Are all hair bleaches the same?

Q. Do different bleaches work differently and, are there ways to predict how a certain bleach would work before using it? Lisa, Las Vegas, NV.

A. Different manufacturers obviously have different formulations for their bleaches. Some are designed for maximum lift; others are designed for average lift. Some products perform well under heat; others break down and become runny. Some sustain their action for well over one hour, while others appear to stop lifting after 30-45 minutes. Some of these variations are by design and others may just be due to faulty formulations.

Usually, the manufacturer’s instructions advise the user of the best way to achieve optimal results with their product, and that’s why the instructions for each product should be followed very closely. Because there is no reliable ranking system of how different bleaches perform under comparable conditions, users may have to rely on their own experience and judgment.

Application techniques can seriously affect the outcome of a bleach performance. Two hairdressers using the same product on similar hair types may obtain markedly different results simply because they have different application habits. Someone who is slow in foiling or weaving, or someone who just remembers to make those “urgent” phone calls after mixing the bleach, should expect the product to lose strength as it sits in the bowl. It is always a good practice to mix small portions of bleach at a time. Some recommend using the progressive technique whereby one starts with a lower-volume developer and finish with a higher volume of peroxide. But an important aspect that is ignored by many hairdressers is whether enough product has been brushed into the hair swatch. Economizing here is definitely not a good practice. Hair swatches should be fully saturated with the bleach mixture to achieve even and strong lift throughout, and they should not be allowed to dry up while on the hair. A dry bleach is a dead bleach.