I had my hair colored white for three years with some vivid colors thrown in the middle. Every time I returned to white hair from one of my vivid colors, I liked to try a new formula, trying to find the perfect shade of white with the most uncomplicated process to get there like a mad scientist in their colorful lab. After many different attempted formulations and methods, I think I’ve mastered how to find the best white hair dye.
The first time I ever had nearly white hair was actually an accident. I was trying to get back to blonde from a very dark red that I had been rocking for a while. Apparently, my hair takes to bleach extremely well because my hair went from a light brown to pale yellow in about thirty minutes. Since I found that out, I was switching from bright and dark colors to white blonde again like it was hopscotch. This is great for all of you because I now know how to get to white blonde in any starting scenario.
Bottom Line Up Front
To dye your hair white, you must use bleach and white toner. My personal favorite bleach is Schwarzkopf BlondMe with Wella Color Charm T18 toner. Depending on your starting hair color, hair history, hair type, and hair health, you will use a different developer with your bleach to make your hair as light as possible. The toner will remove the natural yellow tones that happen to everyone when lightening with bleach.
Things You Should Know about White Hair
White hair is one of the most challenging colors to achieve because the color white is the absence of color pigment, which is not physically possible on hair without melting it off or it naturally going white with age. Instead of either of these options, hairstylists usually lighten the hair as light as possible and then tone it as close to white as possible. Below are a few things I want you to know before deciding to venture into the white hair journey so you can decide if this is what you really want.
You Must Bleach Your Hair
There is absolutely no other way to get white hair without bleaching your hair. Bleach is the only hair dye that has the power to remove enough color pigment from your hair to make it white. Even though some high-lift hair dye brands claim to be able to lift your hair color to nearly white, do not believe them. I have never seen white hair color achieved without bleach in my ten years of doing hair.
White Hair Is Hard to Maintain
Since white is absent of pigment, it is easily stained by outside environmental factors and hair products. To keep it white, you must use a toning shampoo and be careful with styling products with pigment to keep it from yellowing over time. I also recommend getting it touched up at least every four weeks because keeping your hair evenly white can be difficult if you go longer than that between touch-ups.
You Must Use Protein Products
No matter how gentle you are on your hair while dying it white, you will get some damage. Technically all color causes some level of damage. If you dye your hair white with some tender love and care and use the appropriate after-care products to reintroduce proteins into the hair, you should be able to keep healthy-looking shiny hair. I always send my clients home with a protein shampoo, conditioner, weekly mask, and leave-in conditioner.
Can You Get White Hair?
Unfortunately, white hair is not attainable for everyone without causing some significant damage unless you are one of those unicorns that the hair gods love and grant you the ability to do the impossible. No matter what hair you are starting with before dyeing your hair white, you should be patient during the process. I’ve listed the circumstances below that I would color someone’s hair white and those I wouldn’t dare try to dye white.
White Hair Is Attainable for Those That
- They have never colored their hair and are lighter than a level 5. Hair that has never been colored lifts much quicker and is healthier than colored hair. If you are someone with natural medium brown hair or lighter, you could easily achieve white hair over multiple sessions or within one session if you’re naturally blonde.
- Have colored hair that is lighter than a level 6. Hair color is more difficult to remove than natural pigment, so I only recommend dyeing your hair white if it is a light brown or lighter. You will first want to lift out the previous color before lightening any natural hair you have at the roots.
- With grey hair that wants to be whiter. Many women with 50% grey or more decide to make all of their hair white to have prettier grey color. Since half of your hair is already white, it is very easy to achieve white hair.
- Have very healthy, strong hair. You may be able to dye your hair white outside the above conditions if your hair is extremely healthy and coarse. It will likely take multiple sessions to get to white if your hair is dark, but it can be possible. Make sure you check your hair’s health before each session.
Do Not Try White Hair if You
- Have hair colored darker than a level 6. Hair that has been previously colored to a medium brown or darker will most likely never become white. This level of dark hair has too much unnatural pigment for bleach to remove enough to become white.
- Have hair naturally darker than a level 4. Unless your hair is extremely healthy and coarse, I will not attempt to color someone’s hair white if it is a dark brown or darker. There is too much natural pigment in the hair for bleach to remove and be able to maintain your hair’s health.
