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How to Keep Bleached HAIR Healthy

Blondes seriously have more fun.  That’s what I usually tell everybody.  I’m 26 and started bleaching my hair when I was 12.  Even though I have gone dark a few times, I always end up with bleached blonde hair.  I’m just happier with blonde hair.  I feel like it brightens up my face.

Healthy Bleached HAIR

However, bleach can take its toll on your hair very quickly.  Bleach penetrates into the hair cortex and removes all the color pigment.  The first component of hair lightener / bleach is an alkaline, which lifts up the “scales” of the hair cuticle to allow the next part.  An oxidizing agent, like hydrogen peroxide, is added to penetrate deep in the hair shaft to the area where color molecules chill.  Then, the bleach starts to lighten the pigment molecules by releasing oxygen molecules during the oxidation process.  These oxygen molecules break up the chemical bonds of chromophores, the parts of molecules responsible for color. “The changed chromophore molecules either reflect no color or a color outside the visible spectrum. This absence of color is seen by our eyes as white.”(Wonderopolis: How Does Bleach Work?)

Hair lightening goes through a series of phases.  Remember the three primary colors that make every other color are blue, red and yellow.  Bleach first removes the blue molecules, which leaves the hair red.  This process is very quick, so if you blink, you’ll miss it.  Next, the red molecules start to be removed.  This process takes a long time, and if you rinse the bleach out during this process, you will be left with orange hair.  The last thing it does is removes some of the yellow pigments, which leaves it pale yellow.  The natural color of keratin, which is the protein that hair is composed of, is yellow, so your hair will never not be a form of yellow.  If you want an actual shade of blonde, you will have to use a toner, but that is a whole other article in itself.

Bleach doesn’t just strip the color molecules in your hair; it strips the protein, vitamins and moisture.  It also changes the structure and texture of your hair.  Remember how I said that it uses an alkaline solution to raise the cuticle?  Well if you over-process your hair, the cuticle will not lay back down, which leaves the hair dull and susceptible to more damage.  The cuticle’s purpose is to act as a barrier to protect what’s on the inside of the hair, and if that is damaged, the inside will get damaged too.

So now that you know what we are working with, I want to tell you that I am the *queen* of damaged hair.

I can’t even count  how many times I have colored my hair black, just to bleach it back to platinum blonde again, and back and forth.

Within about a year and a half…

I realized after a while, that I am happiest when my hair is platinum blonde. I bleached it one last time and told myself that I had to commit to it. It’s been blonde for about a year and a half now.  It looks healthy now, but believe me, it went through some tough times.  At one point, I completely fried all of my bangs off.  You can tell in some of the pictures that they were so short.  I used to wear a headband just to hold them down every day, so they didn’t stick up.  Now that I have made the mistake of over-processing my hair, I want you to learn from it.  It’s not a good thing.  So these are the tips you can do to make your bleached hair healthy again:

Wait Longer in Between Touch-Ups.

I try to go as long as possible in between bleach processes to give it time to heal. By the time I touch up my outgrowth, my coworkers have been begging me for a while to take care of it.  It sucks having huge brown roots, but I really want my hair to grow and get healthy.  When you have more space to work with, the less likely you are to overlap the bleach on already processed hair.

Only Touch Up The Outgrowth.

When you do have your roots bleached, only apply the bleach to the roots.  In fact, try to get the bleach about an 8th of an inch from the line of demarkation (because bleach expands when it processes).  The more you apply bleach to the same area, the more damaged it gets.  Believe me, you can easily damage your hair to the point of no return.  If that is the case, the only thing you can do is wait for it to grow out or break off.  If you are just applying bleach to the new virgin hair, it will be fine.

Low Peroxide.

There are different levels of peroxide.  10V, 20V, 30V or 40V are the most common.  The higher the level, the faster it works and more lift you will get, but also the more damaging it is.  Bleach really only needs 20V to process (unless you are trying to bleach black colored hair, then you will probably need 40V).  But if you are just bleaching your roots, 20V should work perfectly.  Since your outgrowth is close to your scalp, it processes really fast from all the body heat your scalp emits.  It will probably take a little longer than 30 or 40V would take, but would you rather do your hair fast and sloppy or have healthy hair?

