Let’s talk about how to keep bleached hair healthy!
Blondes seriously have more fun… or at least that’s what I usually tell everybody. I’m 26 and started bleaching my hair when I was 12.
Even though I always go back to the dark side every once in a while, I always end up with platinum blonde hair. I’m just happier with blonde hair. I feel like it brightens up my face.
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How Hair Lightener Works:
If you really want to learn how to keep bleached hair healthy, you should first learn how lightener works.
Bleach can take its toll on your hair very quickly. It basically works by penetrating the hair cortex and removing all color pigment.
- The first component of hair lightener is an alkaline, which lifts up the “scales” of the hair cuticle to allow the next step to happen.
- The alkaline is mixed with an oxidizing agent, which allows it to penetrate deep in the hair shaft to the area where color molecules hang out.
- Once it’s in there, 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)
Hair lightening goes through a series of phases. Remember the three primary colors that make every other color are blue, red and yellow.
First, bleach 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 come out. This process takes a long time, and if you stop in the middle, you may end up with orange hair.
The last part of the process removes some of the yellow pigments, which results in a 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 some form of yellow.
If you want a more defined shade of blonde, you will have to use a toner, but that is a whole other article in itself. Did you love all that science talk? If so, you should check out this super cool article about how hair color works.
The next thing you need to know about how to keep bleached hair healthy is to learn how it damages your hair.
Bleach doesn’t just strip the color molecules in your hair… it also strips the protein, vitamins, and moisture. It 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 won’t lay back down, which leaves the hair dull and susceptible to more damage.
Remember that the cuticle’s purpose is to act as a barrier and protect what’s on the inside of the hair. If it becomes damaged, the inside will get damaged too.
So now, let’s talk about me for a sec. I want to tell you that I am the queen of damaged hair.
I can’t even count how many times I started with platinum blonde hair, colored my hair black, just to go back to blonde again, and back and forth.
I realized after a while, that I am happiest when I have bleached hair. 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 pretty 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. Here are some super useful tips on how to keep bleached hair healthy.
How To Keep Bleached Hair Healthy:
1. Wait Longer In Between Touch-Ups.
It’s hard to keep bleached hair healthy if you are constantly damaging it.
I try to go as long as possible in between processes to give it time to heal. It sucks having huge brown roots, but I really want my hair to grow and get healthy.
When you have more outgrowth to work with, the less likely you are to overlap the bleach on already processed hair.
2. Only Touch Up The Outgrowth
When you do bleach your hair, only apply the bleach to the roots. In fact, you should make sure that the bleach is about 1/8th inch from the line of demarcation (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.. and when that happens, 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.
3. Use Lower Peroxide
If you want to keep bleached hair healthy, it’s a good idea to stick with lower level peroxide. 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 it’s also more damaging. Bleached hair really only needs 20V to process (unless you are trying to bleach black colored hair, then you will probably need 40V).
If you are just bleaching your roots, 20V should be perfect. Since your outgrowth is close to your scalp, the bleach will process quickly from the body heat your scalp emits.
It will take longer to process than 30 or 40V, but healthy hair is more of a priority than speed.
4. Healthy Color Refresher Between Bleached Hair Processes
No matter what you do, bleached hair tends to turn yellow over time. It has to do with a build-up of minerals and other stuff that goes into your hair.
Luckily for you, there are ways to freshen it up without doing much damage. If you really want to learn how to keep bleached hair healthy, you’ll have to try some of these.
The first thing you can try is purple shampoo, which is formulated for blonde hair.
Purple and yellow are on opposite sides of the color wheel, which means they are complementary colors, which means they neutralize each other. This shampoo is meant to keep blonde hair looking fresh.
However, keep in mind that it’s not going to take your hair from orange to white. 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. If you are looking for a good purple shampoo, I totally recommend Blndn Brighten You.
This is a newer purple shampoo I found and I really like it. It’s a little pricey, but it will last you a long time (you only need to use a little bit at a time).
It’s sulfate and paraben free and doesn’t dry out your hair (which is important when trying to keep bleached hair healthy).
The second thing you can do in between processes is to tone your hair.
Toner is similar to purple shampoo, but a bit stronger. If your hair starts looking really yellow or dull, a toner will freshen it right up.
The shade of toner you should use depends on what type of blonde hair you want. You can use anything from platinum to ash to neutral beige to strawberry blonde. I like platinum blonde so I use a purple based platinum toner.
Just a friendly reminder: every time you tone your hair, you add pigment to your hair. In other words, the more you tone it, the darker your hair will get.
If you don’t have access to professional products, Sally Beauty Supply sells some pretty legit toners. Wella (which is one of the top brands that sells to the general public) makes a good toner that I would recommend.
The final thing you can do is probably the best way to freshen up 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 developer and clarifying shampoo. Apply it to your whole head, and let it sit for just a few minutes.
Since you are using a low peroxide, and only processing it for a short time, it won’t be too damaging. However, I always, always, ALWAYS re-condition as soon as I am done though.
Which brings me to my next point…
5. Use a Deep Conditioner
I am constantly reconditioning my hair in between processes. You should do it at least once a week.
If you haven’t heard of Olaplex yet, you really should. It is formulated for bleached hair and is the only product on the market proven to rebuild the broken protein bonds in your hair.
In between Olaplex treatments, I really like Joico Kpak Reconstructor.
When I am at home, doing chores, I’ll put it 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.
6. Be Gentle
The strength of your hair has been compromised by 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. Especially when your hair is wet, you should use a wide tooth comb to gently comb through it. Start combing through the tips and slowly work your way up.
7. Minimize Heat Damage
Heat damage, like that caused by 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 to not damage it more.
If you absolutely must style your hair, always make sure to use a heat protecting spray. Heat protectants are formulated to coat the hair and protect it from the damage.
If you can, try to keep hot tools for special occasions. If you are just bumming around home, who cares what your hair looks like?
Or maybe let your hair air dry (I like to just blow dry my roots for volume and let the rest dry). Just try to minimize it as much as possible.
8. 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 every day will do the same thing.
9. Replenish Protein and Moisture
If you want to really know how to keep bleached hair healthy, know that you are going to need some good products.
You will need hair products that help put protein and moisture back into your hair. I 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 moisturizing duo.
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.
10. Trim Your 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.
11. Let Your Natural Oils Go
The last thing you should know about how to keep your hair healthy is to take advantage of your natural oils.
Your scalp produces natural oil, as you may already know, which is good for hair that has been damaged by bleach. It’s like the body’s natural conditioner. You definitely shouldn’t wash your hair every day in the state it’s in.
I usually just use conditioner when I am in the shower to freshen up my hair. Hair that has been lightened is really porous like a sponge. It will absorb the oil really quick, therefore there is no need to shampoo often.
Just judge it by when your hair starts getting greasy and then you can wash it. I seriously wash my hair like once a week.
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 know exactly how to keep bleached hair healthy! Good Luck!
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Do you know any other great tips on how to keep bleached hair happy and healthy? Have you tried any of these tips? I’d love to read your feedback in the comments section below…