How to get the perfect scalp bleach

by | 20 Oct 2022

Sarah Keane has created a colour niche where many fear to tread: ultra-lightening, and the perfected scalp bleach. She talks us through her ice cool attitude to keeping blondes bright

All images: Sarah Keane

Sarah Keane may not have set out to make brilliant blondes her colour niche, but she’s certainly achieved it either way! Finding a niche that can be your ‘thing’ – something that you are passionate about, that you have dedicated time and effort to – is a great way to create a recognisable branding for your freelance business.

We asked Sarah about her journey to this point, and her top tips for getting that ultra-clean lift that has clients clamouring to book in with her.

Q: When did you know blonde was going to be your area of expertise?

I don’t think I ever knew this would be my area of expertise. My journey with scalp bleaching started 14 years ago when I burnt someone’s hair off at the root, which was due to a lack of knowledge and experience. I swore to myself that I would never let myself, or a client, be in that position again. I educated myself, practicing whenever I could by doing it for free, which definitely took some of the pressure off.

I can’t explain how many times I just wanted to quit and give up during that period of development. Eventually I got a job working in a bleach specialist salon in London, where 90 per cent of my column was scalp bleaches. I spent 6 years there, developing my skills further.


Q: What do you think is the enduring appeal of ultra-blonde?

It’s high impact, bold and beautiful. The maintenance is actually way less than people think too, provided you’re giving the hair some TLC between appointments.

Q: What are the top trends/references you see a lot?

In terms of celebrities, Kim Kardashian has been a reference both times she has gone platinum, and OF COURSE Gwen Stefani. But the majority of clients I see show reference from my own work, which definitely make it’s easier for me! Neutral bleaches are making a comeback at the minute, with a lot of clients wanting to see a slightly creamier finish, but my favourite always has and always will be super icy platinum!

Q: How did you communicate with clients about the care required for such blonde work?

I’m open and honest. I have always recommended multiple brands because I love so many! All blondes need hydration, whether it’s on scalp or in foil; bleach is still restructuring the hair shaft. I’ve been using the K18 Mist and Molecular Mask for a while now and it’s definitely the best brand I’ve used for hair health, which is my priority. Silk pillows/caps will prevent breakage when sleeping. Clarifying shampoos are amazing for removing build up and keeping the hair bright – while toning shampoos should be used rarely. A toning mask is an easier, more predictable product for clients to use at home. And, of course, they need to go easy on the heat and avoid it as much as possible. If you are going to use it then invest a high quality defence.

Q: Scalp bleaches have some colourists quaking in their boots – is this what led you to start educating?

100 per cent. I don’t want anyone else to experience what I did. When I made my mistakes, it was because I didn’t have the right knowledge. There are so many myths which can cause colourists to avoid it altogether, the biggest being that it’s a high maintenance look. You can still achieve the same colour results if your clients are returning to you every six weeks or six months; your application methods and pricing will be slightly different but that’s it.


Q: What are your top three tips for an ultra-clean scalp lift?

TAKE YOUR TIME! When doing on scalp applications I have slowed down. 10 years ago I was always rushing to just “get it on” and guess what? I caused some damage I’d rather forget. A lot has changed since then, because me taking my sweet time is one of the reasons behind my consistently healthy results. My average time to apply a six week regrowth is 1 hour and 10 minutes.

KEEP TENSION ON YOUR SECTIONS. Using the appropriate amount of tension when doing a scalp bleach is the difference between a clean, even, healthy canvas and a patchy colour with a tonne of breakage! Pull your sections out directly from the head, not down onto the scalp – this will prevent unnecessary overlap, meaning your risk breakage is dramatically reduced.

WORK WITH THE LEVEL OF LIFT YOU HAVE ACHIEVED. If you have only lifted to a level nine, tone it with a level nine or below. Being your own harshest critic when it comes to this will help you with consistency for your clients.


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