Putting a new color in your hair can be very exciting — and it should be! But sometimes, you need to bleach your hair first in order to get the desired color results, and we all know how damaging bleaching can be to your hair.
If that’s the case, you may be wondering how long to wait between bleach and dye in order to avoid further damaging your hair? You may have been to a salon and watched someone have their hair bleached and dyed all in the same appointment.
But on the other hand, someone may have advised you to wait a few weeks or even months after bleaching before you dye your hair. So which is it?
The truth is, either of those options could be the best one for your hair, but it depends on a number of factors. We’ll break those down for you in this article.
Questions That Determine How Long You Should Wait To Dye Hair After Bleaching
1. How Damaged Is Your Hair Before Bleaching?
This is a question that you must answer in two ways. First, how damaged is your hair before you start the bleaching and coloring process? If it is already fine, dry, or brittle before you apply any chemical products, bleach and color will only make it more damaged.
The chemicals may even cause your hair to break off or fall out. This is because bleach works by opening up the cuticle or outer layer of your hair shaft and destroying the melanin molecules which give your hair its pigment. This weakens the bonds that hold your hair shaft together, so it can cause damage and breakage.
If your hair is weak or damaged at the beginning of the process, use the lowest-volume developer you possibly can to get your desired level of lightness, and follow up with a deep conditioner or restorative hair mask.
We then recommend waiting 4-6 weeks to allow your hair to heal before coloring it, especially if you’re using a box dye or any kind of dye that requires a developer.
2. How Damaged Is Your Hair After Bleaching?
Even if you start the bleaching process with a full head of hydrated and healthy hair, if you’re trying to go from a dark brunette to pastel pink, the bleaching process will be extensive.
Especially if you have to bleach your hair multiple times, your hair will get weaker and more damaged with each application. Make sure to wait a few weeks in between bleach applications, and deep condition your hair to restore moisture in between.
If your hair is dry, weak, or brittle after applying bleach, wait 4-6 weeks before applying color, especially if you’re using a dye with a developer. And of course, deep condition your hair to restore moisture and strengthen the bonds within the hair shaft in the meantime.
However, if your hair is fairly healthy even after bleaching, we still recommend waiting 2-3 days from the time you bleach to the time you dye. This will give the cuticle time to close again, which will protect your hair from damage and will also assure that the dye works as intended. More on that in a moment.
3. What Kind Of Dye Are You Using?
Different dyes are formulated differently, and therefore will interact differently with freshly bleached hair. Temporary dyes like color-depositing conditioners and semi-permanent dyes such as Manic Panic or Arctic Fox are the safest to use soon after bleaching.
This is because they aren’t designed to penetrate the hair shaft, but rather to coat the outside of it — the same reason they’re not permanent colors. Additionally, most of these dyes are formulated with conditioning agents to help counteract the damage that bleaching does. So temporary or semi-permanent dyes are fairly safe to use a few days after bleaching, or even later the same day.
However, a word of caution about using non-permanent color the same day as bleaching!
Your hair’s cuticle may still be raised right after bleaching. This can allow the dye to penetrate further into the hair shaft than it was intended.
And this can turn what was supposed to be a temporary color into a much more permanent color, which you will have to bleach again when you want to change it. This is why we recommend waiting at least 2-3 days after bleaching and before dying your hair.
Demi-permanent and permanent dyes are harsher on your hair because they’re formulated with developers.
This is the same substance that activates your hair bleach and causes it to lighten your hair. And yes, dyes with a developer can lighten your hair a bit too! Because of this, these types of dyes can cause some damage to your hair. Though generally not as harsh as bleach, you should still proceed with caution.
Demi-permanent dyes tend to be safer because they tend to use a very low-volume developer. Essentially, the higher the volume of the developer, the more power it has to lighten your hair, and thus the more damaging it is.
Demi-permanent dyes can be safe to use the same week as you bleach your hair. However, the same caution applies here as with temporary colors! If you don’t wait at least a few days before dying your hair, it can penetrate deeper into the hair and turn from a non-permanent to a permanent color without you intending it to.
Permanent dyes are, of course, the most damaging dye option. This includes box dyes that require you to mix the color with a developer.
We recommend waiting at least a month after bleaching before using a permanent dye, and up to 6 or even 8 weeks if your hair is severely damaged. And when you do apply the dye, use the lowest volume of developer you possibly can. That will decrease the damage.
4. Is The Dye Meant To Be Used On Bleached Hair?
This is an important point to consider, but one that is often overlooked. Some dyes aren’t formulated to be used on bleached hair, and can even react badly with bleached hair.
Always read the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings carefully before applying any dye product to your hair. If it cautions against using it on bleached hair, listen! Better to keep shopping for a different kind of dye than to end up with your hair quite literally melting off your head.
Additionally, once you do settle on hair color, always do a strand test before applying it to your whole head.
Choose a strand of hair that can be easily hidden — behind the ear or at the nape of the neck are common choices. Apply the dye only to that strand, leave it on and wash it out just as you normally would.
Look for any damage, breakage, or allergic reactions to your scalp. If you see any of these occurring, don’t use that dye! But if not, you’re free to apply it to the rest of your head.
As tempting as it can be to reach for the hair dye immediately after bleaching, the wellbeing of your hair should always come first. Always wait at least a few days before applying color to bleached hair, if not longer.
Take into consideration the condition of your hair, as well as the type of dye you plan to use, and always keep your hair moisturized in between coloring procedures. Remember, beautiful hair color comes to those who wait!