If you’re a colorist, you understand that not all hair colors are lifted equally to a clean blonde. In the category of “hard to lift hues” falls Asian hair, which, if you recall from your beauty school days might’ve resulted in a brassy or orange tone until you got the process down pat. Whether you’re lifting in the form of a balayage or creating a clean blonde before applying a creative color, knowing the bleach pitfalls can save you and your client time. Ahead, color educator and founder of Que Hair Salon in Sydney, Australia Monique McMahon shares her top tips for executing a clean blonde on Asian hair including the tools and products you need to avoid icky ramen hair.
Why It’s Harder to Lift
Getting technical for a second here: Asian hair contains a medulla (innermost layer of the hair) which is filled with plenty of dark pigment. It is coarser which means it holds a lot more blue and red than Caucasian hair. These are the hardest pigments to get OUT of the hair when you are bleaching and why the hair throws so much red and orange. For this reason it's especially important to take our time when lifting Asian hair to a clean blonde before applying creative color.
The Foolproof Formula
Section from crown to nape, with fine sections in a brick-like pattern.
When applying to each section, make sure the hair is held at a 90-degree angle so you don’t get any bleeding.
Here I used Wella Blondor Powder Lightener + 9% in a 1:2 ratio.
Apply with a spatula, NOT a brush. Why, you ask? Because brushes tend to leave bleach where you don’t want it as the bristles move around.
Tips for Getting it Right
Use COTTON wool to rest your sections on so the colour doesn’t bleed onto the other sections and cause banding/overlapping.
AERATE the hair. Once you have finish applying at the back, lift at a 90-degree angle to aerate the bleach.
DON’T LET IT DRY OUT! Re-apply along the hairline and nape consistently to ensure the colour doesn’t dry out and stop processing.
Not applying evenly; using a spatula and fine sections will help this.
DON’T rush it. A big mistake is trying to make it happen too soon (i.e using high developers or heat). Trust the product and leave it to develop. Taking your time will mean better results in the long run.
Not using Olaplex treatments or not giving the stylist time to have a treatment between each colour service is a no-no. Or if the stylist doesn't use the time to get it even.
ALWAYS use a pre-colour toner before a creative colour. This gives a cleaner application and means the hair colour fades evenly.
Lift First, Creative Color Second
Be careful not to think the bleach needs to do all the work otherwise you sacrifice the integrity of the hair. If you lift to white you’ll get ramen noodles à la Justin Timberlake.
Lifting to a pale lemon and then pre-colour toning to a cream will ensure good hair condition and longer lasting colour. As for clients—if you’re ever unsure whether your hair is healthy enough to go blonde, book a consultation first. This is necessary. Listen to your stylist, and remember, the stylist only wants your hair to look its best.
Before bleaching, the best thing is to make sure the hair hasn’t been freshly shampooed. It’s better dirty with a build up of natural oil. We don’t use anything on the scalp, but we do apply and leave on the Christophe Robin Lavender Oil through lengths and ends. This will act as a pre colour treatment and doesn’t effect colour saturation.
The best shampoo to use afterwards is the Christophe Robin Cleansing Mask with Lemon which is a low-foaming shampoo (no suds) but we suggest not shampooing your bleached hair for at least 48 hours. Use a daily leave-in moisturiser or your favourite hair oil on you lengths and ends to seal the cuticle and soften, Your shampoo routine should change. Shampoo it less and use a low-foaming shampoo. Use the Christophe Robin Daily Leave in Hair Moisturiser like your daily face cream as it can be applied in high quantity. Every morning, every night—it’s lightweight and creates neither buildup nor grease.