I Bleached My Type 4 Curls Blonde — Here’s How I Keep My Hair Healthy

Expert tips for preventing winter dryness.

by Bianca Lambert
how to care for blonde curly hair

As a Black woman with tight coils, I've always been told the same thing about going blonde: because I have a deeper skin tone and a coily curl pattern, the color isn't for me. But, after dying my hair copper (which also required bleaching) and managing to keep it thriving and healthy, I wanted to go brighter and really be blonde. Who cares what the naysayer's opinions are, right? Right!

Before making the commitment, I tested out the hair color with braids just in time to catch Beyoncé's Renaissance tour three times as I ventured throughout Europe this past summer. Rebundle's braidbetter in Honey weaved through my curls to give me butt-length braids and the hair color I'd been yearning to try. But, of course, it wasn't permanent, so when I removed my protective style, I still had the itch to really take the plunge.

With that, I made an appointment with my trusted colorist and curly stylist, Christina, and we embarked on the two-session journey — each about five hours because she likes to process my hair slowly to prevent damage. After it was all done, my hair felt wonderful. However, I did quickly notice I needed different products to help it retain moisture and keep the brassiness out — especially as the temperatures started to cool.

With beauty icons like Rihanna and Keke Palmer experimenting with blonde hair, I know I'm not the only one seeking advice on caring for curly and coily hair textures post-bleaching, so I reached out to three experts to find out what to consider before going blonde and how to care for your hair post-service as we move into winter.

First, Find The Right Colorist

Before Christina even considered taking me blonde, we had a consult that included chatting about my hair health and what I wanted the final outcome of my color to be. L'Oréal Professionnel ambassador and Mizani global artistic director Tippi Shorter tells TZR this step is non-negotiable. "You need to consider the colorist you see because a good colorist will be honest with you about your current hair health to identify if your hair can handle being lightened,” she says. “[Because] there are colorists out there that will color your hair regardless of [its state]."

Next, Consider How The Maintenance Fits Into Your Lifestyle

Shorter’s top advice for anyone with coily texture patterns considering going blonde? "Above all else, you need to think about commitment," she says. "If you have type 4 hair, your hair is going to be dryer and more fragile, which means it is more susceptible to breakage than someone with curly or wavy hair."

Why is this? Shorter explains that since the higher hair type numbers (think type 4) run dry, strands don’t have a strong protective layer that shield it from damage. And cooler temperatures mean the cold, dry air can cause the cuticle to lift. So, this will mean committing to deeper treatments and implementing daily moisturizing into your hair routine.

It’s also important to take your lifestyle into account. "If you are someone who, for example, goes to the gym daily and is washing their hair often, then this service wouldn't be for you because the extra water is going to dry your hair out even more,” she says.

Prepare To Invest In New Hair Care Products

Now, let's talk about new products. I've been natural for over 10 years and had my products on lock. However, after styling my hair at home, I quickly realized I couldn't use the same products anymore. For example, my hair needed a new shampoo and conditioner to bust brass, but also hydrate. In addition, I needed new leave-ins and stylers that had even more hydration. Don't worry. Shorter says this is totally normal.

"Even if you have very healthy hair, following a lightening service, your stylist will help you identify new hair products you will need to use," Shorter says. "I would suggest using two shampoos, both free of sulfates. One should be ultra-hydrating, and one should be toning."

But aren't toning shampoos drying? After using amika's Bust Your Brass line and Balmain's Illuminating White Pearl Mask, I realized hydrating options are actually available. Rashuna Durham, master stylist, and amika lead pro educator says, when it comes to brass-fighting formulas, ingredients make a difference. In addition to looking for one free of sulfates, look for nourishing plant butters and even bond-cure technology to help repair and strengthen coils.

As for leave-ins and stylers, I've made some changes, too. I now use the K18 Leave-in Molecular Repair Hair Mask bi-weekly, which my hair loves, in addition to deep conditioning with ADWOA Beauty Blue Tansy Reparative Mask and Pattern's Treatment Mask. As for leave-ins, my hair still loves Pattern's Palo Santo Leave-In Conditioner, but I’m adding L'Oréal’s Professionnel Curl Expression Moisturizing Leave-In Cream when I need even more hydration. For styling, Innersense Organic's I Create Hold Gel gives my hair the hydration it needs thanks to humectants like honey and aloe. But now, I'm using The Doux Mousse Def Texture Foam before applying my gel for a stronger hold and frizz prevention since hair now needs one additional product to keep frizz at bay, a trick my curly stylist taught me.

Pre-Poo Treatments Are Your Friend

These days, I start with a pre-poo 48 hours before I plan to wash my hair. If I ever skip this step, my hair knows. I alternate between Squigs Beauty Gooseberry Delight Hair Oil infused with coconut, apricot, and castor oils and Sisley Paris' Hair Rituel Restructuring Nourishing Balm made with shea, macadamia, babassu, moringa, meadowfoam oils.

And Durham says ingredients like the oils listed above, along with jojoba and avocado oils, are great additions. But she notes that humectants like glycerin and aloe vera are also important. Why? "Humectants attract and retain moisture," she explains.

Lastly, all of our experts says formulas with bond-building ingredients like amino acids, ceramides, hydrolyzed proteins, or specialized bond complexes that help repair and strengthen should be a part of your product ingredients list.

Don’t Skip A Deep-Conditioning Treatment With Heat

We can all get lazy when it comes to wash day. But with blonde hair, that isn't an option — and neither is not taking the time to add heat to your deep-conditioning process. "Steam and heat during a deep conditioning treatment are very important," Larry Sims, co-founder of Flawless by Gabrielle Union and celebrity hairstylist, emphasizes. There are a few reasons for this. "First, heat helps open the hair cuticles, allowing the treatment to penetrate the hair shaft more effectively and therefore enabling better absorption of the ingredients into the hair," he shares.

He also notes that adding heat helps build the hair's elasticity and strength. This is the time, he says, to use a product like Flawless by Gabrielle Union Moisturizing Repairing Deep Conditioning Hair Treatment Mask because it's infused with ultra hydrators like coconut, passionfruit seed, castor, and avocado oils.

Your Blonde Hair Also Needs Protein

Protein isn't just essential in our diets; our hair, especially if it’s processed, benefits from protein treatments too. However, the key here is not to overdo it because it can make coils feel even drier. "You should alternate between protein and hydration treatments if you are doing them weekly," Shorter advises. "Protein will strengthen and hydration will moisturize so your hair is staying strong." I've had great results with ApHogee Two-Step Protein Treatment and use it once every four to six weeks.

Having blonde curls is certainly a commitment. But with the right colorist, products, and at-home care you can keep your hair healthy throughout the winter — and beyond.