Blonde hair is one of the most sought-after hair colors. Between shades like arctic chill, strawberry, and honey blonde, there are many, many shades to choose from. One of the drawbacks of going blonde is maintenance, which often requires the use of harsh chemicals and bleach.

However, is it possible to achieve blonde hair or blonder hair without the use of bleach? The answer is that it depends.

There are consequences to using bleach that include damage to the hair, brassy hair, and even chemical burns. However, bleach is not always necessary to use depending on your current shade and shade you wish to achieve. Of course, if you want to go from brown to platinum blonde at home, the use of bleach is going to be necessary to lift your hair enough to reach an icy blonde hue.

If you are looking to achieve a dirty or medium blonde shade, and your hair is naturally light enough, bleach may not be necessary. This article will outline the basics of how you can achieve blonde hair without the use of bleach.

Why use a High-Lift Dye

Depending on how dark your hair is, you may not be able to achieve the blonde of your dreams without using bleach, however, you could get close with a high-lift hair dye. For a simple rule of thumb, high-lift hair dyes can lighten natural hair anywhere from 3–5 levels depending on how dark the base color is.

In comparison, a regular hair dye mixed with a 30 vol developer can only lift around 2–3 levels. Although you can lighten hair up to 3-5 levels with a high-lift dye, a lighter base will achieve more lift, and a darker shade will have results on the lower end of the scale.

What to Know Before Using a High-Lift Dye

Using a high lift color can help you achieve blonder hair without bleach however, there are some things that you will want to think about before you use it. If your hair is too dark, saturated with permanent dye, or darker than light brown, the high-lift dye will either not work at all or will not lighten your hair enough to achieve a desirable blonde shade. Before using a high-lift blonde you will want to consider the following:

  • The shade of your current hair
  • The condition of your hair
  • How often you use permanent dye
  • The level of lift you want to achieve

High-lift blonde is most effective on healthy virgin hair that is no darker than light brown. You can still use high-lift dye on previously dyed hair, but it is important to keep in mind that lightening virgin hair is recommended and lightening already-colored hair may present some challenges.

If you have previously dyed hair, and plan to use a high-level blonde dye it is recommended to wait 8-10 weeks after you have initially dyed your hair to allow time for the hair color to washout. If you try to use a high-lift dye too soon after you have used a permanent or semi-permanent dye, you likely will not achieve your desired result.

The reason is that dye cannot lift previously dyed color. If you plan to use a high-lift blonde you will want to make sure you remove as much of the previous color as you can. If you do not wish to use bleach, you can try a bleach-free color remover such as:

The products above are great at removing unwanted permanent hair color without using bleach, some contain chemicals that can be just as harsh as bleach if not used carefully. You will want to do a strand test before you apply them to your hair and follow the directions explicitly.

What Is the Difference Between High Lift Dye and Bleach?

In general, a high-lift dye is less damaging than bleach and the most obvious difference is that high-lift dye does not contain bleach, and instead uses ammonia and lightning boosters. A high-lift dye is also less likely to require a two-step process or toning step.

Though if you have darker brown hair using a high-lift toner may need to be followed up by a toner afterward if the result is too brassy or was not toned properly in one-process.

If you plan to use a high-lift dye and your hair is on the darker side, you may want to start with an ash blonde hair color. Ash-blonde neutralizes orange and yellow pigment that appears as the hair lightens. Depending on the base shade of your hair, if you use a warmer or golden shade, your result may be too orangey or yellow.

It is important to note that high lift dye, though safer than bleach, is still a professional product. High-lift blonde can only be purchased in beauty supply stores and must be paired with either a 30-40 volume developer. Popular brands for high-lift dye that you can purchase from Sally’s Beauty Supply and similar beauty supply retailers are:

What about regular blonde dye?

If your base or natural hair color is already a light or medium shade of blonde, you may not need to use a high lift dye at all. The approach to choosing a regular blonde dye is the same for high lift colors: consider the shade of your hair, the health of your hair and the end goal. In general, most professional hair stylists would recommend that you choose a level of dye that is one level lighter than the shade you want to achieve. It may also be best to choose an ash tone to neutralize yellow and orange tones as the color develops.

What is a natural alternative to lighten your hair?

If you google how to lighten your hair naturally you will find several options for using natural products to lighten your hair. Though options for achieving blonde hair are limited and tend to work best on those who already have naturally blonde or light brown hair.

The most natural product you can use to lighten your hair is old fashion sunlight. Though fun in the sun will not take you from brown – to blonde you can enhance your natural highlights outdoors.

To achieve a more dramatic result from the sun you can try to squeeze lemon juice on your hair, though results may vary depending on your base color. Another alternative to lightening your hair is by using hair conditioners or shampoos for blondes.

There are several shampoos and conditioners on the market today that can help you achieve lighter hair or bring out your highlights. Some popular products are:

Though these products promise to lighten your hair over time, the shade of blonde will depend on how dark your natural color is. Darker and Medium blondes will achieve better results than a light brown shade. If your hair is too dark, you may not see results at all.

The Truth about Not Using Bleach

In summary, the jury is still out on whether you can effectively achieve blonde hair without using bleach. There are a lot of misconceptions about going blonde or blonder and the bottom line is that it depends on a lot of factors.

If you are lucky to have a head of hair that is naturally light, you may not need to resort to bleach to go blonde or blonder. A day in the sun or a standard hair dye may be enough to bring you one or two shades lighter.

But for those of you reading this who might be a natural brunette, unfortunately, for you it’s not that simple. Using a high-lift tint, in general, maybe the best option if you wish to forgo bleach, however, it is unlikely to work as well as bleach on dark to medium hair types, if at all.