Can I Lighten Already Colored Hair?

hair styled before and after

The beauty of hair color is you can always change it based on mood, season, or lifestyle. But what if you recently made a shift that was a little too dark for your liking? Or, maybe, you’ve been coloring your hair within the same spectrum of hair color for years. Can you still lighten it up? Good question. The short answer is “yes,” but not without considering a few things. Fear not. Zotos Professional believes anyone can achieve salon-worthy results at home, so let’s get into it. 

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Lightening Colored Hair at Home: Pre-Bleaching Tips

Bleaching is one of the most straightforward ways to lighten your hair, especially if you have previously colored tresses and want to go lighter — color does not lift color. Before getting into how to lighten colored hair at home, here are a few pro tips to help prepare your hair even further. Another advantage of bleach is that it plumps up the hair shafts, which gives the appearance of fuller, thicker hair.

  • Regularly use a deep conditioning treatment such as our ULTRA BOND™ No. 2+ Deep Treatment  or ULTRA BOND (™) Overnight R&R Leave In Treatment to help strengthen and protect your hair. 
  • Lay off hot tools to give your tresses a break before bleaching. 
  • Avoid shampooing and conditioning your hair two to three days before lightening your hair so that the natural oils can help protect your tresses and scalp. 
  • Consider conducting a strand test first. Not only will you be able to perfect your processing time to ensure you get the desired color, but it’s also an opportunity to see how your hair and scalp react to the lightener.

Gather Your Supplies 

You must be well-organized and understand the products you’re using to avoid a mishap. If you have any pre-bleaching questions, including which lightener and developer to use, have a virtual chat with one of our pros!

Bleach Cream or Powder 

Zotos Professional offers a powder and a cream lightener that can lift up to nine-plus levels and break through previously color-treated hair.

ULTRA BOND™ Crème Lightener

Featured: ULTRA BOND™ Crème Lightener


The developer activates the bleach so it can lighten the hair.Professional hair color developers come in “volumes” ranging from 10 to 40. They contain different percentages of hydrogen peroxide needed to penetrate hair fibers, depigmentize natural melanin, and develop color. The higher the volume, the more hydrogen peroxide it has.

To take your natural hair color to a darker shade, choose a volume 10 developer. For 100% complete gray coverage go for 20 volume. For brightening natural virgin hair from the mid-lengths to the ends only, amp it up to a 30 volume. And for high-lift blonde shades that take you 2 to 3 shades lighter, go with a volume 40.

Now that, you’ve picked a shade and a developer that will get you the results you want, how much do you use? Age Beautiful Highlift shades mix 1 part Age Beautiful Highlift and 2 parts 40 volume Age Beautiful developer. Easy! Mix 1 part AgeBeautiful permanent hair color with 1 part AgeBeautiful developer. 

Additional Tools and Equipment

  • Plastic or glass mixing bowl
  • Tinting brush
  • Latex or plastic gloves
  • Clips for sectioning hair
  • Color cape (or an old shirt)
  • Foils (if you’re doing highlights versus an all-over color)
  • Toner (if needed)
  • Towels
  • Brush and comb
  • Shampoo and conditioner

How to Lighten Dyed Hair at Home

The below process is intended for “all-over” lightening versus a “highlighted” effect. Make sure the area where you will be working is well-ventilated, has ample lighting, and has a large enough mirror for you to see what you’re doing. Organize all your products and tools on a table. Put a cloth over the table to protect it from the bleach. 

Step 1: Section Your Hair 

If you have longer hair, you’ll need to section it off. Brush your hair back. Next, use the tip of your tint brush to create a part down the middle — from the front of your hairline to the bottom of your neck — creating two sections.

  • Starting on the side of your choice, use the tip of your tint brush to create another part from the top of your ear to the middle of your part. Once you’ve divided one side in half, clip to secure. Repeat on the other side on the top and then on the bottom, leaving you with four clipped sections. 
  • Protect your hairline and ears with a conditioner or barrier cream. 

Step 2: Mix Your Bleach

Follow the package directions to use the correction mixing ratio of  lightener to developer. Make sure there aren’t any lumps. Start with one or two ounces of powder or cream lightener at a time. You can always make more. 

Pro Tips: 

  • When choosing a developer, keep in mind that the measurement dictates how fast the bleach will lighten your hair. However, it also depends on hair density and volume.  
  • With that said, a high volume developer like 40 volume is better suited for thick, dense, coarse, and curly hair.
  • On the flip side, some hair types don’t agree with a faster, more aggressive developer. A lower developer is a good choice if you have hair that’s been bleached, high lifted, permed or relaxed, or hair that’s fine or fragile.  
  • Remember, only mix 10 or 20 volume developer for the scalp area. A 30 or 40 volume can cause irritation and even cause burning and blistering. 
  • For more expert advice, check out our blog post on the importance of developers and the perfect way to mix like a pro!

Step 3: Apply the Bleach 

Working with one section at a time, start at the bottom. Use your tint brush to apply the bleach thoroughly. Use a tint board or your fingers to distribute the product throughout the entire section of hair evenly. Repeat this process for all four quarters. 

*Pro Tip: Apply your lightener mid-to-tips first and then let the bleach sit for at least 20 minutes before applying bleach to the roots to prevent lighter roots and darker ends. Obviously, if you only plan to leave the bleach on for 15-20 minutes, you’ll have to adjust your timing.

If you decide to add highlights instead, now’s the time. For more details, check out our post on How to Highlight Your Hair at Home

Step 4: Wait for the Hair to Process

Now it’s time to let your lightener work its magic. Don’t leave your bleach on for longer than 60 minutes, making sure that you check your hair to see how the lift is progressing. Don’t stress if you see orange — it’s normal for dark tresses to turn this hue during the lifting process before achieving the final result.

Step 5: Rinse Out the Bleach and Check the Color

Thoroughly rinse the bleach from your hair. Blow dry a small section. If you like the result, move on to step 7. If your color is too brassy, reapply the lightener to move past the brassy stage.

woman applying colored shampoo

Source: Anetlanda/

Step 6: Tone (if needed)

A blue or purple toner eliminates brassiness to help you achieve your desired result. The toning process can be super quick, but for stubborn hair that was previously dark. Process 10 to 20 minutes, checking every five minutes, until the desired result is achieved.

Step 7: Shampoo and Condition 

Rinse out the toner (if applicable) and follow with our ULTRA BOND™ Shampoo and Conditioner to help strengthen and protect your lightened locks while providing hydration and shine. Keep using these products, but add a weekly deep conditioning treatment

Shop The AGEbeautiful® ULTRA BOND™ Collection Here

Step 8: Style

Showcase the fruits of your labor with a solid blow dry style. Zotos Professional scalp-friendly Biotera® Mousse creates volume at the roots while reducing flyaways and leaving no sticky residue or flakes. It also provides thermal protection with styling tools up to 450˚ F. Finish off your look with Biotera® Flexible Hold Finishing Spritz for instant texture and shine and to maintain volume.

After Care

Lightening already colored hair needs proper after care products. 

  • Continue using your color-preserving shampoo and conditioner, but add a weekly salon-quality treatment such as Zotos Professional ULTRA BOND™ No. 2+ Deep Treatment or Overnight R&R Leave-In Treatment to help protect and strengthen hair during and after lightening.
  • If your highlights start to look a bit brassy, reach for our Ultra Bond (™) Blonde Care Purple Shampoo and Conditioner.

When you want to give your bleached tresses a break and return to color, browse Zotos Professional Hair Color here and take our hair color quiz to help you find the perfect match.