- Have damaged hair. I would never use bleach on someone that has previously damaged hair. There are ways to restore your hair’s natural health with regular trims, conditioning treatments, and at-home care. Although, until your hair is healthy again, do not try to dye it white because it will cause major breakage.
Things to Consider for White Hair Dye
Everyone’s hair is different and therefore reacts to bleach and white hair dyes differently. Whenever I am dying a client’s hair white, there are a few things that I consider when deciding what developer I will use with my bleach. I use three different developers for white hair, 20, 30, and 40 volume. Below are the things I look at when deciding what developer to use.
The hair’s health is the first thing I always look at when deciding how strong I want to make my bleach. The stronger you can go, the better it will be because you’ll get a more accurate white. However, the higher you go, the more damage it will cause, so you want to ensure the hair is healthy enough to withstand a higher bleach, and if not, choose a lower bleach.
I use three methods to test a person’s hair health. These three methods are as follows:
- Slide Test: Hold out one single strand of hair and grip it between your fingertips. Slide your fingers up the hair strand and feel its smoothness. If it is a rough feeling, your hair may have some damage, and if it is relatively smooth, it is healthy.
- Stretch Test: Healthy hair can stretch and return to its original state. Hold one strand of hair between your hands and slowly stretch the hair for about a centimeter. If the hair does not return to its original length, it is not as healthy as it could be.
- Dry Test: Damaged hair will take a really long time to dry when it is wet. Depending on your hair’s texture and density, your hair should naturally dry in an hour to three hours if it’s healthy. If you blow dry your hair, it should only take fifteen to twenty-five minutes to dry.
Three factors determine your hair type, but we are only going to look at hair texture for white hair. This factor determines how fragile your hair is and will change the level of developer you will use. There are three different hair textures, and they are:
- Fine Hair: This is the most fragile hair texture and should not have bleach used on it with anything higher than twenty-volume developer. Luckily fine hair will also lift quicker than other hair textures.
- Medium Hair: Most people have this hair texture, and you can use almost any developer on it as long as it’s healthy. Most of the time, I will use a twenty or thirty-volume developer depending on the other factors of the hair.
- Coarse Hair: This is the strongest and most resistant hair texture to white hair dye. I never use less than a thirty-volume developer on this hair texture because the bleach has to break through more layers within the hair to work.
The hair’s history is the last thing I look at when deciding what developer to use with my bleach mixture for white hair. When thinking of your hair’s history, a general rule is to think back three years because anything you have done on your hair then will still be on the ends. If your hair is shorter, you can reduce that history to a year or two.
- Previously Colored: If your hair has been colored in the past, it will be more difficult to lighten. Therefore, you will need a stronger developer to cut through those artificial pigments.
- Previously Lightened: Hair that has been bleached before will be more vulnerable and can become damaged easier, so you don’t want to use too high of a developer. This also goes for if you are doing multiple sessions of bleaching to get to white hair.
- Never Colored: This is called virgin hair in the hairstylist world and is the easiest to get to white. It would be best if you still considered how dark your hair is and your hair type, but you don’t need to use as strong of a developer because it will lift easier. Or you can use a more potent developer to get to white quicker.
- Chemically Treated: If you have had a perm or relaxer in the past two years, I do not recommend dying your hair white. Those types of chemical services break down the bonds in your hair and rebuild them to create a new curl pattern, so they are more easily broken down with bleach and can become damaged easily.
How to Dye Your Hair White
- Chosen developer
- White Toner
- Clarifying shampoo
- Disposable hair cap
- Clips, color brushes, color bowls, an applicator bottle, and a cape or old towel
- A bond builder or protein products (optional)
Clarify Your Hair
I get so many people that sit down in my chair at the salon for their color appointment with dirty hair because they heard somewhere that hair colors better when it is dirty. There is absolutely no truth to this, and it can actually do the opposite, especially when bleaching your hair. I like to shampoo everyone’s hair with a clarifying shampoo before I start their lightning process. This removes any build-up on the hair that could hinder the bleach’s effectiveness.
Once I have shampooed their hair twice with the clarifying shampoo, I do not condition or put any product over their hair because this creates more layers of stuff the bleach has to eat through. You will want to blow dry your hair completely before moving on to the next step. Remember that your hair will feel dry and sticky after clarifying, but this is how it should feel.