Healthy Color Refresher Between Processes.

No matter what you do, your hair will probably develop a yellow tint in between processes.  I really have no scientific explanation for why it does it, but I’m pretty sure it has to do with buildup of minerals and other stuff that goes into your hair.  The good news is that there are ways to prevent that without damaging your hair.   The first way you can do this is by using purple shampoo that is made for blonde hair.  Purple and yellow are on opposite sides of the color wheel, which means they are complimentary colors, which means they neutralize each other.  Purple shampoo is meant to keep bleached hair looking fresh.  Don’t be fooled; it’s not going to make your hair white if it is super orange or yellow.  It’s not something that processes your hair or makes it lighter.  It just adds a tiny bit of purple pigment to neutralize the yellow.  My favorite purple shampoo is Paul Mitchell Platinum Blonde Shampoo.

The second thing you can do in between processes is to tone it.  Toner is similar to the purple shampoo, but a little bit stronger.  If your hair starts looking really yellow or dull, toning it will freshen it right up.  The shade of toner you use depends on what type of blonde hair you want.  You can do anything from platinum to ash to neutral beige to strawberry blonde.  I like platinum hair so I use a purple based platinum toner.  Just a friendly reminder: every time you tone your hair, you add pigment to your hair.  If you tone it all the time, your hair will get darker and darker.

The final thing you can do is probably the best way to freshen your hair but also the most damaging.  If you do it right, it shouldn’t do too much damage.  It’s called a soap cap or color balancer.  I probably do this about once every two months. A color balancer is when you mix bleach, 5V Peroxide and clarifying shampoo. You apply it to your whole head, and let it sit for just a few minutes. Since you are going to use a low peroxide, and short time, it shouldn’t damage your hair too bad. I always, always, ALWAYS recondition as soon as I am done though.  Which brings me to my next point….

Deep Conditioner.

I am constantly reconditioning my hair in between processes. I really like the It’s a 10 Miracle Hair Masque.  When I am at home, doing chores, I’ll put some deep conditioner in my hair, put a plastic bag or cling-wrap around it, and leave it. Sometimes, I will even sleep with it in my hair.  Deep conditioners penetrate further into the hair shaft to help repair the damage, rather than just coating it.  You should use a deep conditioner at the very least once a week.  And also never ever skip on conditioner.

Be Gentle.

The strength of your hair has been compromised with the bleach.  You need to be extra gentle when dealing with your hair, otherwise you will break it.  Don’t ever rip a brush through your hair.  When your hair is wet, especially, use a wide tooth comb to gently comb through it.  Start combing through the tips and slowly work your way up.

Minimize Heat Damage.

Heat damage, like that caused from a blow-dryer, curling iron or flat-iron, wreaks havoc on everyone’s hair, but especially bleached hair.  Like I just said, your hair is not as strong as virgin hair.  And since your cuticle is exposing the innards of your hair, you have to be very careful not to damage it more.  In layman’s terms, your hair is more susceptible to damage than non-bleached hair.  Always make sure to use a heat protecting spray, like the HealthySexyHair “Soya Want Flat Hair Flat Iron Spray”, when you do use heat on your hair.  This will coat it and protect it from the damage.  If you can, try to keep hot tools to special occasions.  If you are just bumming around at home, who cares what your hair looks like?  Or maybe if you are going to flat-iron your hair, let it air dry first.  Just try to minimize it as much as possible.

Alternate Hair Styles.

If you wear your hair in the exact same ponytail every day, on the exact same place on your head, the rubber band will start to cause breakage.  And since your hair is already weak, you should try to alternate where you place your ponytail every day.  Low side ponytails are in style right now, so maybe alternate between that, and high, medium and low ponytails.  Also be aware that wearing braids, especially tight ones, in the same place everyday will do the same thing.

Replenish Protein and Moisture.

