Bleach burns on the scalp graphic on red

Scalp Burns from Bleach - Is it normal?

What is a scalp bleach?

On-scalp bleaching is a technical term for creating an all over usually platinum blonde result. It differs from foils or highlights by painting the bleach or lightener directly onto the scalp to create a solid block colour with no hair left out.

This technique can be quite difficult and takes a lot of care and skill to create the perfect platinum blonde. Below are some examples of famous celebrity scalp bleaches.


Lady Gaga, Kim K and Gwen Stefani with platinum blonde hair.


Now that we know the ‘what’ let's talk about the how?

The process of scalp bleaching can come with its fair share of risks if not done properly. You have to remember we are using chemicals that can be quite dangerous to the skin and hair and need to be handled with caution.

 It is not normal to have scalp burns after a colour.


As a professional colourist who prides herself on a good scalp bleach here are my top tips for avoiding scalp burns:


1. Do not wash your hair prior to a scalp bleach.

Leave it for as long as you can without washing before your appointment. I'm talking at least 3-4 days but the longer the better.

This gives the chance for the oils to build up on your scalp providing a protective layer between your scalp and the bleach.


2. Do your research.

Scalp bleaching is a very technical process and you really want someone who is proficient in that skill.

They should be able to answer all of your questions via a consultation prior to your appointment.

This may include a test strand which involves taking a small strand of hair and testing a variety of products to make the best choice for your desired result.


3. Use a high quality bleach.

This is more of an insider pro tip to give you a little bit of knowledge to ask the right questions.

I like to use an oil based bleach for all of my on scalp work. I find it less aggressive than a traditional powder bleach and it also helps nourish the hair whilst doing its job.

A silicone brush also helps not to push the bleach into the scalp instead just laying the product onto the hair gently.

Especially for those who suffer from scalp irritation already or have pre-existing scalp conditions such as psoriasis or dermatitis.

You can also ask your hairdresser to use a barrier cream or oil on your scalp before starting the service.


 4. Speak up.

It’s normal to feel a slight tingle or itching sensation with an on scalp lightener especially if it's your first time.

But if you start to feel a more intense burn or pain on your scalp please let your hairdresser know.

It’s extremely important to avoid scalp burns and blisters as this can make you prone to more dangerous conditions such as anaphylaxis which can occur when you are allergic to bleach.

If any part of your body becomes itchy and inflamed whilst having your on scalp please speak up it will need to be removed immediately.

I can not stress this point enough; a scalp bleach should not be unbearably painful.


And finally the ‘Why’? 

Now the famous saying is ‘beauty is pain’ but not when it comes to a scalp bleach. There are a few different reasons why a scalp bleach could cause irritation, burns or blisters.


Severe bleach burns on the scalp



I know this image is deeply disturbing to see but unfortunately it can be the reality of a bad scalp bleach

Timing has a huge effect on bleach, most manufacturers instructions say not to leave bleach on for longer than 1 hour.

Personally I prefer to start at the back when applying my bleach and then move onto the front so that I can rinse the back off when I am satisfied with the level of lift on the hair.

This way the bleach does not need to stay on for any longer than it needs to. If bleach is left on the scalp for too long you will 100% receive a scalp burn.

Heat is also a massive factor when preventing scalp irritation. I would never put an on scalp bleach under a heat lamp or dryer.

When heat is added to bleach it tends to swell and create an overlap which can cause breakage. It also opens the pores in the scalp which can cause dryness and irritation when mixed with chemicals.

The scalp is a very sensitive part of the body. There are many different scalp conditions that could cause irritation if an on scalp bleach is done whilst they are present.

If there is any open skin or wounds it is not recommended to have the service. Wait until it has cleared up before proceeding.


A good scalp bleach can look absolutely incredible and can make a really impactful fashion statement.

I would love to change the stigma around scalp bleaching and let anyone who is considering one know that burns and blisters are not the norm and a healthy scalp and healthy hair is priority #1 at Chumba.

We take scalp bleaching incredibly seriously and take so much pride in providing the best service and advice possible.



Author - Jessica Burt is an Artistic Director at Chumba's Windsor Salon.


Jessica Burt- Artistic Director


Meet Jessica, she is what we refer to as a ‘True Blood’. Born into the Chumba Hair family from her very beginning of her career she has lived a closeted life with the walls of our Hair Asylum. All that has resulted in a freak hairstylist full of Chumba magic hair tricks and is crazy good in her skill sets.

Blessed with a calm that anchors the entire team she is a foundation stone of the Windsor Salon.

When you mix the styling skills and the technical prowess of Colleen Stanford and the magical energy of Chris Gratton you get this - you get Jess the culmination of all of her mentors all wrapped up into one Super Star person.








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