Can you bleach dirty hair, or should it be clean?

purple toner for yellow hair after bleaching

  • The hair must be dirty to bleach because the natural oils help protect it against harsh chemicals.
  • This means you should stop washing your hair at least 48 hours before bleaching it.
  • If you use hair styling products such as styling gels or creams, wash your hair 48 hours before bleaching with shampoo and conditioner to remove any buildup.


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When I advice my clients to have their hair dirty before bleaching, they frown at me.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wash it in a fortnight...


 The idea is to wash your hair 48 hours before bleaching it. 

Having your hair "dirty before bleaching" means unwashed for two days.

What is that dirt?


It’s environmental dust and natural oils and grease from the scalp.

Jimena came to my salon some days ago.

The poor thing had bleached her hair at home (I won't give my opinion about the dangers of bleaching your hair at home because you probably already know them) and her hair was a mess.



Because the bleached strands didn’t match her original color level.

In other words, the color was completely uneven with orange and yellow strands.


I asked her if she had followed the exposure times of the bleach, and she said she had.

I also asked her how she had prepared the bleach, and the ratios of peroxide and bleach powder had been correct.

What could I do next?


I came to the conclusion that there was only one explanation left.

I asked her, "Did you wash your hair before bleaching it?"

And she replied, "No way. I was told that the hair had to be dirty."


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That’s when it hit me: "my hair was so dirty before bleaching it that I could even feel the traces of styling cream on my fingers."


That was the problem!

The styling cream had interrupted the bleaching process. That's why her hair was unevenly bleached.

 If you want to bleach your hair, you should stop washing it at least 48 hours before. You need to remove any buildup that may interfere with the actual color payoff. 

How did I solve Jimena's problem?


I gave her an appointment to bleach her hair again with clear instructions. If she used styling cream, she had to wash her hair 48 hours before the session with shampoo and conditioner.

So, again.

Tabla de Contenidos


You should stop washing your hair at least 48 hours before you bleach it

The harsh chemicals used in bleaching (peroxide and ammonia) dry and heat up your hair so you've got to make sure that your hair and scalp are moisturized.

These two chemicals lift your hair’s cuticles to expel the color from the hair core.

At the same time, lifting the cuticles removes nutrients such as proteins, moisture, and amino acids.


Also, your hair expels toxins, sweat, and excess oil through the hair roots.

This oil spreads from the roots to your lengths every 48 hours and moisturizes your hair naturally.


Every time you wash your hair, you remove this natural oil and leave your hair unprotected from external factors that can damage it.

 So, if you plan to bleach your hair, you shouldn’t wash it for that natural oil to protect it. 


I recommend that you stop washing your hair for 48 hours before you bleach it.

This advice is valid for people who don’t use styling products such as hairsprays or gels.

What happens in those cases? That's what I'll talk about next.


If you use styling products daily, wash your hair with shampoo and conditioner 48 hours before bleaching

wash hair with clarifying shampoo

In that case, you need to wash your hair 48 hours before bleaching it with shampoo and conditioner. You can even shampoo twice.


Having your hair dirty,  means making sure your scalp is moisturized with its natural oils. Otherwise, if your hair has product buildup, bleaching won't work. 

That residue will interrupt the process.


Every product you apply to your hair leaves a specific residue. For example, if you apply a gel, it’ll leave a powdery residue.

If you apply a leave-in conditioner, it’ll leave an oily residue, and an anti-frizz serum will leave a crystalline residue.

These are very small particles that you can’t see with the naked eye.  This is why you need to wash your hair to clean it from hair products buildup. 


Bleaching lifts the hair cuticles for the bleach to penetrate. However, if your hair has product residues, that process will be interrupted.

It’ll further dry and damage your hair, resulting in uneven bleaching.


Let's say you plan to bleach your hair on Saturday because you're not working.

Then, Thursday should be the last day you shampoo your hair to remove the residue from the hair products.

Of course, don’t use any other products after you wash your hair.

Then, after bleaching, you can use styling products again.



You shouldn’t wash your hair at least 48 hours before bleaching.

And if you use hair products such as styling creams, gels, and mousses daily, you need to wash your hair with shampoo and conditioner 48 hours before bleaching.

Your hair must be free of hair product buildup before bleaching.


Along those lines, to protect your hair before bleaching, you can use coconut oil because it won’t interfere with the bleaching process.

Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer and it’s free from chemicals.

You can apply coconut oil the night before bleaching. Then, bleach your hair straight away.

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