Going light when you have naturally dark hair is high impact, and not just in regards to your new look. Your locks take a serious hit anytime you use bleach. Even if you’re only going a few shades lighter. Bleaching your hair leaves the cuticles of your strands compromised and weak, resulting in a dry, rough texture. But that doesn’t mean you dark-haired-beauties can’t go blonde. It just means that your bleached hair needs a little extra TLC. Ahead we’ve got all the tips, tricks, and treatments to keep your color bright and your hair a little more hydrated and less damaged.
During the bleaching process, alkaline agents, which are lighteners, cause your hair to swell and open the cuticles. Once the cuticles expand, the alkaline agents penetrate the hair’s cortex and dissolve the natural pigments, known as melanin. To be able to tackle the dark pigments, bleach has to break down the natural fatty acids on your hair shafts, leaving your hair brittle. The cuticle keeps expanding until it’s so open that nothing holds it together. Finally, the cortex becomes exposed, split ends appear, and bam - damage that can make your hair look unhealthy.
The following tips, tricks, and hair care treatments can help you start to repair your damaged hair.
In the first three weeks after your bleach treatment, your hair is weak and more susceptible to breakage (and this is especially the case for wet hair). Using shampoo strips the cuticle of even more of the natural oils you need for hair growth and health. Wash your hair every three to four days, and use a shower cap on the non-wash days. You can stretch out washes as long as possible by incorporating a dry shampoo into your hair care routine.
Washing your hair less often doesn’t mean giving up your hair care routine entirely. Bleaching your strands leaves them very dry so it’s important to switch out your shampoo with hydrating conditioners and deep conditioner. This helps to fill in the extra porosity of your hair with moisture, rebuilding strength, and shine. Stock up on hair moisturizer products to help quench thirsty locks.
Photo by Karli Moceri
If you have bleached hair, you must slather on a repairing hair mask once a week. Drench your strands (concentrating on your ends) in a hydrating mask while you Netflix and chill. Or try one of these ultra-moisturizing DIY hair masks for damaged hair.
Styled by Mélanie Guille
If your hair is especially at risk for breakage, this part is essential. Ditch your cotton bath towel for a softer option like a microfiber hair towel or an old t-shirt. These options soak up excess water without roughing up the cuticle and causing breakage. Make sure to gently squeeze or scrunch your hair, rather than rubbing it dry, and be gentle with combing.
An essential for anyone with blonde hair (and key tool of every hairdresser), switch out your regular shampoo with a purple-tinted shampoo every other week. This will take out any brassiness— brassiness refers to the unwanted warm tones that show up in bleached hair.
As both a pre and post-shower treatment, a nourishing hair oil helps hydrate and protect roughed-up cuticles from the bleaching process. Plus, it will make your hair shiny and keep frizz under control. Again, bleach tends to leave hair very dry, so the high content of fatty acids in products like argan oil will deeply condition frizzy hair.
If you’re using hot tools on bleached hair, you're exposing dry, vulnerable strands to even more damage. Letting your hair air-dry is the best way to go, but if you absolutely have to blow-dry your hair or use other hot tools for styling, using a protecting blowdry primer for hair before you do is a must.
Your hair stylist will usually follow your initial bleaching session with a hair gloss treatment to seal and protect your color, as well as add loads of shine. A hair gloss works by smoothing out rough cuticles and filling in any holes in the hair shaft. If your strands are looking dry and lifeless, a gloss treatment can bring your color back to life.
Keratin is a hair protein that seals the cuticles, resulting in shinier hair. Keratin also strengthens hair fibers preventing split ends. If you have hair damage from going blonde, start regularly using a keratin sealer.
You can also add hydration back into your strands by making a few simple lifestyle tweaks:
The answer to most beauty woes is usually to drink more water. Make sure you’re drinking enough water to hydrate your body from the inside out. So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? Experts say that adequate daily water intake is about 15.5 cups for men and about 11.5 cups or women.
What you eat directly affects the health of your hair. For healthy, hydrated strands, nothing beats salmon in the beauty department. It’s full of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin B12, and iron, to nourish your scalp and make those strands shine. Blueberries and kale are also musts for healthy hair, thanks to the antioxidants and vitamin B7.
Hot water can strip the moisture from your hair, so keep it lukewarm when you wash.
Finish with a blast of cold water when rinsing out your conditioner. This seals your hair’s cuticles and the pores in your scalp, locking in moisture, and adding a boost of shine.
Just like every other part of your body, your hair needs protection from the sun’s powerful (and drying) rays. Wear a hat if you plan to spend time in the sun and look for hair products that contain SPF to protect your hair and scalp from the sun’s damaging UV rays.
Once bleach has compromised the integrity of your strands, chlorine will only weaken them further with every dip you take. Chlorine can also give bleached hair a greenish hue. Rinse your hair with cool water right before your slip into the pool or any other chlorinated water source. Rinse your hair again directly after spending time in chlorinated water.
It's important to protect your fragile dry strands while you sleep. A silk pillowcase is much gentler on hair than cotton pillowcases or hair scarves. Hair glides against silk while it clings to cotton, preventing further damage on your hair follicles. This creates friction, leading to breakage. Plus, cotton sucks the moisture out of your hair leading to more dryness.
The more you can keep those tresses in check by trimming off the damage, the less likely they are to become dry and brittle. Regular trims keep your hair healthy and strong.
Balayage highlights are a lot gentler on your strands than all-over hair color (and a lot easier to maintain). If your hair is dry ask your stylist for balayage highlights instead of going fully blonde.
Whether you’ve just gone blonde and need a new hair care routine, or are just looking to hydrate overly-bleached strands, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know about how to hydrate your hair after bleaching.
by Jaclyn LaBadia, featured contributor
Cover photo credits: Color by Melanie Guille
Photographed by Saty and Pratha
Cut by Aliza Esmail