It’s no sin to want to change up your hair every once in a while, and going blonde has been trendy since Marilyn Monroe did it (yeah, she wasn’t a natural blonde!). And if you want to go for a more fun, edgy color – purple, green, neon yellow, pink – then chances are, you have to bleach your hair first. While the process of bleaching hair is a bit of an operation in and of itself, taking care of bleached hair can also be a chore.
When you bleach your hair, the alkaline agent in the bleaching product opens up the strand cuticle, making it rougher. Then, the bleach dissolves the melanin agent within your hair, which gives it color.
Additionally, your hair becomes more porous through this process, depending on the volume of releasable oxygen in the developer. As hair becomes more porous, it may lose a bit of its natural shine. Because the cuticle is so open, it can have difficulty holding together, leading to breakage and split-ends.
To keep your lightened hair from looking hay-like, frizzy and lifeless, you can use a variety of different products. You can even make your own DIY hair masks using mayonnaise and yogurt. We’re here to break down some expert advice on how to take care of bleached hair so that you don’t have to go through the trial and error of complicated upkeep.
For more advice on how to take care of bleached hair, TMS spoke with Amanda Vitale, who runs a beauty and style blog known as The Aesthetic Edge, and who has been bleaching her hair for over 12 years.
The importance of toning
One of the crucial aspects of bleached hair upkeep – especially if you plan to keep it blonde and not continue to dye it another color – is toning it. “Many forget that toning is just as important as maintaining hair’s health,” says Vitale. “Your hair can look strong, smooth and sleek, but if the color is off, you still won’t look your best. Bleached hair is prone to looking brassy. A natural blonde base can combat this with purple shampoo meanwhile a natural brunette needs to use blue shampoo.”
Toner deposits color into the hair to offset and neutralize the natural brassiness that occurs after bleaching. You probably don’t want your hair to look dingey and yellow-y, so you would use a cool-toned toner like purple shampoo or conditioner.
There are different types and levels of toner to achieve the shade of blonde that you want. If you’re getting your hair bleached professionally at a salon, they’ll take care of the primary toning process, but you may have to use a toning shampoo or conditioner once or twice a week for the upkeep. You can also get toner re-applied at a salon rather than attempting it yourself.
Washing and conditioning bleached hair
Because your hair may feel more brittle or dry when it’s bleached, examining the products you use to wash it, how often you wash it and how you reintroduce moisture into your hair is essential. You may not be able to use the same types of shampoo and conditioner or have the same washing habits with your hair that you had before the bleaching process.
“While everyone’s hair responds differently to products, it is key to find a deep conditioning treatment that works best for you, in addition to a daily shampoo and conditioner option,” explains Vitale. “Further, investing in a quality hair oil will bring moisture back to lifeless, bleached locks.”
When it comes to washing your hair, you can still wash it every day if you plan on deeply conditioning regularly and using leave-in products. If you need to re-hydrate your hair, though, you may want to stretch the time between washes to every three to four days. Especially right after bleaching or re-bleaching, your hair is susceptible to breakage, and washing it less can help keep it stronger.
You also want to make sure you’re using the right shampoo because being careless in your choice can lead to further weakened hair. When purchasing these products, choose shampoos and conditioners made with moisturizing and smoothing agents like oils and vitamins that are also paraben and SLS-free. You can look for these bleach-safe products at your local salon or a beauty supply store if you can’t find what you’re looking for at the grocery store of your choice.
When adding oil to your hair, you can go with a household oil like avocado or even olive oil, or you can go the argan oil or hair-specific oil route. Adding oil back into your hair helps seal the hair follicle and prevent protein loss. Try applying a hair mask two or three times a week using items found in the kitchen like egg whites, avocado or honey to improve your hair’s condition. Leave-in conditioners are also your friend, but be sure to follow the product’s instructions for the best results.
Trimming and styling
As we’ve mentioned, bleached hair is more susceptible to breakage and split-ends, which means that regularly getting it trimmed will help keep it healthy-looking. “A final tip on promoting healthy, strong, and smooth bleached hair is to get your ends trimmed every three to six months, depending on how quickly your hair grows,” advises Vitale. “Nothing drastic is needed (unless you want to try a new style) – just an inch or two will do.”
Additionally, you should limit or avoid heat styling whenever possible. Bleaching results in drier hair, which can be exacerbated by heat damage. Especially right after bleaching, try to avoid heat styling. If you decide to use heat, try not to do so on recently washed hair, and use a heat protectant.
Although bleaching your hair can seem daunting, and upkeep is necessary, there’s no reason not to go for it if it’s a look you want to try out. The good thing about hair is that nothing you do to it is ever permanent; it’ll grow out eventually! Expressing yourself by changing up your hair is a fun, noncommital way to experiment and keep yourself looking and feeling fresh.
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