Recently, spurred on by boredom with my natural hair color, hatred of the hair color I’d applied a few months ago, and a love of bright colors, I decided to once again dye my hair a gorgeous shade not found growing from human heads naturally. I ended up using the following products: Splat’s Lightening Bleach Kit, Manic Panic’s Virgin Snow Toner, and Manic Panic Semi-Permanent Hair Color in Enchanted Forest and Purple Haze. I’m going to review all of these products, one post at a time. This one covers Splat, and then I’ll cover the other products in upcoming posts.
Splat Lightening Bleach Kit
I picked this up at Wal-Green’s for $7, on sale. I wanted to get a-bleachin’ as soon as possible, so my hair would have some time to recover before the hair dye I ordered arrived, and Sally’s was closed. In my experience, bleach and developer are bleach and developer, and I knew from reading around that Splat’s product included 30 volume developer, which I wanted. I figured the contents would be like the seven or so other bleach and developers I’ve tried (these include Manic Panic’s Flash Lightening kits in both 30 vol and 40 vol, and various instances of “whatever was cheapest/on sale at Sally’s”).
Edited 11/14/2016 to add that I now know using 30/40 vol for home lifting is unwise, and not good for hair. Regardless of brand. I’ve had good luck this past year using 20 vol, it lifts 4 levels with much less damage. Afterwards, I need to use toner to address the lemon-yellow undertones, but I had to do so with 30/40 volume as well. Please keep in mind my natural haircolor is a medium-dark brown. If you’re blonde, you can probably get away with 10 vol, if your hair is dark brown or black, you may need 30 vol. I’m woefully inexperienced with darker hair, so I suggest finding a blog or site that specializes in such, as you may also be fine with 20 vol. Only so many levels can be lifted at once without causing massive damage. End of edit.
I was wrong. Splat’s bleaching kit is godawful.
As the crappy icing on the craptacular cupcake that was my experience with Splat, my kit had neither shampoo nor conditioner. Would either have made any difference at all in my hair color experience? No idea. Regardless, I paid for them and they weren’t in there. I didn’t even realize they were supposed to be in there until I hunted down this image. So that sucks.
Also, don’t let this image fool you. This kit doesn’t come with a professional set of gloves. It comes with the same flat plastic gloves folded into the instructions as any regular box dye.
Okay, so. As you can see, there’s a bottle of developer and a packet of bleaching powder. I’ve used powder before, and had no issues.
The Process Itself
Powder is difficult to pour into the bottle correctly, if you’re using a bottle and not a mixing bowl, and the powder likes to clump up. Think of hot chocolate mix when the milk isn’t warm enough. You have to chase the clumps of hot chocolate mix around with a spoon. This is true with any brand, and why I now always use a bowl to mix.
I was prepared for this, so I was armed with chopsticks to vigorously stir the mixture and break up any clumps I saw. I poured in the bleach powder a bit at a time, taking breaks to swirl the bottle around. Once all of the powder was in, I stirred with one chopstick, breaking up icebergs of powder that wanted to sink my cruise ship that was the dream of a perfectly bleached head of hair. I then screwed on the cap and shook it like crazy for three minutes, by my phone’s clock. Finally, I removed the cap, stirred the hell out of it again, and broke up the few remaining clumps I could see.
I might as well have not done any of that. After a single squirt of bleach, a clump of unmixed powder blocked the nozzle. I cut the end of the nozzle off, below the blockage, shook it again, and tried again. Same thing happened, another squirt, then blocked by unmixed bleach. I sighed, unscrewed the nozzle lid, set it aside, and spent several more minutes going at the mixture with another chopstick, insanely vigorous shaking, and a small spoon I found in the silverware drawer. I cut the nozzle even shorter, replaced it, and tried again.
This time I got two whole squirts before unmixed powder clogged the nozzle. I removed the nozzle lid and pitched it into the trash can, and proceeded to apply approximately 97% of the mixture by pouring a small amount onto one gloved hand, smashing it around with my fingers to get all the unmixed powder, and then carefully applying it to my hair and then combing it through.
I should mention here that I used a comb instead of a task-specific brush because my hair is very fine, there is a lot of it, and once any moisture gets to it, it frizzes out and likes to tangle. Being unable to see approximately 40% of my head, I’ve found through trial and error that this is the best method for anything that lifts color.
I was careful to recover the areas that had been squirted, as I had gone ahead and worked that in after each squirt, worried that my hair was going to be juuuuuust thick or juuuuust long enough that one box of this crap wasn’t enough. I was very, very meticulous.
