On November 10, 2018, I entered NYC’s Spoke & Weal salon in Soho at 11am. Eight hours later, I exited a different, platinum-haired woman. It’s been almost three years since that date, and my relationship with my hair — like all of my most intense relationships — has been full of highs and lows, of triumphs and devastations. There was the time I overdid it with a protein treatment and my hair broke off in chunks (still traumatized). There was the time I tried (unsuccessfully) to DIY it with silver dye on my own at home. There was my purple phase, my “try everything” phase, my phase where I only wore it super-straight and subsequently fried it to oblivion. Throughout all of these trials, I’ve known one unwavering truth: that I will never, ever go back to brunette (this is a hyperbole, but it’s how I feel at the moment) — thus, I’d better figure out how to
keep my bleached hair healthy, unless I wanted a head full of frayed, broken ends.
Over the past two years, I’ve been obsessed with having the brightest, blondest hair in existence, while avoiding the straw-like consistency my hair tends to falls into (I have wavy, thick, slightly-coarser hair naturally). Sometimes, I stare at myself in the mirror as my colorist touches up my roots and I feel a Gollum-like urge to stroke my hair and whisper, “Brighter....blonder....my preciousssss.” Because this is my unwavering goal in life, I’ve thus tried every brightening, hydrating hair product under the sun — if it has the word “repairing” in it or if it’s vaguely
any shade of purple, you can bet I’ve put it on my head.
95% of these products have disappointed me, either by falling short of promises or leaving my hair worse off. But the 5% that’s earned a permanent place in my bathroom is the reason why I stand before you today with a head full of bright, platinum hair that may be slightly dry (bleach will do that), but overall is the healthiest it’s ever been.
Today, I bequeath the findings from two years of trial and error to you. And because I am only one person with one head on which to test products, I’ve also included recommendations and tips from my colorist
Reece Walker, or “the blonde whisperer” as I like to refer him. He’s brought many a blonde back to life after cycles of dullness and dryness, and I count his word as gospel.
Read on, and bleach on.
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When you are platinum or blonde, you will soon learn that purple shampoo is your best friend. It all goes back to color theory: Because purple is the opposite of yellow on the color wheel, adding purple to yellow makes it brighter, whiter, and less brassy. This is the product that I tell all of my blonde and platinum-haired friends to use, because it’s truly a powerhouse brightener and hydrator in one. I slather this throughout my strands once a week as a conditioning treatment, wait a few minutes, then rinse out. It’s made with
shea butter, almond oil, and buriti oil to make your hair feel super-soft, and the bright purple shade leaves all blondes with noticeably icier, brighter-looking color. Yes, it’s expensive, but a tub of this will last you a long time (I shampoo only once a week, but I have yet to finish my tub, if that’s any indication).
On days when I’m not using my Christophe Robin purple conditioner, I like to occasionally swap in a purple shampoo instead. It really is a matter of preference (and what your hair type is) on whether your prefer to use a purple shampoo followed by a hydrating mask, or a normal shampoo followed by a purple conditioner (I switch it up and do both). This purple shampoo is sulfate-free, so it doesn’t dry your hair out (but also, don’t be weirded out if it doesn’t lather as much as you’d expect). Plus, it’s only $8 so it’s a low-risk, high reward product to add to your existing rotation.
Also, if you’ve tried a few purple shampoos and haven’t seen a difference in the brightness of your blonde hair color, it’s probably because you aren’t applying it correctly. Reece shared a trick with me to amplify your purple shampoo’s blonde-boosting capabilities. “I like to water purple shampoo down in a bottle and spray it in the hair evenly,” he says. “Massage in and leave on for two to five minutes before rinsing out. It disperses more evenly than when you apply it directly in a big blob at the top of your head.”
Other purple products I like (trust me, I’ve tried them all): Davines
Alchemic Shampoo Silver, Moroccanoil Blonde Perfecting Purple Shampoo, Oribe Bright Blonde Shampoo for Beautiful Color.
I’m not sure quite how to classify this Oribe product — it’s purple-tinged brightening treatment, but also a leave-in, and also a conditioner. All I know is that when I use this product in lieu of my conditioner, my hair is noticeably brighter, softer, and healthier-feeling. It comes in a spray pump that I keep in my shower, and once every few weeks, I’ll spritz if on my hair after shampooing. You’re supposed to skip conditioner altogether when using this, which feels nerve-wracking, but I’m always blown away by how soft my hair feels after it dries. This would be an especially great option for any blondes with a finer, thinner hair texture because you won’t run the risk of it weighing your hair down (or drying it out) as it brightens your color.
(If you prefer a product you can use to brighten your strands when you’re out of the shower, try IGK’s
Mixed Feelings Purple Drops — you can add a few drops to any product and instantly tone down yellow and brassy tones.)
One tip about purple shampoo: overdoing it can dry your hair out and leave it feeling brittle. That’s why most colorists don’t recommend using a purple shampoo for every wash, but rather saving it for when your hair really needs a brightening boost. You can really use any shampoo on non-purple shampoo days, as long as it’s sulfate-free; I like this one from Pantene because it lathers lightly, leaves my hair feeling clean, and doesn’t strip my hair (plus, it smells really, really nice).
If you’re a blonde who also deals with an oily scalp like I do, try swapping your shampoo for a sulfate-free version; it will be less drying, which will balance your scalp and keep it away from being forced to overproduce oil. Other sulfate-free shampoos I like: ColorWow
Color Security Shampoo, Playa Every Day Shampoo, Reverie Shampoo, Odele Volumizing Shampoo, Drunk Elephant Cocomino Shampoo,
I know, I know — a $145 hair mask? Has the bleach gone to my brain cells?! Hear me out. I’m not saying this mask is a necessity, or that it will bring your hair back to its virgin state.