You need to use hair products that are going to help put protein and moisture back into your hair.  I would recommend a high protein shampoo/conditioner system like Joico Kpak.  After a few weeks of using just protein shampoo / conditioner, I would start to alternate it with a moisture shampoo /conditioner.  I hate admitting this but seriously the best moisturizing shampoo and conditioner that I have ever found is Cost Cutters Hydrating Shampoo/Conditioner.  It’s sulfate free and makes my hair feel so amazing.  You most likely have a Cost Cutters nearby, so check that out because I can’t find any for sale online.  A really good leave in conditioner for bleached hair is the It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Plus Keratin.  It is expensive, but it will really help your hair.  It deposits keratin right into your hair, which is needed for healthy hair.

Trim the Split Ends.

This is important, because if you don’t trim the split ends, you are gonna end up with major breakage.  I would recommend trimming a little bit after each bleach job.

Let Your Natural Oils Go.

Your scalp produces natural oil, as you may already know, that is very good for bleached hair.  It’s like the body’s natural conditioner.  You definitely shouldn’t wash your hair everyday in the state it’s in.  I usually just use conditioner when I am in the shower to freshen up my hair.  Bleached hair is really porous like a sponge.  It will absorb the oil really quick, therefore there is no need to shampoo often.  Just judge when your hair starts getting greasy and then you can wash it.  I seriously wash my hair like once a week.  In fact, I have been using the “No Poo” method for about a week now, where I use baking soda in place of shampoo.  This is because shampoo strips your natural oils really bad.  Just remember that the oils are good, and if you don’t need to wash your hair, don’t do it.

Now you are ready to rock healthy bleached hair!  Good Luck!

Do you know any other great tips that I missed?  Leave them in the feedback!

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About Hollee Wood

Hollee Wood is currently working on her degree in Graphic Communications. She also has degrees in Computer Science and Business and did hair for 10 years professionally.

Posted on August 14, 2012, in Colored HAIR, Way Healthy HAIR and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 41 Comments.

  1. Great article. Have you ever noticed that your bleached hair is slower to dry? I just bleached my hair recently and it takes FOREVER to dry, even with a blow dryer. It doesn’t really seem like it’s in bad condition or anything but I’m kind of concerned. What do you think?


  2. Human hair does not contain blue molecules…


  3. Genuinely the best article on caring for bleached hair I have ever read. Thank you!


  4. Do you have any suggestions for how to best deal with hair that is very blonde? I’m naturally dark blonde/light brown, but have been a bleach and tone for about 4 years. I moved to a new city a year ago and went to a colorist who was listed in Allure magazine as being the best – she overlapped and over processed my hair. A TON of it fell out in the salon and 8 months later it’s started to break off. My new colorist (who costs a fortune) seems better, but my hair still looks so thin and damaged. I want blonde hair still but don’t know if I should give up the bleach/tone? Is it possible to switch to highlights after all the bleach? I really want to grow my hair long, but after all the trauma it’s been through, don’t know if that’s possible.


