What is a bleach bath?
Bleach bathing - sometimes also called soap capping - is a method that many hair salons prefer to use. Hairdressers use this method due to the fact that bleach bathing, when done correctly, causes less damage to the hair than bleaching. This means that they can keep your hair in the best quality possible whilst you go through the process of lightening your hair - giving you the best results.
Whilst bleaching might give you immediate results in lightening the colour of your hair, the strength of it may also cause damage. Some people find that their hair loses strength, snaps or splits more easily, or becomes frizzy and dry after bleaching. The principal of bleach bathing is to spread out the process of lightening your hair and diluting the bleach so that it is weaker and less damaging. Whilst this might take you more time to get the shade or base colour you want, your hair is less likely to show signs of damage and more likely to remain healthy and strong.
How does it work?
When you bleach bath your hair, you'll be making it somewhere between half a shade and one shade lighter than it was before. Whilst this is kinder to your hair than lightening it drastically with strong bleach, bleach bathing still causes some damage to the hair. For this reason, bleach bathing shouldn't be performed frequently - your hair should have some time to rest and recover between. For some, this requires too much patience - particularly when trying to get blonde or white hair from darker shades, but the slower process will help to keep your hair in the best condition possible.
Bleach bathing doesn't require keeping the bleach on your hair for as long as normal methods of bleaching - if you do keep it on for too long then this will defeat the object of keeping your hair's condition optimum! So whilst getting your hair to the shade you want it may take longer, you win back some of that time walking around in a shower cap!
Because bleach bathing - depending on how much you want to lighten your hair - may be performed over several weeks or months, this also gives you the opportunity to keep the quality of your hair good. By keeping up with split ends and using deep conditioning treatments, you can try to keep the negative effects of the bleach to a minimum.
Health & safety
If you have any worries about the condition of your hair or scalp, bleach bathing shouldn't be used as an alternative to bleaching - speak to your hairdresser or doctor and fix the problem before considering using bleach, even diluted as in this method. Similarly, if you have any reaction to bleach, bleach bathing shouldn't be used as an alternative as it will still be harmful to you.
How to Bleach Bathe
Bleach comes in different strengths, known as volumes. For bleach bathing, it is recommended that you use a volume of between 10 and 30. If you are reading this in order to bleach bath your own hair, you should still visit your hairdresser to ask for their advice regarding your specific hair. Your hairdresser will be able to judge the quality of your hair and can advise on what will be detrimental to it. Remember to always strand test your mixture, also. Not only is this important to test for allergy or irritation, but it also helps you to determine whether your mixture is the correct ratio and how long you want to keep it on for.
Check whether your bleach needs to be mixed with a developer. If so, do this as per the instructions.
Decide whether you want to apply to damp or dry hair.
When bleach bathing dry hair, mix equal parts of bleach, shampoo and water.
If you will be doing a bleach bath on damp hair, mix as much shampoo as you would usually use to wash your hair with half as much bleach.
Apply the bleach bath. Most people leave a bleach bath on for approx. 15 minutes. You can check on your hair by scraping off a little of the bleach mixture to see how it's going. Remember not to keep it on for too long - the whole point of bleach bathing is to try to retain hair strength and quality!
Wash as usual.
Speeding things up
Some people like to use heat when they have the mixture in their hair, particularly if it is a weak volume of bleach. This is considered to be somewhat counter-productive in terms of bleach bathing because the heat will promote damage to your hair - exactly what you are trying to avoid! However, for those that are used to bleaching their hair conventionally and using heat, the decision to hairdry or straighten your hair whilst the mixture is still in remains a personal choice. Many people opt for a shower cap, which keeps the natural heat of your head in. If you, as some people, think of using a hair-drier over a shower cap, ensure that the material is not flammable and that it won't melt or burn. Always keep your drier on a low setting and be careful to avoid any danger.
Remember to look after your hair between bleach baths and to leave as much time as possible before re-applying bleach to your hair.
Deep hair conditioners are ideal for keeping your hair in great condition - you can even use natural products such as coconut oil to condition your hair. You should also keep up with frequent trims so that your split ends don't get out of control. This is all particularly important if you plan on bleach bathing your hair again in the future - by keeping it at optimum quality and having patience, you are more likely to have strong, shiny and healthy hair than if you'd have bleached it drastically.
Liyaa senior stylist on March 06, 2015:
Add heat to any bleach is Ill advised; what are the authors credentials?
See your stylist.
kels on August 02, 2012:
My hair was velvet cake red and I've been taking it back to platinum blonde with this method and its worked wonders, red is such a difficult color to lift, in-between I use Paul Mitchelle awapuhi keratin treatments, my hair feels the best it ever has
CourtneyHingley (author) on June 30, 2012:
Blonde dye & bleach are the same thing - these will lighten your hair. You may get orangey tones in it but you can buy toner to remove these (if the hair is light enough).
Emma on June 26, 2012:
My hair is dyed dark auburny brown and want it back blonde how do I go about this? I've brough colour b4 blonde dye and blonde bleach not used any yet
hannah on June 09, 2012:
I had black hair did bleach bath twice and bleached it once then put normal hair dye on and my hair is a nice max blonde colour :)
avedastylist on May 05, 2012:
I have been a stylist for over ten years and although we don't do bleach baths at my salon, I have done them before. I found them to actually work pretty fast so make sure to keep an eye on your hair. I used a clarifying shampoo and a little conditioner.
CourtneyHingley (author) on May 04, 2012:
Bleach baths would be an ideal way to rectify this, Chloe, since you won't over-bleach the darker parts & end up with a lighter stripe instead!
Chloe on May 04, 2012:
I have bleached hair then dyed it crazy red with special effects veggie dyes.
I have some uneven parts from where I bleached it before and where I have touched up my roots (I'm kinda getting horizontal stripes hehe).
Will a bleach bath or two help to solve this problem?
My hair is in fairly good condition considering.
JASH on May 02, 2012:
iam a hairdresser, and always felt a bleach bath was an unhealthy thing to do up until now, may be ni was doing it wrong
emi p on March 18, 2012:
Ya know what, mi thinks this has been the easiest site I've Bn on, by far. I totally understand how to do it now, so many thanx
Maddie Ruud from Oakland, CA on February 21, 2012:
I've never heard of bleach bathing, but it does sound healthier than dousing your hair in peroxide the old-fashioned way. ;)