This is an old tutorial I wrote about 2 years ago. Maybe someone might still find it helpful!
If you’re reading this, you probably hate wearing wigs for cosplay as much as I do. They’re itchy, uncomfortable, and by the end of the con day you just wanna throw it under your hotel bed and let the maid have her way with it. Although I will never surrender my collection (sometimes you just HAVE to switch hairstyles quickly, especially if you’re cosplaying more than one character for a con, and wigs do have a tendency to give you a more anime look) I like to use my real hair for at least one of my costumes so I can at least have one comfortable day.
This technique works better for people with naturally dark hair, although mine is naturally dirty blonde (ugh!) and is dyed black at the start of this tutorial. My roots are bleaching more easily (as you’ll see in the pictures) because I have a bit of undyed new growth (or “virgin hair”) coming in. If you want to dye your hair black and then bleach it, you will have a much more difficult time lightening (or “lifting”) the black to the pale blonde we’d like to achieve, and it will likely cause more damage to your hair.
The goal here is to create a real-life version of the reflection effect in anime hairstyles. I’m modeling my hairstyle on Faye Valentine’s from Cowboy Bebop, so my goal color is a black-purple mix.
Here’s what you’ll need (I’ll go into detail after the list):
- Bleach & Developer
- Color of your choice (this is your blue, purple, green, whatever)
- Mixing bowl
- Color brush
Choosing your products:
Bleach: I wouldn’t recommend using the drug store products for this one, as a lot of their bleaches tend to dry up as they’re setting and can leave your hair spotty. If you have them in your area, Sally’s sells a wonderful powder bleach that doesn’t produce too much dust and stays relatively creamy as it processes in your hair.
Developer: This is what “activates” your bleach. It is very important to choose the right developer for your hair to achieve the desired effect. In general, developers come in 4 volumes: 10, 20, 30, and 40, with 10 being the least lightening and least damaging, and 40 being the most lightening and most damaging. If you want a more dramatic effect, use a higher volume, but be aware that this may cause your hair to become damaged (dry and frizzy), especially if you have very fine hair or hair that has already been color treated. If you have thick dark brown to black hair, you are probably safe using a 40. Be careful, because once hair is bleached, you can soften the appearance of damage but it will always be damaged until you cut it off!
Color: I have tried a lot of the “vivid” hair colors, and the one I like best is the Pravana vivids line. This is a professionals-only product, so unless you or someone you know has a cosmetology license or is a student, you won’t be able to purchase it. I like the Pravana because it fades really slowly, covers great, and produces bright colors. It’s about $6 and I can usually get several color services out of one tube. If you can’t get your hands on this, the Splat line of colors (you can find these at Walgreen’s or Wal-Mart) produces bright colors and lasts almost as long as the Pravana. The Splat colors come with bleach, which I HAVE tried, but I definitely prefer the Sally’s bleach because of the way the Splat bleach dries out. Unfortunately, you may have to buy two kits if your hair is past shoulder length. Another good color line is RAW color, which you can find at Hot Topic.
Okay, so now that we have our supplies, let’s get started! You may need someone to help you with this.
PLEASE do this at least a week before the con! If you get color on your skin, it can be difficult to remove!
- VASELINE. This is very important (especially if you’re using Pravana or Splat) and will keep you from looking like a smurf at the con. Make sure to cover your hairline (front and back), ears, and whatever else may be in danger. There is no such thing as “too much.”
- Prepare your bleach according to the manufacturer’s instructions in your mixing bowl. Part your hair how you normally wear it, or how you would like to wear it for this hairstyle. Then, using a small color brush, apply the bleach thickly around your part. Be careful not to apply the bleach directly to your scalp to avoid irritation. Take a fine-toothed comb and pull the bleach through your hair. If you have bangs (it’s almost a requirement in anime),
take horizontal partings, parallel to your hairline, and apply bleach to each layer. Pull the bleach through, then move to the next parting until the bangs are complete. Remember: the bleached parts are what will show your color.
- Once your bleach has processed according to the instructions, rinse but DO NOT CONDITION. Conditioning seals the cuticle and your hair won’t absorb as much color. Dry your hair.
- At this stage, your hair should look something like this. Since I was bleaching dyed black, a lot of my blonde came out brassy, but that’s okay, because I’ll be dying over it. As long as it’s lightened significantly, the color should turn out the way I want it to. If your hair looks the way you think it should, move on to the next step. If you didn’t get enough lightening, you may need to use a higher volume developer.
- Color! This is the fun part. Apply your color to all of your hair. Make sure your hair is completely dry before applying color.
- Rinse, condition, and DONE!
If you got any color on your skin during the process, you can usually at least fade it using anything alcohol-based. I find that Whitening Listerine on a cotton ball works best.
I’d love to see pictures in the comments if anyone else tries this method!