    • I was just reading this for product ideas and noticed your comment. I’ve had white blonde hair on and off for the past 4 years and you would never realise from its condition how often I bleach it (which is a lot). Personally I bleach my hair at home using freeze bleach which has a silver toning agent built in to prevent your hair ending up yellow and since I started using that I dont even need to tone it afterwards, I use 30vol (I have dark brown hair naturally) and leave it on for approx 45 mins but if your hair is naturally lighter I would recommend sticking with 20vol as it causes less damage and should only take around 30 mins. The best aftercare products I have found so far are a decent purple shampoo (I would recommend schwarzkopf bonacure or fudge as they work best at maintaining your tone) which you can use daily as normal or if you feel like an extra boost leave it on for a few minutes (helpful if you are beginning to notice a yellow tinge). For conditioner look for a moisturising conditioner with keratin (personally I use l’oreal elvive full restore 5 repairing conditioner) and leave on for around 2 minutes after shampooing as this will help replenish and lost moisture and close the hair cuticle. Another good conditioner for bleached hair if you’re willing to spend a bit more is TIGI Bed Head Dumb Blonde which is specifically designed to provide deep moisture and repair on bleached hair. A good heat protection is always good especially when paired with a decent hair oil which will coat each strand providing further protection. The best oil I’ve found so far is morrocan oil (their shampoo and conditioner is also amazing for over processed hair… but its expensive) which is generally around £30 for 100ml, if this is too much for your budget there are cheaper versions available which will do the job however they often take longer for you to notice a difference. I would reccomend wella professional reflections oil as your best alternative, its available at salon services for around £16 for 100ml or a decent argan oil (beware there are many copies on the market which are watered down with other oils so don’t risk anything under £10) . There are much cheaper versions available from any drug store but they are generally weaker so only use these if your desperate! Oil should be applied under heat protection before blow drying and I would let it sit for a few minutes to allow your hair to absorb the moisture. I find using these leaves my hair super soft and managable. You can also add a small amount of the oil to your bleach mixture before applying as well as smoothing some over dry hair as this prevents your hair being overly dried out during the bleaching process. Only straighten your hair if you need to and allow to air dry if your not leaving the house. When straightening do so in layers as this will stop you repeatedly going over the same bit too many times. If you feel your hair needs a good boost you can make your own hair mask by mixing your conditioner with a small amount of oil, apply to towel dry hair and leave it on for as long as you can stand before rinsing thoroughly! I hope this helps because its certainly been an absoloute lifesaver for me… before this my hair wouldnt grow and I had to cut it really short multiple times and now its at my collarbone and growing steadily. I could never get rid of my blonde now and im just glad I found a way to keep it super healthy! If you have any questions feel free to send me a message on facebook as I am constantly trying and reviewing new products and I have a lot of experience with the many fun aspects of blonde hair! http://www.facebook.com/kirstynnnx


  5. i bleached my hair and it turned light pink. what should ido


  6. I’ve been bleaching my hair since October of 2012.. I’ve bleached it times before, but I’d always switch back to brown.. However, like you, I love my hair blonde. I’m the happiest at that state. The blonder the better. I just had bleached my hair again yesterday, and it’s really dry. Lol. I seriously need to get back to deep conditioning it once or twice a week again!! Ahh. So much work to being a blonde lol.


  7. Hi I bleach my dark brown hair and the colour result is golden blonde so now I wana know can I use a light ash blonde to cool down brazzy colours in hair or can I just buy purple shampoo don’t wana damage my hair further


    • You should try the purple shampoo first since that does no damage. If it doesn’t take you where you need to be you can tone it. Toners typically do very little damage so you should be okay. As far as what color to use, it depends on what your hair looks like. If it is more on the yellow side, you’ll wanna use a violet-based toner. If it is more orange, go with the ash. Also be careful not to go over any super white/porous areas for too long, because they will grab the base color and turn greyish. Hope this helps! Good luck!


  8. i have resonantly bleached the crap out of my hair going from black to almost white (the ends of my hair have turned strawberry blonde). if found your article on google while i was looking for good shampoos/conditioners for my hair because it is fried and frizzy as hell!!! i really need to baby my hair for a while and was very thankfull for your blog. i have been using nexus leave in conditioner but it hasnt seemed to help all that well, iv been wanting to try the bed head dumb blonde products but its really really expensive. thanks to your article i have decided to use baking soda and water for shampoo and bed head conditioner to save some money. i also have secretly been wanting to skip out on shampoo also because it makes my hair feel like the bottom of a broom when i rise it out but i never thought about actually doing it or using an alternative.. im a clean freak so ill use the baking soda alternative but if it doesnt go as planned i do have back up shampoo. i also am thinking about buying a bed head leave in conditioner since the nexus doesnt seem to be work all that well. let me know if you have any further suggestions and thank you for your blog =) soon my hair will be thanking you too lol


    • Awww! I’m glad to hear that! Just hang in there! My hair has been in that same position but now it is long and healthy. A really awesome leave in conditioner for damaged hair is “Miracle 7 keratin leave-in mist.” You can buy it at Sally Beauty Supply for pretty decently priced. It also goes on sale a lot so watch for that. It really helps your hair a lot! Good luck! 😀


  9. This website is great e48dc167e0c84760141b9fa924b8e667


  10. I go back & fourth between blonde & dark leave both for a year or 8 months then change. I’ve decided that I want blonde so I went blonde my cousin is a hair stylist so I bought the bleach she does. I died it & half went blonde half went orange so I tried dying it 2 more times & each time it goes a lil more. But this last time I was brushing threw & some was coming out!! I don’t know what to do. I need help.


