Bleach is one of the easiest and fastest ways to remove pigment from your hair if you want to drastically change up your color. However, whether you’re natural or faux blonde, coloring your hair at home or at your favorite salon, changing your hair color with bleach can come at a cost — regardless of how light you are going. “Bleach is high on the pH scale and doesn’t offer repair on its own so it can leave hair compromised, weakened, prone to breakage and dry,” says Shvonne Perkins, lead educator at Madison Reed. That doesn’t mean bleaching is bad per se — you just need to learn how to keep bleached hair healthy and handle the ingredient responsibly.
“Bleaching hair is the process of using a lightener to remove pigment,” says George Papanikolas, Matrix brand ambassador. “It can be applied in many different ways such as isolated in a foil, or strategically hand painted to give a highlight effect.” It can also be applied all over as bleach and tone. And because it opens the hair cuticle, bleach can cause brassiness, dullness, breakage, thinning, and sap the hair of moisture.
But not to worry — healthy bleached hair is possible with a little advice from the professionals. Ahead, TZR spoke to four celebrity hairstylists for their tips, tricks, and product recommendations to keep bleached blonde bright and avoid damage. From the initial coloring to aftercare steps, these are eight hair care tips blondes (and anyone with lightened hair) need to know.
What Makes Bleached Hair Prone To Damage?
According to Cyd Charisse, Hairstory stylist and blonding specialist, when your bleach is applied, your hair will undergo a process that starts with an alkaline agent that opens up the hair cuticle. “The alkaline agent is then followed by an oxidative agent that penetrates the hair cortex and dissolves the hair’s natural melanin — the hair’s natural color.” The longer these agents sit and process on the hair, the blonder you will be.
The side effects develop when the bleach starts to swell the cuticle (allowing bleach to penetrate deeper into the hair shaft to remove previous hair color) and break down the melanin — altering the texture of your strands and making hair more vulnerable to breakage. “When you bleach your hair, it changes the porosity and elasticity of your hair,” Charisse continues. “When your hair is more porous, it is thirsty, and the hair cuticle is more open, which can cause frazzled ends if not adequately cared for.”
Bleached Hair Tip #1: See A Specialist, Often
For a bleach and tone, to maintain a consistent shade of blonde you will want to go in for root touch ups every four to eight weeks. “The longer your roots grow, the harder it is to maintain the consistency of color,” Charisse tells TZR. “When you have to bleach hair with longer roots, you have less heat from the scalp to evenly lift the hair to that perfect blonde which will create bands of brassiness.”
For highlights, Papanikolas recommends getting them refreshed every 12 weeks, and every six months for balayage (hand painted highlights as opposed to foils) with glossers and toners every four to six weeks to keep color looking fresh. If you aren’t able to keep up with this schedule, Perkins recommends a concealing spray or powder to mask any darker roots.
Bleached Hair Tip #2: Focus On Moisture
Sure you can go to an expert colorist for the ultimate bleach blonde hair but what you do at home will be the biggest battle in maintaining the proper color. A well-planned routine will prevent your bleached hair from becoming dehydrated or damaged by delivering tons of moisture, oils, and repairing ingredients back into your hair.
“The hair cuticle’s ability to close completely back to a smooth and healthy state is dependent upon how fragile the hair was to begin with as well as the strength of the bleach and the processing time,” says Chase Kusero, colorist and co-founder of IGK Hair Care. “When the cuticle is unable to close completely due to over-processing, the hair can be left looking dull, frizzy, or broken.” For bleached hair, massage in deep-penetrating oils like coconut or argan oil to repair strands from within. And once a week, work in a hair mask to ensure your hair stays as moisturized as possible.
Bleached Hair Tip #3: Invest In A Purple Shampoo
To uphold fresh-out-of-the-salon blonde hair, Kusero recommends picking up a purple shampoo to prevent bleached hair from looking brassy. Purple, being the opposite to yellow on the color wheel, will neutralize brassy yellow and orange tones — keeping your blonde looking as fresh as the day you got it.
Bleached Hair Tip #4: Wash Hair Less
The golden rule for maintaining your color is to shampoo less frequently than normal to hold onto as many natural oils as you can and prevent the color from fading. Meaning, if you’re used to shampooing every day, try stretching it to every other day (or more) to prevent hair from drying. If you’re worried about hair looking too oily, you can also use a dry shampoo in between wash days to keep hair looking fresh, or throw it into a cute summer updo.
Bleached Hair Tip #5: Check Your Shower Water
And speaking of washing your hair less, make sure you are using the proper temperature (lukewarm, around 100 degrees Fahrenheit provides the right warmth for shampoo to cleanse without stripping and damaging hair) and checking your water. Hard water, packed with minerals (like chlorine, copper, and others) can significantly alter the hair color. To combat this, you can invest in a water softener or a shower filter like Jolie Filtered Showerhead, that helps to remove chlorine and other damaging minerals, while simultaneously restoring the shine and moisture in hair.
Bleached Hair Tip #6: Don’t Brush Hair Wet
The experts all strongly warn against brushing your hair while wet as it will rip any weak hair. “Don’t ever put a brush in wet hair toward the top and pull down,” says Perkins who recommends detangling in the shower from the ends up, working up toward the root. Kusero agrees, saying “our hair is most vulnerable and elastic when it is wet, and excessively pulling wet, bleached hair can contribute to breakage. Once the hair is detangled, be sure to apply a nourishing hair oil to the hair before drying to maintain moisture.”
Bleached Hair Tip 7: Use Less Heat
Hydration is paramount to keeping colored hair healthy which is why you should cut back on heat tools as you see fit. And when you do break out the blow dryer, straightener, or curling iron, the experts encourage you to use on a low setting and arming hair with a heat protecting spray or oil to avoid damage and cuticle splitting.
Bleached Hair Tip 8: Sleep On Silk Pillowcase
A good rule of thumb for all hair colors and textures, using a silk pillowcase will work wonders for protecting your hair. “Sleeping with your hair on a silk pillowcase will help reduce friction (a root cause of manual damage leading to split ends and breakage) and breakage while you sleep,” says Papanikolas.
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