If, however, you are looking to splurge on a buttery-soft mask that will make your dry, damaged hair feel much, much softer, you won’t find a better option than this. Leonor Greyl is a chic French line of hair care products that are filled with botanicals your thirsty hair will drink up. In the case of this mask, it’s cupuaçu and buriti oils that make your hair feel silkier. I feel guilty recommending this to people, but I swear no other hair mask makes my hair feel softer and healthier immediately after using.
Reece and I both love Redken’s line of Extreme Bleach Recovery products (his favorite is the
shampoo, and I love the leave-in). However, the most unique and standout product in the line is by far this lamellar water treatment. Think of lamellar water as a liquid band-aid of sorts for your hair: you apply a lamellar water treatment in the shower and it essentially seals and smooths down your hair follicle, so you emerge with hair that feels less damaged. It’s a unique technology that really works — trust me.
K18 is one of those cult-secret products that’s secretly been creating major buzz since it’s launch — I first heard about it when my friend Carly, the former beauty director at Cosmopolitan and fellow platinum blonde, whispered of its secret powers. There are hair products that make you hair feel nice, and then there are hair products that use cutting-edge science to actually heal your hair from the inside. K18 is the latter.
The brand’s proprietary K18 peptide goes deep into the inner layers of your hair to reconnect broken keratin chain, which get fragile and weak during the bleaching process. It’s marketed as a mask, but you actually apply it on clean hair and don’t rinse out (always skip the conditioner when using K18). I apply a few pumps to wet hair and it instantly detangles. But the reason I’ll never stop using this is because it really, truly does make your hair stronger. After I started using K18, Reece (who now tells me he recommends it to all of his clients) marveled that I barely had any hair fallout through my root touchup. If your hair is brittle and damaged, or doesn’t seem to grow any longer because it breaks off, try K18.
Olaplex is another cult hair product that uses science and technology to back up its hair-healing claims. When Olaplex first came to market in June 2014, it created a major revolution. Suddenly, blondes everywhere were able to go lighter and brighter with way less damage, thanks to the brand’s proprietary ingredient, Bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate (a mouthful, I know), which specifically targets broken and weakened bonds to repair. Since then, the brand has come out with a shampoo, conditioner, and mask, but the hero product remains the No. 3 Hair Perfector treatment. You’re supposed to apply this to damp hair, leave on for 10 minutes (I leave it on all day sometimes), then rinse it out, shampoo and condition as you would regularly. It’s a great option if you prefer to shampoo out a treatment after you apply, or are looking for an entry-way into bond-building products.
Here’s the most important thing I learned as a bleached blonde: when it comes to treatments, you need to incorporate protein/bond-building to strengthen your hair, but you also need moisture for hydration and softness. The fact is, if you overdo it on protein without using moisturizing products, you hair can actually become too brittle and snap off (this literally happened to me after getting an in-salon protein treatment). Virtue’s entire line of products is focused on repair, so this mask does contain the brand’s proprietary Alpha Keratin 60ku protein, but it’s also a moisture-packed powerhouse. Reece swears by this mask and recommends to all his clients, for good reason. It’s packed with brown algae extract to repair and protect the hair, plus baobab seed oil, which adds silkiness and moisture.
If you want to keep breakage at bay, you’ll need to resist the urge to aggressively brush your hair right after the shower; your hair is in its weakest state then, and will snap if you don’t treat it gently. I spritz Bumble and bumble’s Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Heat/UV Protective Primer all throughout my hair post-shower before I even touch it with a brush. It acts as an instant detangler and primer, so that when I finally use my Wetbrush to brush my hair, the bristles glide through my hair with no knots and tangles. Reece, too, loves this product. “I can’t live without the Bumble & bumble leave in treatment,” he tells me. “Whether or not you blow-dry, it’s amazing, it leaves the hair so soft and silky.”
If you have thick, coarser hair like me and then decide to bleach it, your hair soon turns into a bottomless well — whatever moisture you apply, it’ll suck up, then ask for more. I only shampoo my hair once a week, so in those days in between, I have to constantly replenish my thirsty hair. I love this split end leave-in treatment from Eva NYC because it’s light and instantly makes my hair feel softer and less like straw, thanks to its star ingredient argan oil. Plus, it smells vaguely like marshmallows and leaves my hair smelling that way, too.
If you have finer hair, you might not need this step because it will weigh your hair down (opt for a light hair oil or serum instead — I’m sharing my faves ahead). But if your hair is on the thicker end, it will definitely need some sort of leave-in product with a light, lotion-like consistency — like a body lotion, but for your hair.
The other way to keep your platinum hair looking and feeling its best is by using a hair oils. There are a multitude of different hair oils — some are heavier and rich, while others feel light and almost serum-like. This one from Sisley is the perfect middle ground — light enough to sink in instantly, but still super nourishing. I like to apply this as the final step in my hair routine, or throughout the week on my ends whenever my hair is looking a bit parched. It instantly adds shine without weighing my hair down or making it feel greasy or oily. It smells like a fresh garden, and yes, it’s expensive, but lasts forever because you only need a small drop each time.
If you have fine hair, try
Bumble and bumble’s Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil — it’s a lighter consistency that works really well for finer hair types.
To all my
full platinum blondes — the fellow bleach devotees who see their colorist every four to six weeks to get their roots retouched and endure the scalding agony of pure bleach to the scalp — this product will soothe your tender scalp like none other. Act + Acre was created by celeb hairstylist Helen Reavey and offers a chic, streamlined collection of products centered around soothing and balancing the scalp. This scalp serum is made with apple stem cell extract to balance, soothe, and protect the scalp. It’s become a mainstay in my hair rotation because it soothes my scalp, while also helping with itchiness.