Yesterday, I woke and and realized that I can have muted purple ombré hair if I want.
I’ve been rocking natural ombré hair for the last few years, essentially since I decided to stop colouring it cold turkey. What’s a few more years? I wonder if I’ll look sad the way I imagined women with frosted tips and roomy Mom Jeans to be when I was a teen. Probably. No one’s going to mistake me for a 19-year-old, but I have a job where common sense is valued above hair colour, so I’ll take it.
After a fleeting glance at Pinterest, I had a plan: bleach my tips as blonde as they'll go, and then mix and layer a pale lilac dye over both the bleached hair and some of my unprocessed ashy brown hair.
Since I’m both fiercely independent and impatient when it comes to hair, I wanted to do it myself and NOW. I thought about using lemon juice to bleach out my hair--I’m trying to avoid putting horrific chemicals on myself--but the very idea was so boring and time consuming that I didn’t want to waste any more time.
I sprinted to the local beauty supply for the most noxious of melanin-frying bleach, preferably whatever kind crust punks use, because seriously, they do a good platinum. Can’t bother with hand-washing or bank accounts, but they manage to have fantastic hair and healthy dogs while remaining shrouded in filthy, home-free mystery.
Bleach has changed since I was in the hair-cooking game; formulas with toners and conditioners are now common. I picked up Kaleidocolor powder bleach, and a 40 volume developer by Ms. Kay. The bleach had a purple toner to keep brassiness to a minimum, and the high-volume developer would be ideal for high-lift, short applications AWAY from the scalp. Never use 40 volume bleach on or close to the scalp, as it will burn the ever-loving be-Yeezus out of it, resulting in horrific welts.
The portion of bleach and small bottle of developer was $6 and should be enough for three applications. I saved money and my hair by mixing my own instead of buying whatever home-bleach kits you’ll find at your local drugstore.
Sectioning your hair is easy; depending on length and desired effect, you can divide it into two or four sections. I’m looking for a beachy, Karl Hevacheck look, so I divided my hair into pigtails and secured them with an elastic a few inches above where I want the bleach to go.
Then, to add to the random placement of the bleach, I pull up a few bits indiscriminately. I don’t want a tideline here; I want it to look like I’m the kind of person that spends enough time floating around in the ocean for the ends of my hair to bleach out naturally, like a rich person or a castaway.
In a glass bowl, I dumped in enough powder lightener and cream developer to form a paste. I used about 3 TB of powder lightener to about 2 TB of cream developer. Make sure to use a glass container and a plastic or glass utensil to mix, as stainless steel can react and be oxidized, even depositing a mossy green tint in your hair.
I grabbed little chunks of hair, about ¼-inch in diameter and painted on the bleach. I’m pretty sloppy when I do this, because I’m looking for a messier look, but I’m sure to saturate the lower few inches, and paint random sections with downward strokes, as it pleases me. I try to stay about an inch away from the elastic, but keeping the distribution of bleach as random as I can.
To keep the bleach from swinging around and depositing itself on your arms and neck, and burning like tiny bites from Satan, you can secure some plastic baggies around your pigtails. I prefer clear plastic so that I can monitor the development minute by minute, and I don’t leave the bleach on any longer than I need to. It also prevents the bleach from drying out and losing potency.
Here are my ends after a 40 volume bleach for 20 minutes; not quite the colour I’m looking for, so the next day, I did another application, after an overnight coconut oil soak. Instead of leaving one application of bleach on for longer, it’s less damaging to do two separate applications, ideally with some time and deep conditioning in between. (Bleach works by oxidizing keratin at the surface of the hair shaft. The longer you leave it on, the deeper it penetrates to the cortex, causing breakage and hair loss.)
Huzzah, perfection! This will give me a nice neutral base to apply my pigment.
I love mixing and customizing veggie hair dyes. I generally go for Special Effects, because it’s a more pigmented formula than Manic Panic, but I noticed that MP has stepped up their game with some new colours and higher pigment formulas. To get the gorgeous gradient I so desire, I’m going to overlap a darker violet over my virgin hair, and a lighter lilac colour on my ends.
I’m a lazy bastard with terrible time management skills, and I have no business with a colour job I can’t maintain (no one does). The purple will fade gracefully, leaving me with a cool blonde ombré after about 10 washes, instead of having to eventually re-dye it to match. Worst case scenario, I just cut it all off. It’s just hair, after all. Hardly even hair--just frazzled ends, if we’re being honest.
First I mix my lighter hue; I eyeball about 1 TB of dye to about 3 TB of conditioner. I apply this to the bottom few inches, add some more dye to the mix, and then add that to about 3 inches above where the bleach starts.
I wrap the sections in baggies again, then let it cook under a hat for about an hour. This is help the dye and conditioner mix to penetrate the hair, depositing colour and deep-conditioning my straw-like hair.
Because I don’t want everything I owned stained purple, I rinse it until the water runs clear. I’ve heard that people recommend rinsing your hair in vinegar to "set" veggie-based dyes, but considering that makes no sense, I skip it.
It’s a little darker than I would have liked, but it’s just what I was going for: muted colours that blend easily into my natural hue. I’m excited to see it fade to a more dramatic colour, and I’m already deciding which colour to do next: grey-blue!
Are you sick or hearing about ombré everything? Have you ever bleached your hair at home? My hair is really bleach-resistant (I have solid cuticles? Is that a thing?) so I might bleach it again if I want a more pastel shade, but my hair held up well to all the bleaching, and I don’t know if I want to chance it.