How Does High Lift Hair Color Work?

Lighten your hair without damaging bleaching agents with this new color treatment.

Reviewed by Tiffany Young, Certified Trichology Practitioner Tiffany Young Tiffany YoungCertified Trichology Practitioner facebook_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma Arshiya Syeda BA (Literature & Psychology), PG Diploma linkedin_icon Experience: 7 years
Edited by , MA (English) Asmita De MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English Literature) Aparna Harry MA (English Literature) Experience: 3 years
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When you were younger, you had to bleach your hair to make it lighter or for color correction, but bleaching damages your hair’s porosity and pH balance. But all hope is not lost! Thanks to advances in science and technology in the hair care biz, hair coloring experts have come up with a new solution to lighten your hair without causing damage – a high lift hair color treatment. This coloring treatment lightens your hair without damaging bleaching agents. The oxidative process takes place whenever the hair is exposed to chemicals or hair treatments that cause the hair to lighten. It lightens dark hair by removing hair pigmentation without penetrating your hair strands. But is this true?

How does this high lift treatment work? We answer all your queries about this process right here! So, your dreams of achieving blonde hair like Scarlett Johannson, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston, Sophie Turner, Lili Reinhart, Emma Stone, Margot Robbie, Florence Pugh, and Elle Fanning become a reality! Keep reading to know the high lift coloring technique and how exactly it works. Scroll down to learn more!

What Is High Lift Hair Color?

A woman with different shades of hair color
Image: Shutterstock

High lift hair color is nothing but a permanent hair color that lightens your hair without the help of a bleach. It basically strips or “lifts” some of the natural pigment from your hair, color depositing the dye onto it at the same time. The higher level of ammonia and color pigment that are found in high lift hair color are what help it do this job. The ammonia especially helps open up the cuticle, enters the cortex, and helps your hair take up the color. This method is less damaging to your melanin production regardless of your hair type or texture.

High lift hair color is used in combination with a double ratio of 40 volume developer that activates the lightening agent in it and tones your hair at the same time. However, a number of stylists do recommend toning your hair once more after using a high lift hair color to get the exact hair look that you desire.

What Are The Differences Between High Lift Hair Color And Bleach?

Now, before you start celebrating the downfall of bleach and start dreaming about dyeing  your hair blonde yet again, there are some major differences between these two products that you need to take note of:

High lift hair color
Image: Instagram @vanessa_luong0205
Bleached hair
Image: Instagram
  • The first (and perhaps the most important) difference between these two is that while bleach can lighten your hair from anywhere between 3 to 8 levels, high lift hair color cannot lift pigment and lighten your hair more than 5 levels. This means only people with dark blonde hair can go light/platinum blonde using high lift hair color. So, if you have dark brown hair and dream of going to a super light blonde shade, then bleach is going to be your best option.
  • Though high lift color lightens as well as tones your hair, stylists still recommend toning your hair again to get the exact color that you desire. When it comes to bleaching, toning is absolutely necessary to get rid of orange/brassy tones.
  • You know that irritation and burning sensation you experience when bleaching your hair? Those are a thing of the past when using high lift color.
  • High lift color cannot be used to lighten dyed hair as dye cannot lift dye. Hence, it can only be used on natural uncolored hair. If you have dyed hair, you will need to use a hair dye remover before bleaching it.
  • High lift hair color is relatively less damaging to your hair than bleach and hence better for hair health in some ways. However, it can still wreak havoc on your hair if used incorrectly.


protip_icon StyleCraze Says
A high lift hair color is suitable for lightening natural untreated hair. It is a gentler treatment option for retouches on level 6 and lighter hair.

When Can You Prepare High Lift Hair Color?

Woman consulting hair expert to prepare for high lift hair color
Image: Shutterstock

Before you decide to lighten your hair using a high lift hair color, there are a few requirements that you need to meet. You need to have uncolored, untreated hair that is already dark blonde/light brown in color. If you have gone through a permanent color or hair service (like straightening, perming, etc.), wait two weeks before heading to the hair salon or using high lift hair color. As to exactly when to prepare high lift hair color, make sure it is right before you apply it to your hair shaft. Since it requires a fair share of chemical reactions to lighten your hair that take place immediately after mixing it, leaving it out for a long period of time before applying it to your hair will weaken its lightening properties. For temporary purposes, you may go for semi-permanent color or even demi-permanent color methods. You may even consult a hair stylist in case you’re confused with color selection, as the salon experts can guide you better with their color theory knowledge and the use of the color wheel.


protip_icon StyleCraze Says
Your hair shouldn’t have any trace of dye before using a high lift color. Otherwise, the treatment will result in dull and unsightly orange shades.

