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Can You Get Bold Hair Colour Without Bleach?

Need a style that’s a bit more dramatic, but you don’t want to bleach your tresses? No problem, with Garnier, you can get bold hair colour without bleach.

Interested in knowing what your favourite shade will look like on you? Don’t forget to use our Virtual Try-On feature to see what shade best suits you. Find out more on our Virtual Try-On homepage at the end of this article, or by clicking on one of our products with the 'Try It On' icon.

What is bleach?

It’s that blue plastic bottle we keep under the sink, right? Yes, it is. But not every bleach is the same. Around the home for cleaning and whitening, we tend to use chlorine-based bleaches; in fact, the most common of them, sodium hypochlorite, is so ubiquitous that most people just call it bleach. Saves time.

But the bleach you might apply to hair is a different beast. Different chemicals, different compound. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is the chemical you might have heard of in a hair-dyeing context – hence the term 'peroxide blonde'. Hydrogen peroxide is commonly mixed with ammonia to create that familiar and distinctively stinky bluish paste (the ammonia helps to stabilise the solution and make it work faster).

Hydrogen peroxide, by the way, is also used as a disinfectant, to aerate fish tanks and to make glow sticks. Remarkable stuff.

But, and it's a big but, bleaching agents are not things to mess with if you don’t know what you’re doing. They’re good at getting rid of the pigments that create hair colour.

How does bleach work on the hair?

Bleaching removes colour by a process of oxidation. Leave it on long enough and your hair will turn white (or very nearly white – that ghastly 'yellow' of carelessly bleached hair is actually the colour of keratin, a protein that remains when all pigment has gone).

But bleaching doesn't just remove pigment, the hair's outer cuticle is raised to encourage the bleaching agent to fully penetrate.

Can I colour my hair without bleaching it first?

Good question. No one starts with a blank canvas – a white sheet of paper, as it were. White hair is very rare. And naturally dark hair won’t absorb colour easily. It’s like painting a wall. If the wall is white to start with you can add pretty much any colour and see a big difference. If it’s dark brown and you want it to be yellow you’re better off taking it back to white before applying the yellow.

The same principle applies to hair. If you’re brunette and you want to go blonde you might find your colourist suggesting bleaching your hair first before applying the colour of your choice. And the more of a transformation you intend to make, the more bleach you might need.

This fact of life – or basic rule of colour – is particularly frustrating when you want to achieve a dramatic new look. Bold, vibrant colours are undeniably en vogue. Violets, reds, copper, ‘blorange’ – dramatic colours are gracing the runways and the most fashionable streets.

Can I avoid bleach and still be bold?

Yes, and you can do it at home. The new Bolds collection by Olia is permanent hair dye specifically designed to deliver maximum colour performance – up to three times shinier– without bleaching. Yes, that’s right, bold hair colour without bleach, or ammonia for a pleasant scent.

There are six exciting colours in the range: Deep Violet, Violet Red, Intense Red, Deep Rose, Intense Copper and Rose Gold – so the choice is yours.

Which Olia Bold is right for me?

Well, think about your skin tone first because only if colour complements your skin tone will it look as good as you want it to. But also, bear in mind the colour of your hair now. Not all of the Olia Bolds will produce the best results on all hair colours, which is why we provide a very useful colour chart online.

For example, Rose Gold, a colour similar to ‘blorange’ but a little more sophisticated, works wonderfully well on very fair or light blonde hair, but won’t be nearly as effective on darker hair. Equally, Deep Violet, at the other end of the Bold spectrum, is fantastic on dark, brown, black or even grey hair, but not particularly recommended for the lightest blondes. So, be realistic, work within the limitations of your existing hair and your natural skin tones and you won’t go wrong.

Also, before using any home colour product, you must to do a patch test 48 hours in advance of using it. After 48 hours, check for any reaction or irritation. If you notice anything, stop using it. Always refer to the back of pack and instruction before use.

Have fun and boldly go where you’ve never been before!


Davina has been a Garnier ambassador for over 17 years and has a presenting career spanning over twenty years on British TV. A passionate advocate for all things fitness, Davina is a triathlete and an entrepreneur. Davina uses Nutrisse colour 5.0 for grey coverage and to retain her rich and natural brown colour.