Section Your Hair
I like to section the hair into quadrants (four sections divided by two crossed lines) when doing an all-over color like white hair. The first section I make is straight down the center of the head from the front hairline to the nape of the neck. I then make another straight line from the back of one ear to the other. This creates four sections that make it easier to work along the head’s curve.
While applying bleach, I use subsections no larger than a half inch. The sections that you are applying bleach to must be smaller than what you would apply standard color because bleach is thicker and can quickly become uneven. Small sections mean you can get full saturation of color without any hair being missed.
Lighten Your Hair with Bleach
Mix your bleach with the level of developer you choose based on the factors listed in the above section. I like to mix my bleach with a one-part powder lightener and two parts developer, but you can combine your bleach to whatever consistency that you want. Remember that your bleach will thicken over time, and you may need to add more liquid developer to the mixture throughout the application.
When coloring with bleach, start an inch away from the roots and apply it to the mids and ends of the section, ensuring that it is fully saturated. Do this to your entire head before moving onto the roots. I like to let the hair sit like this until the mids and ends are lifted to about a yellow color before applying bleach to the roots because the roots always lift much faster.
Once all of the hair has bleach applied to it and is fully saturated, cover the hair with a disposable shower cap. You may have to reapply some bleach throughout the mids and ends if it has become a bit dry as you apply before you put on the shower cap. This will keep in the heat and moisture that your hair and the bleach naturally create and help it lift more evenly.
Sit and Process
Bleach should typically process for thirty to forty-five minutes, but when I am dying someone’s hair white, I like to let it sit for the whole forty-five minutes to ensure it lifts as much as possible. However, there are certain instances where you do not want the bleach to sit that long, like if they have fine or previously lightened hair.
In those cases, I check the hair every fifteen minutes by grabbing a small section and wiping off the bleach with my fingertip to see the color of the hair. Once the hair is lifted to a pale yellow, it is time to rinse.
Tone It to White
You can tone hair right in the shampoo bowl or shower, whichever place you are rinsing out the bleach. Ensure you are rinsing extremely well and shampooing at least once before applying your toner because any bleach left will affect your toner’s effectiveness. I like to towel dry the hair before applying the toner, but some stylists only ring out excess water.
I prefer an applicator bottle to apply my toner because I think it is quicker, but some people like a color bowl and brush. You can do much larger sections when applying your toner, and I usually do about two-inch sections. Once you have put the toner everywhere, pour a bit extra into your hands and massage it into the hair as if you are shampooing. This ensures that it is all in there well and that it is done quickly.
Toners typically process for ten to fifteen minutes when dying your hair white, but you really want to leave it on as long as it needs. There is no set time for a toner to sit, so you need to watch it to ensure that it breaks through the brassy tones but doesn’t become too ashy. You can check if it’s ready to rinse by scraping the toner off with the tip of your finger on a small section.
Maintain Your White Hair
One of the most critical steps in dying your hair white is maintaining it because it is one of the most easily stained colors you can get, and it can damage your hair if you don’t use the right products between touch-ups. I recommend toning shampoo and hair products with protein in between touch-ups. Be careful with choosing protein hair care because some have a warm coloration and can stain white hair. Choose protein products that are white or have cool tones in them.
Best White Hair Dye
I am picky about the bleach and toners I use because they all work drastically differently. Below are the go-to products I always use when coloring my friends and family’s hair at home. I’ve even used some of these on myself when I had white hair and couldn’t get it touched up at my salon.
Best Bleach and Developer: Schwarzkopf BlondMe
- It has amazing lifting power
- Bond builder is included in the developer
- The powder is tinted purple to offset the warmth
- Professional brand
- Pricier than some other bleaches
This is my favorite bleach to use when I don’t have time to run to the professional beauty store about an hour from where I live. I order it right off of Amazon, and it comes to my door in a couple of days and comes with the developer I need. You can get a twenty, thirty, or forty-volume developer with it. The developer has a bond reinforcer built right into it, so you don’t need to worry about using Olaplex or any other bond builder with it.
My favorite characteristic of this bleach is its lifting power. I don’t think I’ve ever used a bleach from Amazon that can lift as many levels as Schwarzkopf can, plus it does not become super yellow during the lifting process. I have watched this bleach take someone with naturally near black hair to a level ten blonde in one sitting without creating too much damage. Schwarzkopf BlondMe is a pricier bleach to use, but I think it is totally worth the extra money because of its lifting power.
