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Four Easy Ways to Lighten Your Hair

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Tori is a 28-year-old, three-time animal mom and DIYer living in Northern Atlanta with her boyfriend.


1. Ion Color Brilliance Bright White Lightening Creme + Developer

If you're looking to lighten your hair fast, using Ion Color Brilliance Bright White Creme Lightener is the way to go. Every time I use this product, I have amazing results and don't have to worry about crazy damage as long as I use it right. This creme lightener works on any hair shade.

The product comes in an easy squeeze tube, which makes it easier to clean up than traditional powder lightener that gets everywhere when you pour it. My only complaint about it is that the bottom of the tube is very stiff, so when you're almost out of product it is very difficult to get the last bit out.

Using this product is easy and hassle free. Here are some basic steps you can follow:

  1. Mix on a 1:1 ratio with Ion Sensitive Scalp Volume 20 Creme Developer.
  2. Use a tint brush to apply to sections of hair you wish to lighten. Make sure you apply on both sides of the hair, and using a gloved hand give the section a little massage to make sure it's all covered.
  3. Leave in for 20-30 minutes or until you get to the desired level of lift, whichever comes first.

As with all lightening products, you do not want to leave this in for too long because it can damage your hair if you do. If you don't get the desired level of lift on the first round, wait a couple of days before trying again to make sure you don't fry your hair. I recommend using a leave-in conditioner or coconut oil in between rounds to make sure your hair does not get too dried out.

For a more in-depth tutorial on using this lightening method, I wrote a tutorial specifically for it, which you can check out here.

Here's my results using Ion Color Brilliance Bright White Creme Lightener on my natural hair.

Here's my results using Ion Color Brilliance Bright White Creme Lightener on my natural hair.


2. Sun-In Spray In Hair Lightener

Sun-In has been around for years, so it's no wonder it has made its way onto my list. If you're looking for more natural, subdued permanent lightening, Sun In is the way to go.

Sun-In is made mainly with hydrogen peroxide, and provides a subtle, gradual lightening effect that will give you beachy highlights. It works best on hair that is medium brown or lighter. If used on dark hair, it may cause the strand to turn orange. Sun-In is recommended for natural or highlighted hair and not a suitable product for lightening already dyed hair, as it may react differently with non-natural colors.

Application and use is much easier than other types of lighteners. Just follow a few simple steps:

  1. Spray onto the section of the hair you'd like to lighten until the section is somewhat damp.
  2. Either go out in the sun for a few hours or use a blow dryer. Heat is the agent that causes the lightening process to happen.
  3. Repeat until you get your desired effect.

Sun-In is another product I've used so much in the past that I wrote a more in depth tutorial on what it is and how to use it, so check that out if you decide to go this route.

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Here are my results from a few years ago from using sun in repeatedly for an entire summer.

Here are my results from a few years ago from using sun in repeatedly for an entire summer.

3. Vitamin C + Dandruff Shampoo

You might be thinking I'm a nut, but this really does work if you are trying to remove an unnatural color and go back to the previous color. Most of the time, if you have dyed your hair an unnatural color, you had to lighten it in order to get the unnatural color to stick. This is perfect for getting your hair back to that blonde or for lightening a dark jewel toned color up to a pastel tone.

The main downside of this type of hair lightening is that it takes time. You will probably have to do more than one treatment to achieve your desired level.

Simple steps to follow:

  1. Crush Vitamin C tablets to a powder and mix with dandruff shampoo to make a creme.
  2. Apply to hair and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
  3. Wash out and repeat as many times as necessary to achieve desired level.

Below I've included a video from Missy Chrissy to help illustrate the before and after of using this concoction to remove or lighten hair.

4. Traditional Powder Lightener + Developer

The tried and true method of traditional powder lightener and developer is what you can always fall back on in case the methods above don't work for you. Powder lightener will work on any hair type, and works pretty similarly to the creme lightener I mentioned above.

I've used a few different types of powder lightener but my old faithful is Ion Color Brilliance Ammonia-Free Powder Lightener. I like buying the big jar because I dye my hair enough for it to be useful, but if you're only going to need a little bit it does come in packette form too. You can purchase this lightener at Sally Beauty Supply or Amazon.

When I use lighteners of any kind I try to stay away from those that contain ammonia, because ammonia can be more damaging than other chemicals and the smell also gives me massive headaches, which makes this powder lightener a step above the rest. Don't get me wrong - once you mix it with the developer there is still a smell but it's not nearly as strong as the death-pungency of ammonia.

Be careful how long you leave it in though—it can still be damaging to your hair if you let it sit for too long, especially if you're using a high volume developer with it. For safest results, I typically never go above a 20 volume developer to make sure I don't fry my hair entirely.

Easy directions for this powder lightener:

  1. Mix at a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio with Ion Sensitive Scalp Volume 20 Creme Developer. It will turn into a purple creamy foam.
  2. Work quickly. Use a tint brush or gloved fingers to apply to section of hair that needs to be lightened (tint brush works better to make sure you don't miss any spots.
  3. Don't leave on for more than 30 minutes. Rinse out and apply conditioner.

After using powder lightener with developer, I recommend using a leave-in or hair treatment mask before you start putting in your color to help alleviate any damage. Argan Oil or Coconut Oil are both great options (if you use coconut oil, it's more like a mask than a leave in. Make sure you rinse it out or else your hair will be a little greasy).

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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