I still ended up with unbleached spots. Unbleached spots on my roots, despite the fact that I saw myself apply the mixture there. Despite the fact that the scalp directly underneath the unbleached spots had that ‘ouch there is bleach on sensitive skin’ tingle. I can safely say this was due to the absolutely terrible quality of the bleach, and not my skill, or lack of, of applying it, because I’ve used the same damned method with different kits/bleaches/developers, and I’ve never had that happen before. Missing one spot towards the back of the crown of my head is always possible, yes. I’m not infallible. Missing a part of my hairline directly above my nose, however, is not possible, I’m always incredibly thorough with my hairline.
Not a good picture of me, sorry.
Luckily, the colors I was planning on applying would cover it enough for the spots to blend in. However, if I’d been aiming for a pastel look, or simply wanting to get as close to platinum blonde or white as possible, I’d have had to bleach those spots. And to make sure those spots were bleached, I would have had to unnecessarily expose a small amount of hair around the spots to a needless second bleaching.
Bleach really fries my hair, no matter what tips and tricks I use. Because of this, I go as long as possible before re-bleaching, eight weeks at the minimum. I have visible roots at two weeks, so what I usually do is:
- Use a bright color first, to enjoy my lack of dark roots, and then minor amount of dark roots, as much as possible.
- Around 2-3 weeks post-bleaching, depending on how fast my roots are growing in and how visible they are, use a darker-but-still vibrant color once the first color has faded sufficiently. If necessary (ie, my roots are hella visible and the color is still a bit much to dye over), I take a shower and use a sulfate-free shampoo several times in a row to get some of brighter color out, then use a deep-treatment conditioner to apologize to my hair for scrubbing it so much.
- Around 4-6 weeks post-bleaching, again depending on how fast and how visible my roots are, use a very-dark-but-still gorgeous color that will make the visibility of my roots minimal. Depending on how slow this color fades, how busy I am, the health of my hair, and how goddamn impatient I am to use another color, I’ll leave it like that for 2-4 weeks.
As you can see, I do everything I can to avoid putting my hair through any more stress than absolutely necessary. Which is why I will not be using Splat’s Lightening Bleach kit again, and I recommend that others avoid it as well, unless they’re going to put the mixture in their blender and run it on ‘puree’ for quite a few minutes. And that might not even work.
Seriously, for roughly the same price as this kit when it’s not on sale, you can grab either of the Manic Panic bleaching kits (Sally’s: 30 vol and 40 vol, $10.49 each, $9.49 with membership, Amazon: 30 vol for $11.98, free Prime shipping, and 40 vol for $10.69, free Prime shipping) They’re also sold at pretty much every hair place and all over the place online, so you can often find them for under $10. Again, there’s a high chance you don’t need even 30 vol, but at least these kits will give you even coverage.
These are not the best option, but they are the easiest. They’re not the best simply because 40 vol is often more potent than someone needs, and the higher the volume, the more damage will be done to your hair, faster. If your hair is a light brown, you don’t need 40 vol, you may not even need 30 vol. Same with a light red. 20 vol will lift either of those very well. Over-bleaching not only damages hair, it makes color fade faster, since the hair is more porous. And it’s impossible to go from black to platinum blonde all at once without damaging your hair massively, so if you’re a dark brunette and you want to go silver, you’re going to have to do it in stages. I’ll write a post about that and add the link here.
The best, but slightly more complicated option? Purchasing separate developer and bleach from Sally’s or similar, and mixing them together. Here are my suggestions for each:
Salon Care Prism Lites
I highly suggest purchasing either of these from Sally’s, as what’s available on Amazon is either more expensive, fulfilled by Sally Beauty Supply anyway, or both. Additionally, Sally’s carries these at their retail shops, which are thick on the ground in a lot of places.
- Salon Care Prism Lites Violet Lightener not only lifts (“bleaches”), it also helps correct yellow tones. Sally Beauty carries 1 ounce packets for $3.99 ($3.49 with membership card), and one pound tubs for $19.49 ($17.49 with Beauty Club membership). The one ounce packet makes roughly three ounces of lifting mixture, if your hair is past shoulder-length (or shorter but very thick), you might need two packets. Buying the tub is definitely worth it if you know you’re going to be lifting your hair color/roots a lot.
- Salon Care Prism Lites Blue Lightener is the same, except it targets orange tones, instead of yellow. Sally Beauty carries this as well, and the prices are the same, $3.99 ($3.49 with Beauty Club membership) for a 1 ounce packet, and $19.49 ($17.49 with card) for a one pound tub.
