit the color. If you’ve reached the right stage of Supporting Pigment, but the Semi permanent toner won’t cover, a little more bleaching to increase porosity might be required. Semi Permanent toners are also excellent for clients whose scalp is sensitive after pre-lightening. Semi permanent toners on bleached hair typically last longer than semi’s on virgin hair, sometimes up to 10 shampoos.
Born Blonde toners also make excellent color refreshers between retouches. Marinella has posted a cross-reference chart elsewhere for matching Born Blonde and Creme Toner shades.
Things to watch out for in DP Blonde Toning:
1- Complete lack of porosity, resulting in no color take
2- Hair not lightened to the proper stage. When too many gold tones remain, they may combine with the toner shade containing a blue base and produce a greenish cast.
3- Hair lightened beyond the stage needed, resulting in more porosity than is needed. This will cause shades to run too drab, or look muddy and grey like ‘wet cement’, or in the most severe cases, there will be no color take at all.
All problems encountered by the colorist in blonding can be avoided or corrected when they exist.
1- Breakage: This can be avoided by applying a conditioner in conjunction with the lightener during a retouch. Breakage is caused by overlapping the lightener or leaving the lightener on too long for a particular texture of hair. Extreme attention in the future should be paid to the application of lightener itself.
2- Over-silvered hair: This is due to one of two things. Either the hair becomes too highly lightened and all shades go too dark, or the silver color selected is too dark. To avoid this, use one of the lightest shades available or dilute the tint selected with additional developer. To correct a head of hair that has been over-silvered, use any of the following methods.
a. One application of Metalex without heat. This should remove the necessary amount of silver. If, however, it fails to do so, a warm dryer should be used.
b. Shampoo with a mixture of Miss Clairol Sun Bronze and developer and shampoo.
c. Shampoo with a mixture of a light gold/orange tint with developer and shampoo. Apply and watch very closely – rinse when the necessary color has been removed.
After lightening, but before toning, always be sure to give a reconditioning treatment – this will help even the hair’s porosity and make the color take more evenly throughout. An old, but good, trick to help toners take more evenly and prevent fading is to spray the hair before toning with a mixture of 1 cup warm water and 1 teaspoon NON-Iodized salt – allow it to remain on the hair for 10 minutes then simply towel off the excess – you may then apply the toner. The salt displaces excess moisture in the hair and influences the color to take more evenly. 1/2 oz of freshly opened Club Soda can also be added directly to a toner to help prevent tingling on a sensitive scalp.
As you have read, there is nothing “scary” about Double Process Blonding – you can achieve dramatic, glamorous results on any head of hair. Just stay with the client at all times, stay on top of everything that is happening and anticipate and prevent problems – if you do that, you will have higher profits and thrilled clients.