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Can you lighten your hair with box dye?

Yes, you can lighten your hair with box dye. However, there are some important things to keep in mind when using box dye to go lighter.

Using box dye to lighten hair

Most box dyes use a process called oxidative dyeing to alter the natural pigment in your hair. They contain developer creams with peroxide, which opens up the hair cuticle and allows the hair dye to penetrate. As the peroxide reacts, it lightens the underlying pigment.

So in theory, yes – box dyes can make your hair lighter by stripping out some of the natural melanin. However, there are limitations:

  • Box dyes can only lighten your hair by 1-2 shades at most.
  • Using a higher volume developer does not mean you can go lighter. It mainly damages hair.
  • Box dyes lack the toner needed to neutralize brassy tones after lightening.
  • The results are unpredictable and often spotty or uneven.

If you want to go from dark brown to light brown, a box dye may work. But for more dramatic lightening, such as going blonde, box dyes just can’t offer the consistent results you need.

Better options for lightening hair

For significant lightening, it’s best to see a professional colorist. They can use higher volume peroxide developers safely to thoroughly lift your underlying pigment. Professionals also have access to professional-grade toners and can blend them to customize your shade.

Here are some better options than box dyes for lightening hair:

  • Bleach and toner: Bleach contains higher volumes of peroxide to open the cuticle and extract more pigment. Toner is then applied to neutralize brassy undertones and achieve the desired shade.
  • Foil highlights: Colorists use foils to isolate strands of hair which are lightened with bleach. This creates a highlighted effect while leaving your natural color at the roots.
  • Balayage: The colorist hand-paints lightener on sections of the hair to create a soft, natural looking gradient from roots to ends.
  • Ombre: Hair is lightened significantly from mid-shaft to ends only, leaving roots darker.

These advanced techniques allow for more control over the lightening and tone. The result is a more even, natural looking lightened hair color.

Can you dye recently lightened hair?

If you’ve recently had your hair lightened with bleach or other chemical processing, you need to be very careful about applying box dye over it. Here are some risks of dyeing lightened hair too soon:

  • Hair is very porous after lightening and may absorb too much dye, resulting in overly dark or intense tones.
  • Chemical damage can occur from overlapping processing steps.
  • You may experience uneven results as damaged regions grab more dye.
  • It may be harder to achieve your desired color.

As a general rule, you should wait 4-6 weeks after significant lightening before applying any permanent dye. This gives your hair time to rest and recover. Always do a strand test to see how the color develops before applying it all over recently lightened hair.

What to do before lightening with box dye

If you do decide to use box dye to go a shade or two lighter, there are some precautions you should take:

  • Do an allergy test. Dye allergies can develop suddenly. Apply a small amount to your inner arm and leave for 24 hrs before full application.
  • Use a clarifying shampoo. Remove any product buildup so the dye can penetrate effectively.
  • Protect your hair’s condition. Coat mid-shaft to ends with petroleum jelly to limit damage to already processed areas.
  • Work strand by strand. Separate your hair into sections & saturate each from roots to ends to get even results.

Making some small preparations can help you get the most even, safe results from lightening with box dye.

What to do while applying box dye

Follow these tips when applying the box color:

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands from stains.
  • Follow the timing instructions precisely; leaving dye on too long causes more damage.
  • Rinse hair with cool water first to optimize dye penetration.
  • Use the provided conditioner or a deep conditioning mask after rinsing.
  • Let hair air dry instead of blow drying to allow the cuticle to close and seal in color.

What to do after lightening with box dye

It’s important to take care of your hair after dyeing it at home. Be sure to:

  • Use a sulfate-free shampoo made for color-treated hair.
  • Rinse with cool water and limit washing to 2-3 times per week.
  • Apply a weekly nourishing hair mask.
  • Use heat protecting products before hot tools.
  • Get regular trims to remove damaged ends over time.

This aftercare helps extend the results and keeps your lightened hair looking healthy and vibrant.

Things to keep in mind

Some final tips when using box dye for lightening:

  • Dark hair lifts best. Light hair with box dye can turn orangey.
  • Strand tests don’t guarantee your overall result but are still worth doing.
  • Color doesn’t lift color. Go lighter in stages if your hair is already colored.
  • Box dyes can’t lighten your regrowth once your roots grow in.
  • Lightening dark hair is a drastic chemical process. Expect some damage.

While possible, keep your expectations realistic. For lighter shades, visit a salon for the best looking, healthiest hair.


To summarize, you can lighten your hair 1-2 shades with an at-home box dye. But for significant lifting or to go blonde, professional lightening services are recommended. Taking care before, during, and after the process will help ensure the safest, longest-lasting results.

If using box dyes, opt for an ammonia-free brand, do an allergy test, and follow all instructions carefully. Understand your hair may still sustain some damage from the peroxide lightener. Give hair ample time to recover before applying any additional dye. With the proper precautions, box dyes can offer moderate lightening for those who can’t make it to the salon.

But for lighter levels of lift and to neutralize brassiness, nothing beats visiting a skilled colorist. With access to professional lighteners, toners and techniques like balayage and foils, they can transform your hair in ways box dyes simply can’t. Take your inspiration photo to a consultation and discuss your options for achieving the healthiest, most flattering blonde or highlighted hair color.