This is another brand I’ve used multiple times without issue. Interestingly enough, these seem to be less expensive on Amazon, a complete reversal from the Prism Lites. Well, the tubs are less expensive, the packets are more expensive.
- Clairol Kaleidocolors Neutral Powder Lightener is simply for lifting. No added toning. It works well, though.
- Amazon carries 1 ounce packets for $5.38 and 8 ounce tubs for $12.67. The packet has free shipping regardless of Prime membership as of 05/02/16, and the tub has free Prime shipping.
- Sally’s carries the 1 ounce packets for $3.99 ($3.49 with Beauty Club membership) and the 8 ounce tubs for $17.49 ($14.99 with Beauty Club membership).
- Clairol Kalediocolors Tonal Powder Lightener in Violet is also designed to help correct yellow tones. Do you see a theme? Violet helps with yellow tones, blue helps with orange tones.
- Amazon carries 1 ounce packets for $5.15 and 8 ounce tubs* for $11, both with free shipping regardless of Prime membership as of 05/02/16.
- Sally’s carries the 1 ounce packets for $3.99 ($3.49 with Beauty Club membership) and the 8 ounce tubs for $17.49 ($14.99 with Beauty Club membership). The 8 ounce tub shows the packet photo as of this update, not sure why.
- Clairol Kaleidocolors Tonal Powder Lightener in Blue corrects orange tones as well as lifts.
- Amazon carries 1 ounce packets* for $5.15 and 8 ounce tubs for $11.16. Both have free shipping regardless of Prime membership as of 05/02/16.
- Sally’s carries the 1 ounce packets for $3.99 ($3.49 with Beauty Club membership) and the 8 ounce tub for $17.49 ($14.99 with Beauty Club membership).*Be careful with this listing! The 1 ounce packet is for the Blue Tonal Powder, and the 8 ounce tub is for the Violet Tonal Powder.
Wella Color Charm Powder Lightener
Wella, specifically Wella Color Charm, is one of my favorite haircolor brands that aren’t specifically bright, vibrant, and/or pastel, deposit-only haircolor. It’s also well-loved among hairdressers and amateur haircolor enthusiasts. I’ll cover why in a separate post, but this product was my go-to lightener for years. It lifts more and faster than the other two, but that also means more damage, done more quickly. You really need to follow the directions with this one.
- Sally Beauty carries 1.1 ounce packets for $3.79 ($3.39 with Beauty Club membership) and 16 ounce tubs for $21.99 ($19.99 with Beauty Club membership).
- Once again, Sally is either cheaper than the Amazon prices, even with Prime, or they’re the company fulfilling the order. Again, Amazon and Sally’s prices both change, so check it out. Amazon also has a twelve-pack of the 1.1 ounce packets available for $35.60, free shipping regardless of Prime membership. That’s a total of 13.2 ounces, so it’s more costly than the 16 ounce tubs, but if you’re just getting into at-home haircolor that doesn’t involve box dye, having the pre-measured packets might be worth it. And this is cheaper than buying multiple packets at single-packet prices.
Developer activates the lightening powder, and it’s also required for a lot of other haircolor activities, such as toning and non-deposit-only coloring. It is not required for the traditional deposit-only vibrant/bright/pastel haircolors, such as Manic Panic, Special Effects, Crazy Colour, Directions, Arctic Fox, etc. Keeping this in mind when selecting sizes can save money.
Wella Color Charm
Wella Color Charm developers have always been my favorite. I’ve tried others, but Wella’s differing formulas (creme/lotion, clear/white), relative affordability, and the control they give to whatever mixture puts them above and beyond the others I’ve sampled. I highly prefer the cream, it’s less messy and the mixture is a little thicker, but still easy to apply. Different hair types will be suited more towards one or the other.
- 20 Volume Creme Developer will lift hair 3-4 levels.
- Sally’s in a 4 ounce bottle for $2.29 ($1.99 with Beauty Club membership) and a 32 ounce bottle for $5.79 ($4.99 with Beauty Club membership).
- Amazon has the 4 ounce bottle for $5.29 (free shipping with or without Prime), a 16 ounce bottle for $3.99, with $8.95 shipping, and the 32 ounce bottle for $9.80 (free shipping with Prime)
In the process of being updated.
Next up, Manic Panic’s Virgin Snow white toner! And color theory, because you can’t have toner without color theory!