To settle the debate once and for all, yes, bleaching will damage your hair. Bleaching is the process of chemically removing the melanin content in the hair to lighten hair by up to eight shades. Bleach has ingredients like hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, and alkaline, which cause the hair to swell and the cuticles to open up. When that happens, the hair cortex loses its protective layer, leaving the hair open to damages like dryness, split ends and breakage.
But don’t fret. Whether you had a botched bleach job or just need to do some post-bleach hair care stat, you can still get the hair of your dreams by doing one simple trick: hydrating.
What is hydrating?
Hydrating is the process of repairing hair from the inside. Hydrating products are made from humectants, which are substances that allow for the retention and increase of moisture. The proteins and amino acids in the humectants make the hair more porous so that it can absorb more nutrients.
Hydrating should not be confused with moisturizing. While hydrates fix hair from the inside, moisture fixes strands from the outside. Moisturizing is the process of coating the hair with oils, serums, extracts, or butters to seal in moisture. And although hydrating and moisturizing go hand in hand, this article focuses on the benefits of hydrating and proper bleach aftercare.
What are the benefits of hydrating?
Because hydrating focuses on the hair’s holistic health, its benefits are not just superficial. The many benefits of hydrating are as follows:
- It thoroughly cleans the scalp, removing stubborn oil, dirt, and grime.
- It unclogs the pores in the face and scalp, reducing acne, pimples, and skin imperfections.
- It treats dandruff and removes dead skin.
- It strengthens the strands, making them less prone to breakage and split ends.
- It nourishes the roots, reducing the likelihood of baldness.
- It thickens the hair, restoring volume and integrity.
- It makes hair more manageable, reducing frizz, static, and tangles.
Here are four ways you can hydrate your hair:
1. Learn your products.
Bleaching is a harsh process that uses harsh chemicals. Immediately after you get your hair bleached, you have to start treating it. This goes without saying, but if you’re going blonde, you have to know your hair products. The following is a crash course on products that encourage hydration and moisturization.
- First things first: You have to be mindful about the ingredients in your hair products. When shopping, check the label and steer clear of products that contain ingredients like sulfate, mineral oil, chlorine, or formaldehyde.
- There's no question about it: You will need conditioner — lots and lots of conditioner. Bleaching is an intensely dehydrating process, so bleaching aftercare is about putting the hydration back on. The best way to do this is by using deep conditioner. Think of deep conditioner as hair food. It contains vitamins and minerals necessary for hair repair, growth, shine, and luster.
To use, apply deep conditioner from root to tip, then massage it into your scalp. Cover your head with a shower cap, then turn on the hair dryer on low heat. Refer to the product's instructions to see how long you should use it before rinsing off with water.
- Alternatively, if you're wary of using chemicals to treat chemical damage, you can make deep conditioner using all-natural ingredients. A typical homemade deep conditioner includes hydrating, moisturizing, and soothing ingredients like natural oils, extracts, butter, and even certain foodstuffs.
- There is some debate on the issue of using shampoo after bleaching. On one hand, because bleaching is a chemical process, removing the remaining chemicals is necessary for scalp health. On the other hand, because bleaching dries the hair and shampoo removes the hair's natural oils, using shampoo may cause further damage. Luckily, there's a middle ground: purple shampoo.
Purple shampoo is effective for cleaning, hydrating, moisturizing, and volumizing. It also helps with color correction by dialing down the yellow tone so your bleach job doesn't come off as straw-like.
- Another hydrating product you can use is oil. Oil hydrates the hair, makes it shiny, and tames frizz. The good thing about oil is that it's organic, so you don't have to worry about damaging chemical components.
You can use olive oil, coconut oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, rosehip oil, or shea oil. Just put a pea-sized amount in your palms, then rub your hands. Apply the oil to your hair, starting from root to tip. Repeat daily after showering.
- While oil is made from plant extracts, serum is made from a high-concentration combination of antioxidants, vitamins, and glycolic acids. These ingredients aim to treat the strands, scalp, and the underlying layer of skin. Hair serum coats the hair and protects it from pollutants like heat, dirt, grime, and sweat.
