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Hair coloring for Dummies 101 Chapter 5 Lightening and Porosity.

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Lightening and Porosity

Lightening is one of most significant services a colorist has to offer.  It is a coloring treatment that will set the colorist apart from the pack.  Hair lightening is used when the client wants a dramatic change to a much lighter shade that is unachievable by any tint.  Lightening is also used to remove pigment prior to a tint application, and is necessary before application of a toner (a light delicate pastel color).  When lightening, the hair goes through seven stages of color change.


  1. Black to
  2. Brown to
  3. Red to
  4. Red Gold to
  5. Gold to
  6. Yellow to
  7. Pale Yellow (almost white)

As the hair passes through the various stages it also becomes increasingly porous.  This is a necessary condition in order for the hair to accept a toner.  Even the lightest hair color must go through the lightening states to achieve the correct porosity for toner acceptance.

Selection of the correct lightener to use is important.  A colorist of today can select from oil lighteners which are designed for on-the-scalp application, or powder lighteners that are designed for off-scalp techniques.  Oil lighteners are best suited for all on-the-scalp applications because of the control the colorist retains.  They also stay moist throughout the lightening process.  Oil lighteners are most preference for pre-lightening prior to tint application, or toning with a toner.  Powder lighteners on the other hand are designed for all off scalp techniques.  Some manufacturers of powder lighteners have implied that their powder lightener can be used for both on and off-scalp lightening.  Although this may be true, the proper degree of porosity maybe insufficient to accept a desired toner.  This type of lightener also has the tendency to become dehydrated during the lightening process if used on the scalp due to its open exposure.

As it will eliminate unwarranted end results, a colorist should always understand, and know all the attributes of the product prior to application.


Basic step for blonde toner:


1. Pre-lighten to the desired stage.  Lightener must remain on the hair (at least 45 minutes)[1] for sufficient porosity to exist even if the desired stage has been reached in a quick time frame.

2. Shampoo hair twice, but do not stimulate scalp.  Use cooler than tepid water.

3. Gently towel dry hair.  Do not use a scrub dry technique.

4. Apply the toner to properly lightened hair, and develop until desired color is achieved.

5. Shampoo hair, condition using an acidic conditioner, towel dry.

Proper pre-lightening assures that the hair has been made both light enough and porous enough to absorb the end toner.  Hair that is made light enough, but not porous enough will not be able to accept the end toner.  All hair must achieve the correct porosity as well as stage to properly accept any toner.  Never lighten beyond the necessary stage.  This can not be stressed enough.  The inexperienced colorist should practice using various hair samples to not only see the various stages, but to understand the importance of porosity for toning.






[1] How To Do Better Haircoloring, p. 95 by Clairol Incorporated


Improper lightening results:


1.  The hair may take on a hue of green if a blue base toner is used because the hair has to much yellow remaining in the hair shaft

2. Gold banding along the hair shaft due to improper lightening presenting porosity barriers that the toner will not be able to neutralize

3. Breakage from over processing, or careless retouch application


On freshly lightened hair, if hair has undesired results after rinsing and before toning, it is best to address on the next retouch visit.  The client’s scalp is usually extra sensitive after such a process. To dry the hair, and reapply lightener is not advisable.  A chemical burn could occur.  At times, spot lightening can be used to even out insufficient lighten hair on the upper shafts of the hair.   If this is the case do so, so that the toner will produce the desired tone color, and the spotting/banding will then be avoided.

The first priority of any colorist is to leave the client’s hair in excellent condition.  A colorist should always avoid lightening the hair any longer than necessary.  Always remember, it is the stage combined with the porosity that creates the desired toned result.  On previously lightened hair, the lightener should only be applied to the re-growth.  When it is carried above the demarcation line, breakage could occur and/or the toner will not hold due to being excessively porous.  Always rinse the lightener thoroughly from the hair (two light shampoos without scalp stimulation should be performed to insure that the lightener has been thoroughly removed), and apply the toner to towel dried hair.  When using a tint over pre-lightened hair, the hair will need to be air dried using no heat, and without stimulating the scalp.  This is due to the reason that tint is applied to dry hair, and becomes saturated from the tint.  Moisture left in the hair will dilute the action of the developer, and may cause unwarranted end results.   As a reminder, lightened hair needs to be regularly reconditioned, and the client needs to be educated on what needs to be used to protect the treatment.  Improper home care on the part of the client will result in unnecessary damage, faded toned results, and may result in presenting to the colorist an inability to perform future lightening services.



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Tags: 7, blonde, color, hair, lightening, of, porosity, seven, stages, toning


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