Best Mild White Toner: Wella Color Charm T18
- Permanent color
- Liquid consistency is easier to apply
- Will even tone hair that isn’t quite light enough
- Professionals use it
- It can create more damage if overused
Wella T18 is a blonde toner that has been talked about a lot lately because it has proven to be able to tone even the most stubborn brassy heads. I personally never thought of using Wella products on my clients because it is a brand you can buy at Sally’s Beauty Store, but with how much other stylists have recommended it, I figured I would give it a try one day. I can honestly say it truly works!
Wella’s T18 toner works so well because it is a permanent color instead of a demi-permanent color like most other toners. This means that it has a bit of lift to it rather than only being able to deposit, making it cut through warm tones easier than traditional toners. However, you don’t want to use this toner in between touch-ups because permanent color applied frequently all over the head can eventually cause damage to the hair.
Best Strong White Toner: Blond Brilliance HLV
- Will lift your hair slightly lighter
- The cream formula is less messy
- Oil based product
- Permanent color
- Have to use the Blond Brilliance developer
Blond Brilliance is a brand that specializes in blonde colors, only making toners, high-lift colors, bleach, developer, and hair care products for blondes. I like Blond Brilliance’s high-lift color the most out of everything they have because they work really well at toning hair while also giving you a couple of extra levels of lift without causing much damage. This high-lift color is excellent when you can’t get your blonde quite light enough with bleach and need a little extra oomph in your toner.
Blond Brilliance is also an oil-based color, which is relatively rare but makes your hair feel very soft and shiny when finished. Since Blond Brilliance is an oil-based line, you can not use a regular developer with it because the ingredients do not work together, and you will not get the best results. You must use Blond Brilliance toner with its high-lift color to get the desired effect, and I recommend the twenty-five-volume developer.
Best Toning Shampoo: Matrix Total Results So Silver
- Super pigmented purple shampoo
- You can also get a conditioner, mask, and leave-in
- Works quickly
- It doesn’t lather very well
Matrix was one of the first professional hair care brands I worked with when I graduated from hair school, and there are a few products that I still love after ten years of doing hair. The Matrix So Silver shampoo is one of them, and it is probably one of the best purple shampoos that I have ever used. I have watched this stuff take people with bright yellow hair to a neutral blonde in about ten minutes.
This line also has a conditioner, mask, and buildable toning leave-in, but I don’t recommend using all of that if your hair is white because it can be too much and turn your hair slightly purple. The So Silver shampoo is plenty on its own to keep white hair from yellowing. It can be hard to use this shampoo because it does not lather like regular shampoo. Although, this is actually better for blondes because it doesn’t strip natural oils that you need to keep your hair healthy.
Answer: No, you can not. The only hair dye that has the possibility of removing nearly all color pigment from your hair is bleach. However, you can safely bleach your hair with minimal damage if you are dying it and taking care of it correctly. To see how you can safely dye your hair white, read the considerations above.
Answer: There are a few different toners I look to use to make hair white, including Wella T18 and Blond Brilliance HLV. Both toners have some lifting power, so they can break through those yellow tones much easier. Even though you should remember that a toner will not make your hair white unless it is bleached to at least a pale yellow color first.
Answer: White hair is basically a blank canvas for anything that touches it to stain. Imagine having a white wall in your house and how quickly that could get dirty. Things that could be yellowing your white hair are environmental factors, hard water, and your hair care products. You can counteract these yellow tones using purple shampoo, such as Matrix So Silver.
Answer: No. There are a few circumstances that there is no way you will be able to dye your hair white. These include if you have colored hair darker than light brown, natural hair darker than dark brown, or damaged hair. Attempting to color your hair white in any of these scenarios will result in hair damage beyond repair.
Should You Try White Hair Dye?
White hair can be one of the trickiest colors to achieve and keep up with, but if you decide to venture into that world, it is one of the most striking colors many people wish they could have. As long as you don’t mind patiently dying it to white, using good hair care products to maintain the white, and having your hair touched up every four weeks, I think everyone should try white hair at some point. I know I never regretted it, and it is still, to this day, one of my favorite colors that I’ve ever had.
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