DIY Ombre for Asian Hair
(Update 9/29/2015: I ombre-d my hair again after a year and a half, and updated the pics in this post!)
I’m about to share with you my most adventurous endeavor yet - ombre balayage hair, sans the crazy salon prices! Be prepared for a long post - but it’s all (mostly) necessary information!
I’ve actually been dying (pun intended) to do some sort of ombre hair for awhile, but I hadn’t had the guts to do it. I’m not gonna lie - the fact that Coachella and summer were coming up was definitely a serious motivation to get some summery-ness into my locks! (And, more importantly, I realized that I could always dye my hair black if I really made a mess of things.)
After reading several blog posts about DIY ombre (here, here, and here), I got a general idea of several different methods on how to ombre your own hair. I decided to use a few principles from each method and kind of wing it, so keep on reading for how I turned my black hair into an ombre-ful balayage beauty!
Things you will need:
- Bleach kit (I used Beyond the Zone Bleach Kit) - you may need 2 kits if your hair is really long
- Old t-shirt
- (Optional) Combs
- (Optional) Hair clips / claws
- (Optional) Toner or a toning (or ash) hair color (I used this), 20 Developer (any brand, developer is all the same), and plastic cup to mix
I totally recommend going to a local beauty supply store (e.g. Sally Beauty Supply) and asking for advice about your hair if you’re not sure what to get. The toning hair color I bought was something I hadn’t planned for, and the salesperson at Sally's explained the difference between the toners and toning hair colors, and helped me make a decision.
A few tips before we get started:
- If you don't get as light as you want in the first time, wait at least two weeks and repeat! Do some deep conditioning masks so your hair can recover, but you can definitely try again to get it lighter!
- Work quickly and try to alternate between both sides frequently.
- Each minute counts and lightens your hair, so if you spend 5 minutes working on one side before moving onto the next, you may ultimately end up with one side lighter than the other. Do one strand on each side, alternating until that stage was finished, to make sure it's even.
- Have day-old hair when you bleach your hair. Apparently, the natural oils in your hair can help protect during the process, so it's best if you haven't shampooed in a day or so.
- Decide beforehand on how you want your ombre to look.
- To decide how many stages of ombre you want, and how long to keep the bleach in, you want to think about:
- How high up you want your ombre to go
- How light you want the darkest shade (at the top of the ombre, near your roots)
- How light you wan t the lightest shade (at the bottom)
- Consider using a mascara wand or toothbrush for the top ombre layer. This will help achieve less dramatic, really soft blending of the dyed hair into your natural hair color. Using either of these will make sure the ombre doesn’t turn out choppy or streaky.
- Read the instructions in this post before you start! You’ll be so concentrated on the process of actually bleaching your hair, that it will help to know a few tips and reminders in the back of your head without having to continually check your computer.
Note: these instructions are based on 4 stages of ombre - if you do more stages, you might want to leave your bleach on for less time; if you do fewer, you might want to leave it in longer. Always check the hair color as you go along, and you can adjust your waiting time as necessary.
Also, if your natural hair color isn't black, you can still follow these directions; you will just likely not need to leave the bleach in as long, and may not need to do an ash toner/dye afterwards.
- Do a test strand the night before and keep in mind how long it takes to achieve the lightness you want!
- Get your station set up with everything at hand. Have a phone/timer ready, set up a chair or stool in front of your mirror if you want to sit, get your old t-shirt on, and make sure all supplies are nearby!
- Prepare your bleach according to the directions in the package. The longer your bleach sits out, the less effective it becomes. Start bleaching right after you’ve finished mixing it, so that it doesn’t lose potency!
- Start your timer, and apply bleach to the bottom 2-3 inches of your hair. Leave on for about 10 minutes.
A few tips:
- Be generous with your bleach - you don’t want to have any unbleached sections! I ended up massaging the bleach into my hair for almost the entire 10 minutes (I had nothing else to do), to make sure it was all saturated.
- Don’t forget to get the underside of your hair!
- Continually check the color - if you think the bottom is starting to get too light, you might want to wait less than 10 minutes for each stage.
- After about 10 minutes, apply bleach 1-2 inches higher up your hair. (This means approximately 3-6 inches of your hair is now covered in bleach). Leave on for 10 minutes again.
- Repeat for your second-to-last stage of ombre
- For the last stage of the ombre, apply bleach in a staggered fashion, using either the brush that came with your kit, or a mascara wand or toothbrush. Your hands will apply too much bleach and it will be a lot harder to achieve a softer blend into your natural hair color.
Using your brush, take a strand of hair about an inch wide, and lightly brush the bleach onto hair using vertical strokes, doing your best to create an upside-down V shape on the strand. You’ll want to brush lighter at the point of the V (at the top of your strand).
- Continue applying bleach strand by strand. You should try to stagger how high the bleach comes up. So, if the bleach went as high as 2 inches from the root of your hair on one strand, you should apply bleach only 3 inches as high (or go higher and apply 1 inch from the root) on the adjacent strand.
I saved a good amount of bleach after this last stage, in case I wanted to make any sections lighter or add some highlights.
- When the bottom of your hair gets to your desired lightness, or after about 10 minutes, wash out the bleach.
- Dry your hair and evaluate the color! If you want to go lighter, you can apply more bleach in those sections, leaving on for 5-10 minutes and rinsing out again.
If it’s too light - don’t fret yet! Add toner or dye (see below)
If it’s perfect - great! You’re done!
I wanted to have some highlights (like balayage highlights) to frame my face and add depth.
- Using the applicator brush in vertical strokes, I applied my remaining bleach to the front strands of my face, trying to make as narrow a highlight as possible (0.25-0.5 inches in width). I left these on for about 5-8 minutes before doing the rest of my head, since I wanted the front to be a bit lighter.
- I applied more in some places around my head, and left these on for 5-8 minutes before rinsing out my entire head.
- A few tips:
- Imperfect application actually looks more natural, so don’t feel like you have to have perfect edges or apply the bleach extremely evenly.
- Remember that you’re applying bleach to already bleached hair, so it will probably lighten more in the 5-8 minutes than you’d think.
ADD TONER OR DYE:
Toner or dye can help if your hair is too orange, brassy, or light.
- Mix the toner/dye with 20 developer. The strength of the developer will be enough to make a difference in color, but not enough to continue lightening your hair.
- Apply the toner or dye generously, according the directions. Leave on for about 30-40 minutes. Wash and dry and admire your great at-home hair job!
- A few tips:
- Any ash hair dye will help reduce orange and brassy tones.
The beauty supply salesperson said that toner wouldn’t work as well on the brown (not fully bleached) portions of my hair, so I should choose a dye.
- Choosing a darker ash hair dye will help darken and de-brass hair, if your hair is lighter than you wanted.
If your hair is much lighter than you want, choose a dark ash blonde or light ash brown hair dye to bring it down. Keep in mind that these will work very well, now that your hair is much lighter, so you might want to leave these in for less than 30 minutes if you’re worried about the hair getting too dark.
- Any ash hair dye will help reduce orange and brassy tones.
I’m really happy about how it turned out! Everyone was surprised when I revealed that I did it myself, and I love how it looks when I wear dark clothing now!
Pictures from my first time doing DIY ombre: