How to Lighten Hair *Without* Bleach
When it comes to lifting and lightening brown hair, Blondor is our instant go-to. With a host of formulas to choose from, there’s a Blondor product to suit every look – from balayage to highlights. However, you may get some clients who ask, ‘can you lighten my brown hair without any bleach?’ And the answer, quite simply, is yes. In fact, it can be done in a number of ways.
So, here they are – three bleach-free techniques for creating a lift on virgin locks – plus one bonus tip for when you’re working with previously colored hair. Get the lightening lowdown…
1. For a Soft, Subtle Lift: Demi-Permanent Color Touch
For clients who want the most delicate lift to brighten brunette locks, use demi-permanent Color Touch; an ammonia-free formula that gently enhances strands. Perfect for adding sun-kissed highlights that lightly contrast against the base, it will create the kind of ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ ribbons that shimmer under the light.
We recommend this technique for clients who haven’t lightened their hair before, feel nervous about making the switch, but are looking for a touch of volume-boosting dimension. Just make sure to pick a target shade that’s brighter than their natural hue, then mix with Color Touch Emulsion 4% for up to two levels of lift. This is a look that will demand low maintenance as the re-growth will be very soft.
2. For Brighter Lightening: Permanent Illumina Color or Koleston Perfect
Demi-permanent color is ideal for clients who crave a low-commitment shade, but if they want their dream hue to stick around, they should be trying a permanent hair color product. Not only does this offer longer-lasting color, but it also creates a more noticeable lift. It won’t brighten to the same degree as Blondor, but it will create some beautiful bronde tones through brunette locks.
The trick is to choose the right product first. We have two permanent formulas in the Wella color portfolio: glow-boosting Illumina Color and pure-pigment Koleston Perfect. Illumina lends a sheer yet concentrated result that plays up the light reflections in your client’s hair. Meanwhile, Koleston Perfect veils locks in an intense finish, along with up to 100% coverage for grays.
Once you’ve picked which product suits your client’s desired look best, you’ll need to add a developer to lighten locks. We recommend Welloxon Perfect, custom-blended to reach their goal level of lift. Choose 6% for up to one level of lift, 9% for up to two levels, and 12% for up to three levels. Apply root to tip in foils or with a balayage technique. For an even more expressive result, you can also create full head color using a first time application technique.
3. For Turning Brown Hair Blonde: Koleston Perfect Special Blondes
Turning brown hair blonde without bleach may sound like a monumental challenge, but thanks to Koleston Perfect’s Special Blondes portfolio, the process can be done. The 11 blonde hues give you lifting and toning in a single step, so you can dial brunette hair up to even platinum shades – without the need for a pre-lightener.
As with traditional Koleston Perfect shades, you still need to use the Welloxon Perfect developer to lighten locks. However, the ratio changes from 1:1 to 1:2 for a Special Blonde. Meanwhile, the achievable lift increases, with 9% developer offering up to three levels, and 12% taking brunette hair between four and five levels brighter.
Choose your Special Blondes shades carefully, opting for 12/03 or 12/07 for a caramel blonde, and 12/11 or 12/89 for ash blonde highlights through brunette hair.
4 Special Blonde Formulas to Try
Instagram is awash with Special Blonde looks, perfected by professionals. Here are some of our favorite examples of zero-bleach brightening with KP…
Bleach-Free Caramel Curls
Image Credit: @bradthomashair
Adding caramel tones to dark brown curls without a hair lightener? It’s possible. Brad Thomas created these dreamy coils using little more than Koleston Perfect Special Blonde 12/1 + 9%.
Image Credit: @shermaine.lai
When applied in freehand strokes through the mid-lengths and ends of your client’s brunette hair, Koleston Perfect 12/0 + 12% will create the prettiest bronde balayage.
Image Credit: @black_diamond_by_jr
This dark-to-light graduation was perfected with Koleston Perfect 12/61 + 9%, swept from the mid-lengths down to the tips in one even fade.
Bleach-Free Beige Blonde
Image Credit: @emelie.wella
Here’s proof that Special Blonde shades can take locks extra-light. There’s no pre-lightener in this beige blonde hue; just Koleston Perfect 12/96, which was rinsed, neutralized, then followed up with a toner.
4. For Lightening Colored Hair: BlondorPlex
The techniques above are designed for lightening hair that has never been colored before. But what do you do if your client’s hair still has remnants of a previous toner or lightener? Using a tint will not be sufficient if your client has previously colored their hair. If you want to reduce oxidative color depth and tone, you can try Color Renew, which is a gentle alternative to persulfate products (pre-lighteners). This will reduce oxidative color while respecting the natural hair melanin.
To reduce it further while creating a lift in the hair, we recommend using Blondor on your clients. If your client is wary because they fear damage, there’s an easy workaround. Try BlondorPlex, which is a hair lightener-meets-bond strengthener. We’ve infused it with our WellaPlex No1 Bond Maker, which strengthens the internal hair bonds during the lifting process. You can use it for balayage, highlights, ombre or all-over coloring, and it will give your clients up to 97% less breakage. Just make sure you rinse with WellaPlex No2 once the color has developed.
Then, ensure clients keep up a consistent hair care routine. The ColorMotion+ collection includes everything they need for vibrant color and enhanced condition. If they only try three products, suggest they use the Color Protection Shampoo and the Color Reflection Conditioner, followed by the Structure+ Mask as a weekly treatment.