  11. Hi Hollee, I am just about to bleach my hair, by myself, because it’s too expensive at the salons here. My hair is medium brown colour, shoulderblade-length. Just a few questions before I start – Should I start at the roots, or mid-length – I am 44, so have a few grey/white hairs mixed in the re-growth, (especially at my temples). Also, is it ok to comb the bleach through during the processing time? Thank you. Cheers, Sue.


  12. It’s better and easier for your hair if you don’t wait as long as possible when all over blonde. You scalp will only heat up the first 1/2 inch or so of the strand. Waitin longer can cause bands and may make you have to leave the bleach on longer.


  13. Jamie Handricks

    hello there.. i loved the info i found it extreemly helpful.. anyways my question.. humm where to get started.. okay first my hair is long.. really really long.. like down half my butt long. i have always done red on my hair sence i was 16.. i am now 26 and my bf wanted to see what it would look like to go back to my natral dark brown shaid.. so i did.. this was 6 months ago… i of cource wanted my red back so i baught a bleach kit from the store made for dark hair.. i only got one box because i just did streeks down it to lighten it up and give it texture befor going back to red.. not compleatly lighting it only trying to give the red a fighting chance againced showing in the brown. he came home from work after i applyed it and what was suppost to be a quick car ride to drop him off turned to be a 3 hour one.. the bleach didnt satrate all of my hair just in little streeks it also dryed on my hair.. when i washed it out it didnt even get close to blond but turned a orangy brown which is fine because im going over it with red ..hopefully.. after i rinsed and conditioned i noticed it was courced dryer then it has ever been and seamed really brittle… my hair is all diff shades of orange right now annd not the kind i would be able to pull off ether.. im doing an over night deep condition as i type and plan on a milk egg and olive oil mask tomorrow… but my question is if i can one how long do i wait to do the red.. trust me it looks bad right now.. i dont wanna leave my house. and with 2 kids i have to… and how bad can i damige it by not waiting the recomended 3 weeks on the box.. it looks horrible.. please help me..


  14. before and after bleaching, I use eggs and milk on my hair and cover that with coconut oil. Helps A LOT.


  15. Thank you so much for this wonderful information..It really has given me some courage..Don’t laugh now,but I was an entertainer many years ago,(abouot 50,I said don’t laugh),but as the years went buy I have remained blonde most of the time..You have aolready guessed my age no doubt..I had Chemo a year ago and lost all of my hair..when it came in , it was pretty much 80/20 white with grey..I colored my hair as I always have since the 70s and it came out a beautiuf Light Ah Blonde thanks to ION…I used a 1o vol peroxide…but in two or three weeks it has faded ato white for the most part and I thought maybe just adding a capeful of a toner 2 shades darker than it is now (maybe on the gold side and not the ash to my shampoo would work…no perioxide with it…Does that sound sane?:?People tell me I look great and hope to live to be 85 and when I do it will still be with dyed hair and makeup…Thank you for all that you and all the other beauticians do…


  16. Hi. I need help! I’m the opposite of you. I have snow white hair and I want it to be a 9N blonde. I just did a root touch-up with Age Beautiful 9N permanent dye. There is banding (1/4-1/2″) where the new growth overlapped the previously colored hair. I know, I know — I find it IMPOSSIBLE to just get the hair color on the new growth ONLY! My question is…how can I touch up the roots and not get the banding?? I love the color. I leave it on the roots for 45 mins., add a bit of water to the remaining color and then put on the rest of my hair for another 5 mins. Looks good except for the darn banding! Any suggestions?


  17. hey i bleached my hair but stupidly missed patches. i’ve gone over it with a light golden blonde dye but the patches are still noticable. will it be ok to just bleach the bits i missed?