 How To Apply High Lift Hair Color?

Now you know everything that you need to know about how high lift hair color works and how it differs from bleach, let’s look at how you can actually use it to lighten your hair!

What You Need

  • High lift hair color
  • 40 volume developer
  • Hair brush
  • Old t-shirt
  • Rubber gloves
  • Bowl
  • Hair dye brush
  • Sectioning clips
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
Applying high lift hair color
Image: Shutterstock

How To Apply High Lift Hair Color

  1. Start by mixing your high lift hair color and your 40 volume developer in a bowl with the help of a hair dye brush in a 1:2 ratio (i.e., if you are using 1 oz. of hair color, add 2 oz. of developer to it).
  1. Put on an old t-shirt to avoid staining your good clothes.
  1. Put on your rubber gloves.
  1. Part your hair first horizontally then vertically to divide it into 4 sections.
  1. Pin up 3 of the sections of your hair with sectioning clips, leaving loose the section you want to start applying the high lift hair color to first.
  1. Picking up 1/4 to 1/2 subsections of hair at a time, start applying the high lift hair color to all your hair using a hair dye brush.
  1. Use your fingers to pull down and work the color through the length of your hair.
  1. Leave the hair color to develop for the duration of time indicated on the box (which should be somewhere between 45-60 minutes), making sure you check the shade your hair has reached at regular intervals.
  1. Wash off the high lift hair color with warm water until the water runs clear.
  1. Shampoo and condition your hair.

Holly is a fashion blogger and has dreadlocks which she usually bleaches and admits that it is bad for the hair. She was looking for an alternative, and a friend suggested a high lift. She did proper research about the product before trying it on her hair. She adds, “If your levels are not exactly perfect, the product is not gonna do exactly what you expect, but it definitely did lighten it (i).”

Infographic: How To Use High Lift Hair Color The Right Way

High lift color is a type of permanent hair dye that, in one step, both lightens and deposits a tone in the hair. With this product, you may shorten the process of going blonde and get results more quickly. They are great shortcuts if you know how to apply these blonding shades and when to do so. Check out the infographic below to find out how to use it to lighten your hair.

how to use high lift hair color the right way (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

So, the question remains – high lift hair color or bleach? The answer lies in what hair color you’re aiming for. If you have dark brown hair and want to go totally blonde, your best action will be to bleach it. But if you possess a light brown or dark blonde mane, high lift hair color will suit your tastes perfectly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use high lift color on colored hair?

Since dye cannot lift dye, high lift color cannot be utilized to lighten dyed hair. It can only be applied to untreated and uncolored hair. If you have colored your hair, apply a hair color remover before bleaching it.

Can you use a toner after using a high lift color?

High lift hair dyes are made of ammonia, hydrogen peroxide color pigments, and a 40-volume developer. They lighten your hair more quickly and efficiently than regular blonde hair colors while toning it in the process. However, to acquire the precise desired hair color, you may decide to use a separate toner following the treatment.

What makes a color high lift?

It is a permanent hair color that lightens the hair and deposits a tone at the same time. Using this type of color will speed up your blonding services.

What is the strongest high lift color?

As per anecdotal evidence extra light silver 908 is considered the strongest high lift color. It adds silver tones to the hair and is perfect for creating a stunning platinum bob.

What is the difference between high lift color and regular color?

High lift hair color is essentially a permanent color with more lift than regular color. A key difference between high lift colors and low lift colors is that high lift colors contain more ammonia.

Does high lift color cover grays?

Yes, high lift colors are permanent colors and give great coverage, thus they help conceal grays.

How many levels does hair lift?

As per the anecdotal evidence available, high color can lift hair up to 4 levels.

Key Takeaways

  • High-lift hair color is not the same as bleach. It is a gentler and less damaging way to color your hair up to 4 shades lighter.
  • Never use it on previously colored hair.
  • Use a sufficient amount of developer to avoid poor shade.
  • Use sulfate-free shampoo and avoid heat-styling tools.
How Does High Lift Hair Color Work

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Transform your look with permanent hair colors! Learn to achieve different levels of lift and create the perfect color for you in the following video.

Personal Experience: Source

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Tiffany Young

Tiffany YoungCertified Trichology Practitioner

Tiffany Young is the CEO and founder of ThinHairThick and a certified trichology practitioner with 6 years of experience. She is also a recognized expert in the hair and beauty industry with celebrity clientele. Her own personal struggles with hair loss created an opportunity for her to deep-dive into learning all things related to medical conditions and external factors that...read full bio

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