Hair serum should only be used on the days that you wash your hair with shampoo. After washing, pat your hair dry with a towel, then put 2-3 drops of the serum in your palms. Work your way up from tip to root, then massage into the scalp.
- A heat protectant, as the name suggests, is your hair’s line of defense against an army of heated styling tools. It is a combination of water, vitamins, minerals, and natural oils that prevent thermal damage.
- After washing your hair with shampoo and conditioner, pat it dry with a towel. To apply the heat protection spray, hold the bottle a few inches away from your hair, spray 2-3 times, and voila! You can now use a dryer, straightener, or curler without fear of damage.
- Yes, you can (and should) use sunscreen on your hair. Hair sunscreen locks in the moisture from other hair products and gives an added layer of protection against harmful UV rays. It usually comes in the form of leave-in conditioner, which you can apply to dry hair before stepping out of the house.
- If you are often outdoors and need a hassle-free way to hydrate your hair, try coconut water. It’s a natural hydrating cleanser that also protects against sun damage, tames frizzy hair, and reduces dandruff. Simply put it in a spray bottle, then spritz 2-3 times a day. Coconut water can also be used to rinse off shampoo and conditioner.
2. Avoid heat and chemicals.
Bleached hair is dry, brittle, and, most importantly, vulnerable. Needless to say, you should give your hair time to heal and avoid doing further damage. The most obvious and damaging culprits are heat and chemicals.
Refrain from using hair styling products such as blow dryer, straightener, and curler. However, if you absolutely have to use these tools, at least apply heat-protectant products beforehand. Alternatively, you can get creative and try heat-free styling techniques like headband curling, rolling, braiding, and scarfing.
Additionally, it’s recommended to postpone salon appointments like hair coloring, highlighting, straightening, relaxing, and perming. These treatments use harsh chemicals that will worsen your hair’s condition.
3. Take care of your hair.
If your hair is badly damaged, every little bit helps. Here are some tips on everyday hair care and styling to make sure that your strands are hydrated.
- After a shower, pat your hair dry with a towel. Then, use your hands to work out the tangles. Wet hair is more prone to damage, so you should only brush your hair when it’s dry.
- As mentioned, heat isn’t good for the hair. This also applies to water —so instead of using hot water, go with cold or lukewarm H2O.
- Use a paddle hairbrush or a wide-toothed comb. If your hair is extremely prone to breakage, use a brush with soft bristles. Start brushing from the bottom, then gently work your way up.
- Shampoo strips your hair of its natural oils and moisture, so you should only wash your hair with mild shampoo twice a week. Avoid shampoo that’s labeled “deep cleansing”. If your scalp gets greasy and oily on the in-between days, use dry shampoo.
- Sometimes, your hair’s greatest enemy is the weather. Wind, rain, temperature, and humidity can affect the level of moisture in your hair — in short, a bad weather makes for a bad hair day. Limit the damage by covering your hair with a shawl or scarf.
4. Take care of your body.
Last, but not least: Beauty may be skin-deep, but health is not. What you eat affects your skin, scalp, and hair. Here are some dietary changes you can make so that your lifestyle supports your hairstyle.
- Hair is made of protein, and so it needs protein for growth and repair. Modify your diet to include protein-rich food, such as eggs, chicken, fish, nuts, and legumes.
- Iron deficiency can make hair look dull and lifeless. Add iron to your diet by adding red meat, lentils, and green and leafy vegetables.
- Vitamin C not only helps facilitate the body’s absorption of iron; it also helps build collagen. Citrus fruits, broccoli, and tomato are great sources of vitamin C.
Bleaching may be high-maintenance, high-effort, and high-risk, but if done correctly, it’s also high-reward. Every type of hair is safe to bleach, as long as you know how to treat it afterwards. To give your bleached hair the best shine, always remember the four H’s: hydration, (no) heat, hair care, and health.