  18. I’m a guy with fairly long hair, and I bleached & toner’d it as white as possible recently, but it seems so lifeless and frizzy. It used to always have nice natural curls, but now it’s just frizzy. I feel like I look like Doc Brown. Someone recommended a try Wen conditioner, so I bought some, but after one use I stopped because it looked like maybe it was putting yellow back into my hair (although maybe it was my imagination). The salon ladies gave me the Paul Mitchell platinum blonde products. Should I stick with those, or should I use the Wen? Am I imagining things, about it making my hair more yellow?


    • P.S. .. Don’t go by that picture in answering my question. It’s yellow in that picture because I had only bleached it at that point, I hadn’t yet used the toner. It is much more white now.


    • It is possible that the wen is making your hair more yellow. Yellow is the color of keratin, the protein your hair is made of, so maybe that is a good thing. What I would probably do is use the platinum blonde shampoo to tone it down, and maybe alternate between the two. Hope it helps :)


    • I would alternate the wen with the blonde shampoo. Sometimes the blonde shampoo isn’t the most moisturizing. The wen is the moisture


  19. Do you put the coconut oil on when its wet


  20. I’m with Jennifer, your article is concise and so so full of great advice, one of the best I have read on bleaching! You rock! My hair’s been through 2 bleachings with 20 vol thus far and I will be taking to heart your advice, thanks Hollee! :D


  21. Thank you for your advice. I have been bleaching my hair for 2 years now and I’ve always been concerned how much damage I’m doing. Your advice has really helped me see the difference a few additional treatments can make to keep it healthy :)


  22. Hi, thanks for a great article! I gradually went from black to blonde but couldn’t go all the way to platinum like I wanted because only the top half of my hair is strong enough – the lower half (my hairs last my shoulders) is damaged from dying it so often for ten years, but now the blonde dye has made it sooo stretchy and brittle I’m terrified its going to all snap off, I don’t wash it daily, I only use a wide tooth comb and I have purple toned John Freida shampoo and conditioner, what do you recommend I use to help fix the stretchy weak brittle hair?? Also I dyed it about two weeks ago, if I dyed it darker when my roots come through would that help the condition do you think? I’m scared to use blonde again! It’s taken me forever to grow my hair this long and I don’t want it chin length!!! Thanks :)


  23. I just wanted to thank you for all the good information you posted about bleached hair. The way you broke it down really helped me understand the process. Everything you said made so much sense. I. Will be useing your advice with confidence. Thanks again,


  24. I just bleached my hair out Saturday, They cut the top of my head down to about 2 1/2 inches because of damage, but I was able to keep the rest of my hair. however, I’m taking Prenatal Vitamins just to make it grow! I have an appointment for them to wash it Thursday and do the deep conditioning mask. Do you have any tips to make it grow fast? and i’ve been wearing a fedora hat since saturday because of the grease and mullet look haha. and how long should i wait to style it? The top 2 1/2 inches will look AMAZING if I can tease it, but i dont want to break it.


    • I’ve heard mixed things about prenatal vitamins… Some people argue that it is the hormones from pregnancy that make your hair grow.. Not the actual vitamins… I would take “hair, skin and nail” vitamins with biotin in them, that are formulated to promote hair growth. I think you should wait a little bit before styling your hair to let it get stronger. Usually hair is really brittle right after bleaching it, but it will get stronger! Invest in some good deep conditioner with keratin in it, along with gentle shampoo (sulfate-free) and good regular conditioner.. Preferably with keratin in it. When your hair starts to feel better, you can style it but try to keep it as minimal as possible. I would only use heat when you absolutely need to. I would stimulate your scalp with massaging and scientific brushing and try to cut down on anything that would cause breakage! Hope it helps! Good luck!


  25. Thanks for the great advice!


  26. Coconut oil is amazing! I put it on over night sometimes and while bleaching! read this it works I promise :) http://chloeshere.blogspot.ie/2012/07/how-to-protect-hair-while-bleaching.html


  27. Great article, what do you recommend as a toner brand?



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