Many girls grow up playing with Barbie dolls with golden blonde hair. Several years later, their pretty blonde classmates are voted prom queen. “Blondes have more fun,” they always say.
So it comes as no surprise that many brunettes and dark-haired ravens turn up into the adult world wanting to try out blonde hair for themselves.
Because of that, many women turn to bleach to get that light golden color that makes them look cheeky and warm.
But it’s not always peachy—bleach almost always harms the hair because of the damage it’s known to cause. That means dry, brittle hair for months. Yikes!
Thankfully, an innovation called “high lift” color has emerged in the hair care world in recent years. It’s a new way of lightening and coloring your hair at the same time without having to pre-lighten or bleach it.
What a great convenience. No?
But is high lift color the right option for your hair after it has been bleached and dyed over and over throughout the years? Let’s find out.
What is a high lift color dye?
If you have naturally dark hair and have experimented with coloring your hair at least once in your life, you’ll know that the only way you can possibly get lighter-colored hair is by bleaching out your natural pigment.
You can’t simply apply blonde or even light brown dye on your hair and expect it to stain.
But with the technology that is high lift color, you can lighten and color your hair blonde without the dreaded bleach.
Why is it so dreadful, you ask? Well, bleach has something of a bad reputation because of its after-effects on hair.
Bleach aggressively lifts the hair cuticle to let your natural pigments seep out, leaving it in a lighter shade. This is then dyed or toned according to the right color.
But because of bleach’s harsh mode of action in lightening the hair, it leaves your strands brittle and weak.
Since there are new gaps in your cuticle, it’s harder to retain moisture, leaving your locks lifeless. It also breaks down the proteins in your hair that keep it strong and bouncy.
Because bleach is so potent and chemically hazardous, you can even burn your scalp as you apply it. This is one of the primary worries people have about it.
It’s challenging to nurse your hair to health after bleaching it. It could take months before it feels as soft and shiny as it used to be, even if you pour your heart and soul into moisturizing and strengthening it.
For this reason, many women who love their naturally luscious hair avoid bleach.
High lift dye serves as a solution to this fear. Instead of having to bleach your darker hair beforehand, you can use this dye right away because it doubles as a more gentle lightener.
This type of hair color falls into the permanent hair dye category. It’s made with more ammonia and pigment than the usual permanent dye to get deep into your hair strands and let the color shine through.
It’s then mixed with a 40 volume developer, one of the strongest peroxide solutions for activating dye.
The developer lifts your cuticle to strip off your natural color while your new hair dye penetrates the hair strand. With this, your hair gets lightened simultaneously with coloring.
It also helps tone your hair, which cancels out brassiness and gives you the correct undertone.
If you had gone to bleach your hair first, toning would be yet another half hour or so in the salon since it’s an additional step after lightening. Therefore, high lift dye can cut the coloring process in half.
Who should and shouldn’t use high lift dye?
High lift dye should only be used on healthy, natural, virgin hair that hasn’t been exposed to chemical processes recently.
If this sounds like you, high lift dye is an excellent option since it saves your hair’s integrity and luminosity.
That said, it’s essential to understand that while it’s technically healthier and less risky than bleach, it still causes some level of oxidation, which requires the proper aftercare too.
That’s because high lift dyes rely on a 40 volume developer, which can be very strong.
High lift dyes can only work on medium hair shades. If you have dark blonde or dirty brown hair, this can work for you.
If you try to apply this dye on darker hair, you can end up with an incredibly copper and brassy shade that’s difficult to rectify.
You should also avoid using these dyes on coarse and super-curly hair. This hair type is more resistant to lightening, so it may be difficult to work with.
Restoring it to health might be a pain as well since coarse hair is already dry, to begin with—you don’t want to combine that with damage and fragility.
You also can’t use a high lift color on hair that’s been dyed before since there won’t be any more space in your hair shaft for new pigments.
Remember, high lift dye only deposits pigment in your hair, not lift it out. That’s a job only bleach can do.
So if you have rich, deep, chocolate brown hair or jet black tresses, you might not reap the full benefits of high lift dye.
These dyes only work to bring your shade up by three to four levels, so you won’t turn blonde by using it.
If you have very dark hair, bleach may be the better route for you.
It can bring your lightness up thoroughly and evenly, and you can customize your toning to ensure you have the right shade you want without relying on a high lift dye that wasn’t designed for your hair type.
Can you use a high lift color on bleached or pre-lightened hair?
If you currently sport hair that’s been bleached and dyed before, then high lift color won’t work on you. Even if you had your hair colored a bright white and now want to get a blonde color, it won’t penetrate your hair.
That’s because it already has artificial dye in it, and your new dye can’t just force your old one to exit out. Only bleach can strip your hair of that old pigment.
Another issue with using high lift dye on bleached locks is getting the undertone right. High lift dyes may contain some toning properties that give it a more purple or blue undertone, just to cancel out any brassiness.
But if your hair is bleached already and doesn’t need that extra help, you could end up with lilac or pastel blue hair. No thanks!
Plus, because bleached hair is already moderately damaged, you could end up with double the fragility, dryness, and brittleness of your hair because of the 40 volume developer.
That’s something you never want to risk.
If you’re still unsure whether your hair type is appropriate for high lift color, you can always book a consultation with your trusted stylist.
They can recommend other coloring options for your hair type and condition so that you can go through the best method for you.
No one can argue or even doubt that high lift dye is revolutionary in the realm of hair-coloring.
It’s fantastic because it makes light and blonde hair more accessible to brunettes and those with a more medium natural base shade.
But sadly, it’s not for everyone—and it’s especially not for bleached hair.
Not only is it not effective on previously lightened and dyed hair, but it can also wreak havoc in terms of hair damage that can be difficult to repair.
So if you’ve gone through a couple of bleaching and dye jobs these past months, do your hair a favor and sit this trend out.
Nurse your hair back to health instead, and opt for more appropriate coloring methods if you’d like to switch up your shade.
Don’t put your bleached and already-damaged hair on the line just to experience this new, trendy coloring method.
Stick with what you know to be good for your hair’s health, and you’ll be dodging a bullet of magnanimous proportions.