Can you bleach gray hair or is it bad for your hair?

20 volume developer

There are two ways to make gray hair look whiter, depending on what you prefer or how quickly you need to do it:

  • If you want your gray hair to look white, then you can use a purple toning shampoo.
  • Or you can bleach your gray hair using a 20 volume developer


But, like always, it’s crucial to consider why you want to change your hair’s color before you ever bleach it.

  • Why and for what end do you want to bleach your hair?
  • Are you thinking about using a specific dye afterward?
  • Have you been dyeing gray hair for a long time, and you’re fed up with the maintenance?
  • Do you have some gray hair and want to take advantage of the white hair trend to see how it would look on you?


 I’m asking you these questions because bleaching is a complex chemical process. If it’s done right, any damage to your hair will be minimal.  

But if you make a mistake, you’ll be miserable for at least 6 months, and I say that from experience.

And, when it comes to bleaching gray hair, the risk is even greater.

Do you know why?


Because the internal structure of gray hair is much more delicate than the internal structure of hair that hasn’t lost its pigment.

Gray hair doesn’t just lack melanin, but it’s also more breakable, even more so than hair that still has color.

That’s why you need to think about what you’re trying to achieve by bleaching your gray hair.


And, to help you come to that conclusion easier, I’m going to tell you:

  • How to lighten gray hair if what you’re hoping to do is have lighter hair
  • How to tone your gray hair to make it whiter
  • How to bleach your gray hair safely


Whatever you’re trying to do, I’m sure you’ve come to the right place.


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How to lighten your hair in a way that lengthens the time between touch-ups

cover gray hairs with dye

Writing this, I’m reminded of one of my clients, Caitlyn.

She’s a sweet 70-year-old woman that came to my salon every single month like clockwork.

What did she get done at the salon?


She wanted to cover her gray hair because she couldn’t stand seeing even one inch of gray at her roots.

But then one month, she didn’t come. I thought she must have gone on vacation.

Then, the next month she didn’t show again, and I started to get worried since Caitlyn had been a loyal client for almost 10 years, and we had developed something of a friendship.


Maybe she’d been in an accident or something, I didn’t know, and I was worried, so I called her. I was so surprised when I heard her voice on the other end of the line; she sounded perfect!

When I saw sure she was safe and sound, I asked her why she had stopped coming to the salon. That’s when she told me the truth.


She was tired of maintaining her hair’s color!

 She was tired of running to the salon every single time any little bits of gray started to appear at her roots. 

But now she was embarrassed to go out with her hair looking like that.


I knew Caitlyn well, so I knew that her appearance was essential to her. With that in mind, I proposed that she come to the salon so we could change her hair color.

I was proposing to change her gray hair to light blonde, which would help hide where her gray started growing in at the roots, so she wouldn’t have to be attentive when she needed to come back to the salon.


  • First, we bleached her hair since her hair was chocolate brown. With hair so dark, she didn’t have a choice about bleaching it if she was going to get to a point where we could use the blonde dye.

I used a 20 volume developer and foil to speed up the process, and once her hair was bleached, I used a golden blonde dye on all of her hair.

What a change!


  • But, best of all, Caitlyn loved it, and now she only needs to come to the salon every 5-6 weeks to maintain her color.

And there are months where she can even skip the maintenance if she feels like it since her lighter hair hides the gray much better.


  • If you’re going through the same thing as Caitlyn and tired of the maintenance, or even if you feel like changing your color, remember that it’s not always necessary to bleach your hair to change your color.

You can use a dye up to 2 shades lighter than your current color without needing to bleach your hair.


  • For example, if your hair is already shade 7 and you want a lighter blonde, you can use a 9 without any issues.

If your hair is a shade 6 and you want to go to light blonde, you can use an 8 shade and won’t run into any problems.

You only need to bleach your hair when you’re lightening it in more than 2 shades, like Caitlyn, who was starting at a chocolate 5 and wanted a very light blonde 9.


  • If you need to bleach your hair to get to, say, platinum 11, remember that you shouldn’t use developer stronger than 20 volume, so you don’t damage your hair.

The lighter you go with the color, the better hidden your gray will be.


Now, maybe you want to lighten your hair but not use a dye afterward.

It’s on-trend these days: many women wear their gray and wrinkles with dignity and poise.

But that doesn’t mean that you need to let it grow out without touching it, since for many women, your hair grows in gray, and you want it to be white. If that’s your case, then you’ll need to tone your hair.



That’s what I’m about to tell you.


How to tone gray hair without bleaching it

for toning yellow hairs highlights

Like I said before, gray hair doesn’t have melanin, which gives hair its characteristic color, and it also protects it since melanin strengthens hair and helps make sure that UV rays don’t interact with keratin and lipids in your hair.

So, the bad news is that if there’s no melanin, then there’s no protection. That’s why gray hair is weaker, sometimes straw-like or rough, and more likely to yellow or change color.


  • A purple toning shampoo will neutralize any yellow tones in your gray hair that might make it look dimmer.

Think back on your childhood and remember the color wheel that your elementary school art teacher showed you.

Can you imagine it?


  • Purple cancels out yellow because the two colors are exactly opposite each other on the color wheel. So, purple tones yellow.

And, if that’s not enough to convince you, purple toning shampoo also contains amino acids that nurture and strengthen your hair every time you wash it.


  • That’s why if you’re going for white hair and you’re willing to take the process slowly, so you don’t damage your hair, purple toning shampoo is perfect for you.
 Replace your normal shampoo with toning shampoo every time you wash your hair, and within 3-4 washes, you’ll start to see your hair looking more and more white with every wash. 


But, if you don’t want to wait, you still have one more option: bleach your hair.


How to bleach gray hair safely

Remember that you might need to bleach your hair more than once to get to the white color you’re hoping for, which can be very hard on your hair.

 I’d recommend that you don’t do it at home and instead go to a salon where you can talk to a hair colorist that you can trust.  

If your heart is set on doing it at home, remember:


  • Don’t use a developer stronger than 20 volume since gray hair is delicate and might break easily.
  • Don’t leave the bleach mix in your hair for longer than 20 minutes; that could make your hair break, and the only solution for broken hair is to cut it.
  • Moisturize your hair after you bleach it with a hydrating, nutritive, or keratin mask, which will help your hair recuperate from the damage the bleach causes.
  • If you need to bleach your hair again, then wait 15 days after the first time, and in that in-between period, nurture your hair with masks.



Now you know that you can bleach your gray hair and that there a few different ways to do it.

The most important thing to keep in mind is where you’re coming from and where you’re trying to get to since when it comes to bleaching your hair, you should always take the safest route possible.


Now tell me, what effect are you trying to get by lightening your gray?

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