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Is color corrector the same as bleach?

Color correctors and bleaches are both hair products that can lighten hair color, but they work in different ways and have different effects. Understanding the differences between the two can help you choose the right product for your hair goals.

What is a Color Corrector?

A color corrector, sometimes called a toning shampoo or gloss, is a temporary deposit-only hair product. It contains pigments that neutralize or counteract unwanted tones in your hair.

For example, purple pigments in a color corrector can cancel out brassiness in blonde hair. Blue or silver pigments reduce yellow tones in gray or white hair. Color correctors come in various shades to target different unwanted hues.

How Color Correctors Work

Color correctors use a process called color theory. This principle states that opposite colors on the color wheel cancel each other out.

For instance:

Unwanted Tone Color Corrector Shade
Brassy yellow in blonde Purple
Orange in brown hair Blue

When you apply a color corrector to your hair, the pigments coat the hair strands and neutralize the undertones that are creating an unwanted color cast. This helps restore a more natural, vibrant hair color.

What is Hair Bleach?

Hair bleach contains an alkalizing agent like ammonia along with a powdered oxidizing agent like persulfate or hydrogen peroxide. This combination works to open the hair cuticles and strip out the natural melanin pigment that gives hair its color.

The more bleaching sessions performed, the lighter the hair becomes. Bleach is necessary to take hair from a dark shade to a very light blonde.

How Bleach Works

Here is a simplified explanation of the chemical process:

  1. Ammonia swells and opens the hair cuticles so oxidizing agents can penetrate.
  2. Persulfate or peroxide remove melanin molecules from hair strands.
  3. Hair is stripped of pigment and becomes lighter.

This extreme lightening action damages hair. Bleach leaves hair porous and prone to becoming dry or brittle if not properly conditioned and cared for.

Color Corrector vs. Bleach

Now that you understand the basics of each product, here is a comparison of some key differences:

Application and Processing

Color Corrector Bleach
Applied to shampooed hair, left on 5-20 minutes, then rinsed out Applied to pre-lightened hair, left on 20-45 minutes, then rinsed out
No developer needed Must be mixed with developer
No heat required May use heat to speed up lightening

Color correctors are quicker, easier and less damaging to use compared to bleach. Bleaching requires more precision in application and development times.


Color Corrector Bleach
Temporary color deposit Permanent hair lightening
Reduces brassy, orange, yellow tones Removes melanin pigment from hair
Subtle, natural looking correction Dramatic brightening and lightening

Color correctors offer a delicate, low-commitment way to tone down unwanted hues. Bleach makes a drastic change to your overall hair color.

Hair Health Effects

Color Corrector Bleach
Gentle on hair, less damaging Very drying and damaging to hair
Can be used frequently Should only be used every 4-6 weeks
No need to deep condition after Requires conditioning treatment after use

Color correctors are formulated to be non-abrasive. Bleach is highly damaging due to the strong chemicals used to lighten hair.

When to Use Each Product

Now that you know the differences, when should you use each one?

Use a Color Corrector:

  • If hair has yellow, orange or brassy undertones but you don’t want to lighten the overall color
  • To prep hair before applying a toner
  • To freshen up color between salon visits
  • If hair is damaged and can’t tolerate bleach
  • For quick toning that washes out gradually

Color correctors are great for removing subtle undesirables or refreshing pre-lightened hair.

Use Bleach:

  • If you want to dramatically lighten your hair color more than 2-3 shades
  • To lift your base to pale blonde before toning or coloring
  • If hair is dark andresistant and corrector won’t lighten enough
  • To create an ombre or balayage effect
  • If you want long-lasting lightened hair

Bleach enables you to achieve extreme color changes that are permanent. Correctors can enhance the results.

Can You Use Both Together?

Yes, color correctors and bleach can work together as part of a multi-step hair color process. Here are two examples:

Bleach then Correct:

  1. Lighten hair with bleach to desired pale shade
  2. Rinse, then apply color corrector as a toning gloss to perfect color and add shine
  3. The corrector enhances bleach results and helps neutralize leftover brassiness

Correct then Bleach:

  1. Prep hair with an anti-brass color corrector before lightening
  2. The pigments help block the development of orange and yellow tones
  3. Bleach hair as normal afterwards
  4. You’ll get better color results from the bleach thanks to the corrector

Using both products together lets you maximize and customize the hair color outcome.

Other Color Removal Options

Bleach and color correctors are not the only ways to remove or alter hair pigment. Here are a few other options:

Hair Color Remover

Removes permanent or demi-permanent hair dye. Contains sulfurous reducing agents that break down color molecules. Less damaging than bleach but can’t lighten natural pigment.

Clarifying Shampoo

Heavy duty shampoos that deep clean buildup and residue. Some contain ingredients like citric acid to help strip temporary color. Best for removing direct dyes.

Vitamin C Treatment

DIY method that uses vitamin C powder or tablets dissolved in shampoo or conditioner to fade color. Works similarly to hair color removers.

Baking Soda and Anti-Dandruff Shampoo

Can be combined into a paste and applied to hair to lift and remove color, especially darker direct dyes. Very drying so condition after.

So in summary, while bleach and color correctors are among the most effective ways to dramatically alter your hair color, other more gentle options are available based on your hair goals. Consult a professional to determine the best plan for your hair.


Bleach and color correctors both alter hair color, but in different ways. Color correctors use deposit-only pigments to neutralize undertones. Bleach employs harsh chemicals to permanently strip pigment and lighten hair.

Correctors cause less damage, while bleach creates more dramatic changes. They can be combined in a hair coloring regimen to maximize results. Consult a stylist to choose whether one product or both used together suit your hair needs and desired outcome. With the right technique, you can achieve beautiful, vibrant hair color results.