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.
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.
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….
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.
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!