Over the last year, a new crop of lightening products have hit the professional market. Most have the same goal—faster lightening, higher lift and more respect for the quality of the hair.
It’s come at a time when trends are dictating those needs, as well. “It’s a resurgence of that Old Hollywood, beautiful, on-the-scalp lightening,” says Amie Goltz, Scruples’ director of field education and the Scuples Academy. “We’re trying to find ways to achieve that without looking bleached and toned.” Ready to be enlightened? Here’s a primer on what you need to know.
Q. How do some of these new lighteners differ?
A. Traditional, powder-based bleach will often be used with upward of 40-volume developer to achieve the necessary lightening and to pull back the cuticle to tone properly. These bleaches can also be very irritating to the scalp. New lighteners, like Scruples’ Blazing Blue Oil Lightener, use lower volume developer. “For people with more fragile hair, you can retain more of the integrity, and it keeps the hair in much better shape using only a 20-volume developer instead,” says Goltz.
Q. How does it work?
A. Matrix’s new Light Master lightener uses technology that boosts oxygen during the lightening process. This allows hair to lighten faster, with up to eight levels of lift. It’s quick, but controlled, according to Roch Lemay, Matrix’s lead educator. It can also be formulated for both on- and off- scalp application and uses panthenol to protect
and condition. “With today’s fast and busy lifestyle, salons wanted a product that performed faster to achieve the desired result, but still wanted to keep the fibre respect,” says Lemay.
Q. How does it help preserve hair quality?
A. “One major concern is the quality of hair after lightening. Some colourists want a product that has enough speed to be quick in a shorter amount of time. Others are concerned over the quality of the blonde, with even lifting throughout the hair, and the lightener being comfortable on the client’s scalp,” says Alain Laroche, director of professional development for L’Oréal Professionnel Canada. The company’s Infinie Platine is able to lift eight levels in 50 minutes. It also leaves hair in better shape using synthetic molecules that reproduce the components of hair’s natural keratin. This offsets the loss of the hair’s essential substance during a chemical procedure and strengthens the structure, according to Laroche. It can be used on-scalp, as well as for highlighting and ombre techniques.
Q. What are the benefits of using a lower-volume developer?
A. While some colourists don’t lighten hair enough, others lighten too much, which causes a host of issues with the hair. “Lighteners contain more powerful ingredients compared to colour and this means it is much easier to damage the hair,” says Susan Boccia, Education Manager for Schwarzkopf Professional. “Oftentimes, we over-lighten the hair and this makes it much more difficult to tone. Over-lightening also damages, so hair won’t look healthy, style as well and toners will not last as long.” Boccia recommends using lower developer strengths with lighteners, to allow for more control of how fast and light the hair becomes. “It’s a great way for a new colourist to work with lighteners and build their speed, as well as confidence,” she says. Schwarzkopf Professional’s new Crystal Gel is also a good tool for junior colourists. It processes clear, allowing them to observe the lifting process. “They can remove the product at the exact moment when hair is lifted, to get it to where they want it to be. This is also great for corrective colour,” says Boccia.
Preserving Hair Health
Especially for blonde clients, ensuring the integrity of the hair is top of mind. One of the ways you can help do this is by stopping developer at the right time, which will help alleviate scalp sensitivity and breakage, as well as ensure that toners take as expected.
What can you do when some areas have finished processing before others? “Typically, what a colourist will do is open the foil packet and spray it down with water, then wipe the bleach off with a towel,” says Trisha Rice, educator for Malibu C. But this can leave developer still working, even when you think it’s not.
Instead, consider trying Malibu C’s multi-purpose Crystal Gel. Often used as a part of a two-step wellness and clarifying treatment that removes hard water and mineral buildup, it can also be used by colourists post-colour. It immediately normalizes pH, stops peroxide and seals the cuticle. “If you are doing lowlights next to highlights, this will also help keep the lowlights from bleeding into the highlights,” says Rice. “You will see healthier, shinier hair without the breakage.” Add Crystal Gel to foil packets to stop the processing during the service or masage throughout the hair and scalp after the service, following with shampoo, conditioner and styling as normal.
Lightener Tips & Tricks for Hairdressers
1. Don’t skimp on the bleach.
When lightening, make sure you saturate the product through the hair, says Amie Goltz, Scruples’ director of field education and the Scruples Academy. “When the product dries out, it stops working. Make sure it is so saturated that you see the product and you really don’t see the hair.”
2. Agree on a shade of blonde.
When choosing which product to use, make sure you and the client are on the same page. “Saying blonde to a client can mean a multitude of things and it goes back to the consultation. This helps you decide when to do highlights, base breaking or bleaching to get what he/she is looking for,”
3. Get the right amount of lift.
Make sure you’ve achieved the proper amount of lift before toning. An easy way to check is to ask if the hair looks like the inside of a banana or the outside. If it’s the outside, you haven’t lifted high enough. “In some cases, you may need to apply a second application of lightener before toning,” says Goltz.