This is me after I bleach my hair at home. All the time.
Listen, drastically bleaching and dyeing your hair even in a professional setting means serious chemical changes to the very cells of your body — the hair follicles become very porous and filled with tiny holes, because you’re sucking the color (and proteins) out of them to lighten them up. That doesn’t happen without some damage along the way. Now that you’ve gone and done it, you’ve got to have a battle plan. Here are your options.
1. Don’t keep throwing bleach at the problem.
Sarah Fenoglio from Seagull Salon in NYC has this warning for you: Bleach isn’t always the answer. “If you over process your hair with bleach, you can totally have hair damage and ruin the curl. That damage doesn’t go away until you chop it off and start over.”
2. Use a clarifying shampoo instead.
If your color is too light, use a dye darker than the one you used, but for half the recommended time, checking it every five minutes and washing it out when it’s the color you want. Those Color Removal Kits at the drugstore also work, but they’re not miracle workers.
If you’re nervous about your own abilities in this area, you might want to call it quits and go to a professional — always a good idea.
3. Try a homemade hair mask.
If you bleached and dyed your hair, you sucked out the moisture from your hair, so you have to artificially drop all that good stuff back in on a regular basis with hair masks. You can use oils and products you already have at home — these are tried, true, and perhaps most important: cheap. A lot of these also double as great face masks or makeup removers. Triple-threat beauty hacks, for sure.
Or give a professional one a go.
If you’d rather leave the hair miracles to professional products, you have plenty of ones to choose from. I’ve tried all of these, and any one of them will transform haystacks to something silky. Personal favorites? The Neutrogena Deep Recovery Mask and the Redken Color Extend Magnetics Deep Attraction Color Capitvating Treatment. Sarah Fenoglio suggests the Davines line of hair conditioners to clients with cosmetic reds and “unnatural” colors.
4. But avoid products with silicone dimethicone in them. They will DESTROY color-treated hair.
Pro-tip: You want to avoid products that use the silicone dimethicone if you have color-treated or otherwise fragile hair. This is a non-water soluble silicone, and it prevents essential oils and other moisturizing ingredients from penetrating the hair shaft. It makes your hair look smooth and soft temporarily, but it’s really hard to remove, and it causes buildup if you don’t use it with a sulfate shampoo. Sulfates are pretty stripping on color-treated hair. Dimethicone itself won’t mess up your hair, but the products you’ll need to wash your hair afterward will. Silicones themselves aren’t all bad for you — you just want to use the water-soluble ones, which won’t cause buildup and make your hair dull and your scalp itchy.
5. Let it go!
You need to trim off the damaged parts, or they’re going to keep on breaking up the shaft of your hair and you’re going to end up with a tangle of horror. Think of it as a fresh start for your style. When blogger Eugenie’s hair was irretrievably damaged when she went gray, she got a fresh new bob that refocused her style direction in an exciting new way.
6. Brush the pain away.
Your hair may have lost some elasticity after such intense chemical processing, so you’re going to need to be gentle and use the right brush to avoid further damage. Avoid brushes with plastic beads on the bristles. You want to use boar’s bristle brushes and wide-toothed combs. Definitely don’t brush your hair when it’s wet or else you’re going to have sad spaghetti hair. Emo spaghetti. Stretchy, sad spaghetti.
7. You have permission to be filthy now.
You are encouraged to be a bit of a lazy baby when it comes to your hair now — don’t wash it as much, unless absolutely necessary. That means dry shampoo is now your best friend, and when you do finally have to wash your hair, use sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner to preserve the color— or better yet, a cleansing conditioner, like this amazing one from Ojon.
8. Steer clear of the heat. (For real.)
Please don’t use heat on your hair right now. It’s been through enough. Once you wash your hair, let it air dry. The chemical process of bleaching your hair has made your hair very fragile, and it might melt off if you futz with it. If you must, drench your hair in a thermal protectant beforehand. This one is good.
9. Time heals all wounds, and it will get better the less you mess with it.
Once you bleach and dye your hair, the chemical makeup is gonna be different for a while. The only way to get your hair truly healthy again is to let it grow out. But if you’re not up for that, just consistently use hair masks and treatments to keep proteins in your follicles. And you know what? Honestly, it’s probably not that bad.
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